Inter Press ServiceLakshmi Puri – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 10 Dec 2018 12:11:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Rural Women’s Empowerment — the Road to Gender Equality & Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-womens-empowerment-road-gender-equality-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-womens-empowerment-road-gender-equality-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-womens-empowerment-road-gender-equality-sustainable-development/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:07:25 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154668 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Lakshmi Puri is a former UN Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Rural women and girls face the brunt of the feminization of poverty and its inter-generational consequences, the impacts of climate change, desertification, extreme weather events and natural disasters.

Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
NEW DELHI, Mar 7 2018 (IPS)

When we celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) this year we shine the brightest light on the vast majority of women – especially in developing countries that live and work in rural areas and whose empowerment is about bringing the farthest left behind to the forefront of being the prime beneficiaries and drivers of sustainable development, peace and security, human rights and humanitarian action.

Lakshmi Puri

For are not the rural woman and girl the poorest, most discriminated against in a boy-preferred and girl- averse patriarchal society ? Are not rural areas, where sex selection including through female foeticide and infanticide, led to skewed sex ratios in many countries.

Are they not the ones who bear the biggest burden of care and domestic work and time-poverty as they juggle fetching water and firewood from long distances, cooking and cleaning , child bearing and caring for children and the aged with back breaking work in the farms and fields ?

All this while trying to cope with the deprivation of education and decent work opportunities, deficits in healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), electricity , clean cookstoves, transport, finance and other basic infrastructure and services their urban sisters have a better chance of getting .

Rural women and girls face the brunt of the feminization of poverty and its inter-generational consequences, the impacts of climate change, desertification, extreme weather events and natural disasters. They are also the most vulnerable in conflict situations, as migrants and refugees and in humanitarian crisis. Disability rates are higher among rural women and girls , support systems weak or non existent and they are stigmatized to boot .

The irony is that although they are the primary growers of food crops and processors of food, they mostly get to eat last and the least the nutritious food they need to be healthy and strong.

Rural women and girls face the brunt of the feminization of poverty and its inter-generational consequences, the impacts of climate change, desertification, extreme weather events and natural disasters. They are also the most vulnerable in conflict situations, as migrants and refugees and in humanitarian crisis. Disability rates are higher among rural women and girls , support systems weak or non existent and they are stigmatized to boot .

Indigenous women , ethnic and racial and other minorities , young women and elderly women included – face further marginalization and human rights challenges in most rural settings- what we call multiples forms of compounded discrimination and intersectionalities.

They are the most targeted for all forms of violence in domestic life, workplaces and in public spaces. Rural areas are also fertile grounds for harmful traditions and practices like child marriage and child maternity, female genital mutilation (FGM) and cutting, witch hunting, dowry and bride price, honor killings etc .

Rural women and girls rarely have any consciousness about their human rights especially their right to have control over their bodies, their sexuality and reproductive function or their right to choose who and when they marry or when to have children . These decisions are most often imposed on them to the detriment of their health, economic and social well-being and happiness .

Their voices are often disregarded in governance at all levels and their participation and leadership more an exception than the rule. They have little access to justice and redress of their grievances. Gender equal Laws of the land are controverted by parallel / personal / religious laws / norms and custom to disempower them. They seldom have equal access, ownership and control over land, property and other productive assets like finance entrepreneurship and other skills and capacity building.

That is not to say progress has not been made in many parts of the world including in developing countries. This gives hope that rural women’s empowerment is possible and yields rich dividends for all women and girls as well as for the economy , society and democratic governance, peace and sustainable development for all .

Rural women and girls therefore have to be prioritized if we are to implement fully, effectively and in an accelerated way the Beijing Platform For Action for Women , the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG), and the unprecedented and historic Gender Equality Compact that the international community has adopted, especially in the last 7 years .

Take SDG 5 on achieving Gender Equality and empowering all women and girls and its nine targets . For this: – We need to get all governments at all levels – federal , state and local – in Parliament , executive and judiciary and law enforcement- to ensure SDG 5.1 is implemented.
– That means to ensure that there is no discrimination against rural women and girls in law and practice in any way .
– In fact they should enact special laws , policies and measures , programs and schemes to take affirmative action in all areas .

Equally social norms and customary laws that perpetuate discrimination must be firmly opposed and outlawed and a public movement launched with support from all stakeholders especially a vibrant civil society and citizens engagement.

Similarly all our efforts need to be made to prevent violence and harmful practices against rural women and girls their sexual exploitation and to provide for multisectoral, critical services to them. Perpetrators must be prosecuted and victims and survivors must have access to justice.

Rural women’s participation and leadership in local government is progressing but needs to pushed further as much as in national government so that rural women’s interests and needs get reflected in governance and budgeting. They must participate equally with men in public, political and economic life at all levels.

Equal Land and water rights, inheritance and property rights are especially to be targeted as must technology and ICT along with other aspects and attributes of economic empowerment and autonomy. They must have access to both physical and social infrastructure and essential services. Their access to comprehensive sexuality education along with their male counterparts, to contraceptives and to SRHR services and rights is vital.

Overall progress in sustainable agriculture and rural development will contribute to transformation for gender equality and rural women and girl’s empowerment. Finally never before have I felt so strongly about education of rural girls and women and of their families as one major enabler of a big leap to their empowerment.

On my return to India last month, one of my first engagements was to visit a women’s college in the heart of patriarchal rural Haryana as a chief guest at the convocation. As I spoke there to brilliant young rural women graduates and postgraduates in commerce, business administration, science and arts I could feel their confidence and the audacity of their ambition to forge ahead in life and career as empowered individuals.

As my friend and amazing champion of rural women Shamim joined me in exhorting them poetically to throw away their shackles and soar high they retorted with equal gusto and said “We will. We have got wings now ! “. I also leant that education – primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational must be taken to rural areas. As Shamim said “We have to take the torch to where there is darkness !”

The post Rural Women’s Empowerment — the Road to Gender Equality & Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Lakshmi Puri is a former UN Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

The post Rural Women’s Empowerment — the Road to Gender Equality & Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Women: Major Drivers & Beneficiaries of Poverty Eradicationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 13:54:28 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152549 Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by the United Nations General Assembly. Under the theme “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies,” this year’s commemoration reminds us of the importance of equality, dignity, solidarity and equal voice in the fight to end poverty everywhere.

Enabling Policy Environments · Equal Participation of Rural Women in Decision-making. Credit: UN Women/Gangajit Singh Chandok

Equally, the fight to end poverty is also a call to arms against gender-based discrimination and violence that has led to an increase in the feminization of poverty in both developed and developing countries, as well as in rural and urban areas. Moreover, gender-based discrimination and violence have also thwarted well intentioned attempts to make poverty history once and for all.

The symbiosis between SDGs on poverty eradication & gender equality

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.

The General Assembly resolution entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, (2030 Agenda) declared that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is one of the greatest global challenges and priorities and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 (SDG 1) vows to eradicate extreme poverty everywhere by 2030, reduce the proportion of women, men and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions by half, provide social protection coverage including social protection floors for the poor. It also sets out the need for everyone to have access, ownership and control over productive resources and essential services.

The trinity of women and girls’ economic empowerment, autonomy and rights must be linked, horizontally and vertically, to the realization of SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls and its nine targets. Sustainably and irreversibly eradicating poverty requires all poverty reduction and development strategies, policies and measures to make SDG 5 their lodestar and to cultivate an enabler and beneficiary symbiosis between SDG1 and 5.

Poverty link with other SDGs and women’s and girls’ empowerment

The 2030 Agenda also recognizes that realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to the progress made across all goals and targets, along with the gender-responsive implementation of the entire Agenda. In turn, the role that each SDG plays in gender-responsive poverty reduction action is of critical importance for the empowerment of women and girls.

Attacking multidimensional poverty of women and girls means addressing the poverty linked gender gaps and deficits in education (SDG 4), in water, sanitation and hygiene (SDG 6), in food security and sustainable agriculture (SDG 2), in sustainable energy (SDG 7), in housing, safe public spaces and transport (SDG 11), and in information and communication technologies (ICT) and other technologies (SDG 5b).

Providing access to comprehensive healthcare services (SDG 3) and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SDG 5.6) is fundamental to both poverty eradication and gender equality and women’s empowerment. Child marriage, maternal mortality, women’s lack of control over their bodies and on childbearing, including through their lack of access to information and contraception, swells the ranks of the poor and that over generations.

Women’s burden of care work and poverty eradication

Poverty eradication is about enabling women to have income security, sustainable livelihoods, access to decent work, and full and productive employment (SDG 8). It is about valuing, reducing, and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work, and the provision of infrastructure and social protection as targeted in SDG 5.4, which otherwise creates and perpetuates time and other types of poverty for women and girls and deprives them of other opportunities.

Care work for the family and the community is essential to human life and to the social and economic foundations of all economies. It enables the “productive” economy to function as it supports the well-being of the workforce, children, older persons and people with disabilities, and subsidizes the monetized economy.

Women’s unpaid work contributes $10 trillion per year globally, or 13 per cent of global GDP, according to the High-level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment. Hence, we need to implement a gender-responsive approach to fashioning a new quality, paid care economy as we tackle the poverty, jobs, economic growth and inequality crisis and nexus.

SDG 5 targets on violence and leadership in decision making

We must prevent and effectively respond to all forms of violence and harmful practices against women and girls in all spaces (SDG 51 and 5.2), and help the more poor and vulnerable among them to escape the dual trap of poverty and sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and trafficking. Their voices, participation and leadership in governance, from the grassroots level to the highest levels in political, public and economic life, as well as in the cultural and social spheres, as accounted for in SDG 5.4, are critical and proven to be effective in poverty reduction.

Challenges to overcome

Despite global economic growth and a reduction in poverty over the last 30 years, evidence indicates that about 2.1 billion people are still living in poverty, with 700 million living in extreme poverty. Even in countries where poverty has been reduced, pervasive inequalities remain between rural and urban areas, between regions, between ethnic groups, and between men and women.

These inequalities and inter-sectionalities are reflected in the struggles of women and girls who face multiple forms of discrimination and disadvantage over and above that of poverty and gender. Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in households and communities. Furthermore, poor women and girls face compounded challenges due to physical and mental disability.

Gender disparities in poverty are also rooted in inequalities in access to economic resources, participation in the formal economy and labour force (only 50 per cent), income disparities including the gender wage gap, and assets and social protection gaps. Women-headed households and their families risk falling into poverty, depleting their assets in response to shocks and engaging in distress sales of labour to meet immediate subsistence needs.

Women’s lower incomes and limited access to other resources such as land, credit, and assets can reduce their bargaining power within a household. As such, women experience a restricted ability to exercise their preferences in the gender division of unpaid/paid labor, the allocation of household income and their ability to exit harmful relationships is also impeded. Thus, promoting women’s economic empowerment can foster a more gender-equitable and gender-responsive pattern of economic development and be a panacea for poverty.

The risk factors of migration, conflict, and natural disasters

As the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants highlights, experiences of multidimensional poverty can influence people’s propensity to migrate, from rural to urban or developing to developed contexts. It can also be a root cause of conflict due to unequal distribution and access to resources. In 2015, the number of international migrants surpassed 244 million, growing at a rate faster than the world’s population.

Women account for at least half the world’s migrants affected by the push factor of poverty and pull factor of a better, gender equal future. Women and girls account for 60 per cent of refugees escaping violence, climate change, natural disasters and the resulting dislocation, violence and poverty.

Macroeconomic policies are important instruments as they can create an enabling environment and help reduce deprivations and conditions of poverty. Public investments in social care infrastructure, for instance, can be a self-sustaining way of creating more productive employment opportunities for women. Investments in basic physical infrastructure and transport services can enhance the productivity of women’s informal enterprises.

Social protection & poverty eradication

Social protection policies play a critical role in reducing poverty and inequality, supporting economic growth and increasing gender equality. The impact of social protection on reducing feminized poverty by increasing women’s household income is well documented.

Many informal workers are women who may interrupt paid employment to take care of children, elderly parents, and sick relatives, thereby compromising their access to social protection and 40 per cent of employed women lack maternity benefits.

Well-designed social protection schemes can narrow gender gaps in poverty rates, enhance women’s access to personal income and provide a lifeline for families. Social protection measures that countries have taken include universal health coverage, non-contributory pensions, maternity and parental leave, basic income security for children and public works programmes.

The way forward to a gender equal, poverty free world

A truly transformative, gender responsive development and poverty eradication agenda can drive change on systemic issues and structural causes of poverty and discrimination, including unequal gender relations, social exclusion and multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization.

In this equitable and people-centered development framework, empowering and fully tapping into the talent and potential of half of humanity that is systematically marginalized from the benefits of development, is critical.

In this context, Governments and stakeholders should ensure a gender perspective is included while undertaking value chain, delivery of public services and social protection impact analyses to inform the design and implementation of poverty eradication policies and programmes.

Also, women’s access to financing and investment opportunities, tools of trade, business development, and training to increase the share of trade and procurement from women’s enterprises, including micro, small and medium, cooperatives and self-help groups in both the public and private sectors, are critical entry points to grant women equal opportunities and allow them to reach their full potential.

Other specific gender-responsive poverty eradication efforts include:
• Increasing women’s access to and control over economic opportunities, resources and services;
• Increasing women’s economic, social and political leadership at all levels, including through women’s organizations and collectives;
• Promoting gender-responsive macroeconomic policies that support the creation of full and productive employment opportunities and decent work for women;
• Expanding fiscal space and generating sufficient resources to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment by increasing public investments in physical and social care infrastructure, including water and sanitation infrastructure and renewable energy sources, as time well as – and energy-saving infrastructure and technology;
• Expanding or reprioritizing public expenditures to provide gender-responsive social protection for women and men throughout the life cycle;
• Ensuring that national laws contain provisions for core labour standards, including minimum wages and secure labour contracts, worker benefits and labour rights for workers in informal employment, and ending workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic background, migration status or disability;
• Adopting laws and regulatory frameworks to reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work for women through measures such as care leave policies, care insurance schemes, flexible workplace practices for work-life balance, decent work hours and cash transfers or child support grants paid to the primary caregiver;
• Adopting measures that recognize, reduce and redistribute the contribution of unpaid care and domestic work to the national economy through the implementation of time-use surveys and the adoption of satellite accounts;
• Protecting the rights to collective bargaining and freedom of association to enable women workers, especially informal workers, to organize and to join unions and workers’ cooperatives;

Overall, poverty eradication would only be possible if women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms are strongly upheld with universality, indivisibility and interconnections of economic, social, cultural and labour rights framing women’s economic empowerment and women’s work in all contexts.

Therefore, advancing women’s economic rights, freedom from violence and harassment, granting equal opportunities for recruitment, retention and promotion in employment and transforming the negative and harmful norms that limit women’s access to and condition of work and income generating opportunities, are crucial to the elimination of poverty.

Mahatma Gandhi spoke about how poverty is the worst form of violence, that it robs human beings of their essential dignity, self-respect and human rights and how it is one of the products of the cruelties and injustices of our social system.

For most of the poor who are women and girls, this violence, cruelty and injustice is both a product of, and reinforces the injustice of gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women and girls. To root out poverty we must root out gender injustice in all its forms. A planet 50/50 by 2030 will also ensure a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful planet without poverty.

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Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Women are Pivotal to Addressing Hunger, Malnutrition and Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-pivotal-addressing-hunger-malnutrition-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-pivotal-addressing-hunger-malnutrition-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-pivotal-addressing-hunger-malnutrition-poverty/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 12:22:09 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152465 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Women are pivotal to addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty especially in developing countries

Women farmers clearing abandoned farmland in the drought-affected Nachol village in Northern Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

The 16th of October marks World Food Day, a reminder to the international community of the criticality of treating food security as a 21st Century priority if sustainable development, peace and security and the realisation of human rights are to be achieved.

When we think and act on food security we must think and act on gender equality and women’s empowerment as women are not only the ones most affected by food insecurity but are charged with the food and nutrition responsibilities for families and communities in the entire food value chain from growing the crops to bringing food to the table.

Rapid population growth, the slowdown of the global economy, commodity price volatility, the speculative aspects of the trade in food commodity futures, and distortive agricultural and trade policies are compounding factors for continuing food insecurity and hunger. The latest estimates indicate that 795 million people were undernourished globally in 2014-2016, with insufficient food for an active and healthy life.

Lakshmi Puri

Lakshmi Puri

Bio-fuel production with its rising pressure on land and natural resources as well as climate change, are adding to the volatility of food prices and the urgency to find solutions for food insecurity. and for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) on Ending Hunger, Achieving Food Security, Improving Nutrition and Promoting Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Food security and gender equality and women’s empowerment are concomitant and inextricably interlinked.

Women are pivotal to addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty especially in developing countries. They comprise an average of 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force across the developing world making up the backbone of the agricultural sector and food production systems and the bulk of the agricultural labourers. Eight out of ten agricultural workers in Africa are women and in Asia six out of ten are women. Rural women often represent approximately two thirds of the 400 million poor livestock keepers.

Furthermore, women are on the front line of nutrition as care givers in the family — producing, storing, cleaning, cooking food for consumption – and ensuring that food, when available, reaches children first. Women have a crucial role in ensuring the health of children.

Eight out of ten agricultural workers in Africa are women and in Asia six out of ten are women. Rural women often represent approximately two thirds of the 400 million poor livestock keepers.
Nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of five are attributable to undernutrition. Anemia, caused by poor nutrition and deficiencies of iron and other micronutrients, affects 42 per cent of all pregnant women globally and contributes to maternal mortality and low birth weight.

It is therefore even more inexcusable that women continue to face many barriers and constraints including limited access to assets and resources necessary for food security as well as disproportionately bear the impact of food insecurity. It is estimated that 60 percent of the world’s chronically hungry people are women and girls.

Rural ringing women and girls have been found to be impacted disproportionately from food insecurity and experience the triple burden of malnutrition (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity).

Women tend to face higher barriers than men to productive resources, economic opportunities, and decision-making, that would help alleviate food insecurity. For farming women, the lack of access to agricultural inputs, services, credit, and markets constrain agricultural productivity growth and agricultural production, making the arduous pathway out of poverty especially difficult.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the productivity levels of female workers in agriculture are between 20 and 30 per cent lower than those of male workers, purely because of the gender gap in access to resources. Moreover, food preferences, taboos and consumption patterns give rise to differential gender outcomes on food security, as men and boys get preferential food access in some contexts. In time of food scarcity, women tend to eat last and least.

 

Women are pivotal to addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty especially in developing countries

Peruvian peasant women working in the potato fields. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

 

Women’s participation in decision making processes and in the leadership of rural institutions remains low – which has led to women’s rights, contributions and priorities to be largely overlooked by mainstream policies and institutions on agriculture, food security and nutrition.

Also, gender inequalities in the distribution of unpaid care work burden both in developed and in developing countries continue to deprive women from opportunities for paid work, education, and political participation, all of which have a bearing on their food security and nutrition.

It is therefore clear that achieving sustainable development and peace and security will continue to challenge humanity if gender disparities in agriculture, food security and nutrition remain unaddressed.

This year’s World Food Day should therefore be a reminder that empowering women and unleashing their untapped potential to increase agricultural production is critical to the achievement of food and nutrition security, in improving rural livelihoods and in generating income and overall well-being of their households and communities.

The inextricable links between gender equality and food security have gained enormous momentum in the international agenda. In 1995 the Beijing Platform for Action recognized that women were key to reducing poverty and ensuring food security.

The Platform for Action called upon Member States and all stakeholders to formulate and implement policies and programmes that enhance women’s access to financial, technical, extension and marketing services. It also highlighted the need to improve women’s access to and control over land and appropriate financing, infrastructure and technology.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable (the 2030) recognized both as sustainable development goals (Goal 2 for food security and ending hunger, and Goal 5 for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls), and stressed that both goals are mutually reinforcing and enabling factors in the overall achievement of sustainable development.

Many crosscutting targets in terms of both gender equality and food security include ending hunger and addressing the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women (SDG 2.2), eliminating discrimination against women in laws, policy and practice (SDG 5.1).

Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda recognizes that women’s empowerment and control over resources reinforces nutritional health of their children (SDG 2.1). One specific group of women whose rights to economic resources must be enhanced (SDG 5.a.) is small-scale women food producers. Ensuring women’s rights and improving their access to land, resources and incomes (SDGs 2.3 and 1.4) will be critical to achieving a number of goals.

The Agreed Conclusions of the 61st Session of Commission on the Status of Women (March 2017) recognized the crucial role that rural women in particular have in food security, particularly in poor and vulnerable households and how it is important to achieve rural women’s empowerment as well as their full, equal and effective participation at all levels of decision making. Interventions on the ground aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity must focus on the protagonists of agriculture, who are mainly women in many rural contexts.

The international community is increasingly recognizing not only that women are on the front lines of food security, but that their needs and rights must be placed at the forefront of trade and agricultural policies and investments if sustainable development and peace and security are to be realized.

Today it is more evident than ever that closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity could potentially lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and hunger and address losses in economic growth opportunities.

Bold and decisive action is critical to end the discrimination faced by women not only as a matter of justice and equality; but also to tackle the factors that are holding back agricultural production. Stability in the food market depends on increased investment in agriculture, particularly in developing countries, where 98 percent of the hungry live and where food production needs to double by 2050 to feed growing populations.

Strengthening support and investment in the agricultural sector, should go in hand with acknowledging women’s contributions to food security and ensuring their equal rights and equal access to resources, assets and opportunities.

Measures to advance towards this aim include supporting the contributions of rural women and women farmers and ensuring that they have equal access to agricultural technologies, through investments, innovation in small-scale agricultural production and distribution.

This in turn must be supported through policies that improve productive capacity and strengthen their resilience, addressing the existing gaps in and barriers to trading their agricultural products in local, regional and international markets. Better disaggregated data that shows where in the food systems women are, as well as their situation in terms of food security and nutrition is also urgently needed.

 

Women are pivotal to addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty especially in developing countries

Women working in their vegetable gardens at the Capanda Agroindustrial Pole in Angola. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

 

Gender differences in land tenure and access to productive resources are particularly relevant as rural women are significant contributors to global food production. We must ensure rural women’s full and equal rights to land and inheritance, land tenure security, common property and common resources and equal access to justice and legal support, by designing, reforming and enforcing relevant laws and policies.

Control over and ownership of assets can provide women with greater protection and stronger fallback positions, enhancing their bargaining power within the household and their capacity for economic independence. We must also promote women’s involvement in climate-resilient agriculture as farmers, workers, and agriculture and food entrepreneurs.

All these efforts require transformative financing and investment, both targeted and mainstreamed also in terms of advocacy and support from all multistakeholders. Member States, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector should to take new and concrete actions for the full and accelerated implementation of the gender equality international commitments. It is equally as crucial to engage with grassroots women organisations and rural women organisations in the implementation of these commitments.

It is critical to ensuring equal access to and control over productive resources, provision of quality basic services and infrastructure, and support to women smallholder farmers to improve productivity and resilience of food supplies, so that women are able to reach their potential as key game changers to ensure global food and nutrition security.

At the current 72nd session of the UN General Assembly these issues will be addressed by the international community and the global norms, standards and policy commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of women as a precondition and objective of food security for all will be strengthened. The report of the Secretary-General on Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas (A/72/207) highlights the efforts of Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to address challenges faced by women and girls in rural areas, especially the poorest and most marginalized.

The report’s recommendations cover in particular economic and social policies, ending violence against women and girls, education, health, land, inheritance and property rights, decent work and social protection, labour-saving infrastructure and technology.

On the battle against climate change, we must recognize and support the potential of women as agents of change for climate mitigation and adaptation, which remains relatively untapped. The upcoming 23rd   Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will recognise the vital role women play in sustainable development and in the implementation of climate policies, including through its Gender Action Plan which is being pushed for finalization at COP 23.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) recognizes the role of women in ensuring sustainable livelihoods and by encouraging the equal participation of women in capacity building. The UNCCD Advocacy Policy Framework (APF) on gender recognizes that it is through the full participation of local people, especially women, that efforts to combat desertification can be most effective.

The forthcoming 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women with its priority theme of ‘challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,’ will also signal the determination to make the universe of food, nutrition and agriculture one that is powered by and is empowering for women and girls.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

The post Women are Pivotal to Addressing Hunger, Malnutrition and Poverty appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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“Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030.”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-in-the-changing-world-of-work-planet-5050-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-in-the-changing-world-of-work-planet-5050-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-in-the-changing-world-of-work-planet-5050-by-2030/#respond Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:26:08 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149232 Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Women are working in construction in Rio de Janeiro. Credit:Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Women are working in construction in Rio de Janeiro. Credit:Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 3 2017 (IPS)

Yayi Bayam Diouf became the first woman to fish in her small rural fishing village in Senegal despite initially being told by the men in her community that the fish wouldn’t take bait from a menstruating woman. When she started practicing law, Ann Green, CEO of ANZ Lao, was asked to make coffee or pick up dry cleaning (by men and women), simply because she was a young woman. The difficulties faced by Yayi and Ann in entering the labour force and at the workplace are not only unique to them, but sadly is the reality for many women across the globe.

These difficulties represent violations of women’s human rights to work and their rights at work with gender-discriminatory laws still in existence in 155 countries, resulting in the gender wage gap of 23 percent globally. Also, women represent 75 percent of informal employment, in low-paid and undervalued jobs that are usually unprotected by labour laws, and lack social protection.

Lakshmi-Puri1-300x200Only half of women participate in the labour force compared to three quarters of men, and in most developing countries it is as low as 25 percent. Women spend 2.5 times more time and effort than men on unpaid care work and household responsibilities. All of this results in women taking home 1/10 of the global income, while accounting for 2/3 of global working hours. These inequalities have devastating immediate and long-terms negative impacts on women who have a lower lifetime income, have saved less, and yet face higher overall retirement and healthcare costs due to a longer life expectancy.

Women’s economic empowerment is about transforming the world of work, which is still very patriarchal and treats the equal voice, participation and leadership of women as an anomaly, tokenism, compartment or add on. Despite recognizing progress, structural barriers continue to hinder progress towards women’s economic empowerment globally.

Women in all professions face what we call sticky floors, leaking pipelines and broken ladders, glass ceilings and glass walls! At the current pace, it may take 170 years to achieve economic equality among men and women – according to estimates from the World Economic Forum’s latest Gender Gap Report. This is simply unacceptable.

To accelerate the move to a planet 50/50 in women’s economic empowerment and work will require a transformation of both the public and private sector environments and world of work they create for women and also how they change it to make it a women’s space of productive and fulfilling work.

It will mean adopting necessary laws, policies and special measures by governments. It means their actively regulating and providing incentives to companies and enterprises to become gender equal employers, supply chains and incubators of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, together with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (on financing for development), position gender equality and the empowerment of women as critical and essential drivers for sustainable development. There is a Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality (Goal 5) which seeks to ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ and sets out global targets to address many of the remaining obstacles to gender inequality.

The framework recognizes women’s economic empowerment as essential enabler and beneficiary of gender equality and sustainable development and a means of implementation of all the six targets of SDG 5, including ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls; ending all forms of violence and harmful practices like child marriage: recognizing and valuing unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family; ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life; and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Achieving these targets would have a multiplier effect across all other development areas, including ensuring equal access to decent work and full and productive employment (SDG 8), ending poverty (SDG-1), food security (SDG-2), universal health (SDG-3), quality education (SDG-4) and reducing inequalities (SDG-10).

The upcoming 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) will consider “Women’s Economic Empowerment in The Changing World of Work”, as its priority theme providing the international community the opportunity to define concrete, practical and action-oriented recommendations to overcome the structural barriers to gender equality, gender-based discrimination and violence against women at work.

We live in a world where change is happening constantly, presenting new challenges and opportunities to the realization of women’s economic empowerment. The innovations – especially in digital and information and communications technologies, mobility and informality are also increasing rapidly. Emerging areas, such as the green economy and climate change mitigation and adaptation offer new opportunities for decent work for women.

Also, in the context of new digital and information technologies, it is estimated that women will lose five jobs for every job gained compared with men losing three jobs for every job gained in the fourth industrial revolution. Successful harnessing of technological innovations is an imperative as is women’s STEM education and capability building, financial and digital inclusion for the realization of women’s economic empowerment.

Achievement of women’s economic empowerment, as well its related benefits, requires transformative and structural change. In his report on the priority theme of CSW61, the Secretary-General of the United Nations identifies are four concrete action areas in achieving women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, including strengthening normative and legal frameworks for full employment and decent work for all women at all levels; implementing economic and social policies for women’s economic empowerment; addressing the growing informality of work and mobility of women workers and technology driven changes; and strengthening private sector role in women’s economic empowerment.

Progress must be provided from both the demand and supply sides of the labour market. From the demand side, the enhancement of capacity building and the creation of a value chain of education skills and training for women is key to accelerating change.

This will in turn lead to decent work opportunities as well as productive employment for women. From the supply side, there must be a creation of an enabling environment for women to be recruited, retained and promoted in the work place, including through promoting policies to manage trade and financial globalization.

These forces, profoundly altering the world of work should come as a benefit to women and the working poor in rural and urban areas; and macroeconomic and labour market policies must create decent jobs, protect worker rights, and generate living wages, including for informal and migrant women workers.

Enhanced interventions to tackle persistent gender inequalities and gaps in the world of work, and stepped-up attention to technological and digital changes to ensure they become vehicles for women’s economic empowerment are needed. The creation of quality paid care economy is also pivotal in employment creation and in empowering at least a billion women- directly and indirectly as well as providing much needed jobs for all!

Transformative change is not only possible but it would generate tremendous dividends for the economy. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, if women were to play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as USD 28 trillion, or 26 percent, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.

Moreover, the total value of unpaid care and domestic work, dominated by women, is estimated to be between 10 and 39 per cent of national GDPs, and can surpass that of manufacturing, commerce, transportation and other key sectors. With women’s economic empowerment the global economy can therefore yield inclusive growth that generates decent work for all and reduces poverty ensuring that no one is left behind.

With the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the tectonic shift in the way that gender equality and women’s economic empowerment has been prioritized and valued in the international development agenda and express the resolve that we will all do everything it takes including transformative financing to achieve the ambitious goal of Planet 50/50 in the world of work by 2030.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/25th-november-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=25th-november-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/25th-november-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women/#respond Fri, 25 Nov 2016 10:03:06 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147954 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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By Lakshmi Puri
NEW YORK, Nov 25 2016 (IPS)

Each year on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is commemorated. A commemoration in essence is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges, prove that progress can be made and celebrate victories. It is also a reminder of the obligations and the responsibility we all must own at both the private and the public level to ensure that every woman, every girl, in all corners of the world lives in a world free of violence and fear. They must be enabled to enjoy their most fundamental right to physical integrity and security.

The reality today is grim. In every country, in every city or village, in conflict zones and refugee camps, in health pandemics like HIV or Ebola and humanitarian crisis due to cyclones or earthquakes, one out of three women are beaten, abused, stalked, assaulted, tortured, raped, trafficked and sexually exploited, coerced into slavery or becoming drug mules, so called honour killed, burnt alive for dowry and sold or forced into child marriage. This means over a billion women and girls of all ages are affected.

Globally, 47 per cent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to less than 6 per cent of murders of men. Women represent 55 per cent of victims of forced labour and 98 per cent of the victims of sexual exploitation. Globally, an estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM/C in 30 countries and 700 million were married as children.

47 per cent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to less than 6 per cent of murders of men. Women represent 55 per cent of victims of forced labour and 98 per cent of the victims of sexual exploitation. Globally, an estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM/C in 30 countries and 700 million were married as children
The necessary global norms and standards to end violence against women have been set. We have the Agreed Conclusions of the CSW 57 which set out a global plan of action on the elimination of violence against women and girls (EVAW), building upon the CEDAW, Beijing Platform for Action, the international Declaration on EVAW, the Regional Conventions – Belen de Para and Istanbul Conventions for example.

But the paradigm shift came as part of the Gender Equality compact in the first ever, universal, comprehensive and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the United Nations last year. It declared EVAW as essential for the achievement of sustainable development and enshrined EVAW in all its forms as Sustainable Development Targets in SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, with linkages to other SDGs including SDG 16 on just and peaceful societies.

We know what the underlying causes of this very complex and pernicious phenomenon is. Harmful traditions, customs and cultural norms, gender stereotypes and inequality and patriarchal political, economic and social structures manifest themselves in this most egregious violation of women’s human rights. This in turn creates and perpetuates an environment of impunity for perpetrators. Men typically indulge in violence as an exercise of their inherent power, entitlement, superiority and a sense of ownership of women by them. This is the mirror image of the sense of vulnerability, fear, shame, helplessness, resignation and dependence felt by women and girls who are victims and survivors of such violence.

We now have insights on how we can change and demolish these structures that breed violence and despair for both women and their families and communities, hold them back from achieving their potential and leave them behind in every way. UN Women has worked with the international community to set out guidelines and tools for implementing the Four Ps of EVAW – Prevention, Protection, Prosecution of Perpetrators and access to justice for victims and survivors and Provision of critical services from helplines to one stop multi service crisis centers and long term rehabilitation and empowerment support.

Enactment of Laws, policies and special measures and their effective implementation including through targeted institutions and interventions by governments is vital. Movement building for mindset change and change in social norms by all sectors of society including the private sector, women’s organizations, youth, faith-based groups and men and boys is a necessary complement.

All of this of course requires investment – of political will, social capital and financial resources. And it’s worth it both from the perspective of the heavy human and material cost and hemorrhaging of resources violence against women continues to exact otherwise and the enormous social and economic benefits that ending violence brings with it.

Apart from the immense emotional and psychosocial cost of violence against women and girls, there are high economic costs. Beyond the direct medical and judicial costs, child and welfare support, violence against women takes a toll on household and national incomes and budgets and poverty reduction efforts. This is on account of lost opportunities for education, income, productivity and employment of affected women and girls. Annual costs of intimate partner violence alone were calculated at US$5.8 billion in the United States and US$1.16 billion in Canada. In developing countries these are several fold and underestimated.

In Australia, violence against women and children costs an estimated US$11.38 billion per year. Domestic violence alone costs approximately US$32.9 billion in England and Wales. Conservative estimates indicate that the cost of violence against women could amount to around two per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). This is equivalent to 1.5 trillion, approximately, the size of the economy of Canada. It should come as no surprise that domestic and intimate partner violence cause more deaths and entail much higher economic costs than homicides or civil wars.

Experience has shown that when women are free from violence and have the power to make their own choices, the chains of poverty can be broken, families and communities grow stronger, peaceful and secure, children are better protected and their chances of a better life becomes more viable, environmental awareness deepens, and opportunities for civic and political engagement based on inclusivity and socially constructive values are able to flourish. Thus allocating adequate and significantly increased resources to ending violence against women is not only a legal obligation and a moral imperative, but a sound investment too.

This is true for all communities on every continent. Despite this truth, in many parts of the globe women still face multiple forms of discrimination and remain undervalued and underutilized, violated and aggressed against. The resources dedicated to addressing the issue do not match the scale of the challenge let alone the scale and scope of the multiple benefits it will yield. It’s a global public good that must be delivered and invested in.

This is the theme of this year’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign and 16 days of Global Activism being kicked off on 25th November 2016 to end violence against women and girls around the world. Today we want stakeholders to put money where their conviction is but also where most benefit women and girls as well as to the whole of society and economy. They must heed our call for transformative investment in gender equality, women’s empowerment and EVAW projects so we are able to fulfill the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and truly build a future where no one is left behind.

With a focus on prevention, the UNiTE campaign last year involved over 450 events planned in more than 80 countries throughout the 16 Days of Activism in November and December. The UNiTE Campaign and its Orange Your Hood campaign was met with enthusiastic support from governments, civil society, media, and the public. Major monuments in several countries around the world were lit up orange to signal the widespread commitment to action to eliminate violence against women. The UNiTE and the 16 days of Activism reached 310 million people through social media in 2015—a tripling in comparison to the previous year.

While this represents a massive scale in terms of outreach and advocacy, today we want to translate this type of support into concrete commitments on investing in EVAW. Today we ask all stakeholders, to join forces with us and make use of the first-ever UN Framework for Preventing Violence against Women promoting a common understanding on preventing violence against women for the UN System, Member States of the UN, policymakers and other stakeholders.

UN Women has worked to develop a prevention toolkit for various sectors: media last year, the work place and sports sector in the coming year as well as Global a Guidance on Addressing School-Related Gender-Based Violence.

Today we want to encourage governments to place a stronger emphasis in improving national and regional capacities to collect internationally comparable prevalence data on violence against women in an ethical and methodological sound manner, according to available global standards. As UN Women has started to discuss a joint global programme with relevant UN agencies (UN Statistics Division, UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF) to build capacities of national actors to conduct these prevalence studies (and produce SDG target 5.2 indicators).

Today, we call on the international community to support UN-Women and other agencies and civil society work on the provision of essential services package for women and girls subject to violence. Through this programme, we are helping to develop global standards and guidelines, and tools for implementation, for quality service provision for survivors of violence, including domestic violence, across the health, police, justice and social services sectors. Another key initiative is the human rights- based safe city and safe public spaces programme aimed at preventing and responding to violence, including sexual violence against women and girls.

UN Women remains committed to drive a ‘conscience revolution’ thorough awareness raising and advocacy, to supporting changes in legal, political and social norms and their implementation, in building a solid data, evidence and policy based on what works in operationalizing transformative programs on the ground and in fostering strategic partnerships for movement building.

We need the international community to invest in our mission. We are the first generation in history with a real possibility to change the relations between men and women to create significant and lasting gender equality and end gender based violence. We are the first generation with a full understanding of the multiple and intersecting harm caused by violence against women and girls and their unacceptable cost – human and economic. We are also the first generation to have unprecedented and comprehensive political commitment and norms to develop the necessary strategies and tools and to have multi-stakeholder partnerships at our disposal to address this global pandemic.

We can and must be pioneers in demonstrating that violence against women and girls   – in homes, at work, in public spaces or even in the cyber world is not inevitable nor is the resulting harm, suffering and lost opportunity their inescapable destiny. We must ensure that all necessary resources are deployed and investments made to secure an Orange World and a Future free from the tyranny of violence against women and girls. This even as we must step it up for securing a Planet 50/50 latest by 2030.

The post 25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

The post 25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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No Climate Justice without Gender Justice – the Marrakech Pacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact/#respond Tue, 15 Nov 2016 13:26:44 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147768 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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Credit: Hari Gopal Gorkhali/IPS

Credit: Hari Gopal Gorkhali/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
MARRAKESH, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

The historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change last year is a breakthrough commitment to respect, promote and consider gender equality and women’s empowerment obligations while taking climate change action. It also committed to gender-responsive adaptation and capacity building. A year later, with the Agreement entered into force on 4 November, vigorous efforts are being made at COP 22 in Marrakech to make sure that gender equality is systematically integrated into all aspects of the implementation of the Agreement.

Both gender equality and climate change champions around the globe are meeting here in Marrakesh to transform the climate change agenda into one that recognizes the rights, priorities and capacities of women and girls and harnesses their talent and leadership for effective climate proofing and response.

Yesterday, on 14 November 2016, Parties adopted a decision on gender and climate change which extends the 2014 Lima Work Programme on Gender. The decision is far-reaching in that, for the first time, climate decision-makers supported the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all areas of work of the Convention — mitigation, adaptation, finance, capacity-building, technology development and transfer, loss and damage. Now, it is incumbent upon Parties to register in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) commitments to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

A breakthrough in operationalizing gender-responsive climate policy and action was achieved, as the decision mandates the development of a gender action plan that will propose priority areas and concrete activities for gender-responsive climate action across the various work areas of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The decision also strengthens efforts to promote the participation of women in the UNFCCC process, including in bodies established under the Convention. It enhances accountability by requesting regular reporting from constituted bodies and financial mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) on how they are working to promote gender equality in their work.

The global agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and arrest global warming is about more than just tackling climate change. Of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),  SDG-13 “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” is closely linked to SDG-5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, recognizing gender equality both as a means and an end to effective climate action is a must. Moreover, the co-benefits of climate action and gender equality also positively and simultaneously address other SDGs – on poverty eradication, health, education, economic growth, sustainable energy, water and sanitation, full and productive employment and decent work, sustainable cities, just and peaceful societies, among others. For example, UN Women launched its Global Flagship Programme on Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy in partnership with the Government of India, the Department for International Development DFID of the UK and UNEP, which has a benefit multiplier effect. When linking efforts to achieve gender equality to climate action, we can effectively respond to the tragedy of climate change by helping to mitigate impacts and build resilient, inclusive societies.

Lakshmi PuriThe impacts of climate change range from health threats, resources constraints, loss of livelihoods, displacement, forced migration and conflicts, energy, income and time poverty and food insecurity to reduced access to infrastructure and essential services. They all have disproportionate impacts on women and girls. Climate change impacts also exacerbate the existing inequalities, discrimination, heavy burden of care and domestic work and violence that women face in their daily lives. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, the inadequate sanitary facilities and lighting in the overcrowded camps contributed to the high instances of night attacks on women. The hardship and suffering for women and girls walking millions of miles for endless of hours to fetch water, fuel and food in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia is unconscionable and has a high opportunity cost to them and to society and the economy.

Even without much support and validation, women have been on the front lines of adaptation and mitigation. They have been formidable climate change activists, working in families, communities and economies to fend off the effects of extreme weather events and build resilience. Women have pioneered inclusive and sustainable initiatives. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in Benin has been key in the fight against energy poverty while economically empowering women in their local communities.  It is an example of women led resilience building. Similarly, the leadership of CEO Ms. Wandee Khunchornyakong has allowed the Solar Power Company Group, Thailand’s largest solar power generation company, to successfully unlock private financing for photovoltaic capacity, provide clean energy jobs for women, and lead the country on a low-carbon growth path. Women are also demonstrating leadership in science, technology, and innovation, as well as developing and applying protective, resilient and adaptive technologies to deal with flooding, heat, water management and promoting local indigenous practices and traditional knowledge.

Yet, the consistent unequal participation of women and men in decision-making processes has meant rights and contributions of women are not adequately considered in disaster preparations and response plans, leading to further marginalization and greater risks. A 2015 study covering 881 environmental sector ministries from 193 countries found only 12 per cent of the ministers were women. Women account for only 20 to 25 per cent of the workforce in renewable energy. The low representation of women in positions of power and influence has been one of the factors for the slow progress in the formulation and implementation of gender-responsive climate policies and strategies. Gender-based discrimination in all its forms must be eliminated with the utmost urgency.

The successful implementation of the actions under the extended work programme will require significantly increased targeted resources. Although the GCF has promoted a gender-sensitive approach from the outset, the existing resources to finance climate actions rarely ensure access to climate finance for programmes that are led by or have women as beneficiaries. This must change and both GEF and GCF must provide transformative and significantly scaled up financing for specific programs that aim at gender and climate justice together.

UN Women has been working with Parties and other stakeholders to strengthen understanding and the systematic integration of a gender perspective in climate policies and actions. In doing so, it is crucial for Parties to set concrete goals and targets in order to ensure the full, equal and effective participation of women in climate policy making and programme implementation at national, regional and global levels.

A paradigm shift is happening. This represents an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the co-benefits between gender equality and climate action, putting gender equality considerations and the voice and agency of women and girls at the centre of all climate management efforts and investments. We will thereby leave no one behind and do justice to people, planet and the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

 

The post No Climate Justice without Gender Justice – the Marrakech Pact appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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From City 50/50 to Planet 50/50 – How to Step it Up for Gender Equality and Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/from-city-5050-to-planet-5050-how-to-step-it-up-for-gender-equality-and-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-city-5050-to-planet-5050-how-to-step-it-up-for-gender-equality-and-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/from-city-5050-to-planet-5050-how-to-step-it-up-for-gender-equality-and-sustainable-development/#respond Mon, 17 Oct 2016 17:41:38 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147412 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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Panama City, one of the fastest growing metropolises in Latin America. Credit: Emilo Godoy/IPS

Panama City, one of the fastest growing metropolises in Latin America. Credit: Emilo Godoy/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
QUITO, Oct 17 2016 (IPS)

Urban development ministers, mayors from all over the world, city planners, architects and municipal authorities, civil society and private sector will meet in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, for Habitat III, the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (17-20 October, 2016), to adopt the New Urban Agenda as well as to strategize and agree on its implementation.

Women’s and grass roots women’s organizations, youth champions for gender equality and UN Women, have consistently supported UN Habitat, the United Nations entity responsible for this agenda, in the three-year preparatory process, and will be at the Conference, to ensure that the historic gender equality and women’s empowerment compact agreed by the international community during 2015 is not only reflected in the outcome, but actually implemented where it matters most – on the ground at the local level, in communities and households.

Lakshmi Puri - UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

Lakshmi Puri – UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

HABITAT III is critical for the effective, accelerated and full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its transformative and comprehensive gender equality compact, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the outcome of the Financing for Development Conference and the Women, Peace and Security agenda in conflict and post-conflict countries.

It also comes at a time of unprecedented urbanization of the world with the large exodus of people from villages to haphazardly and rapidly growing cities in developing countries with inadequate infrastructure, services and social protection, transferring extreme rural poverty into vast city slums.

Studies indicate that there is a higher proportion of women within the urban population overall, and a concentration of women-headed households in urban centers.  Also, the population is becoming younger, and women and youth will continue to make up the majority of people living in poverty, with limited control over assets and with unequal access to economic and income generating opportunities and participation in public and private decision-making.

This population also faces greater vulnerability to gender inequalities, gender based violence and multiple forms of discrimination. For cities and human settlements it is increasingly more complex and challenging to meet the needs of women and young populations including for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and health care.

Yet for many the trend towards the “feminization of urbanization” creates new opportunities for escaping the inequality trap and realizing their human rights, but it also poses new challenges.

The NUA is a collective vision and a political commitment to promote and realize sustainable urban development.

 It provides a strategic opportunity to support the implementation of the Agenda 2030 by improving the spatial configuration of cities and human settlements in a gender-inclusive way and by recognizing the crucial dimensions of women’s rights. In this regard, the Quito Implementation Plan envisions to develop cities that “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and in leadership at all levels of decision-making, and by ensuring decent work and equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value for all women, as well as preventing and eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment against women and girls in private and public spaces.”

In adopting «Leaving no one behind» and «Sustainable and inclusive urban economies» as part of its guiding principles, the NUA commits to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all, end poverty and discrimination and promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all.

With the adoption of the NUA, Member States are pledging their commitment to adopt sustainable, people-centered, age- and gender- responsive and integrated approaches to urban and territorial development.

Efforts have been made throughout the grounds up and consultative process leading up to HABITAT III to reflect the imperative recognized in the 2030 Agenda and elsewhere that without realizing the human rights of half of humanity – that of women and girls – sustainable development, peace and security, or effective humanitarian action and resilience cannot be achieved.

In this case, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is both an end and a vital means to these ends.

Equally it should be noted that there is an inextricable link between the achievement of SDG 11 and its targets on making cities and human settlements sustainable, inclusive, safe and resilient, and SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

This link has been emphatically recognized as critical to unlock the power of cities to empower women and girls as well to transform gender power relations within cities and human settlements.

In this regard, the NUA draws on SDG-5 and the gender equality component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for example, by committing to promoting safety and eliminating discrimination and all forms of violence; ensuring public participation providing safe and equal access for all (SDG 5.1); eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment against women and girls in private and public spaces (SDG 5.2); eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, including child, early, and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (SDG 5.3); recognize the contribution of the working poor in the informal economy, particularly women, including the unpaid, domestic, and migrant workers to the urban economies (SDG 5.4); ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and at all levels of decision-making, including in local governments (SDG 5.5);  promoting access to adequate, inclusive, and quality public services, social infrastructure and facilities, such as health-care services, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services to reduce newborn child and maternal mortality (SDG 5.6).

Furthermore, to consolidate the transformative power of cities, the NUA promotes increased security of tenure for all with particular attention to security of land tenure for women as key to their empowerment; make information and communications technologies accessible to the public, including women and girls, children and youth; and promoting participatory age- and gender-responsive approaches at all stages of the urban and territorial policy and planning processes, from conceptualization to design, budgeting, implementation, evaluation.

The NUA also references age- and gender-responsive measures throughout, including in relation to sustainable, safe, and accessible urban mobility for all and resource efficient transport systems, goods, services, and economic opportunities; housing policies, water and sanitation, and climate change. It makes reference to paying special attention to the needs and rights of women in relation to services provision, full and productive employment, decent work, and livelihood opportunities in cities and human settlements. It also commits to promote gender-responsive urban territorial development, budgeting, and tenure security, among others.

We now have the strongest political commitment ever to embedding the gender equality and women’s rights agenda in the path-breaking twenty-first century New Urban Agenda.  All stakeholders of cities and of all human settlements – peri urban and rural areas – should implement this agenda without which we will not be able to localize and achieve the first-ever universal and ambitious sustainable development agenda; nor will we be able to make and build peace in fragile and war torn countries; nor deal with the enormous migration and refugee crisis, humanitarian and climate change related challenges effectively.

As Habitat III unfolds, the challenge now is to ensure significant frontloading effort in implementation. Gender equality advocates, including UN Women, have played a critical role both in setting the agenda and monitoring the insider process during the run-up to Habitat III.

Now, we must remain vigilant to ensure, with a sense of urgency, its full and effective implementation. Strong accountability mechanisms are to be in place with clear responsibilities for all stakeholders while also providing avenues for women’s and grassroots’ and other civil society organizations at all levels to hold decision-makers answerable for their actions, and seek redress when necessary.

The most transformative commitments of land tenure, violence against women in public spaces and equal access to productive resources and decent employment, will truly root if the age and gender-responsive integrated approaches that the NUA promises are spelled out ensuring that women and girls’ human rights and fundamental freedoms are fulfilled.

The cities have a huge responsibility in generating an enabling environment to grant women and girls equal access to opportunities and the benefits of urban development, including in relation to the sharing of care work, for example through the provision of child care which actually has been left out of the NUA.

City 50/50 is the foundation for building a Planet 50/50 so we need to get all actors – local and national governments, the private sector and civil society to step it up for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls!!

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Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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Women and Girls Imperative to Science & Technology Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda/#respond Mon, 08 Feb 2016 12:14:12 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143822 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri

Lakshmi Puri

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 8 2016 (IPS)

Can you imagine an entire day without access to your mobile phone, laptop, or even to the internet? In our rapidly changing world, could you function without having technology at your fingertips?

Unfathomable for most of us, but across the world—especially for many in developing countries–using and accessing technology is not readily available, and certainly not a privileged choice. This is particularly true for women and girls.

In low- to middle-income countries, a woman is 21 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man, and the divide is similar for Internet access. The possibilities of scientific and technological progress is almost limitless, yet women and girls are sorely missing in these fields, particularly as a creators and decision-makers in spheres that are transforming our everyday world.

In September 2015 the UN General Assembly declared 11 February the International Day for Women in Science. Coinciding with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, or Agenda 2030, which are underpinned by science, technology and innovation (STI) and call for gender equality throughout, including under the standalone goal on gender equality, Goal 5, this Day has the potential to reverberate across the world.

Science and technology is not inherently elite, or about gadgets or toys. It is about our everyday. STI has the power to disrupt and shift trajectories as it increasingly influences all aspects of life today – from economic opportunity in STI sectors and the application of STI solutions within other productive sectors, including to help women grow business and social enterprise, to opportunity for greatly improving health outcomes (including sexual and reproductive health), energy, environment and natural resource management, and infrastructure development.

We see opportunity, particularly through information and communication technology, to enhance education, learning opportunities and skill development, for engagement with youth, for political participation and for women and girls to advocate for their interests, rights and social transformation.

Economic opportunities are abundant. The economic forecast in just a few STI sectors reveal staggering numbers. Estimates have shown that the value of climate change and clean technology sectors in the next decade amount to 6.4 trillion dollars, while the value of the digital economy in the G20 alone is 4.2 trillion dollars.

There is a huge opportunity gap in digitally skilled workers, amounting to 200 million workers, with estimates showing that up to 90% of formal sector jobs will require ICT skills. In energy and agriculture, 2.5 million engineers and technicians will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone to achieve improved access to clean water and sanitation.

Science and technology squarely underlie the enjoyment of human – and women’s – rights and are intrinsic to sustainable development, citizenship and personal empowerment. The SDG Gender Goal recognizes this reality by including a means of implementation indicator which directs the global community to “Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.” (5b).

The ability of women to access, benefit from, develop and influence these sectors will directly impact whether we achieve our goals of Planet 50:50 by 2030. If women are left out of these 21st century revolutions, we will not achieve substantive gender equality.

The Financing for Development framework makes additional linkages between gender equality, women’s empowerment and science and technology. In establishing the Technology Mechanism – which will be guided by a High Level Panel, half of which are women – we have the opportunity to operationalize and promote learning and investment around these critical intersections.

The Commission on the Status of Women (2011, 2014) and the 20-year Review of the Beijing Platform for Action (2015) addressed this complex issue of girls and women in science and technology, and resulted in a series of recommendations on a path forward and needed investments. New, as well as established good practices were identified, but we face the urgent need to scale these success stories from all stakeholders and to connect ad hoc good approaches to each other to build more comprehensive pathways and solutions.

The 10 year review of the World Summit on the Information Society also resulted in increased commitments around gender equality and a role for UN Women. An Action Plan that synthesized priority gender and ICT commitments across a multitude of normative frameworks, including WSIS, was also presented to catalyze engagement of stakeholders. The urgent need for accelerated implementation of all of these commitments and recommendations cannot be understated.

Evidence shows, including in the recent World Bank Report on Digital Dividends, gains are not automatic. The number of women in STEM falls continuously from secondary school to university, laboratories, teaching, policy making and decision-making. There are great divides in women’s access to, participation and leadership within STI sectors, despite being on the frontlines of energy use, climate change adaptation, economic production, and holders of extensive traditional knowledge. In the formal sector of STI, women globally make up under 10 percent of those in innovation hubs and those receiving funding by venture capitalists, and only 5 percent of membership in national academies in science and technology disciplines.

There are similar low figures around women in research and development, publication, leadership in government and the private sector, and so on. The disconnect between women’s practical and regular interface with STI and their formal ability to take advantage of these sectors and in having their knowledge, perspectives and leadership valued is stark indeed.

The reasons for this disconnect are many, ranging from access to technology, to education and investment gaps, to unsupportive work environments, to cultural beliefs and stereotypes. Globally, girls start to self-select out of STEM courses in early secondary school. Societal attitudes and bias hinder girls’ participation, with science and technology often considered male domains.

But change is coming, slowly but steadily. On the ground, UN Women is working to further women and girl’s engagement in the field, with many programmes focused on leveraging the power of ICTs. We are running digital literacy and ICT skill development initiatives in countries including Jordan, Guatemala and Afghanistan, and we are supporting mobile payment and information systems for farmers and women in small business in Papua New Guinea and East Africa.

UN Women has also been supporting the development of mobile apps and games to raise awareness of violence against women and to support survivors in Brazil and South Africa. We have partnered with the International Telecommunications Union to launch a new global technology award that recognizes outstanding contributions from women and men in leveraging the potential of information technology to promote gender equality. At the policy level, we are engaged globally and nationally to promote girls and women in STEM.

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we must not only celebrate women’s incredible achievements in science, technology and innovation, but also galvanize the global community to do more to ensure that women’s participation in the formal sector is not the exception but becomes the rule, while in the informal sector where women’s ingenuity is the rule, that they are given recognition and support.

The International Day for Women in Science serves as an annual reminder and hold us to account on how we are advancing women in science, technology and innovation more broadly and critically for achieving gender equality and ultimately, all other development goals.

(End)

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Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women

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2015 – A Giant Leap for Womankind (Part 2)http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/2015-a-giant-leap-for-womankind-part-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2015-a-giant-leap-for-womankind-part-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/2015-a-giant-leap-for-womankind-part-2/#respond Mon, 04 Jan 2016 10:34:41 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143504 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 4 2016 (IPS)

Against the backdrop of escalating extremism and conflict globally, 2015 also marked the 15th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security (WPS ) with a Global Study and Review on its effective implementation strongly addressing the impact of conflict on women and their essential role in conflict prevention, peacemaking and peace building. The landmark UNSC resolution 2242 (October 2015) calls for effective and accelerated implementation of the WPS Agenda by all actors.

Lakshmi Puri

Lakshmi Puri

It resolves to systematically integrate resolution 1325 and its implementation in its own work, to dedicate periodic Council consultations on country situations to WPS implementation review to ensure Security Council missions take into account gender considerations and women’s rights.

It also reinforces the UN’s WPS Architecture and emphasizes UNWOMEN’s coordination and accountability building role. In the light of violent terrorism’s targeting and impact on women and girls human rights, WPS will be a cross-cutting subject in all thematic areas of work of the Council including on countering terrorism.

The Climate Agreement adopted at the Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris 2015 was a breakthrough. It specifically commits all Parties when taking climate action to respect, promote and consider their obligations on human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment and to ensure that their adaptation and capacity building policies and actions are gender responsive.

This, and the fact that there are 50 COP decisions on gender responsive climate action to implement, signals commitment that all aspects of climate action including mitigation, finance and technology development and transfer, data and monitoring and the implementation of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) will be gender responsive.

UNWOMEN organized a number of Global Thematic Beijing plus 20 and 2030 Agenda events and carried out a Step it up for Planet 50/50 by 2030 Advocacy Campaign. The climactic event was on 27 September in New York. Alongside the Agenda 2030 Summit, UN Women convened with the Government of China—the first ever—Global Leaders’ Commitment Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

It was co-chaired by President Xi Jinping of China and the UN Secretary-General, and later by UNWOMEN Executive Director with other heads of state. 140 countries participated and nearly 70 Heads of State and Government vowed to “step it up” by taking concrete actions to implement the Beijing Platform and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for women and girls. Since then, other heads of state and governments have made commitments, which are now reflected on the UNWOMEN website and in a Book of Commitments and being tracked and followed up.

UN Women convened a Forum of private and Philanthropy leaders to galvanize support for implementation of Beijing and SDGs especially SDG5 and raise resources. Three major Civil Society meetings were convened in 2015 – Intergenerational Dialogue, Thought Leaders Meeting and the Global Dialogue to strategize on translating the enormous normative and advocacy gains made into impact on the ground and on dealing with challenges they face. Both civil society organisations (CSOs) and the private sector are critical actors and partners in the journey towards achieving the SDGs.

Beyond these milestone events, three other intergovernmental fora evoked highest level political commitment to gender equality with consistent advocacy and substantive support by UNWOMEN. The G7 Summit in Elmau under the Presidency of Germany and Chancellor Merkel committed to focus on expanding and supporting economic empowerment opportunities for women in developing countries, the G20 under the presidency of President Erdogan of Turkey launched the Women 20 Engagement Group, held a W20 Summit and the G20 Antalya Summit adopted a comprehensive action plan for women’s economic empowerment participation and leadership.

At the initiative of President Coleiro Preca of Malta, the first ever Women’s Forum was launched at the Commonwealth Summit to foster cooperation in implementing gender equality commitments. 2015 was a pivotal year for global resolve to act for the unqualified normative success of the Gender Equality Project, with member states, civil society, and private sector making profound commitments at the highest level.

Looking ahead, it is imperative that we “localize” the SDGs, and other normative commitments. Localization demands that all development strategies, policies and programs, constitutions and laws of all countries be aligned with the gender equality commitments in the SDGs and they be made central to all aspects of decision-making, and implementation. UNWOMEN’s Flagship Programme Initiatives seek to support this localization.

Member states will need to remain faithful to the prioritization of gender equality in 2030 Agenda and follow an ‘all of government’ and ” all of society ” approach, including a strong role for gender equality mechanisms to help drive evidence-based implementation and gender responsive monitoring of the SDGs and transparent consultative mechanisms, which include the women’s movement and civil society. Also gender data requirements will require significant investments and capacity-building of statistical systems. Transformative Financing for gender equality must be deployed.

It is unfortunate that patriarchy is too deep rooted and pervasive to be immediately vanquished by these normative resolves. Instances of horrific inhuman treatment, violence and denial of basic rights of women and girls – the mob lynching of Farkhunda and stoning to death of Rokhsahana, the kidnapping and enslavement of Chibok girls, the rapes and sexual assault of young women in schools, campuses, in public places, at work and behind domestic walls the brutal targeting and coerced coopting of women and girls in the refugee camps and conflict zones for sexual exploitation and violent extremism by terrorists, continue to sear our conscience.

All the more reason that we cannot fail to make this normative leap also a giant leap in changing the reality for 3.5 billion women and girls of the world. The remarkable normative unity of purpose and self-belief that a gender equal world is mission possible must now be translated into a giant leap of action in every country, city and village, in every community and household and within each of our minds and hearts.

There is now an unparalleled opportunity to finish what has been languishing for centuries – to end discrimination and violence against women and to acknowledge women’s equal right to dignity and humanity.

(End)

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Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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2015 – A Giant Leap for Womankind (Part 1)http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/2015-a-giant-leap-for-womankind-part-1/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2015-a-giant-leap-for-womankind-part-1 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/2015-a-giant-leap-for-womankind-part-1/#comments Fri, 01 Jan 2016 12:52:43 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143494 Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 1 2016 (IPS)

2015, the final year of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), heralds the beginning of the most critical fifteen years for the realization of the new Sustainable Development Agenda that the international community launched along with renewed Climate Change and Financing for Development (FfD) compacts.

Lakshmi Puri

Lakshmi Puri

It also marks a historic conjunction in the realization of the Gender Equality Project – perhaps the most important for humanity in the 21 century. The UN at 70 signaled that it is integrally and unequivocally committed to realizing it.

Great strides were made in the prioritization of women’s human rights through the encompassing lens of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all the UN’s defining normative endeavors in 2015. Women’s economic, social and political rights, their security and integrity, and their voice, participation and leadership were placed at the core of its ambition to ‘Transform the world” and “leave no one behind”.

Realizing gender equality and women’s empowerment is not only regarded as a moral imperative but also as “crucial” to achieving the first ever set of universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other related intergovernmental compacts including those on peace, security, and humanitarian action.

The 20 Year Review of Beijing Platform for Action on Women

The world commemorated the 20th anniversary of the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing with national, regional and global reviews of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). UN Women mobilized Member States, UN System entities, private sector, civil society, youth and media through high impact knowledge generation, norm setting, advocacy campaigns, programmes on the ground, coordination and strategic partnerships to join this introspection and call for action.

The 59th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) undertook a global review of progress made in implementing BPA and based its report card on a record 168 national reports and regional reviews. The verdict – there has been progress, but it has been uneven and unacceptably slow. Change has not been deep and irreversible and a gender financing gap persists.

Despite significant advances – in laws to promote gender equality and address violence against women and girls, in educational enrollment, labour force participation, women’s access to contraception, in declining rates of harmful practices, and gains in women’s representation in national parliaments – twenty years on, many of the same structural barriers remain in force globally. These barriers needed to be comprehensively addressed in Agenda 2030.

Violence against women is a global epidemic taking different forms. The majority of the world’s poor are women. Gaps persist in education, labour force participation, wages, income, social protection, unpaid care work and domestic work. Inequality in corporate, parliamentary and government participation and leadership is big. No country has achieved substantive gender equality.

The review also concluded that at current slow pace it will take another century to achieve gender equality. It underlined the need to fast forward change or ” hurry history ” as feminists would say, to overturn the patriarchal systems and structures that have undervalued women and girls for centuries, stripped them of equal rights, and denied them and humankind the opportunities to realize their full potential.

The Political Declaration adopted by Member States at the 59th session of CSW reaffirms their political will to tackle these challenges and remaining implementation gaps and structural barriers. They vowed full, accelerated and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform and to strengthen laws and policies and their implementation, to transform discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes; to significantly increase investment to close the gender resource gap including through prioritization in official development assistance (ODA) and in domestic resource mobilization; to strengthen data, monitoring and accountability on implementation; and to strengthen national gender mechanisms.

The valuable role of civil society and women’s organizations was acknowledged and commitment made to support them including by providing a safe and enabling environment. These commitments are carried forward and reiterated in the 2030 Agenda and FfD outcomes.

Transformative Financing of gender equality Commitments

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted this year at the World Conference on Financing for Development pledges to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment and to mainstream it including through targeted actions and investments in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, environmental and social policies. It commits to sound policies, enforceable legislation and “transformative actions” at all levels.

UN Women’s “Addis Ababa Action Plan on Transformative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment” involving significantly increased investment in gender equality from all sources and at all levels, and prioritized and targeted allocation as well as mainstreaming” garnered wide support. The urgency of these unprecedented resourcing commitments have now been framed against the 2030 deadline.

Agenda 2030 – gender equality at the Center

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with gender equality at its center represents a significant and hard-earned victory for advocates of gender equality including UNWOMEN. We welcome the recognition that “sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities”.

The universal framework’s trifold and indivisible dimensions of sustainable development – the economic, environmental and social – and its strong references to human rights, ending discrimination, violence and inequality is important for all women and girls, individuals and countries – developed and developing.

The giant leap is that the 2030 Agenda positions the Beijing Platform for Action as a foundational framework for sustainable development -“a normative motherboard” with all gender goals and targets transformed into sustainable development ones! There is an overarching commitment to significantly increase investment to close the gender gap, to strengthen support for gender equality institutions at all levels, to systematically mainstream gender perspectives into the implementation of the Agenda, and determination to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence including through engagement of men and boys.

A strong stand-alone SDG 5 to achieve –not just promote –gender equality and empower all women and girls has been secured. Gender equality is also integrated across 11 other SDGs including on poverty, hunger, health, education, water and sanitation, employment, just and peaceful societies, sustainable cities, and economic growth. Data and follow up and review are to be gender sensitive.

SDG 5 itself has six transformative targets – on ending all forms of discrimination, on all forms of violence against women and harmful practices like child marriage , female genital mutilation (FGM), on equal participation and leadership in economic, political and public life, on valuing and reducing women’s unpaid care work and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection and shared responsibility within the household, and on universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. Economic empowerment through access, ownership and control over resources, legal reform and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are critical means of implementation.

As a desperate migration crisis rocked the world, the 2015 Global Forum on Migration and Development in Istanbul also focused on women’s concerns and role. It affirmed that the Addis Accord and SDGs enable the mainstreaming of migration into development–that SDG 5 fully apply to women migrants–constituting over 50 percent of all migrants–and that both source and destination countries should act to promote those rights at all ends of the migration spectrum.

(To be continued)

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Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part Twohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-two http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-two/#respond Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:25:15 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142009 Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of U.N. Women. Credit: U.N. Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 17 2015 (IPS)

The efforts of the United Nations and the global women’s movement to promote the women’s rights agenda and make it a top international priority saw its culmination in the creation of U.N. Women, by the General Assembly in 2010.

UN Women is the first – and only – composite entity of the U.N. system, with a universal mandate to promote the rights of women through the trinity of normative support, operational programmes and U.N. system coordination and accountability lead and promotion.This is a pivotal moment for the gender equality project of humankind.

It also supports the building of a strong knowledge hub – with data, evidence and good practices contributing to positive gains but also highlighting challenges and gaps that require urgent redressal.

UN Women has given a strong impetus to ensuring that progressive gender equality and women’s empowerment norms and standards are evolved internationally and that they are clearly mainstreamed and prioritised as key beneficiaries and enablers of the U.N.’s sustainable development, peace and security, human rights, humanitarian action, climate change action and World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) + 10 agendas.

In fact, since its creation five years ago, there has been an unprecedented focus and prioritisation of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all normative processes and outcomes.

With the substantive and intellectual backstopping, vigorous advocacy, strategic mobilisation and partnerships with member states and civil society, U.N. Women has contributed to the reigniting of political will for the full, effective and accelerated implementation of Beijing Platform commitments as was done in the Political Declaration adopted at 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women; a remarkable, transformative and comprehensive integration and prioritisation of gender equality in the Rio + 20 outcome and in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal and gender sensitive targets in other key Goals and elements.

Additionally, there was also a commitment to both gender mainstreaming and targeted and transformative actions and investments in the formulation and implementation of financial, economic, social and environmental policies at all levels in the recently-concluded Addis Accord and Action Agenda on  Financing For Development.

Also we secured a commitment to significantly increased investment to close the gender gap and resource gap and a pledge to strengthen support to gender equality mechanisms and institutions at the global, regional and national levels. We now are striving to do the same normative alchemy with the Climate Change Treaty in December 2015.

Equally exhilarating and impactful has been the advocacy journey of U.N. Women. It  supports and advocates for gender equality, women’s empowerment and the rights of women globally, in all regions and countries, with governments, with civil society and the private sector, with the media and with citizens – women and girls, men and boys everywhere including through its highly successful and innovative Campaigns such as UNiTE to End Violence against Women / orange your neighbourhood, Planet 50/50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality and the HeforShe campaign which have reached out to over a billion people worldwide .

UN Women also works with countries to help translate international norms and standards into concrete actions and impact at national level and to achieve real change in the lives of women and girls in over 90 countries. It is in the process of developing Key Flagship Programs to scale up and drive impact on the ground in priority areas of economic empowerment, participation and leadership in decision making and governance, and ending violence against women.

Ending the chronic underinvestment in women and girls empowerment programs and projects and mobilising transformative financing of gender equality commitments made is also a big and urgent priority.

We have and will continue to support women and girls in the context of humanitarian crisis like the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the earthquake relief and response in Nepal and worked in over 22 conflict and post conflict countries to advance women’s security, voice, participation and leadership in the continuum from peace-making, peace building to development.

UN Women’s role in getting each and every part of the U.N. system including the MFIs and the WTO to deliver bigger, better and in transformative ways for gender equality through our coordination role has been commended by all. Already 62 U.N. entities, specialised agencies and departments have reported for the third year on their UN-SWAP progress and the next frontier is to SWAP the field.

Much has been achieved globally on women’s right from education, to employment and leadership, including at the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has appointed more senior women than all the other Secretary-Generals combined.

Yet, despite the great deal of progress that has been made in the past 70 years in promoting the rights of women –persistent challenges remain and new ones have come up and to date no country in the world has achieved gender equality.

The majority of the world’s poor are women and they remain disempowered and marginalised. Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic. Women and girls are denied their basic right to make decisions on their sexuality and reproductive life and at the current rate of progress, it would take nearly another 80 years to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment everywhere, and for women and girls to have equal access to opportunities and resources everywhere.

The world cannot wait another century. Women and girls have already waited two millennia. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and all other normative commitments in the United Nations will remain ‘ink on paper’ without transformative financing in scale and scope, without the data, monitoring and follow up and review and without effective accountability mechanisms in this area.

As we move forward, the United Nations must continue to work with all partners to hold Member States accountable for their international commitments to advance and achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment in all sectors and in every respect.

UN Women is readying itself to be Fit For Purpose but must also be Financed For Purpose in order to contribute and support the achievement of the Goals and targets for women and girls across the new Development Agenda.

This is a pivotal moment for the gender equality project of humankind. In order to achieve irreversible and sustained progress in gender equality and women’s empowerment for all women and girls – no matter where and in what circumstances they live and what age they are, we must all step up our actions and investment to realise the promise of “Transforming our World ” for them latest by 2030. It is a matter of justice, of recognising their equal humanity and of enabling the realisation of their fundamental freedoms and rights.

As the U.N. turns 70 and the entire international development  and  security community faces many policy priorities – from poverty eradication, conflict resolution, to addressing climate change and increasing inequalities within and between countries – it is heartening that all constituents of the U.N. – member states, the Secretariat and the civil society – recognise that no progress can be made in any of them without addressing women’s needs and interests and without women and girls as participants and leaders of change.

By prioritising gender equality in everything they pledge to not only as an article of faith but an operational necessity, they signal that upholding women’s rights will not only make the economy, polity and society work for women but create a prosperous economy, a just and peaceful society and a more sustainable planet.

Part One can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The post The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part Two appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

The post The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part Two appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part Onehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-one/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-one http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-u-n-at-70-leading-the-global-agenda-on-womens-rights-and-gender-equality-part-one/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:12:38 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141990 Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of U.N. Women. Credit: U.N. Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 14 2015 (IPS)

If there is any idea and cause for which the United Nations has been an indispensable engine of progress globally it is the cause of ending all forms of “discrimination and violence against women and girls, ensuring the realization of their equal rights and advancing their political, economic and social empowerment.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women has been featured prominently in the history of the United Nations system since its inception. The ideas, commitments and actions of the United Nations have sought to fundamentally improve the situation of women around the world, in country after country.Twenty years after its adoption, the Platform for Action remains a gold standard of international commitments on strategic objectives and actions on gender equality and women's empowerment.

Now, as we celebrate the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, the U.N. continues to be the world leader in establishing the global norms and policy standards on women’s empowerment, their human rights and on establishing what we at U.N. Women call  the Planet 50 / 50 Project on equality between women and men.

Equality between men and women was enshrined in the U.N.’s founding Charter as a key principle and objective. Just a year after, in 1946, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was set up as the dedicated intergovernmental body for policy dialogue and standard setting and monitoring gender equality commitments of member states and their implementation.

Since then, the Commission has played an essential role in guiding the work of the United Nations and in setting standards for all countries, from trailblazing advocacy for the full political suffrage of women and political rights to women’s role in development.

It also gave birth to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, adopted in 1979. Often called the international bill of rights for women, and used as a global reference point for both governments and NGOs alike, the Convention has been ratified by 189 States so far.

These governments regularly report to the CEDAW Committee which has also become a generator of normative guidance through its General Recommendations, apart from strengthening the accountability of governments.

As the torch-bearer on women’s rights, the U.N. also led the way in declaring 1975 to 1985 the International Women’s Decade. During this period the U.N. held the first three World Conferences on Women, in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980) and Nairobi (1985) which advanced advocacy, activism and policy action on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights in multiple areas.

In 1995, the U.N. hosted the historic Fourth World Conference on Women, and adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, one of most progressive frameworks which continues to be the leading roadmap for the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment globally.

Twenty years after its adoption, the Platform for Action remains a gold standard of international commitments on strategic objectives and actions on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights in 12 critical areas of concern including poverty, education, health, economy, power and decision making, ending violence against women, women’s human rights, conflict and post conflict environment, media, institutional mechanisms and the girl child.

Since 1995 gender equality and women’s empowerment issues have permeated all intergovernmental bodies of the U.N. system.

The General Assembly, the highest and the universal membership body of the United Nations, leads the way with key normative resolutions as well as reflecting gender perspectives in areas such as agriculture, trade, financing for development, poverty eradication, disarmament and non-proliferation, and many others. Among the MDGs, MDG 3 was specifically designed to promote gender equality and empower women apart from Goal 5 on maternal mortality.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has also been a strong champion of gender mainstreaming into all policies, programmes, areas and sectors as the mains strategy in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Progress achieved so far has been in part possible thanks to ECOSOC’s strong mandate for mainstreaming a gender perspective and its support to the United Nations system-wide action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN-SWAP) which constitutes a unified accountability framework for and of the U.N. to support gender equality and empowerment of women.

Strongly addressing the impact of conflict on women and their role in peacebuilding, the U.N. sent a strong signal by addressing the issue of women peace and security in the landmark Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) which asserted  the imperative of  women’s empowerment in  conflict prevention, peace-making and peace building apart from ensuring their protection.

This resolution was seen as a must for women as well as for lasting peace and it has since been complemented by seven additional resolutions including on Sexual Violence in Conflict. This year as the 15th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 is commemorated, a Global Study and Review on its effective implementation is underway.

It is expected to renew the political will and decisive action to ensure that women are equal partners and their agency and leadership is effectively engaged in conflict prevention, peace-making and peace-building.

Part Two can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp 

The post The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part One appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

The post The U.N. at 70: Leading the Global Agenda on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality – Part One appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Ending Violence Against Women – A Global Responsibilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/ending-violence-against-women-a-global-responsibility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-violence-against-women-a-global-responsibility http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/ending-violence-against-women-a-global-responsibility/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 13:11:13 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137586 Lakshmi Puri is Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.

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Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 4 2014 (IPS)

Addressing violence against women, in all of its forms, is a global imperative and should be one of the international community’s top priorities, including in forthcoming intergovernmental processes, such as the post-2015 development agenda.

There are numerous international frameworks and instruments, already in existence, that define the obligation of member states to prevent and respond to violence against women.It is critical to ensure that accountability mechanisms are in place; that funding for implementation is adequate, predictable and sustainable; and that the means of implementation are strengthened.

These include the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women; outcomes of global conferences, in particular, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Cairo Programme of Action; and many resolutions, agreed conclusions and statements of intergovernmental bodies, especially the General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Human Rights and subsequently Human Rights Council, and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Committee’s General Recommendation 19 are also key components of this global normative framework.

More recently, in 2013, at its 57th session, the Commission on the Status of Women adopted the milestone agreed conclusions on the “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls,” which apart from representing normative progress and commitment, constitute a global plan of action.

The creation of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), with its normative support, operational and coordination functions, further demonstrates the commitment to the rights of women and the achievement to the goal of gender equality at the global level.

However, the translation and full implementation of these global norms into national laws, policies, and measures remain uneven and slow. This is clear from the prevalence of all forms of violence against women seen throughout the world.

The focus of prevention and response to violence against women should therefore be on strengthening the implementation of existing global policy frameworks and in ensuring accountability mechanisms are in place.

We must look critically at existing global policy frameworks and instruments, and identify gaps that prevent the existing framework from achieving its expected results and ways to enhance accountability.

Engaging key stakeholders such as civil society organisations as well as the public is critical in enhancing the accountability of member states but also establishing a “bottom-up” approach to addressing violence against women.

This is what UN Women aims to do with the 20-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+20).

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action identified Violence against Women as one of its 12 critical areas of concern, and the review and appraisal of the Platform for Action is a key opportunity for the international community to not only acknowledge the progress made in the past 20 years but to also assess the remaining gaps and challenges in its implementation, including violence against women, to feed the lessons learned into the post-2015 development agenda processes.

UN Women has developed several good practices in engaging other stakeholders to hold member states accountable on their commitments to gender equality and the empowerment of women, in addition to our norm setting and knowledge building, and programmatic work in 81 countries.

UN Women has established global, regional, and national level Civil Society Advisory Groups, has worked through the U.N. Secretary-General’s “UNiTE campaign,” and the newly established “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!,” and the “HeForShe” Beijing + 20 campaigns to engage the global citizenry on ending violence against women.

Moving forward, it will be crucial to continue to engage on the post-2015 processes. We are pleased to see that in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals transmitted to the General Assembly by the Open Working Group included, for the first time, ending violence against women as a target under the transformative and comprehensive goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

However, we must continue to work to ensure that this transformative goal is supported by strong indicators to enhance the monitoring, accountability and implementation by member states in the final post-2015 development agenda.

In addressing such a complex phenomenon, which is embedded in gender inequality and harmful gender stereotypes, more needs to be done, beyond the adoption of additional international instruments and national legal and policy frameworks. It is critical to ensure that accountability mechanisms are in place; that funding for implementation is adequate, predictable and sustainable; and that the means of implementation are strengthened.

A revitalised global partnership and political will can make the difference in ensuring the right of women and girls to live a life free of violence.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The post Ending Violence Against Women – A Global Responsibility appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lakshmi Puri is Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.

The post Ending Violence Against Women – A Global Responsibility appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Op-Ed: First Decolonisation, Now ‘Depatriarchilisation’http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/first-decolonisation-now-depatriarchilisation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-decolonisation-now-depatriarchilisation http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/first-decolonisation-now-depatriarchilisation/#respond Mon, 09 Jun 2014 22:42:21 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134889 At the end of this week leaders of the Group of 77 and China will meet in Bolivia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the group. From the original 77, this group now brings together 133 countries, making it the largest coalition of governments on the international stage. Promoting an agenda of equity among nations and […]

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Young Bangladeshi women raise their fists at a protest in Shahbagh. Credit: Kajal Hazra/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 9 2014 (IPS)

At the end of this week leaders of the Group of 77 and China will meet in Bolivia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the group.

From the original 77, this group now brings together 133 countries, making it the largest coalition of governments on the international stage. Promoting an agenda of equity among nations and among people, sustainable and inclusive development and global solidarity have been at the heart of the G77’s priorities since its inception. But none of it will be achieved without fully embracing the agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Two weeks ago, I travelled to Bolivia to attend a historic international meeting in preparation for the G77 Summit, exclusively dedicated to women and gender equality. More than 1,500 women, many of them indigenous, packed the room, full of energy. Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, was also present – a testimony to his commitment and leadership to this critical agenda.

At this meeting, a message emerged, loud and clear. If we want the 21st century to see the end of discrimination, inequality and injustice, we must focus on women and girls – half the world’s population, which continues to experience discrimination every day and everywhere. The 20th century saw the end of colonisation. Now the 21st century must see the end of discrimination against women.  From decolonisation, we must move to depatriarchilisation.

Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, speaks at a press conference on the International Day to End Violence Against Women. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, speaks at a press conference on the International Day to End Violence Against Women. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

This meeting took place at a critical time and in a significant place. Latin America has lived through its own struggles against discrimination and oppression. In a continent that used to be marked by striking inequalities and violent dictatorships, a vibrant movement has emerged to put the region on the path of social justice, democracy, and equality. In Bolivia there is a constitutional law against violence against women and a law against political violence, making it a pioneer in the region and beyond.

This hope for a brighter and more just future must now spread to the world as a whole, and the G77 can play a defining role. The elaboration of the Post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is coming to a critical point. The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is about to complete its work and member states will finalise the new development agenda in the course of next year.

This coincides with the 20-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the landmark international framework to achieve gender equality and women’s rights. Beijing+20 provides us with an opportunity to drive accelerated and effective implementation of the gender equality and women’s rights agenda and to ensure that it is central to the new development framework.

We need to take full advantage of these processes and their interconnections to ensure that gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment feature prominently in the new development agenda and to accelerate implementation.

We have a historic opportunity and a collective responsibility to make the rights and well-being of women and girls a political priority; both globally and within every country. To this end, the new framework must adopt a comprehensive, rights-based and transformative approach that addresses structural inequality and gender-based discrimination.

This comprehensive approach must include targets to eliminate discrimination against women in laws and policies; end violence against women; ensure the realisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescent girls throughout their life cycles; and the recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work.

Now is the time to put the full political weight behind passage of long-pending legislation to eliminate discrimination against women and promote gender equality.

Now is the time to allocate the resources to fund services for victims and survivors of violence against women.

Now is the time to strengthen national data collection and undertake a time use survey to better understand unpaid care work or a survey on violence against women.

Now is the time to make public spaces safe for women and girls.

Now is the time to improve rural infrastructure to strengthen women’s access to markets and help tackle rural feminised poverty.

Now is the time to showcase champions of gender equality, to recognise role models that have overcome stereotypes and helped level the playing field for girls and women in all areas, in politics and business, in academia and in public service, in the home and the community.

Mahatma Gandhi rightly said that true freedom from colonialism will not be achieved unless each and every citizen is free, equal and is able to realise his or her potential. The 21st century must see the end of the centuries’ old practice of patriarchy and gender discrimination, and unshackle women and girls so they can fully enjoy their human rights.

When the G77 meets later this week at its 50th anniversary commemorative Summit, I have high hopes that they will make this defining agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment a centerpiece of their global development and freedom project for the next 50 years.

(END)

*Lakshmi Puri is the deputy executive director of U.N. Women, based in New York.

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OP-ED: Moving Forward to End Violence Against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/op-ed-moving-forward-to-end-violence-against-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-moving-forward-to-end-violence-against-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/op-ed-moving-forward-to-end-violence-against-women/#respond Wed, 03 Jul 2013 11:04:19 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=125428 Last year, as rebels captured the main towns in Northern Mali, UN Women registered a sudden and dramatic increase of rapes in the first week of the takeover of Gao and Kidal, in places where most women never report this violence to anyone, not even health practitioners. We heard stories of girls as young as […]

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By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 3 2013 (IPS)

Last year, as rebels captured the main towns in Northern Mali, UN Women registered a sudden and dramatic increase of rapes in the first week of the takeover of Gao and Kidal, in places where most women never report this violence to anyone, not even health practitioners.

Lakshmi Puri. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Lakshmi Puri. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

We heard stories of girls as young as 12 being taken from their homes to military camps, gang-raped for days and subsequently abandoned; of surgery and delivery rooms invaded by armed men enforcing dress codes and occupying health facilities; of young women being punished, flogged, and tortured for bearing children outside of marriage.

This week, the United Nations Security Council heard similar atrocities from other parts of the globe, and adopted its fourth resolution in only five years exclusively devoted to the issue of sexual violence in armed conflict. A crime that was until recently invisible, ignored, or dismissed as an inevitable consequence of war is now routinely addressed by the world body in charge of the maintenance of international peace and security.

And this is not the only policy gain achieved in the last few months to turn violence against women from a pandemic into an aberration.

In March, the Commission on the Status of Women, the principal global policy-making body dedicated to furthering the rights of women, reached a historic agreement on violence against women. This forward-looking declaration commits member states to actions that were never before so explicitly articulated in international documents, including in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In April, a new Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, requiring exporting state parties to consider the risks of arms being used “to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women.”

That same month, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence against Conflict named and shamed perpetrators of this crime in her annual report to the Security Council. In addition, the world’s eight richest nations reached a historic agreement to work together to end sexual violence in conflict. Under the presidency of the United Kingdom, the G8 agreed on six major steps to tackle impunity and pledged over 35 million dollars in new funding.

This sample of policy developments parallels rising demands to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality and say no to violence against women. This year began with mass protests in every major city in India in the wake of a brutal gang-rape in Delhi, replicated later in public revolts against sexual assault in Brazil, South Africa and other countries.

Such levels of global popular mobilisation in the wake of individual incidents of violence against women have not been seen before.

More strikingly, this is happening at a time when rising fundamentalism, widespread austerity, and continued militarism threaten to roll back women’s rights and push aside gender equality demands. Today women’s rights activists have to risk their lives to denounce rape in Mali, refugees fleeing Syria are experiencing forced and early marriage in refugee communities in neighbouring countries, and revolting attacks are being carried out against girls that simply want an education in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The facts about what the World Health Organisation has recently called “a global health problem of epidemic proportions” remain basically unchanged. More than a third of all women and girls, in countries rich or poor and in peace or at war, will experience violence in their lifetimes, the overwhelming majority of them at the hands of their intimate partner.

The latest resolution of the Security Council and other recent policy gains are signs of progress. Now their inspiring words must be turned into action by investing in women’s empowerment and leadership as the most effective prevention strategy to end violence against women.

It is no coincidence that the majority of advances in recent international jurisprudence on war crimes against women have come from trailblazing women at the helm of international courts or leading international prosecutions. By the same token, laws and police action are not enough to help a battered woman escape an abuse situation and restart her life – only greater equality between the sexes will turn the tide to prevent and end violence against women and girls.

These positive steps must be built upon through decisive action by national governments. They must ensure that violence against women and girls does not happen in the first place and a swift and appropriate response when it does, including effective access to justice. It requires strong international cooperation, among multilateral and regional entities, including UN Women, to empower women and girls and put an end to the atrocities.

And it requires strong efforts by civil society organisations and the global women’s movement to remind both national governments and international organisations that words are not enough, that a few actions are not enough, that we must aim high and keep on moving forward.

*Lakshmi Puri is Acting Head of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General.

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OP-ED: A Global Goal on Gender Equality, Women’s Rights and Women’s Empowermenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/05/op-ed-a-global-goal-on-gender-equality-womens-rights-and-womens-empowerment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-a-global-goal-on-gender-equality-womens-rights-and-womens-empowerment http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/05/op-ed-a-global-goal-on-gender-equality-womens-rights-and-womens-empowerment/#comments Thu, 23 May 2013 10:44:44 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=119179 Hardly a day goes by without a news story on some violation of women’s rights. In recent months, appalling incidents of violence against women and girls, from Delhi to Johannesburg to Cleveland, have sparked public outrage and demands to tackle these horrific abuses. In Bangladesh and Cambodia, the shocking loss of life by garment factory […]

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By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, May 23 2013 (IPS)

Hardly a day goes by without a news story on some violation of women’s rights. In recent months, appalling incidents of violence against women and girls, from Delhi to Johannesburg to Cleveland, have sparked public outrage and demands to tackle these horrific abuses.

Lakshmi Puri. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Lakshmi Puri. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

In Bangladesh and Cambodia, the shocking loss of life by garment factory workers, many of them women, sparked global debate on how to secure safe and decent jobs in our globalised economy. In Europe, the disproportionate impact on women of austerity cuts, and the use of quotas to get more women on corporate boards continue to make headlines.

Even though women have made real gains, we are constantly reminded how far we have to go to realise equality between men and women.

World leaders recognised the pervasiveness of discrimination and violence against women and girls when they signed onto the visionary Millennium Declaration in 2000. Amongst the eight Millennium Development Goals, they included a goal to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

With these goals set to expire in 2015, we are now in a race to achieve them. We are also in the midst a global conversation about what should replace them. It’s time for women to move from the sidelines to the centre.

In a new post-2015 development agenda, we must build on the achievements of the MDGs while avoiding their shortcomings. Everyone agrees that the goals have galvanised progress to reduce poverty and discrimination, and promote education, gender equality, health and safe drinking water and sanitation.

The goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment tracked progress on school enrolment, women’s share of paid work, and women’s participation in parliament. It triggered global attention and action. It served to hold governments accountable, mobilise much-needed resources, and stimulate new laws, policies, programmes and data.

But there are glaring omissions. Noticeably absent is any reference to ending violence against women and girls. Also missing are other fundamental issues, such as women’s right to own property and the unequal division of household and care responsibilities.

By failing to address the structural causes of discrimination and violence against women and girls, progress towards equality has been stalled. Of all the MDGs, the least progress has been made on MDG5, to reduce maternal mortality. The fact that this has been the hardest goal to reach testifies to the depth and scope of gender inequality.

To make greater progress, UN Women proposes a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment that is grounded in human rights and tackles unequal power relations. We envision three areas that require urgent action.

First, ending violence against women and girls must be a priority. From sexual violence in the camps of Haiti and Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to intimate partner shootings in the United States and elsewhere, this violence causes untold physical and psychological harm. It is one of the most pervasive human rights violations, and carries tremendous costs for individuals, families and societies.

Second, women and men need equal opportunities, resources and responsibilities to realize equality. Equal access to land and credit, natural resources, education, health services including sexual and reproductive health, decent work and equal pay needs to be addressed with renewed urgency. Policies, such as child care and parental leave, are needed to relieve working women’s double duty so women and men can enjoy equality at work and at home.

And third, women’s voices must be heard. It is time for women to participate equally in decision making in the household, the private sector and institutions of governance. Despite progress in recent years, women comprise just 20 percent of parliamentarians and 27 percent of judges. For democracy to be meaningful and inclusive, women’s voices and leadership must be amplified in all public and private spaces.

Any new development agenda must be grounded in human rights agreements that governments have already signed onto. This includes the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, and U.N. resolutions, including the recent agreement of the Commission on the Status of Women on eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls.

There is plenty of evidence to show that countries with a higher status of women also enjoy higher levels of social and economic performance. There is also evidence to guide countries on what works, from equitable labour market policies, to the removal of discriminatory laws and policies, to universal social protection and social services, to security and justice reforms that end impunity for violence against women and girls. The activism of the women’s movement everywhere has been critical in demanding and driving change in all of these areas.

The discussions to shape the post-2015 global development agenda offer a real opportunity to drive lasting change for women’s rights and equality. A strong global goal can push our societies to the tipping point of rejecting violence and discrimination against women and girls and unleash the potential of half the population for a more peaceful, just and prosperous world and a sustainable planet.

*Lakshmi Puri is Acting Head of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General.

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OP-ED: Women and Girls at Heart of the Blue Revolutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/op-ed-women-and-girls-at-heart-of-the-blue-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-women-and-girls-at-heart-of-the-blue-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/op-ed-women-and-girls-at-heart-of-the-blue-revolution/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2012 13:01:07 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=112406 World Water Week recently concluded in Stockholm with a special emphasis on the linkages between water and food security. From the worst drought in 56 years in the United States Midwest, to the Karnataka’s drought in India, to the protracted drought in the Sahel region of West Africa, we have also seen how in our […]

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By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 11 2012 (IPS)

World Water Week recently concluded in Stockholm with a special emphasis on the linkages between water and food security.

Lakshmi Puri. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

From the worst drought in 56 years in the United States Midwest, to the Karnataka’s drought in India, to the protracted drought in the Sahel region of West Africa, we have also seen how in our globalised world the nexus between lack of water and food security in one corner of the world affects us all.

The impact of the drought in the Midwest has resulted in higher prices for corn and soybeans. In the Sahel, 18.7 million people are facing food insecurity. These events are a stark reminder of how the environmental dimension has direct economic and social consequences.

They remind us of the critical inter-linkages between the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development and of how water availability, affordability and quality are related to food security.

Women and girls are at the centre of this connection. In many countries, women carry out most tasks related to water – they walk long hours to fetch water, they cook, they clean, they care for the sick and the elderly, and they grow food for their families and communities.

Yet, women’s participation in decision-making on water and food management is low and they are not sufficiently prioritised in water policies, programmes and infrastructure. Women hold less than six percent of all ministerial positions in the field of environment, natural resources and energy and they are underrepresented at lower levels as well.

The 2012 progress report on the Millennium Development Goal points out that, while the MDG target on water has been largely met, 783 million people still remain without access to an improved source of drinking water. Women are disproportionately affected, which increases their burden and reduces their time for other activities, such as going to school or earning an income.

Globally, it is estimated that women spend more than 200 million hours per day collecting water. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 71 percent of the water collection burden falls on women and girls. This reduces their opportunities for education, decent work, political engagement, and perpetuates the intergenerational transfer of poverty and disempowerment.

While women dominate subsistence agriculture and unpaid water collection tasks, men dominate cash crops. Current estimates show that 70 percent of the world’s water is needed for agriculture, 20 percent for industry, and 10 percent for household use.

In many countries, women’s strategies for lifting themselves and their families out of poverty take place in the household, where the share of global water usage is already low. Even in the agricultural sector, women depend more on non-irrigated and rainfed agriculture. In addition, water rights are often related to land rights, which precludes women smallholder farmers from accessing irrigated water.

Entitlement systems constitute another barrier with women and girls having unequal access to productive resources, such as water, land, fertiliser, finance and credit, and technology, often due to gender norms and stereotypes. If women were to have equal access to agricultural services, including irrigation services, agricultural yields would increase by an estimated 15 to 20 percent, reducing the number of hungry people by 100 to 150 million.

Creating a water- and food-secure world requires putting women and girls at the centre of water and food related policies, actions and financing. Women are not only beneficiaries of greater water and food security; they can also enable greater progress in these areas. Four urgent actions must be taken to unleash women’s potential:

First, women need to be recognised as water managers, farmers and irrigators, who contribute to ensuring sustainable food production and consumption and to safeguarding the environment. This must be done in laws, policies and through social awareness programmes in communities.

Secondly, governments and other partners need to ensure that women are empowered along the water and food supply chain, so that their food production and water management roles are supported. Improvements in infrastructure services— especially water and electricity—can help free up women’s time spent on domestic and care work.

In Pakistan, putting water sources closer to the home was associated with increased time allocated to productive market work. In Tanzania, girls’ school attendance was 15 percent higher for girls from homes located 15 minutes or less from a water source than in homes one hour or more away.

Water supply must cover the needs of the poorest by initiating reforms that make water affordable. The poorest, the majority of whom are women, have less access to safe drinking water and pay more for their water usage.
Thirdly, we need to address the multifaceted gender discriminations in accessing and controlling productive resources. Women must be provided with technical training on water management, irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and rain-fed agriculture.

In South Africa, Lesotho and Uganda, women ministers for water are taking affirmative action to train women for water and sanitation related careers, including science and engineering. At the local level, women have been trained to locate water sources in the village, decide on the location of facilities, and repair pumps.

Fourthly, women must be recognised as decision-makers in water governance. This involves reducing membership fees and broadening the mandate of irrigation schemes to acknowledge and include multiple water users.

In summary, an “ecosystem of policies” must be created – an enabling environment with strong institutions, targeted programmes, capacity-building, functioning systems and sectoral policies. Women’s agency can be built through supporting women’s organizations, self-help groups and women’s cooperatives.

Equitable water security needs to be a public policy priority. This is a message not only to governments, but also to development partners and donors so that they prioritise it in their aid allocations. We need to catalyse alliance, knowledge sharing, commitment, innovations, actions and financing to address the nexus between food security and water from a gender perspective.

The Rio+20 Conference set the basis for a strong international normative framework in this area. Gender equality and women’s empowerment, water security and sustainable water management, and food security and agricultural development were all identified as priorities for a sustainable future. The connection between these priorities, so clearly made in the Rio+20 outcome, must be carried forward.

As we approach the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, a new set of goals will be launched – the Sustainable Development Goals. The three priorities of gender equality and women’s empowerment, water, and food security must be strongly interlinked in the goals that will cover these areas.

The Sustainable Development Goal on water must have clear targets and indicators capturing the gender dimension. It must be reflected with targets and indicators on women’s full participation in water governance, the alleviation of their work burden, and the availability of gender-sensitive infrastructures and services.

Women and girls are thirsty for available, accessible and affordable clean and safe water. We can no longer ruin their potential to become inspiring leaders, successful entrepreneurs or healthy mothers due to their heavy burden of fetching water.

As we move towards the 2013 international year for water cooperation, we need to catalyse alliance, knowledge sharing, commitment, innovations, actions and financing to address issues related to affordability, accessibility and availability of safe and sufficient water for all at all levels.

UN Women will be a strong advocate for leveraging women’s voice and influence in water governance. Gender equality and women’s empowerment must be the part of the blue revolution and green revolution that we seek to launch.

*Lakshmi Puri is the assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of UN Women.

The post OP-ED: Women and Girls at Heart of the Blue Revolution appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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