Inter Press Service » Gender http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 28 Aug 2016 22:27:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Chatterjee, new Resident Coordinator, to lead 25 UN agencies in East Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/chatterjee-new-resident-coordinator-to-lead-25-un-agencies-in-east-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chatterjee-new-resident-coordinator-to-lead-25-un-agencies-in-east-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/chatterjee-new-resident-coordinator-to-lead-25-un-agencies-in-east-africa/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 05:48:47 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146679 By an IPS Correspondent
NAIROBI, KENYA, Aug 26 2016 (IPS)

Siddharth Chatterjee, the Representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Kenya, has been appointed UN Resident Coordinator, where he will lead and coordinate 25 UN agencies in East Africa. At the same time, he will also serve as the Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

At UNFPA, he and his team spearheaded efforts to reduce the unacceptably high maternal deaths in Kenya putting the spotlight on the challenges faced by adolescent girls, including child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and sexual and gender based violence.

Before he joined UNFPA, Chatterjee served as the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships and was also responsible for resource mobilization at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) since 2011.

In 1997 he joined the UN in Bosnia and over the next two decades served in Iraq, South Sudan, Indonesia, Sudan (Darfur), Somalia, Denmark, and Kenya. He has worked in UN Peace Keeping, UNICEF, UNOPS, the Red Cross and UNFPA.

Welcoming the appointment, Ruth Kagia, Senior Advisor, International Relations and Social Sectors in the Office of the President of Kenya said, “Sid’s insightful understanding of clients’ needs as the UNFPA Representative in Kenya has translated into tangible gains in maternal, child and adolescent health. His relentless energy and focus on results has helped build relationships and networks of trust and confidence with the highest levels of Government, civil society, the private sector and development partners.”

Chatterjee is expected to continue his advocacy for women’s empowerment in Kenya where he has led notable initiatives to advance reproductive, maternal, neo-natal, child and adolescent health.

Chatterjee is expected to continue his advocacy for women’s empowerment in Kenya where he has led notable initiatives to advance reproductive, maternal, neo-natal, child and adolescent health.

Dr Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said, “Sid resolutely pushed UNFPA’s mandate in the hardest to reach counties and service of the most vulnerable.  He mobilized resources and partners in the private sector to join this drive to leapfrog maternal and new-born health. This bold initiative was highlighted by the World Economic Forum in Davos and Kigali”.

Among Chatterjee’s other career achievements include mobilizing the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement to join the eradication of polio initiative; negotiating access with rebel groups to undertake a successful polio immunization campaign in the rebel controlled areas of Darfur; leading UNICEF’s emergency response when conflict broke out in Indonesia’s Aceh and the Malukus provinces; and overseeing UNICEF’s largest demobilization of child soldiers in South Sudan in 2001.

A prolific writer, Chatterjee’s articles have featured on CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, Huffington Post, Reuters, the Guardian, Inter Press Service, as well as the major Kenyan newspapers.  He was recently profiled by Forbes magazine in an article titled, “Passionate Leader of UNFPA Kenya Battles Violence against Women, FGM and Child Marriage.” 

His early career was in a Special Forces unit of the Indian Army, where he was decorated in 1995 for bravery by the President of India. Chatterjee holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor’s degree from the National Defence Academy in India.

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The Lesser Sexhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lesser-sex http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:22:39 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146672 The threat of violence knows no bounds for women and young girls in Bangladesh.

The threat of violence knows no bounds for women and young girls in Bangladesh.

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Aug 24 2016 (IPS)

Sakina’s  glare is empty. Her defeated, glassy eyes scan the room passively. The subdued silence and withered frame expose her fragility.

As a young girl, she endured both the physical and emotional trauma that had aged her into a state of lifelessness.

Sakina’s childhood innocence had already been ruthlessly beaten away. She was only 12 years old.

Sakina’s expressionless stare showed indestructible detachment.

As hard as a rock, her inner turmoil had obligated her to push her emotions aside and live in a state of heartless survival.

However, once encouraged to voice the perils of her childhood, Sakina’s face softened.

The gushes of tears that flooded her eyes remind one of a  coursing river that has burst at its banks, wild, chaotic and finally free of limitations.

Sakina  articulated her experience of what can be considered years of irreversible trauma and abuse in her family home in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“I remember my mother’s crushing custom of spitting venom. Her vicious words wounded me more than the beatings.  Somehow, her malicious remarks  always seemed to cut deeper than the whip.”

However, the root of Sakina’s abuse is not founded in ignorance or poverty.

The cause of her mother’s fury stemmed in her being a “kalluni”, a dark-skinned girl. She would never fare well in  a marriage market  so focused on the South Asian standard of “fair” beauty.

In spite of having grown up in a privileged manner,  attended to by dozens of servants in a household  of plenty, violence was  rife within the four walls of what appeared to be “paradise” for those who could not look inside.

“I recall being locked in the bathroom for 2 days , deprived of food and water as a punishment for my disobedience. Most of the time, I felt like ending my life in that suffocating bathroom, I couldn’t take it any longer.” Sakina said.

The grotesque image of my blood spattered on the wall will never leave me
When she was not being made to starve or dehydrate, she endured severe physical punishment under the wrath of both her mother and father, her younger brother never failing to report on the shame she brought on to the family  once he discovered Sakina’s exchange of love notes with a local boy.

“There is one nightmarish memory that refuses to leave my mind. I shudder in fear when I think  of it. It comes back to me in the form of a recurring dream, my mother’s snarling expression as she  takes out a one and a half metre long whip , freshly chiselled from the branch of a “kadam” tree, thrashing me with it mercilessly, for hours on end.”

She paused to compose herself.

“The grotesque image of my blood spattered on the wall will never leave me” she stated.

Although  Sakina’s tragic story happened over five decades ago, has Bangladesh made any radical change for the better in terms of female security and development?

It appears the great lengths the local government has gone to eradicate violence against women and young girls have not stretched far enough.

Even today, cases of abuse and violence against women and girls are  commonplace  in male-dominated Bangladeshi society.

Recently, a woman was reported to have been caned 101 times in rural community in Bangladesh for what was considered to be a shameless “extramarital affair” by the local village arbitration committee.

In reality, the “affair” was a case of breaking and entering as the woman shamefully  labelled “adulteress” fought off a neighbor who entered her home by force.

In spite of this violation of privacy and act of male-perpetrated violence, the woman as the “weak” scapegoat was obligated to take the blame for the man’s reckless  behaviour.

As a direct consequence, she was relentlessly beaten in the presence of 400 villagers. The final court ruling obligated her husband to conduct the caning.

Readers  of the Daily Star Bangladesh report commented on the sheer barbarity and sexism of the caning as the  male perpetrator of the attack’s sole punishment was 20 lashes.

Young women and girls in Bangladesh are punished for the crime of being the “lesser sex” on a daily basis. They are pushed into child marriages, slain for dowry and subjected to severe familial and marital acts of  gender-based violence.

In many ways, young girls and women are seen as nothing more than “financial burdens” on the family.

There is far less investment in education and healthcare for young girls and women across Bangladesh and once they reach puberty, their mobility is heavily restricted.

As the high number of child marriage, gender-based acts of violence and adolescent motherhood soars, it is clear this growth surpasses the setbacks of social disparity and lack of education.

The UNICEF country programme document states that in spite of significant progress in the reduction of poverty and  gender equity in the education system up to secondary level, gender bias still exists.

The   document emphasises that “the low socio-economic status of women is reflected in the poor health services provided to them, their inadequate food intake and their limited decision-making authority. Early marriage, dowry practices and sexual harassment, as well as violence against children and women continue because of social acceptance and gender norms”.

In this sense, Sakina, in spite of her prestigious family name and affluent background, is just as much a victim of violent brutality as the isolated village woman who was mercilessly caned.

In South Asia and elsewhere, ruthless violence against young women knows no bounds, it unleashes itself in  all classes of society, from the marginalised to the elite, like a  threatening plague.

In most cases, the abuse is rooted in the home where girls decision-making power is most limited.  Women’s  “intrinsic role” relegates  them into a position of subservience.

Violence within the home perpetrated by women who target other vulnerable young women and girls, much like in the case of Sakina and her abusive mother, are by far the most difficult cases to tackle as few have the courage to condemn and speak out against the actions of their own families.

In a recent research study, more than half of women interviewed aged between 15-49 experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in their homes.

Ironically, UNICEF has reported that even in the wealthiest quintile of society,  13 percent of girls are underweight, possibly due to food deprivation as a form of punishment.

Acid throwing, whipping, and sexual harassment are also common forms of violence perpetrated against women and young girls.

The rampant culture of violence and abuse has led many young women to contemplate suicide, as UNICEF reports suicide to be most common among girls aged between 14 and 17 in Bangladesh.

The need to implement gender-equal initiatives with the outcome of delimiting women and young girls mobility is vital. Through innovative education, the perpetrator of violence in Bangladesh will benefit just as much as the victim.

Through the widespread implementation of  anti-violence initiatives, those most affected by abuse will come to realise that brutal castigation is by no means embedded in the national culture, nor is it an acceptable manner of monitoring and “controlling” female behaviour.

It is time women in Bangladesh and elsewhere speak out in the face of violence and realise that the open condemnation of abuse is key to addressing the entrenched discrimination against women and girls that dominate the nation.

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Breaking the Silence on Gender-Blind Transporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 18:34:58 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146634 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/feed/ 0 India’s New Maternity Benefits Act Criticised as Elitisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 18:20:39 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146620 The new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country's unorganised sector such as contractual labour, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country's unorganised sector such as contractual labour, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Aug 19 2016 (IPS)

The passage of the landmark Maternity Benefits Act 1961 by the Indian Parliament, which mandates 26 weeks of paid leave for mothers as against the existing 12, has generated more heartburn than hurrahs due to its skewed nature.

The law will also facilitate ‘work from home’ options for nursing mothers once the leave period ends and has made creche facilities mandatory in establishments with 50 or more employees. The amendment takes India up to the third position in terms of maternity leave duration after Norway (44 weeks) and Canada (50).

However, while the law has brought some cheers on grounds that it at least acknowledges that women are entitled to maternity benefits — crucial in a country notorious for its entrenched discrimination against women and one that routinely features at the bottom of the gender equity index — many are dismissing it as a flawed piece of legislation.

The critics point out that the new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country’s unorganised sector such as contractual workers, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives.

Poor women working as labourers in India are deprived of any maternity benefits. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Poor women working as labourers in India are deprived of any maternity benefits. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

According to Sudeshna Sengupta of the Right to Food Campaign, India sees 29.7 million women getting pregnant each year.

“Even if the law is fully implemented,” the activist told IPS, “studies show that it will benefit only 1.8 million women in the organised sector leaving out practically 99 percent of the country’s women workforce. If this isn’t discrimination, what is? In India, women’s paid workforce constitutes just 5 percent of the 1.8 million. The rest fall within the unorganised sector. How fair is it to leave out this lot from the ambit of the new law?” asks Sengupta.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), opines that maternity benefits should be universally available to all women, including wage earners.

“But the act ignores this completely by focussing only on women in the organised sector. In India most women are waged workers or do contractual work and face hugely exploitative work conditions. They are not even recognised under the ambit of labour laws. The moment a woman becomes pregnant she is seen as a liability. The new law has no provisions to eliminate this mindset, ” Krishnan told IPS.

Some of the employed women this correspondent spoke to say that a woman’s pregnancy is often a deal breaker for employers in India. Sakshi Mehra, a manager with a garment export house in Delhi, explains that though initially her employers were delighted with her work ethic, and even gave her a double promotion within a year of joining, “things changed drastically when I got pregnant. My boss kept dropping hints that I should look for an ‘easier’ job. It was almost as if I’d become handicapped overnight,” Mehra told IPS.

Such a regressive mindset — of pregnant women not being `fit’ — is common in many Indian workplaces. While some women fight back, while others capitulate to pressure and quietly move on.

Another glaring flaw in the new legislation, say activists, is that it makes no mention of paternity leave, putting the onus of the newborn’s rearing on the mother. This is a blow to gender equality, they add. Global studies show lower child mortality and higher gender equality in societies where both parents are engaged in child rearing. Paternity leave doesn’t just help dads become more sensitive parents, show studies, it extends a helping hand to new moms coming to grips with their new role as a parent.

According to Dr. Mansi Bhattacharya, senior gynaecologist and obstetrician at Fortis Hospital, NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, there’s no reason why fathers should not play a significant role in childcare.

“Paternity leave allows the father to support his spouse at a critical time. Also, early bonding between fathers and infants ensures a healthier and a more sensitive father-child relationship. It also offers support to the new mother feeling overwhelmed by her new parental responsibilities,” she says.

A research paper of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) — a think-tank of developed countries — says children with ‘more involved’ fathers fare better during their early years. Paternity leaves with flexible work policies facilitate such participation.

Paternity leave is also a potent tool for boosting gender diversity at the workplace, especially when coupled with flexi hours, or work-from-home options for the new father, add analysts. “Parental leave is not an either/or situation,” Deepa Pallical, national coordinator, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights told IPS. “A child needs the involvement of both parents for his balanced upbringing. Any policy that ignores this critical ground reality is a failure.”

The activist adds that granting leave to both parents augments the chances of women returning to their jobs with greater peace of mind and better job prospects. This benefit is especially critical for a country like India, which has the lowest female work participation in the world. Only 21.9 percent of all Indian women and 14.7 percent of urban women work.

Women in India represent only 24 percent of the paid labour force, as against the global average of 40 percent, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report. At 53 percentage points, India has one of the worst gender gaps (disproportionate difference between the sexes) in the world when it comes to labour force participation, World Bank data shows. The economic loss of such non-participation, say economists, is colossal. Lakshmi Puri, assistant secretary-general of UN Women, noted in 2011 that India’s growth rate could ratchet up by 4.2 percent if women were given more opportunities.

According to a World Bank report titled “Women, Business and the Law” (2016), over 80-odd countries provide for paternity leave including Iceland, Finland and Sweden. The salary during this period, in Nordic countries, is typically partly paid and generally funded by the government. Among India’s neighbours, Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong and Singapore mandate a few days of paternity leave.

In a fast-changing corporate scenario, some Indian companies are encouraging male employees to take a short, paid paternity break. Those employed in State-owned companies and more recently, public sector banks are even being allowed paternity leave of 15 days. In the U.S., however, companies like Netflix, Facebook and Microsoft offer generous, fully-paid paternity leave of a few months.

Perhaps India could take a page from them to address an issue which not only impacts nearly half of its 1.2 billion population, but also has a critical effect on its national economy. The right decision will not only help it whittle down gender discrimination and improve social outcomes, but also augment its demographic dividend – a win-win-win.

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Time for a Woman to Lead the UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/time-for-a-woman-to-lead-the-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-for-a-woman-to-lead-the-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/time-for-a-woman-to-lead-the-un/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 02:25:11 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146579 Candidates for Secretary-General debate in the UN General Assembly hall. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Candidates for Secretary-General debate in the UN General Assembly hall. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 17 2016 (IPS)

Judging by the latest polls it now seems more likely that the United States will have a female President in 2016, than the United Nations will have a female Secretary-General.

Despite widespread support for the next UN Secretary-General to be a woman, female candidates have not fared as well as men in the first two so-called straw polls of UN Security Council members.

However the campaign received a small boost from UN Secretary -General Ban Ki-Moon this week when he told an Associated Press Journalist in California it is “high time” for a woman to hold his job.

Unfortunately Ban’s support may come too late for the five female candidates who remain in the race.

By custom, the 15 members of the Security Council select their preferred candidate, with the five permanent members China, France, Russia the United Kingdom and the United States yielding the additional power to veto candidates they dislike.

The most recent straw poll confirmed that former Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Guterres is easily the most popular candidate, with 11 Security Council members encouraging him to continue his campaign.

Of the top four candidates, the only woman is Susana Malcorra, the current Foreign Minister of Argentina and former Chef de Cabinet to the Executive Office at the United Nations, with eight encourages and 6 discourages.

“The straw polls continue to reflect the deep seated male bias embedded in the UN and its member states, in spite of their claims to work for gender equality and women's empowerment." -- Charlotte Bunch.

It is difficult to tell exactly which candidate will prevail, since the leaked results of the straw polls do not specify who voted for who. Even Guterres’ seemingly safe position could be undermined if one or both of the two discourages he received were from veto-wielding permanent members.

Charlotte Bunch, Founding Director and Senior Scholar at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University told IPS that she welcomed Ban’s comments “as it is definitely past time when the UN should have a woman as Secretary-General.”

“It has been disappointing that after many countries gave lip service to this idea, the votes have not followed their words,” added Bunch, who is also a core committee member of the Campaign to Elect a Woman UN Secretary-General.

“And they cannot say that there are not qualified women available,” she added. “The list of 12 (candidates) included half (6) women – a historic first.”

Five women, and 11 candidates in total, now remain, after Vesna Pusnic of Croatia withdrew when she placed last in the first straw poll.

“Several of these women have served as heads of UN agencies and departments as well as in prominent positions in government, and are clearly as qualified as the men on the list,” said Bunch.

They include Irina Bokova, of Bulgaria who is currently Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current Administrator of the UN Development Programme alongside Malcorra. Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, who led the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to the successful adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015, is also one of the candidates.

“The straw polls continue to reflect the deep seated male bias embedded in the UN and its member states, in spite of their claims to work for gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said Bunch.

Jessica Neuwirth, Director of Donor Direct Action and founder of Equality Now, which first launched a campaign for election of a woman Secretary-General in 1996 told IPS that she “couldn’t agree more” with Ban’s comments.

“Women make up more than half the world’s population and should be represented equally at all levels of the UN.”

Men have now led the UN for over 70 years, with women’s leadership only made incremental gains, despite decades of campaigning to increase gender equality at the higher levels.

“In Beijing in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference in Women governments undertook to ensure the inclusion of women at the highest levels of decision-making in the UN secretariat,” said Neuwirth.

“More than 20 years later we are still waiting for implementation of this commitment,” she said. “It’s long overdue.”

Neuwirth also expressed disappointment that women hadn’t fared better in the straw polls.

“As a group they did better in the public debates than they did in the straw polls,” she said.

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Peruvians Say “No!” to Violence Against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/peruvians-say-no-to-violence-against-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peruvians-say-no-to-violence-against-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/peruvians-say-no-to-violence-against-women/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 14:13:15 +0000 Aramis Castro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146561 A group of demonstrators with black crosses, symbolising the victims of femicide in Peru and other countries of Latin America, march down a street in the centre of Lima during an Aug. 13 march against gender violence. Credit: Noemí Melgarejo/IPS

A group of demonstrators with black crosses, symbolising the victims of femicide in Peru and other countries of Latin America, march down a street in the centre of Lima during an Aug. 13 march against gender violence. Credit: Noemí Melgarejo/IPS

By Aramis Castro
LIMA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Peruvians took to the streets en masse to reject violence against women, in what was seen as a major new step in awareness-raising in the country that ranks third in the world in terms of domestic sexual violence.

The Saturday Aug. 13 march in Lima and simultaneous protests held in nearly a dozen other cities and towns around the country, includingCuzco, Arequipa and Libertad,was a reaction tolenient court sentences handed down in cases of femicide – defined as the violent and deliberate killing of a woman – rape and domestic violence.

The case that sparked the demonstrations was that of Arlette Contreras, who was beaten in July 2015 by her then boyfriendin the southern city of Ayacucho, Adriano Pozo, in an attack that was caught on hotel cameras.“We want justice; we want the attackers, rapists and murderers to go to jail. We want the state to offer us, the victims, safety.” -- Arlette Contreras

Despite the evidence – the footage of the attack – Pozo, the son of a local politician, was merely given a one-year suspended sentence for rape and attempted femicide, because of “mitigating factors”: the fact that he was drunk and jealous. When a higher court upheld the sentence in July, the prosecutor described the decision as “outrageous”.

“We want justice; we want the attackers, rapists and murderers to go to jail. We want the state to offer us, the victims, safety,” Contreras told IPS during the march to the palace of justice in Lima, which was headed by victims and their families.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Peru is in second place in Latin America in terms of gender-based killings, and in a multi-country study on sexual intimate partner violence, it ranked third.

“Enough!”, “The judiciary, a national disgrace”, “You touch one of us, you touch us all”were some of the chants repeated during the march, in which some 100,000 people took part according to the organisers of the protest, which emerged over the social networks and was not affiliated with any political party or movement, although President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and members of his government participated.

Entire families took part, especially the relatives of victims of femicide, who carried signs with photos and the names of the women who have beenkilled and their attackers.

“My daughter was killed, but they only gave her murderer six months of preventive detention,” said Isabel Laines, carrying a sign with a photo of her daughter. She told IPS she had come from the southern department of Ica, over four hours away by bus, to join the protest in Lima.

Other participants in the march were families and victims of forced sterilizations carried out under the government of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). In 2002, a parliamentary investigation commission estimated that more than 346,000 women were sterilised against their will between 1993 and 2000.

In late June, the public prosecutor’s office ruled that Fujimori and his three health ministers were not responsible for the state policy of mass forced sterilisations, and recommended that individual doctors be charged instead.

The ruling enraged those demanding justice and reparations for the thousands of victims of forced sterilization, who are mainly poor, indigenous women.

Over the social networks, the sense of outrage grew as victims told their stories and discovered others who had undergone similar experiences, under the hashtags #YoNoMeCallo (I won’t keep quiet) and #NiUnaMenos (Not one less – a reference to the victims of femicide).

“After seeing the video of Arlette (Contreras), and the indignation when her attacker went free, a group of us organised over Facebook and we started a chat,” one of the organisers of the march and the group Ni UnaMenos, Natalia Iguíñiz, told IPS.

In the first half of this year alone, there were 54 femicides and 118 attempted femicides in Peru, according to the Women’s Ministry. The statistics also indicate that on average 16 people are raped every day in this country.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynskitook part in the march against gender violence in Peru, where 54 femicides and 118 attempted femicides were committed in the first half of 2016 alone. Credit: Presidency of Peru

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynskitook part in the march against gender violence in Peru, where 54 femicides and 118 attempted femicides were committed in the first half of 2016 alone. Credit: Presidency of Peru

Between 2009 and 2015, 795 women were the victims of gender-based killings, 60 percent of them between the ages of 18 and 34.

Women’s rights organisations complain that up to now, Peruvian society has been tolerant of gender violence, and they say opinion polls reflect this.

In a survey carried out by the polling company Ipsos in Lima before the march, 41 percent of the women interviewed said Peru was not safe at all for women and 74 percent said they lived in a sexist society.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of men and women surveyed believed, for example, that if a woman wears a mini-skirt it is her fault if she is harassed in public areas, and 76 percent believe a man should be forgiven if he beats his wife for being unfaithful.

Since Kuczynski took office on Jul. 28, the issue of gender violence has been put on the public agenda and different political leaders have called for measures to be taken, such as gender-sensitive training for judicial officers and police, to strengthen enforcement of laws in cases of violence against women.

“The problem of gender violence is that the silence absorbs the blows and it’s not easy for people to report,” said the president before participating in the march along with several ministers, legislators and other authorities.

Iguíñiz said the march represented the start of a new way of tackling the phenomenon of violence against women in Peru, and added that the momentum of the citizen mobilisation would be kept up, with further demonstrations and other activities.

“Thousands of people are organising. We’re a small group that proposes a few basic things, but there are a lot of groups working culturally, in their neighbourhoods, in thousands of actions that are being taken at a national level: districts, vocational institutes, different associations,” she said.

In her view, the call for people to get involved “has had such a strong response because it is so broad.”

The movement Ni Una Menoshas organised previous demonstrations against violence against women in other Latin American countries, like Argentina, where a mass protest was held in the capital in June 2015.

“We are in coordination with people involved in the group in other countries,” said Iguíñiz.“We’re going to create a platform for petitions but we’re planning to do it at a regional level, in all of the countries of Latin America.”

The private Facebook group “Ni UnaMenos: movilización ya” (Not one less: mobilisation now), which started organising the march in July, now has some 60,000 members, and was the main coordinator of the demonstrations, although conventional media outlets and human rights groups later got involved as well.

In addition, hundreds of women who have suffered abuse, sexual attacks or harassment at work began to tell their stories online, in an ongoing process.

Peruvians abroad held activities in support of the march in cities like Barcelona, Geneva, London, Madrid and Washington.

With reporting by Alicia Tovar and Jaime Vargas in Lima

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Adaptation to Climate Change: Need for a Human Rights Approachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/adaptation-to-climate-change-need-for-a-human-rights-approach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adaptation-to-climate-change-need-for-a-human-rights-approach http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/adaptation-to-climate-change-need-for-a-human-rights-approach/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 20:57:26 +0000 Arif Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146537 By Arif Chowdhury
Aug 12 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The memories of Cyclone Sidr and Aila are fresh in the mind of Razia Begum, a victim of climate change, of Dacope Upazila, Khulna. The standing field crops and houses of her community were destroyed, and they suffered the loss of cattle as well as people who perished in these natural disasters. She says mournfully that Saturkhali, Kamarkhola, Koilashganj and Baniashanta are the most vulnerable unions where access to necessary human rights is disrupted. Furthermore, salinity, flood, river erosion, heavy rain, cyclone, water logging and seasonal variations etc. are the most devastating impacts of climate change in those areas.

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Seasonal, temporary, permanent migration is increasing in these areas due to climate change, while illegal trafficking is also a noticeable concern. Locals believe that the reasons behind their misery is the decreasing rate of natural resources at the Sundarbans, high rate of salinity (more than 80 percent soil has some form of salinity) and increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. More men than women migrate to other places from these areas, and thus women, fall victim to vulnerable, hazardous situation. Although, some adaptation and implementation authorities such as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), Shushilon, Heed Bangladesh, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) etc. are working for the betterment of the local people in Dacope, lack of good governance, existence of salinity, non-sustainable embankment, lack of killas, poor communication systems, lack of economic assistance, etc. are seen as obstacles for sustainable adaptation.

A human rights approach to migration and adaptation is related to the core points of governance issues in the context of increased climatic factors. Bangladesh is one the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and every year a large number of people are displaced from their place of origin due to the impacts of climate change. According to the United Nations, “A human rights approach to migration places the migrant at the centre of migration policies and management, and pays particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants. Such an approach will also ensure that migrants are included in relevant national action plans and strategies, such as plans on the provision of public housing or national strategies to combat racism and xenophobia”.

Representatives of over 190 countries gathered in Paris for COP 21, to discuss on several issues related to climate change and environment. While touching on the effects of climate change, participants also focused on the practical importance of ensuring human rights. As John Knox stated: “Every State in the climate negotiations belongs to at least one human rights treaty, and they must ensure that all of their actions comply with their human rights obligations. That includes their actions relating to climate change”.

An increase of 2 degree Celsius temperature will not only impact the environment but also affect human rights of developing countries. Thus, the Climate Vulnerable Forum countries at COP 21 suggested following a target of 1.5 degrees rise in temperature, as it could human rights.

The government of Bangladesh needs to address proper approach in governance, so that the human rights of marginalised people can be protected with proper adaptation. To cope with the effects of climate change at place of origin or destination, adaptation can be addressed as one of the major mechanisms. It is mandatory to specify concerns and scopes of legal practices in Bangladesh, and to address local people’s climate change concern, adaptation challenges and safe migration. The government has to cover important issues to ensure safe migration and adaptation. These include: protection of property and possessions left behind by internally displaced persons; right to know the fate of missing relatives; access to psychological and social services; issuing displaced people with all the necessary documents (e.g. passports, personal identification documents, birth certificates, marriage certificates, irrespective of gender etc.) to enjoy legal rights and protection against discrimination in the destination areas, as well as offer protection to those who have returned to their place of origin or have resettled in another part of the country.

Moreover, the government’s approach needs to empower national authorities to take every measure to minimise displacement from these settlements, to ensure medical care and attention for wounded and sick internally displaced persons, according to their requirements. Again, several issues should be managed by national authorities in case of displacement during emergencies, and adequate measures should be taken to fully inform those who have been displaced regarding the reasons for their displacement while also making them fully aware of the process of displacement. It is also important to involve the affected people, particularly women, in the planning and management of their relocation, and afford them the right to an effective remedy, including making review of such decisions by appropriate judicial authorities available and providing the means through which internally displaced people can voluntarily return to their place of origin in safety and with dignity.

The effective governance system encounters major challenges as it encompasses multiple policy areas, such as development approach, community, livelihood, climate change, and environment. At present, there are no legal guidelines for protecting land and other immovable property rights of climate refugees. The necessity of legal practices is certainly the most important to promote the rights of the displaced people.

The writer works as Research Associate for the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM), Bangladesh University of Engineering &Technology (BUET). Email: arifchowdhury065@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Women’s Inclusion in Sports Competes in Rio Gameshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/womens-inclusion-in-sports-competes-in-rio-games/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-inclusion-in-sports-competes-in-rio-games http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/womens-inclusion-in-sports-competes-in-rio-games/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 07:14:20 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146523 Kaillana de Oliveira Donato, 14, plays basketball in the Olympic Villa in Mangueira, a poor neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, and participates in U.N. Women’s “One Win Leads to Another” programme. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Kaillana de Oliveira Donato, 14, plays basketball in the Olympic Villa in Mangueira, a poor neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, and participates in U.N. Women’s “One Win Leads to Another” programme. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 12 2016 (IPS)

At the age of 14, Kaillana de Oliveira of Brazil knows she won’t be as tall as most professional basketball players, because of family genetics. But she is not letting that get in the way of her dream of standing out in the sport.

“I’m point guard, and you don’t have to be so tall for that position,” Oliveira, a student at the Olympic Villa – a multi-purpose sports complex – in the poor Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood of Mangueira, told IPS.

That public sports facility produced three of the players on Brazil’s women’s national basketball team, which is competing in the Aug. 5-22 Rio 2016 Olympics.

Oliveira trains at least four days a week, “for three hours, sometimes more.” She gets up at 5 AM to attend a school in a distant neighbourhood, which offered her a scholarship as a promising young athlete. She is disciplined and is in bed by 9 PM.

Oliveira has participated in many tournaments for girls. “Basketball is a fast, dynamic contact sport,” she said. That’s why she chose it five years ago, from the various sports she tried in a complex near the Mangueira “favela” or shantytown, where she lives.

Her family supported her choice, but she faces prejudice among her classmates. “They say it’s for lesbians,” she said.

“I want to be a good player; if I don’t make it, I’ll be a lawyer,” Oliveira told IPS in a conversation on the basketball court where she trains.

She participates in the programme “One Win Leads to Another”, an initiative of U.N. Women and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) aimed at empowering girls through sports, as a legacy of the first Olympic Games to be held in South America.

The programme, based on the Dutch NGO Women Win, includes weekly workshops on issues like self-esteem, leadership, sexual rights, violence and financial planning, as well as sports activities.

It began in Rio de Janeiro and until 2017 will function as a pilot project, with the goal of boosting the autonomy and self-confidence of 2,500 girls between the ages of 10 and 18, as well as 300 adolescent mothers who have dropped out of school.

The activities are held in 16 multi-sports complexes called Olympic Villas that the city government has set up in poor neighbourhoods.

The programme will later be adapted to local conditions and expanded to other cities around Brazil and Latin America.

Kaillana de Oliveira Donato, Marcelly de Mendonça and Adrielle da Silva are active in the U.N. Women’s and International Olympic Committee’s “One Win Leads to Another” programme, standing next to Juliana Azevedo, a vice president in Procter & Gamble, another partner in the initiative, during the presentation of the programme in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Kaillana de Oliveira Donato, Marcelly de Mendonça and Adrielle da Silva are active in the U.N. Women’s and International Olympic Committee’s “One Win Leads to Another” programme, standing next to Juliana Azevedo, a vice president in Procter & Gamble, another partner in the initiative, during the presentation of the programme in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Women Win, a U.N. Women partner, developed the original programme, which has already been implemented in 25 countries.

A survey found that of 217,000 participants, the proportion of girls who saw themselves as leaders increased from 46 to 89 percent, and the proportion of those who know how to avoid getting pregnant or catching a sexually transmitted disease rose threefold, to 79 and 77 percent, respectively.

The initiative also seeks to expand access among teenage girls to the benefits of sports. Around the world, 49 percent of girls quit practicing sports when they hit puberty – six times the proportion for boys, which aggravates gender inequality, according to U.N. Women.

“The power of sport should never be underestimated. It can change lives, through increasing girls’ and young women’s beliefs in their own abilities, encouraging them to take initiative and aim high,” U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said at the Aug. 6 presentation of “One Win Leads to Another” in Rio de Janeiro.

One of the big challenges the programme has taken on “is leveling the playing field for men and women,” the representative of U.N. Women in Brazil, Nadine Gasman, told IPS. “In the Rio Olympic games, women make up 46 percent of the competitors, and there are no sports that do not include women, but the difference in resources is appalling.”

“Ten national Olympic committees include no women, and very few are on the International Olympic Committee,” which means they have less of an influence on sports, she said. “Women are also less visible on TV sports channels, where the broadcasting of men’s sports wins 10 to one, with the exception of the Olympics.”

The history of the Olympic Games reflects women’s struggle for inclusion. Women were absent from the first modern-era edition, in 1896 in Athens. In the next Games, in Paris in 1900, the only women’s sports were tennis and golf, and women made up just 2.2 percent of the total number of participants – 22 out of 997.

The proportion only climbed above 10 percent after 1952, growing to 44.2 percent in 2012, after women’s boxing was finally accepted as an Olympic sport.

But inequality persists. The funds earmarked by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) for the national teams that participated in the men’s 2014 World Cup, also hosted by Brazil, were 40 times greater than the amount that went to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Gasman pointed out.

Teenage basketball players training in an Olympic Villa, one of the sports complexes created by the Rio de Janeiro city government, in the “favela” or shantytown of Mangueira, close to the installations where the Olympic Games are being held. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Teenage basketball players training in an Olympic Villa, one of the sports complexes created by the Rio de Janeiro city government, in the “favela” or shantytown of Mangueira, close to the installations where the Olympic Games are being held. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The women’s winning team’s prize was smaller than the amount that went to the team that came in last in the FIFA World Cup, reflecting the discrimination still suffered by women athletes, she added.

But in the Olympics, the imbalance is being reduced more quickly. In 1995 the Women in Sport Commission was created in the IOC, to advise the executive board and president on how to expand women’s participation in decision-making and how to develop and implement the IOC women and sports policy.

Since 2004, women have served as vice president of the IOC, and since March this year, at least one-third of the members of the IOC working groups are women.

But cultural and social prejudice continues to hinder progress towards gender equality in the practice and administration of sports.

Adolescence is a critical period of physical changes and peer pressure. That is why it is essential to intervene at that time, as “One Win Leads to Another” does, “to keep girls in sports, which helps them prepare for life at the same time,” said Gasman.

In Brazil, the rate at which girls drop out of sports at puberty is lower than the international average reported by U.N. Women and the IOC, but it is still worrisome.

A survey carried out by the Ministry of Sports in 2013 found that 34.8 percent of girls quit sports before the age of 15, compared to 19.3 percent of boys.

But this is not true in Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Villa sports complexes. “We have more girls than boys, and they stay throughout adolescence. But they prefer ballet, jazz or rhythmic gymnastics,” said Norma Marinho, a social assistant at the Miécimo da Silva Sports Centre in Campo Grande, a huge working class neighborhood west of Rio de Janeiro.

The idea that certain sports are for boys keeps girls away from track and field and many other disciplines. “They crowd into ballet classes, even if the teacher is a man,” said Marilda Veloso, who teaches handball at the sports complex, where 13,000 students and other people are active in 28 different sports.

Factors that lead girls to drop out are “embarrassment about their bodies, household chores, and prejudices,” although fewer are quitting these days, Veloso, who has worked at the sports centre for 30 years, told IPS.

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The UN Steps up Efforts to End Child Marriagehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-un-steps-up-efforts-to-end-child-marriage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-un-steps-up-efforts-to-end-child-marriage http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-un-steps-up-efforts-to-end-child-marriage/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 13:02:17 +0000 Babatunde Osotimehin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146498 Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin is the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations]]>

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin is the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

By Babatunde Osotimehin
NEW YORK, Aug 10 2016 (IPS)

Barely 17 years old and from the Gajapati district in Odisha, India, Susmita has never gone to school. She rears the few animals her family owns, and this is her primary duty besides attending to household chores.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Credit: UNFPA

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Credit: UNFPA

“I have to work in the field, and take the cows out to graze to support my family. When I see other girls from the village going to school, I wish I could experience school for at least a day,” she said when interviewed, “Is anyone out there even thinking of improving our lives?”

It’s hard not to be moved by Susmita’s earnest and important question. This year, more than 60 million 10 year-old girls worldwide will have started their journey through adolescence. Sadly, millions of them will be forced into adult responsibilities.

Puberty brings a whole host of risks to girls’ lives and their bodies, including child marriage and all its consequences. In fact, each day, more than 47,000 girls are married before they turn 18 – a third of them before they turn 15.

Thousands of girls are led away from school and the prospects of decent employment every day. They are often forced to lead a life of domestic servitude and isolation from their family and friends.

In many cases, they are also often subjected to unintended and unsafe pregnancies. The complications from these early pregnancies are among the leading causes of death for adolescent girls aged 15 to 19. In short, they are forced into this life, robbing them of their right to independence, to work and in turn, drive development.

In Odisha, India, where more than one in three girls will be married before 18, it takes serious commitment and investment to ensure that adolescent girls are not condemned to such a life.

Globally, there are significant hurdles to overcome, and we must address the systematic exclusion faced by girls from before birth via gender-biased sex selection, through adolescence with lower rates of transition to secondary school, denial of their sexual and reproductive health and rights (the right to access contraception without parental or spousal consent or the right to quality maternal health care or the recognition of marital rape as a crime, etc.), and loopholes between customary and statutory laws that permit child marriage.

At UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, we estimate that child marriage is a reality faced by 17.4 million girls each year. But if we speak up and act, there is a possibility for millions of girls to lead a different life, one of their own choosing.

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, which includes a target on eliminating child marriage, presents us with an historic opportunity to help girls rewrite their futures.

This March, UNFPA and UNICEF launched the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, which –working together with many girls themselves – will bring us that much closer to delivering on the world’s commitment to ending this practice.

In five years, the programme will support more than 2.5 million adolescent girls at risk of, and affected by child marriage, helping them to express and exercise their choices.

It will empower girls in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal), the Middle East (Yemen), West and Central Africa (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Niger), Eastern and Southern Africa (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia) with protective health, social and economic independence, and ensure that they can develop their abilities, so as to realize their full potential.

It will also contribute to a demographic dividend, which is the economic growth you can achieve by empowering, educating and employing a country’s youth. Recognizing that girls’ households and communities are of the utmost importance, we will work with them to ensure they invest in their daughters.

As the United Nations, we continue to partner with national governments to improve health, education, and other systems, and to ensure the law protects and promotes girls’ rights, including their sexual and reproductive health.

With the support of UNFPA and countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Canada, Susmita’s own government, and local partners, she now has the opportunity to participate in a programme designed to help her and her family delay marriage.

Giving her knowledge about her health and rights, the confidence to express herself, a mentor, friends, and the opportunity to enroll in an appropriate school. With this support she can set her life on a different path. We must deliver better for more girls like Susmita, despite the many needs, challenges and crises facing us today, girls’ and women’s rights must remain a priority.

We now know about the kinds of investments needed to uphold these rights. Indeed, this is the foundation for a safer, more equitable and just world, not only for girls, but for all.

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Kenya’s Health Sector Challenges Present the Ideal Setting for Creating Shared Valuehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/kenyas-health-sector-challenges-present-the-ideal-setting-for-creating-shared-value/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-health-sector-challenges-present-the-ideal-setting-for-creating-shared-value http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/kenyas-health-sector-challenges-present-the-ideal-setting-for-creating-shared-value/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 11:36:53 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Amit Thakker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146495 Siddharth Chatterjee, (@sidchat1) is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Kenya. Dr. Amit Thakker (@docthakker) is the chairman of Kenya Healthcare Federation. ]]> UNFPA and private sector representatives in Mandera county in Northern Kenya to develop solutions with the community and the county government. Credit: © Ilija Gudnitz Weber

UNFPA and private sector representatives in Mandera county in Northern Kenya to develop solutions with the community and the county government. Credit: © Ilija Gudnitz Weber

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Dr. Amit Thakker
Mandera County, Kenya, Aug 10 2016 (IPS)

The increased budgetary allocations to the health sector by county governments point to an acknowledgement not only of the enormous challenges facing the sector, but also of good health as a prerequisite to overall development.

There has never been a better time for partnerships that harness the power of business to drive prosperity by tackling health challenges. The combination of a growing population and preventable infections means that companies with a focus on solving consumer challenges can expect to record impressive profits while at the same time serving a social good.

This is the approach that has brought together several public, private and non-profit partners to reduce illness and deaths among mothers and children in six counties in Kenya. Coordinated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Private Sector Health Partnership (PSHP) is an Every Woman Every Child joint commitment whose other partners include the Kenya Healthcare Federation, Philips, Huawei, Safaricom, MSD, and GSK.

The partnership aims to harnesses the strength, resources and expertise of the private sector, in close collaboration with the Government of Kenya and the six County Governments of Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Isiolo, Lamu and Migori. These counties contribute close to 50% of the country’s maternal deaths. ¬

The partnership seeks to significantly improve health outcomes in the counties, while also potentially creating shared value business opportunities, ensuring a sustained engagement that has a social as well as economic return on investment.

With support from the World Economic Forum, PSHP Kenya has built a strong platform to engage with key public and private stakeholders, create political support for the initiative as well as catalyse expertise for design of leapfrogging innovations.

It is not a partnership that is led by any one sector, but a coalition model where all players can see opportunity in line with their individual missions.

The active participation of the county governments and community organisations is helping to tweak technologies to suit local purposes. This approach is working impressively for instance in Mandera where Philips is establishing a Community Life Centre.

The Life centre is a health facility for providing vital primary care to mothers and children as well as a community hub. The local community can buy clean water and sustainable products like smokeless stoves and home solar lighting products, and benefit from solar-powered LED outdoor lighting that illuminates the area at night, improving security and extending daylight hours.

Other players like Safaricom and Huawei have started to pool their unique expertise and services in IT and mobile connectivity to design and test transformational digital health solutions. MSD has announced a USD 1.5 million grant, through its Merck for Mothers initiative, to a new project by JHPIEGO which will engage with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) in Mandera and Migori.

UNFPA has also partnered with the Kenyan innovation incubator Nailab to support young Kenyan entrepreneurs and we have partnered with the First Lady of Kenya, Ms. Margaret Kenyatta’s Beyond Zero campaign to bring together government, private sector and the thriving civil society.

The situation in the six counties has in the past contributed to the country’s reputation as a dangerous place for a woman to give birth. Reduction of maternal and child mortality rates are some of the Millennium Development Goal targets that Kenya missed last year. However, it is clear that it is also an opportunity for collective action and a commitment to shared value creation.

In the words of Michael Porter; “for too long have business and society been pitted against each other”. The PSHP is showing the way in how different sectors with separate mission statements can be galvanized to find intersections in solving social problems.

For long, suspicions about the private sector’s motives have created a wedge, preventing social programmes from accessing the knowledge, ideas, capabilities and resources that abound in private companies.

Shared value propositions will enable different sectors to leverage each other’s assets, connections, creativity and expertise to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

We must continue finding new and creative ways to increase collaboration between government, the private sector and non-profits if we hope to reach Sustainable Development Goals.

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Native Plants Boost Local Diets in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/native-plants-boost-local-diets-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=native-plants-boost-local-diets-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/native-plants-boost-local-diets-in-el-salvador/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 18:04:19 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146483 Juana Morales is cooking pupusas – thick tortillas with different kinds of fillings. Hers, however, are not made with corn tortillas, but with ojushte, a highly nutritional seed whose consumption is being promoted in the small town of San Isidro in western El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Juana Morales is cooking pupusas – thick tortillas with different kinds of fillings. Hers, however, are not made with corn tortillas, but with ojushte, a highly nutritional seed whose consumption is being promoted in the small town of San Isidro in western El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN ISIDRO, El Salvador, Aug 9 2016 (IPS)

Juana Morales is cooking one of the most popular dishes in El Salvador: pupusas, corn tortillas with different fillings. But hers are unique: they are not made with the traditional corn tortillas, but use Maya nuts, a highly nutritional seed that has fallen out of use but whose consumption is being encouraged in rural communities.

“I cook something with ojushte almost every day – pupusas, tamales (seasoned meat packed in cornmeal dough and wrapped and steamed in corn husks) orlittle cakes; it’s an excellent food,” the 65-year-old Salvadoran woman told IPS, standing in her kitchen in San Isidro, a small town of 3,000 people in the municipality of Izalco in the western department of Sonsonate.

Pupusas are made with thick tortillas and filled with beans, cheese, vegetables or pork.“In the communities there are families who don’t have enough to eat, malnourished children, poorly-fed adults, and we can’t just sit back and do nothing.” -- Ana Morales

Juana Morales has easy access to ojushte (Brosimum alicastrum) because her daughter Ana Morales is the leading local advocate of the nutritional properties of the seed in San Isidro, thanks to the work carried out by a local organisation.

Maná Ojushte is a women’s collective that emerged in San Isidro and began to promote the Maya nut tree and its seeds in 2010, an initiative that received a major boost in 2014 when it began to receive support from the Initiative Fund for the Americas El Salvador (FIAES), a U.S.-Salvadoran environmental conservation organisation.

The seeds of the Ojushte or Maya nut tree are beginning to be used in San Isidro and other communities in this Central American nation as an alternative source of nutrients for rural families, as part of projects designed to fight the impacts of climate change.

Still rare, the tree is found in the Salvadoran countryside, and in pre-Hispanic times it formed an important part of the diet of indigenous peoples throughout Central America and Mexico, said Ana Morales, the head of Maná Ojushte.

The seeds, she explained, contain high levels of protein, iron, zinc, vitamins, folic acid, calcium, fiber and tryptophan, an amino acid, which makes them an excellent addition to the family diet.

“It’s compared to soy, but it has the advantage of being gluten-free and low in fat,” Ana Morales told IPS.

Support from FIAES forms part of the conservation plans for the Apaneca Lamatepec Biosphere Reserve, which covers more than 132,000 hectares in 23 municipalities in the western Salvadoran departments of Ahuachapán, Santa Ana and Sonsonate.

“With the work in the reserve, we have tried to link cultural aspects with the health and nutrition of local communities, and revive consumption of this seed, which was part of our ancestral heritage,” FIAES territorial coordinator Silvia Flores told IPS.

Maná Ojushte, run by a core group of 10 women, sells Maya nuts, toasted, ground and packaged in quarter and half kilo bags.

The ground toasted seeds can be used to make beverages or can be added to any dish, like rice or soup, as a nutritional complement. They can also be used to make dough, for tamales, bread or tortillas. And the cooked nuts themselves can be added to raw dishes.

Some 20 families harvest the seeds from farms around the community where trees have been found. They sell them to the group for 20 to 50 cents of a dollar per half kilo, depending on whether the seed is brought in with or without the shell.

Ana Morales, head of Maná Ojushte, in the area where the Maya nuts are dried and shelled, to be ground and sold, in San Isidro in the municipality of Izalco in the western Salvadoran department of Sonsonate. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ana Morales, head of Maná Ojushte, in the area where the Maya nuts are dried and shelled, to be ground and sold, in San Isidro in the municipality of Izalco in the western Salvadoran department of Sonsonate. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Each family, Ana Morales explained, gathers some 150 kilos per season, between January and June. This represents an additional source of income at a time when work is scarce in the countryside and climate change is jeopardising staple food crops like corn and beans.

“The arrangement is that I buy the nuts from them, but they have to include them in their diet,” she said.

Maná Ojushte sells 70 percent of what it produces and the remaining 30 percent is distributed free to the community, for meals in the local school, to the elderly and to pregnant women.

The ultimate aim is to teach families about the benefits of the Maya nut, and help them understand that there is a highly nutritional, easily accessible food source in their community.

“In the communities there are families who don’t have enough to eat, malnourished children, poorly-fed adults, and we can’t just sit back and do nothing,” said Morales.

In 2014, 14 percent of children five and under suffered from chronic malnutrition, according to that year’s National Health Survey, which provides the latest available statistics. That is higher than the Latin American average, which stood at 11.6 percent in 2015, according to the World Health Organisation.

“My family and I love Maya nuts,” Iris Gutiérrez, a 49-year-old local resident, told IPS. “I learned to make little cakes and soup, or I just serve the nuts boiled, with salt and lemon, like a salad.”

Gutiérrez buys buns and sells them in the village. But her aim, she said, is to learn to make bread with ojushte flour and sell it.

“One day that dream will come true,” she said.

She added that she goes to farms around the village to harvest the nuts and adds them to her family’s diet, collecting firewood along the way to cook them.

“If we gather two pounds (nearly one kilo), we add them to corn and the tortillas are more nutritious and our food stretches farther,” said Gutiérrez, a mother of two and the head of her household of six people, which also includes other relatives.

Similar initiatives

Meanwhile, in the municipalities of Candelaria de la Frontera and Texistepeque, in the eastern department of Santa Ana, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is backing a similar effort, but involving a spice called chaya, rather than ojushte.

Chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa), a bush native to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, was also used by the ancient Mayans in the pre-Columbian era.

As in the case of ojushte, the promotion of chaya emerged as part of environmental conservation plans aimed at combating the impacts of climate change.

“Local communities had to look for a nutritional alternative that would improve the diet but would also be resistant to climate change, and we found that chaya is one of the most beneficial plants,” Rosemarie Rivas, a specialist in nutrition at the FAO office in El Salvador, told IPS.

Besides chaya bushes, FAO has distributed 26,000 fruit trees, as well as 8,000 moringa trees (Moringa oleifera), also known as the drumstrick or horseradish tree, whose leaves are also highly nutritious.

Another part of the project will be the creation of 250 family gardens to boost local food production capacity.

Efforts to encourage consumption of ojushte, chaya, moringa and other locally grown plants can make a difference when it comes to lowering malnutrition rates in rural areas, Rivas said.

She stressed, however, that boosting nutrition is not only about eating healthy foods, but involves other variables as well, such as the population’s overall health, which is influenced, for example, by factors such as the availability of sanitation and clean water.

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Education: An Elusive Dream for Cameroon’s Indigenous Peopleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/education-an-elusive-dream-for-cameroons-indigenous-peoples/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=education-an-elusive-dream-for-cameroons-indigenous-peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/education-an-elusive-dream-for-cameroons-indigenous-peoples/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 13:56:22 +0000 Ngala Killian Chimtom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146475 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/education-an-elusive-dream-for-cameroons-indigenous-peoples/feed/ 0 Indian Jails Slammed as Purgatory for the Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 08:00:19 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146421 Beggars are often rounded up by police and thrown into jail without charges being filed against them for years. This adds to the overcrowding in Indian prisons already reeling under a lack of basic facilities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Beggars are often rounded up by police and thrown into jail without charges being filed against them for years. This adds to the overcrowding in Indian prisons already reeling under a lack of basic facilities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Aug 9 2016 (IPS)

A media frenzy ensued in New Delhi last month when a popular television channel highlighted the horrific living conditions of women inmates in ward number six of Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison.

The program – “Fear and Loathing in Tihar” — beamed into people’s homes the prisoners’ abysmal treatment by the administration: 600 of them packed like sardines into space meant for half that number, a lack of basic amenities, and a shocking state apathy towards detainees in the world’s largest democracy."Some [women inmates] even have kids who have to stay with them in those pathetic conditions till they are six years old." --Delhi-based human rights lawyer Maninder Singh

By highlighting the prisoners’ misery, the program also helped shine a light on a broken judicial system where thousands are subjected to prolonged periods of incarceration without ever seeing a judge, or whose perfunctory court appearances stretch for years thanks to a corrupt legal system clogged with too many cases, and too few judges to try them. The injustice of lengthy detention is compounded by the horrific conditions of the jail facilities.

As the world celebrates Prisoners Justice Day on Aug. 10, human rights advocates say the state of Indian detention centres needs to come into focus again. Most Indian jails fail to meet the minimum United Nations standards for such facilities, including inadequate amounts of food, poor nutrition, and unsanitary conditions. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment are also common. The cells are also often dilapidated, with poor ventilation and absence of natural light.

According to a 2015 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Tihar Jail, the prison complex is reeling under a prisoner population more than double its sanctioned strength and understaffed by 50 per cent of its required workforce. The key findings of the report suggest that the 10 jails in Tihar were grossly overcrowded with 14,209 prisoners against a capacity of 6,250.

Moreover, against government rules, 51 prisoners awaiting trial were found to have already served more than half the maximum term of punishment for the offences they were booked under, the report says.

Medical facilities, adds the damning report, are non-existent. There’s paucity of doctors, paramedical, ministerial, factory and Class IV staff by 18 to 63 per cent in the prison which despite an in-house 150-bed hospital and additional dispensaries in each of the 10 jails. The CAG found that “the hospital was not equipped to face any emergency situation”.

The subhuman conditions take a toll on human health — both mental and physical, a former inmate told IPS. “Women prisoners prefer to take care of each other when they are indisposed as there are only male doctors doing rounds most of the time,” she said. “I remember once a young woman had a miscarriage and bled for a few hours before she was taken to the hospital.”

In India, a country where U.N. figures indicate that 270 million people - or 21.9 percent of the population - live below the poverty line, justice for the poor is often delayed as well as denied. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

In India, a country where U.N. figures indicate that 270 million people – or 21.9 percent of the population – live below the poverty line, justice for the poor is often delayed as well as denied. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The fate of prisoners on death row is worse. Not only do they inhabit inhumane living conditions, they face unfair trials and horrific acts of police torture, according to a study by the Death Penalty Research Project at the National Law University in Delhi. The study, based on interviews with 373 of the 385 inmates believed to be on death row in India, offers a harrowing insight into the unbearable conditions the prisoners have to live in as they wait for judges to decide their fate.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report 2015 says that poor budget allocation, the way accused are arrested and non-issuance of bail along with miserable conditions in prisons were leading factors attributed to the existing living conditions of the inmates. It added that the situation calls for a trained administration to bring reformation in prisoners’ lives.

Legal eagles say the biggest bottleneck is the country’s overburdened criminal justice system which has a cascading effect on prisoners’ lives. Overcrowding is the most common. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records, in 2013, the total number of prisoners was 411,992, of which a startling 278,503 were prisoners awaiting trial. Delay in providing justice, inadequate court infrastructure, and inaccessibility of a large number of prisoners to legal help make matters worse.

As per records, currently over three million cases are pending in various Indian courts across the country. Erstwhile PM Manmohan Singh remarked that India had the world’s largest backlog of court cases. Bloomberg Business Week estimates if that all the Indian judges attacked their backlog without breaks for eating and sleeping, and closed 100 cases every hour, it would take more than 35 years to catch up.

“The severe delay in delivering justice is largely due to the fact that many courts share judges with each other, resulting in extremely slow trial procedures. There’s no effective legal redress mechanism for under trials,” explains Ajay Verma, Senior Fellow, International Bridges to Justice, a non-profit that supports justice and human rights. “These institutional pathologies result in unjust and prolonged detention.”

Delhi-based human rights lawyer Maninder Singh says that many detainees are forced to be in jail longer than the maximum sentence for the offense with which they were charged, with some people spending as long as two decades in detention before being convicted or released by the courts.

Women awaiting trial in particular, adds Singh, are made to suffer as they are too poor to afford justice. “Some even have kids who have to stay with them in those pathetic conditions till they are six years old. Many under trials languish for months without even charges being framed against them. There’s simply no legal recourse available to them.”

After studying the living conditions of jail inmates across India, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) made some key recommendations for prison reform. These include replacing the 1894 Prison Act with a new one, amending prison manuals keeping human rights in mind, reducing overcrowding, one of the biggest problems in most prisons, shifting foreign nationals to detention centres from prisons after their sentence is completed, till they are deported to their respective countries.

Despite the gloom, experts suggest that it’s not as if the situation is irretrievable. What is needed is political will and a more humanitarian approach to a very complex problem. Already, some measures in Indian jails — like rehabilitation and skilling prisoners for their gainful employment post jail term — have come in for accolades. Tihar boasts of a full-fledged cottage industry where training for carpentry, baking, tailoring, fabric painting and other crafts are imparted to empower inmates. The revenues generated from selling products made by the prisoners helps in the prison’s upkeep. Wage earning and gratuity schemes and incentives help reduce the psychological burden on the convicts.

But as Singh and Verma point out, while these measures should be amplified, the State needs to urgently focus on faster disposal of court cases, speedier justice and better conditions in jail to make life more bearable for the inmates.

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Sustainable Development in Africa Will Not Be Achieved Without Women’s Full Participationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/sustainable-development-in-africa-will-not-be-achieved-without-womens-full-participation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-development-in-africa-will-not-be-achieved-without-womens-full-participation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/sustainable-development-in-africa-will-not-be-achieved-without-womens-full-participation/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 05:35:16 +0000 Gina Din http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146429 Ms Gina Din, the Founder and CEO of the Gina Din group, is a businesswoman from Kenya specializing in strategic communications and public relations. She was named CNBC outstanding businesswoman of the year for East Africa 2015 as well as 40 most influential voices in Africa.]]> Gina Din visits a UNFPA supported maternal and child health facility in Migori County, Kenya. Photo Credit: Gina Din Group

Gina Din visits a UNFPA supported maternal and child health facility in Migori County, Kenya. Photo Credit: Gina Din Group

By Gina Din
MIGORI COUNTY, Kenya, Aug 8 2016 (IPS)

In some parts of the world, the proverbial “glass ceiling” is shattering. As Theresa May and, most likely, Hillary Clinton join Angela Merkel at the leadership of three major world powers, women’s leadership in politics is on the ascent.

Unfortunately, improvements in political representation has not been accompanied by improvements in the material conditions of ordinary women’s lives.

As the National Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Kenya, I am well aware of just how far women in Africa still have to go not only in their quest for access to political participation, but also in the fight for the basic rights that will enable them to live healthily and safely. In fact, the advancement of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is key to achieving their full and equal participation in the social, political, and economic realms.

The good news is that this is now a widely accepted truth: the pursuit of gender equality is not just an abstract ideal, but a prerequisite for human progress.

Throughout the world, UNFPA has been working to change the narrative about the role of women. UNFPA’s message has been that the roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined, but socially constructed. This means that these roles are man-made and can be changed when circumstances call for it.

That is why UNFPA is working to change the circumstances of marginalized and vulnerable women such as the four in every ten women in Kenya who report being physically assaulted by people known to them. There is a need to change the circumstances of the nine in ten women in the north eastern parts of Kenya who undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), almost all of whom have never gone to school.

A lack of education severely restricts a woman’s access to information and opportunities. Conversely, increasing women’s and girls’ educational attainment benefits both individuals and future generations. Higher levels of women’s education are strongly associated with lower infant mortality and lower fertility, as well as better outcomes for their children.

There is need to give women power over their own bodies; the power to decide who and when to marry, how many children to give birth to and when to do so, the power to stay in school and the opportunity to find employment. When a woman can effectively plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life. Protecting and promoting her reproductive rights – including the right to decide the number, timing and spacing of her children – is essential to ensuring her freedom to participate more fully and equally in society.

In its effort to change mindsets and include women as equal partners at the social and political table, UNFPA Kenya has become a key voice in the national discourse, engaging people across both the public and private sectors and mobilising for more resources to be invested in broad gender equality programmes.

I particularly enjoy working with the UNFPA team led by Siddharth Chatterjee, an indefatigable advocate for women’s rights. His career with the United Nations, in some of the most unstable and risky parts of the world, has exposed him to the suffering that conflicts and disasters bring to communities, with the worst affected always being women and children.

The UNFPA Kenya team has shown the desire for attaining real impact on the challenges that women encounter in their day-to-day lives and – most importantly – empowering them to handle these difficulties on their own.

For instance, as per a report by Deloitte, UNFPA Kenya’s work in 6 high burden counties of Kenya to improve maternal health is bringing real change. I have been humbled to see women in Pokot organize themselves to build a rescue shelter for girls escaping early marriages. I have been amazed at the tenacity of schoolgirls in Baringo who stood firm and convinced their fathers of the harmful effects of FGM. These powerful success stories come out of the activities of UNFPA Kenya, whose leadership has been determined to succeed even in the face of entrenched cultures that deny women any agency.

The task at hand, then, is not to give women strength, but to give society new eyes to perceive the strength that they already possess in abundance.

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Pan African Parliament Endorses Ban on FGMhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm/#comments Sat, 06 Aug 2016 18:14:05 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146419 Female genital mutilation (FGM) traditional surgeon in Kapchorwa, Uganda speaking to a reporter. The women in this area are being trained by the civil society organisation REACH in how to educate people to stop the practice. Credit: Joshua Kyalimpa/IPS

Female genital mutilation (FGM) traditional surgeon in Kapchorwa, Uganda speaking to a reporter. The women in this area are being trained by the civil society organisation REACH in how to educate people to stop the practice. Credit: Joshua Kyalimpa/IPS

By Desmond Latham
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 6 2016 (IPS)

After years of wrangling and debates among African leaders, the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM) is gaining real momentum, with a new action plan signed this week by Pan African Parliament (PAP) representatives and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) to end FGM as well as underage marriage.

The UNFPA has already trained over 100,000 health workers to deal specifically with aiding victims of FGM, while tens of thousands of traditional leaders have also signed pledges against the practice.

The agreement followed a PAP Women’s Caucus meeting with UNFPA representatives in Johannesburg on July 29-30.

Kicking off the meeting, PAP President Roger Dang said, “PAP is determined to help and be part of stakeholders to come up with solutions to this practice. This is in line with the mandate of PAP to defend and promote gender balance and people living with disability.”

The PAP is the legislative organ of the African Union, and has up to 250 members representing the 50 AU Member States.

In some African countries, girls as young as eleven and twelve are forced to marry much older men. This has led to an increase in serious health problems, including cervical cancer and a host of social problems.

UNFPA East and Southern Africa Deputy Regional Director Justine Coulson said if the current trend continues, the number of girls under 15 who had babies would rise by a million – from two to three million.

“If we do nothing, in the next decade over 14 million girls under 18 years will be married every year,” she said.

There are believed to be at least seven million child brides in Southern Africa alone. While underage marriage and childbirth is a major health risk, the Pan African Parliament UNFPA workshop also heard how FGM had led to an increased likelihood girls and women would be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The cause of this can be traced back to contaminated cutting instruments, hemorrhages requiring blood transfusions, and injurious sexual intercourse causing vaginal tearing and lesions.

Globally, an estimated 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. In Africa, FGM is practiced in at least 26 of 43 African countries, with prevalence rates ranging from 98 percent in Somalia to 5 percent in Zaire.

The buy-in of African political leadership is crucial if this latest move is to succeed, with up to 140 million women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa who’ve been forced to submit to the practice of cutting their genitals. The aim is to influence people on the ground as well as effect legislation banning the practice.

The procedure intentionally alters or injures a girl or woman’s organs for non-medical reasons. There are no health benefits in the process and it can cause severe bleeding, problems urinating, cysts, infections and a host of childbirth complications.

There are four types of genital mutilation. Type 1 is a clitoridectomy which is where the clitoris is cut out. Type 2 is known as excision which is the totally removal of the clitoris and inner folds of the vulva. Type 3 is infibulation, which is the tightening of a a vaginal opening while, Type 4 is all other harmful procedures which includes piercing, cauterising, scraping and stitching the vagina.

The PAP also agreed to work with the UNFPA in seeking to overturn the practice of marrying off children under the age of sixteen.

In June, the UNFPA worked with Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum representatives at a meeting in Swaziland which voted through a Model Law on eradicating child marriage.

Coulson said moves such as these seen in SADC are beginning to show tangible results.

“Girls and women of Africa need your support to end female genital mutilation. We need to act now. All it requires is our engagement, passion and dedication to uphold the human rights of women and girls,” she told attendees at the workshop.

Now the PAP has setup a working group which will oversee the moves towards a similar law. The areas of priority include laws and legislation, engaging the community, mobilising resources, advocacy and implementing the plan at regional and national levels.

Dang also called on men to step up and join the fight against FGM, saying, “We have double responsibility to defend girls against this human rights violation.”

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The Right to Not Disappearhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-not-disappear http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 20:59:26 +0000 Asha Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146415 By Asha’ar Rehman
Aug 5 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It goes something like this: there’s a murder in the name of ‘honour’ in a village somewhere in Pakistan. The story is reported and journalists are inspired to look for more such instances to cover. They disperse in all directions and no matter where they go searching, they return with more such murder cases to dump on the ‘honour’ killing pile.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

With time, the subject is replaced by, say, something as horrifying as gang rape. The media corps, its first line comprising the low-paid local correspondent with a finger on the market’s pulse, spreads afar and returns with a series of cases where only one would have been enough to ensure perpetual shame for all of us.

All the media, with its wide influence, needs is a cue to deliver on demand. It can unleash in relentless supply the most brutal of stories of exploitation, at workplaces, inside houses, of a sexual nature, et al, at a few hours’ notice. It can report on a story that had long been there. It can break it when it chooses, or it can hold on to it for unspecified durations, finally letting it out with a bang without bothering to explain the delay in the conveyance of the message.

How is the police file recording children’s disappearance different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque?

Those who live close to a mosque in Lahore would vouch that children do go missing in this city: from children as small as toddlers who are barely able to tell their names, to those who are driven by the reputation of adolescence to be suspected of playing a hand in their own disappearance. The mosque’s loudspeaker is regularly used to announce the disappearance and to seek help in the recovery of those who go missing, an overwhelming majority of whom are children.

There may be sometimes an urge to find out if those who had been unaccounted for did return. No one has ever heard the respected maulvi sahib celebrate a reunion of the missing with their family by issuing a statement of congratulations through the public address system.

So regular are these announcements about the missing that now nobody seems to be too bothered about them. People hear them, say tauba, and go about their work without any grand show of emotion. The same trend that begins from the streets around the mosque is then reflected at various levels, creating many layers of indifference that the most knowledgeable amongst us believe is essential to life as it is.

Just think about it: how is the police file recording the cases of children’s disappearance in a specific period different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque? Like these calls, these numbers have been compiled year after year, with little in terms of action to ensure a safer world for our children.

A typical such file will take you over a familiar route. The spots from where children are more likely to be picked up are highlighted, such as the darbar or shrine of the most revered saint or the tower built to mark independence or the bazaar named after the beloved damsel torn between Akbar and his son Saleem. A child may be abducted from all these places or from a park or a hospital or a mere bus terminal. The police’s book diligently counts these incidents. The self-indictment comes when these cold figures are not accompanied by any plans – not even a pledge — of just how serious our law enforcers are to safeguard these vulnerable young citizens against the cruel hands of a long grown-up society.

Missing had been the story about just how hazardous the streets of Lahore — or any other place in Pakistan — were for those we must never tire of calling as our future. A series of stories about the children missing or kidnapped has opened the floodgates on gushing fears pegged on both real and imagined incidents. The warning letters have been written, about how the children can be– how they are, says the chorus — duped into following their abductor like the rats followed the Pied Piper.

The imaginary stuff would have been easier to deal with had the ‘real’ stories not been packed with the horrors of the most fearsome kind. Imagine… no do not imagine but try and come to terms with the unearthing of this racket where a food catering contractor apparently bought young boys and then employed them as slave labour. Try and come face to face with the recovery of the disabled young girl whom the members of a beggars’ ring had abducted out of here and taken deep into Sindh.

The labour camp, the beggars’ mafia, are just two manifestations; the stereotype is kept alive in so many of our responses. Not the least most painful among them is how Lahore as the venue for these disappearances has left some people typically aghast. They must show mock surprise at the wonder-city that hogs funds and official patronage but is so oblivious to the plight of the young ones in its charge. It is the same smirk that had previously been displayed when Lahoris were found to be eating donkey-meat or when they were being preyed upon by a killer mosquito. Little does the envious crowd realise that where the development projects are grand, the likelihood of serious everyday issues suffering neglect is that much greater. The missing resolve on children is proof.

These stories come in steadily, each one of them bringing back the sensation we experienced when as a young, learning soul we were given our earliest lessons in how to keep our distance from the big bad world we were such an integral part of. There was nothing more serious, more nightmarish than being lost in a world we were required to explore, to tame and to conquer. The way we have failed to deliver on the basics — such as a young, and old, soul’s right to not disappear — shows we have all been long lost.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.
Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Poverty, Vulnerability and Social Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/poverty-vulnerability-and-social-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-vulnerability-and-social-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/poverty-vulnerability-and-social-protection/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2016 14:11:45 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146391 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR , Aug 4 2016 (IPS)

According to the World Bank, the MDG target of halving the share of the poor was achieved by 2008, well in advance of 2015, the target year. However, increased unemployment and lower incomes in recent times remind us that poverty is not an unchanging attribute of a shrinking group, but rather, a condition that billions of vulnerable persons risk experiencing.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Despite the various shortcomings of money measures of poverty, they nevertheless reflect the extent of vulnerability. For example, the estimated number of poor globally in 2012 more than doubles from 902 million to 2.1 billion when one raises the poverty line by 63% from $1.90/day to $3.10/day per person, suggesting that a very large number of those not deemed poor by the World Bank are very vulnerable to external economic shocks or changes in personal circumstances, such as income losses or food price increases.

Of the world’s poor, three-quarters live in rural areas where agricultural wage workers suffer the highest incidence of poverty, largely because of low productivity, seasonal unemployment and low wages paid by most rural employers. Vulnerability and economic insecurity have increased in recent decades with rising insecure, casual and precarious jobs involving part-time employment, self-employment, fixed-term work, temporary work, on-call work and home-working – often mainly involving women.

Such trends have grown with labour market liberalization, globalization, and declining union power. To make matters worse, macroeconomic policies in recent decades have focused on low inflation, rather than full employment, while limited social protection has exacerbated economic insecurity and vulnerability.

Additionally, lower economic growth rates, following the global financial crisis, would push 46 million more people into extreme poverty than expected before the crisis. This figure was later revised to 64 million, implying over 200 million people fell into extreme poverty due to food-fuel price hikes and the global financial crisis.

While some of these figures were subsequently revised downward, they suggest widespread vulnerability and economic insecurity, due to the inability of governments to respond with adequate counter-cyclical policies and in the absence of comprehensive universal social protection measures. During the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, the official poverty rate in Indonesia shot up from 11% to 37% in just one year following the massive depreciation of the Indonesian rupiah.

Working poor

The working poor are defined as those employed, but earning less than the international poverty line ($1.25 a day in 2005 and $1.90 a day in 2011 in purchasing power parity [PPP] terms). Despite working, they cannot earn enough to get out of poverty. In most developing countries, most poor adults have to work, if only to survive, in the absence of adequate social protection.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimated 375 million workers lived below the international poverty line in 2013. The number of working poor rises dramatically to close to 800 million when a $2-a-day poverty line is used. Women comprise the majority of the working poor, accounting for about 60%. It also found that progress in reducing the number of working poor has slowed markedly since 2008.

An estimated 1.42 billion people globally were in vulnerable employment in 2013, still increasing by around 1% in 2013, well above the 0.2% average increase in the years prior to 2008. The number was projected to exceed 1.44 billion in 2014, accounting for 45% of total world employment.

Social Protection

Most people who fall under the international poverty line are vulnerable, with no basic social protection. The lack of comprehensive universal social protection is a major obstacle to economic and social development, exacerbating high and persistent levels of poverty, economic insecurity, and inequality. Most countries do not have unemployment insurance or other similar social protection. In the most vulnerable countries, more than 80% have neither social security coverage nor access to health services.

The ILO’s World Social Protection Report, 2014/15 found a high or very high vulnerability in terms of poverty and labour market informality. Only 27% of the global population enjoy access to comprehensive social security systems, whereas 73% are only covered partially, or not at all. This means that about 5.2 billion people do not have access to comprehensive social protection, and many of them – in the case of middle- and low-income countries, nearly half their populations – live in poverty. About 800 million of them are working poor, of whom most work in the informal economy.

Although 2.3% of GDP worldwide is allocated to public social protection expenditure for income security during working age, there are wide regional, national and local variations, e.g. ranging from 0.5% in Africa to 5.9% in Western Europe. Only 28% of the global labour force is potentially or legally eligible for unemployment benefits. Yet, only 12% of unemployed workers worldwide actually receive unemployment benefits, with effective coverage ranging from 64% of unemployed workers in Western Europe to just over 7% in the Asia and Pacific region, 5% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and less than 3% in the Middle East and Africa.

Globally, about 39% and more than 90% of the population living in low-income countries have no right to healthcare. About 18,000 children die every day, mainly from preventable causes. On average, governments allocate 0.4% of GDP to child and family benefits, ranging from 2.2% in Western Europe to 0.2% in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

Fiscal austerity measures since the 2008-2009 global financial and economic crises have exacerbated the situation. Such measures are not limited to Europe; many developing countries have also adopted such measures, including reducing or ending food and fuel subsidies; cutting or capping wages; more narrowly targeting social protection benefits, and reducing public pension and health care systems.

These are contrary to the pledges countries made in adopting Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals which include achieving universal protection and health care. Not surprisingly, fiscal austerity measures, including cuts in social protection expenditure, have not helped economic recovery, but instead, have exacerbated inequality

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The Next UN Secretary General Should Be a Woman – and Must Be a Feministhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-next-un-secretary-general-should-be-a-woman-and-must-be-a-feminist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-next-un-secretary-general-should-be-a-woman-and-must-be-a-feminist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-next-un-secretary-general-should-be-a-woman-and-must-be-a-feminist/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2016 21:35:25 +0000 Winnie Byanyima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146388 Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

By Winnie Byanyima
Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM, Aug 3 2016 (IPS)

The process for arguably the top political job on the planet is well underway.  And the time is right for a woman and a feminist to take the helm.

The United Nations (UN) Security Council is continuing its consideration of candidates for the next UN Secretary-General, with the next “straw poll” due to take place on Friday August 5th.

Backed by public debates and online campaigns, this selection process for the Secretary-General has been the most transparent and accessible yet – driven in part by tireless efforts from civil society.

But the decision to appoint essentially rests with the Security Council’s five permanent members in what has been, since 1946, a remarkably secretive selection procedure, one which has given us three Europeans, two Africans, two Asians and one Latin American – all men – in 70 years.

This process has never produced a female secretary general.

In 2006 the Secretary-General selection process included only one woman in seven candidates. This time round, half the current candidates are women. There is no shortage of talent. Yet the initial signs are not promising. The Security Council’s first straw poll on July 21st saw only one woman among the top five.

The absurd male monopoly on the UN’s top job must come to an end. The next Secretary-General must be both a woman and a feminist, with the determination and leadership to promote women’s rights and gender equality.

The long selection process ahead must reverse this. The absurd male monopoly on the UN’s top job must come to an end. The next Secretary-General must be both a woman and a feminist, with the determination and leadership to promote women’s rights and gender equality.

Growing up as an activist under an oppressive dictatorship in Uganda, the UN was a friend to those of us who fought our way to freedom, as it was for the millions that joined decolonization struggles in the African continent. Today, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Climate Agreement agreed in 2015 are testament to the UN’s global role and reach, and a legacy of Ban Ki-moon’s outstanding leadership.

Yet the UN is failing to meet its founding tenets to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and uphold human rights for those who are powerless. For the UN’s new leader, reversing this sounds near-impossible amidst protracted conflicts, a lack of respect for international humanitarian law and a massive global displacement crisis.

Fulfilling the pledge to “leave no one behind is perhaps the biggest political challenge. The new Secretary-General must grapple with the spiralling crisis of extreme economic inequality that keeps people poor, undermines economic growth and threatens the health of democracies. And a low carbon pathway will not happen without strong UN leadership to drive drastic reductions from the richest in our societies, whose lifestyles are responsible for the majority of them.

Choosing a woman goes far beyond symbolism and political correctness. The discrimination of women and girls goes to the core of any and all analyses of the world’s economic, political and environmental problems.

A feminist woman Secretary-General will, by definition and action, ensure gender equality is put at the heart of peace, security and development. In doing so, she will truly champion the UN’s core values of human rights, equality and justice.

Such an appointment – far too long in coming – would fulfil promises given by world leaders 21 years ago at the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to nominate more women to senior posts in the UN. In the past decade, women have filled less than a quarter of senior roles at the organization, according to UN Women. Shockingly, as recently as last year women made up less than 17 percent of Under- and Assistant Secretary-General appointments.  

A new feminist UN Secretary General will ensure that more women serve as heads of UN agencies, peacekeeping missions, diplomatic envoys, and senior mediators who collectively can strengthen the global peace and security agenda. Without women’s equal access to positions of decision-making power and a clear process to get there, gender equality, global security and peace will never be realized.

And it will take a woman feminist Secretary-General to advance the bold, comprehensive women’s human rights agenda in intergovernmental fora that is needed to address the multiple and intertwined challenges facing us in the 21st century. Only a woman feminist Secretary-General can ensure financial support reaches women’s rights movements – proven to have made progress on addressing the challenges of violence against women and girls, climate change, conflict and economic inequality. They can ensure that feminist and civil society movements are not just observers in policymaking, but active and equal participants.

She should, too, boost international efforts to empower women economically – thus strengthening national economies and prosperity for all – and tackling the harmful social norms that trap women in poverty and powerlessness.

The new Secretary-General must also reimagine the role of the UN in a world radically different to the one it was set up to serve and be bold in leading its reform.

The UN must be made more inclusive, accountable, democratic, effective, and reflective of a world in which political and economic power has shifted. And the UN must be able to protect its unique role as a genuinely multilateral institution that acts in the interests of all people and all countries. Integrity must not be undermined by the influence of private sector actors and their money.

The Security Council, particularly the five permanent members, must choose change and progress over continuity. They must have the foresight to ensure they listen to the voices of the public and select the Secretary-General that the world and the UN needs today: a woman and a feminist.

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New Alliance to Shore Up Food Security Launched in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/new-alliance-to-shore-up-food-security-launched-in-africa/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 17:59:47 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146365 PAP officials attend the workshop for members of the Pan African Parliament and FAO to advance the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

PAP officials attend the workshop for members of the Pan African Parliament and FAO to advance the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

By Desmond Latham
CAPE TOWN, Aug 2 2016 (IPS)

As over 20 million sub-Saharan Africans face a shortage of food because of drought and development issues, representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Pan African Parliament (PAP) met in Johannesburg to forge a new parliamentary alliance focusing on food and nutritional security.

Monday’s meeting here came after years of planning that began on the sidelines of the Second International Conference on Nutrition organised by the FAO in late 2014.“The first port of call when there are food security issues is normally the parliament. We should be at the forefront of moving towards what is known as Zero Hunger." -- Dr. Bernadette Lahai

Speaking at the end of the day-long workshop held at the offices of the PAP, its fourth vice president was upbeat about the programme and what she called the “positive energy” shown by attendees.

“We have about 53 countries here in the PAP and the alliance is going to be big,” said Dr. Bernadette Lahai. “At a continental level, once we have launched the alliance formally, we’ll encourage regional parliaments so the whole of Africa will really come together.”

“This will be a very big voice,” she said on the sidelines of the workshop.

FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, said her role was to ensure that parliamentarians take up food security as a central theme.

“The reason why we’re doing this is because based on the evidence that we have in the FAO, is that once you have the laws and policies on food and nutrition security in place there is a positive correlation with the improvement of the indicators of both food and security of nutrition,” she told IPS.

“Last year we facilitated the attendance of seven African parliamentarians to a Latin American and Caribbean meeting in Lima, and these seven requested us to have an interaction with parliamentarians of Africa,” she said.

A small team of officials representing Latin America and the Caribbean had traveled to Johannesburg to provide some details of their own experience working alongside the FAO in an alliance which had focused on providing food security to the hungry in South America and the island nations of the Caribbean.

These included Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador, who told the 20-odd PAP representatives that in her experience working alongside officials from the FAO had helped eradicate hunger in much of the region.

From left to right: FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, Maria Augusta Calle, and PAP Vice-President Dr Bernadette Lahai. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

From left to right: FAO Rome Special Co-ordinator for parliamentary alliances, Caroline Rodrigues Birkett, Maria Augusta Calle, and PAP Vice-President Dr Bernadette Lahai. Credit: Desmond Latham/IPS

Caribbean representative Caesar Saboto of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was also forthright about the opportunities that existed in the developing world to deal with hunger alleviation.

“It’s the first time that I’m traveling to Africa,” he said, “and it’s not for a vacation. It’s for a very important reason. I do not want to go back to the Caribbean and I’m certain that Maria Augusta Calle does not want to go back only to say that we came to give a speech.”

Saboto delivered a short presentation where he outlined how a similar programme to the foundation envisaged by those attending the workshop had drastically reduced hunger in his country.

“In 1995, 20 percent of my country of 110,000 people were undernourished,” he said. “Over 22,000 were food vulnerable. But do you know what? Working with communities and within governments we managed to drive down that number to 5,000 in 2012 or 4.9 percent of the population. And I’m pleased to announce here for the first time, that in 2016 we are looking at a number of 3,500 or 3.2 percent,” he said to applause from the delegates.

PAP members present included representatives of sectors such as agriculture, gender, transport and justice as well as health. Questions from the floor included how well a small island nation’s processes could be used in addressing the needs of vastly larger regions in Africa.

“Any number can be divided,” said Saboto. “First you have to start off with the political will, both government and opposition must buy into the idea. If you have 20 million people you could divide them into workable groups and assign structures for management accountability and transparency,” he said.

African delegates queried the processes which the Latin American nations have used to set up structures in particular.  Dr. Lahai wanted the Latin American delegates to assist the African parliament in planning the foundation.

“Food security is not only a political issue but a developmental issue,” she told IPS in an interview.

“The first port of call when there are food security issues is normally the parliament. We should be at the forefront of moving towards what is known as Zero Hunger,” she said.

But major challenges remain. After a meeting in October last year, the FAO had contracted the PAP with a view to targeting hunger in a new alliance. The PAP is a loose grouping of African nations and members pointed out that they were unable to get nation states to support an initiative without a high-level buy in of their political leadership.

Dr. Lahai was adamant that the workshop should begin addressing issues of structure. She stressed that co-ordination between the PAP, various countries and other groupings such as Ecowas (the Economic Community of West African States) and SADC (Southern African Development Community) should be considered.

“We need a proper framework,” she said. “It’s important to engage our leaderships in this process. With that in mind, I would suggest that we learn a great deal from our visitors who’ve had a positive experience in tackling nutrition issues in Latin America.”

In an earlier presentation, FAO representative for South Africa Lewis Hove had warned that a lack of access to food and nutrition had created a situation where children whose growth had been stunted by this reality actually were in the most danger of becoming obese later in life. The seeming contradiction was borne out by statistics presented to the group showing low and middle income countries could see their benefit cost ratio climb to 16-1.

Africa’s Nutritional Scorecard published by NEPAD in late 2015 shows that around 58 million children in sub-Saharan regions under the age of five are too short for their age. A further 163 million women and children are anaemic because of a lack of nutrition.

The day ended with an appeal for further training and facilitation to be enabled by the FAO and PAP leadership. With that in mind, the upcoming meeting of Latin American and Caribbean states in Mexico was set as an initial deadline to begin the process of creating a new secretariat. It was hoped that this would prompt those involved in the PAP to push the process forward and it was agreed that a new Secretariat would be instituted to be headquartered at the PAP in South Africa.

Dr Lahai said delegates would now prepare a technical report which would then be signed off at the next round of the PAP set for Egypt later this year.

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Democracy in Islamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/democracy-in-islam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=democracy-in-islam http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/democracy-in-islam/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 15:58:28 +0000 Niaz Murtaza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146362 By Dr. Niaz Murtaza
Aug 2 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Both Islamists and Islamophobes find Islam and democracy incongruent. Some cite a verse that deprecates majority views. To call Islam anti-democracy by citing a brief verse non-contextually is odd. Even in democracy, small ruling groups usually make decisions. Majority only decides who rules. The mode of this decision is the key contrast between democracy and other rules. We must view Islamic stands on such key democracy traits to gauge congruence.

The writer is a political economist and a senior fellow with UC Berkeley.

The writer is a political economist and a senior fellow with UC Berkeley.

Both Quran and hadith are silent on the first key trait of how rulers get chosen. But silence means Islam views this as a secular issue, best left to people’s wisdom. How the first, most devoted, Muslims chose rulers during the Madina era is instructive. Since no edicts were given to them, their views on this issue clearly represent not edicts for future, but only guidance, to be adapted contextually. In fact, there were variations even in this brief era.

The Prophet (PBUH) had two roles: Prophet and, after migration, Madina ruler. The basis for the first was divine edict. The second came from not edict, dynasty or force but a request by Madina’s people. The majority Muslim view is that Islam didn’t mandate his successor or even a mode of succession. Again, the decision was found best left to the people despite their huge faith in divine and prophetic wisdom. And the people chose the first caliph through consensus. The first caliph chose the second. The third caliph was chosen by consensus. Multiple candidates were vetted and questioned, a bit like now. Tumult led to his death.

Yet, rebels or generals didn’t seize power, so sacrosanct was people’s will. People still chose the fourth caliph. There were no monarchies nor did generals depose people-chosen caliphs by force. Thus, early Muslim practice was not anti-democracy but anti-autocracy. One rarely finds such democratic selection in the early history of other faiths.

Early Muslim practice was anti-autocracy.

The next key democracy trait is that rulers govern with egalitarianism, accountability and participation. There are many verses and hadiths extolling these values among rulers, which Madina rulers practised. Rulers sat on floors with people and consulted them. Judges and people could question their views. All this was rare in the pre-modern era. Clearly, modern and pre-modern era standards differ. Even in the West a mere 100-plus years ago, after modern democracy’s dawn, one finds exclusion of women, colonies and low castes; slavery and massacres of aliens. But Madina rule, like Greece, represents a good example of pre-modern democracy. So democracy is not a Western import but a core part of Muslim history.

The third issue is the source of law, it incongruently being fully secular in ideal democracy but partially divine in religions. Secularism supports laws enhancing people’s welfare and only bans acts which clearly harm people. Religions usually support the first goal but ban some things which secularism terms benign (pork, beef, etc.). Is Islam inherently incongruent with secularism here, unlike other faiths? Muslims exhibit multiple practices here.

In the minority view found in brief jihadi ‘caliphates’, all public life is harshly governed by their odd views on Islam. The second view exists in autocratic Saudi Arabia and hybrid Iran (around 10pc of the Muslim world together) where clerics dictate detailed Islamic laws based on Quran, hadith and the views of imams. A last minority view exists in states like Niger that are secular.

The majority view exists in mostly democratic states like Pakistan, Indonesia etc. where clerics have at most advice roles. A small number of edicts, only those seen as timeless Quranic ones (e.g., ban on liquor etc.), become law there through the religion-inspired voting of elected officials. But bans based on the religious views of legislators exist to a lesser extent elsewhere too, eg, Indian beef bans, abortion bans in Catholic states, gay bans in Chris¬tian Africa and a US Congress majority against gay union and abortion even today.

Around 30 states have Christianity and 22 Islam as state religions. So, the difference is relative. Overall, Islam seems more congruent on two democracy traits and less on only one.

The chasm between secularism and religion is mainly due to latter-day clerics. Religions earlier were the main source of gains for weaker groups like women. Thinking minds saw the gains as tactical first steps by religions given the limited change capacities of any society and advocated for more steps once those changes got entrenched. But unthinking clerics saw them as the last word forever and religious thought on social progress froze.

Thinking minds then had to make secular fronts to push for more change. Thus, today, secular practice is far ahead of religions on social issues despite the latter’s big head start. A revival is needed in religions, including Islam, under thinking minds to restore their role as leaders on social progress.

The writer is a political economist and a senior fellow with UC Berkeley.
murtazaniaz@yahoo.com
Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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