Inter Press Service » Gender http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 30 Apr 2016 16:24:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Compensation Hard to Ensurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/compensation-hard-to-ensure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=compensation-hard-to-ensure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/compensation-hard-to-ensure/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:54:07 +0000 Shakhawat Liton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144914 By Shakhawat Liton
Apr 30 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The dead do not feel anything, but those who survive do. The horrendous experience of the insensitive test after rape. The courtroom insults during trial because a draconian law permits the accused to question the victim’s character. The families suffer no less humiliation as they wait for justice. While nations around the world have overhauled relevant laws with provisions that shield the rape victims, ours still favour the offender instead. Isn’t it time we were a little more sensitive towards the victims of a crime now regarded as a crime against society? In the wake of Tonu murder after suspected rape, The Daily Star tries to shed some light on all these aspects.
Today, we run the third and final instalment of the three-part series.

rape_4__She was gang raped by railway employees at the railway rest room in Kolkata while travelling in India on February 26, 1998.

The incident triggered outrage. Maitree, a network of 42 women’s groups and NGOs in Kolkata, moved to Kolkata High Court seeking compensation for the 27-year old Shefali Begum (name changed to protect her identity).

The Kolkata HC in 1999 gave her 1 million rupees compensation for the humiliation she had undergone. But the Railway Board, which was asked to pay the compensation, challenged the order in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in January 2000 upheld the HC verdict and said: “Even those who are not citizens of this country and come merely as tourists will be entitled to the protection of their lives in accordance with the constitutional provisions.”

When the apex court ordered for the compensation, the criminal case against the rapists was still on in the lower court.

The judgement was very significant because such a huge amount was never given to a rape victim in India and that too awarded to a foreigner.

In numerous cases, Indian High Courts in different states and the Supreme Court have ordered the state governments concerned to pay compensations to rape victims for their failure to protect their dignity.

In India, the compensation process is independent of the trial process.

In Bangladesh the situation is different than that of countries like the UK and the USA. The government of Bangladesh does not need to pay compensation to a rape victim for its failure to protect the victim’s fundamental rights as a woman.

“As far as I know, there is no such case in which the government has compensated the rape victim,” said advocate Fahmida Akhtar, case manger of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, an organisation that works for women who have been victims of sexual violence and abuse.

Asked, ZI Khan Panna, a Supreme Court lawyer, says they do not need to pray to the court seeking compensation from the state in sexual violence case as the offenders are made to pay compensation, if necessary.

“The court certainly will order the state to compensate the victims if the situation arises,” he told The Daily Star.

Advocate Fahmida Akhtar says special tribunals dealing with offences against women and children, in some cases, have ordered the accused to compensate their victims.

“But the path to the compensation is long, as the accused filed appeals with the higher courts against the tribunal’s orders. Disposal of the appeals takes a long time,” she told The Daily Star.

Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik says many countries compensate rape victims. Bangladesh should also take responsibility for compensating the rape victims, he added.

“Jurisprudence in this regard should evolve,” he told The Daily Star referring to the practice in India.

The Supreme Court, in the State vs. Md. Moinul Haque and Others case in 2000, emphasised the need for compensating the victims for their rehabilitation.

It, however, observed that victims of rape should be compensated by giving them half of the property of the rapists should be given to the victims to rehabilitate them.

At present, the Woman and Child Oppression Prevention Act 2000 empowers tribunals set up under this law to hold trial of the sexual crimes against women and children for compensating the victims.

As per the law says, the tribunal may imposes any monetary fine on convicted persons and order the district collector to sell the confiscate the convicted person’s movable and immovable assets and sell them on auction. Then the collector will deposit the money to with the tribunal that will award the money to the victim as compensation.

But the completion of the process may take a long time if the convicted person files an files appeal.

So, there is no scope for a sex crime victim to get any compensation before the conclusion of her case.

PRACTICE IN OTHER COUNTRIES

A rape victim in UK is entitled to get compensation from the government. To provide the compensations to blameless victims of violent crimes including rape, the government has set up Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority–CICA.

People who have been physically or mentally injured can apply to the CICA for compensation ranging from £1,000 to £500,000.

A victim of sexual assault or rape has a right to claim compensation. The CICA in its official website says rape is a horrendous experience to endure and it can have a life long physical and psychological effect on the victim – although compensation will never put things right or reverse what has happened it can still come as invaluable financial help for treatment and counselling should you need it. Claiming compensation can help a rape victim gain back control and closure, it states.

In the United States, rape is generally prosecuted as a crime at the state level. U.S. The principal victim compensation programs for rape victims are found at the state level. However, the most significant victim compensation programs at the state level are funded by the federal Crime Victims Fund, which was established by the federal Victims of Crime Act of 1984.

A rape victim in Hong Kong is also entitled to get compensation from the state under the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme.

Under the Crime Victim Protection Act, a rape victim in Taiwan, a rape victim and victims of sexual assault crimes and family members of deceased victims get compensation.

INDIAN JUDICIARY SET EXAMPLES

In March, 2014, India’s Supreme Court has ordered the West Bengal government to pay 5 lakh rupees to a tribal woman who was gang-raped in January on orders of village elders.

The judges said the state had failed to protect the victim’s fundamental rights as a woman.

“No compensation can be adequate nor can it be of any respite for the victim but as the State has failed in protecting such serious violation of a victim’s fundamental right, the State is duty bound to provide compensation, which may help in the victim’s rehabilitation,” it stated.

In the Llatest case, in February this year, the Supreme Court directed all states and Union Territories to formulate a uniform scheme to provide compensation to the victims or dependents who have suffered loss as a result of such crime.

“Indisputable, no amount of money can restore the dignity and confidence that the accused took away from the victim. No amount of money can erase the trauma and grief the victim suffers. But this aid can be crucial in the aftermath of the crime,” said a SC bench headed by Justice MY Eqbal.

In this case, the court ordered the Chhattishgarh government to grant a compensation of Rs 8,000 per month compensation to an 18- year old blind girl who was subjected to sexual violence.

The SC also refused to stay the orders of Chhattishgarh High Court in which the convict was sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment.

The trial court awarded him the accused seven year a jail sentence of seven years for raping a 18-year-old the blind and illiterate girl on the false promise of marriage. The order was upheld by the Chhattishgarh High Court.

The apex court said the states should consider and formulate programmes for such victims in the light of the scheme framed in Goa which provides compensation of up to Rs 10 lakh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/compensation-hard-to-ensure/feed/ 0
World Farmers’ Organisation Meeting Eyes New Markets, Fresh Investmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:52:52 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144903 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/feed/ 0 A long, Insulting Walk to Justice for Rape Victims in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:32:39 +0000 Tamanna Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144899 Raped, they drown in humiliation while seeking punishment to culprits ]]>

Raped, they drown in humiliation while seeking punishment to culprits

By Tamanna Khan
Apr 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The dead do not feel anything, but those who survive do. The horrendous experience of the insensitive two-finger test after rape. The courtroom insults during trial because a draconian law permits the accused to question the victim’s character. The families suffer no less humiliation as they wait for justice. While nations around the world have overhauled relevant laws with provisions that shield the rape victims, ours still favour the offender instead. Isn’t it time we were a little more sensitive towards the victims of a crime now regarded as a crime against society? In the wake of Tonu murder after suspected rape, The Daily Star tries to shed some light on all these aspects.
Today, the first two instalments of a three-part series.

rape_4__Her dark-circled, deep-set eyes gave her a hollow look. The eyes were full of fear and mistrust.

The girl gave sideways glances as she hesitantly walked into the office of the One-stop-Crisis Centre (OCC) at Dhaka Medical College Hospital last month. She looked afraid, and when she noticed a man sitting in the room, she immediately cringed.

She is a rape victim.

For about a week after her rescue, she hardly spoke, OCC officials recall.

Her trauma and fear is shared by another rape survivor, a married woman, who was rescued from a sex racket in India last year.

“It’s not easy to tell even your closest family members what has happened to you,” the woman told The Daily Star recently. Humiliation and shame initially prevented her from telling her husband about the sexual assault when he found her in a shelter home in India months after her rescue. Her husband later came to know about it from others.

But Joya (not her real name), a teen girl, did not need to tell anyone anything. When she was found lying unconscious beside a road by her cousin four years ago, the marks on her body said it all.

“My cousin took me to a hospital. I hardly remember anything as my mind was all confused,” she told this correspondent recently by telephone from a shelter home run by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA).

The Daily Star is withholding all the victims’ names.

In 2012, Joya was abducted by her stalker who “confined and raped her at gunpoint”. Later, her unconscious body was dumped by a road. When her family tried to seek justice, the alleged rapist and his cronies attacked her house and killed her father.

In between long pauses and painful sighs, she described the difficult path she had been walking to get justice. The first blow came at the police station where there were no women’s cells or woman law enforcers.

“I felt very afraid. I couldn’t trust any one of them. They were all men,” she described her feelings at the police station.

“I didn’t want to talk, I felt groggy… screams went through my head and my heart wrenched. I kept on wondering why no one could hear my cries or see my tears.”

Then came the time for medical examination — the two-finger test — and the girl, now 16, had no idea about its insensitive nature.

For the test, doctors use their index or middle finger to check the condition of the hymen and also to look for injuries on the vaginal wall.

So when a female doctor proceeded to do the test, the girl put up resistance at first. But eventually she had to give in because, as her aunt told her, there was no other way to get justice.

Adding to her ordeal, she had to narrate the sexual assault in details repeatedly not just to the police but also to journalists against her will.

“I felt very bad, embarrassed and hurt. But I told myself I needed to do this for justice,” said the girl, who is now in class nine.

Four years on, the hearing of her case has not started yet.

But for those who have gone through the trial, the court proceedings have been a nightmare: character assassination, insensitive and even vulgar questions, cross-examinations for hours are in the defence lawyers’ arsenal to further traumatise the victim.

Fahmida Akhter Rinky, a lawyer for BNWLA dealing with rape cases at the lower court for six years, spoke about the torment a nine-year-old girl went through during a trial recently.

“The child was only about four years old when she was raped. So the judge was careful and talked with the girl softly but the defence lawyer was shouting at her and accusing her of lying about how she was raped,” said Rinky.

This is despite the medical examination documents and other evidence clearly showing that the girl was raped.

“The child was so embarrassed and ashamed that she shrunk in fear,” said Rinky.

The girl recoiled from the humiliation in the courtroom full of people and kept on looking at Rinky.

“I felt so bad that she had to go through that,” said the lawyer.

Often, defence counsels “decidedly” choose a line of questioning aimed at maligning the victim in efforts to make the crime look like the victim’s fault, said Laily Maksuda Akhter, director of Legal Aid Unit of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.

To save themselves from all this, especially the two-finger test which law activists vehemently oppose, many rape victims do not report the assault to the police.

“Many victims get so traumatised that they do not want to go through the forensic examination. Children in particular scream, because they fear they would get hurt again,” said Tahmina Haque, psychological counsellor at the OCC.

However, according to Bilkis Begum, coordinator of the OCC, there is no alternative to the two-finger test for women older than nine years. “It is part of any gynecological examination. Injuries cannot be detected without it.”

In many countries, including the UK and the US, doctors use the specula, a medical tool, for the test instead of fingers.

But the main problem lies in the report itself, said Ishita Dutta, project facilitator, SHOKHI, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST). “It is not for the doctors to determine if a victim has been raped or not. But that is what they write down in the reports.”

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh/feed/ 0
Violence Against Women Journalists Threatens Media Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:38:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144892 A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

For women journalists, violence and intimidation don’t just happen in conflict zones, they are every day experiences.

“You don’t even have to be in a conflict zone to be violated anymore,” New York Times reporter and author of the Taliban Shuffle Kim Barker said Wednesday at the launch of a new book documenting the daily violence and harassment which women journalists experience.

After writing an opinion-editorial on her experience of sexual harassment in the field, Barker said that an online commenter called her “fat” and “unattractive” and told her that “nobody would want to rape you.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) chose to focus its 2016 edition of the Attacks on the Press book series on the gender-based online harassment, sexual violence and physical assault experienced by women journalists, because of the impact of this violence on press freedom.

“In societies where women have to fight to have control over their own bodies, have to fight to reassert their right in the public space—being a woman journalist is almost a form of activism,” said Egyptian broadcast journalist Rawya Rageh who also spoke at the launch.

Much of the abuse takes place online where attackers can hide behind the anonymity of online comments.

“Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard." -- Jineth Bedoya Lima.

According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Internet users have experienced some form of online harassment. Though men are also subject to harassment, online abuse towards women tends to be more severe, including sexual harassment and threats of violence.

For example, one journalist reported to the The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) that a troll had threatened to “human flesh hunt” her.

Alessandria Masi, a Middle East correspondent for the International Business Times, recalled the comments she received in an essay in CPJ’s book: “I have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army for writing an article that was critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad and asked how many people I have to have sexual relations with to get my article published.”

Online abuse is a symptom of deep-seated and pervasive sexism, many note. University of Maryland Law Professor and Author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” Danielle Keats Citron stated that online gender harassment “reinforce(s) gendered stereotypes” where men are perceived as dominant in the workplace while women are sexual objects who have no place in online spaces.

But the threats do not just stay online, they also often manifest in the real world.

Deputy Editor of a Colombian Newspaper Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and raped in 2000 after exposing an underground network of arms trafficking in the country.

In 2012, after reporting on the dangers of female genital mutilation, Liberian journalist Mae Azongo received death threats including that she will be caught and cut if she does not “shut up.” She was forced to go into hiding with her nine-year-old daughter.

A year later, Libyan journalist Khawlija al-Amami was shot at by gunmen who pulled up to her car. Though she survived, she later received a text message warning her to “stop your journalism” or be killed.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) journalists also face similar threats, CPJ added. Most recently, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine, was hacked to death in his home.

However, many do not report their cases.

“It was almost like this dirty little secret, you didn’t talk about it…because you had to seem like you were just like one of the guys,” Barker said. She pointed to Lara Logan’s case as the dividing point.

While covering the Egyptian Revolution for CBS, Logan was violently sexually assaulted by a mob of men. During an interview on “60 Minutes,” she described how she was pulled away from her crew, her clothes ripped off, beaten with sticks and raped.

When asked why she spoke out, Logan said that she wanted to break the silence “on what all of us have experienced but never talk about.”

One key reason that many journalists do not speak out is the fear of being pulled out of reporting because of their gender or sexual orientation.

“It’s a catch-22,” said Rageh to participants. “I don’t want to reinforce this idea of who I am or what I am is going to curtail my ability to cover the story, but of course there’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” she continued.

CPJ’s Vice Chair and Executive Editor of the Associated Press Kathleen Carroll noted that the threat of sexual violence has long kept women out of the field of journalism. But there are ways to handle such threats that do not lead to the exclusion of women, she said.

Carroll stated that good tools and training should be provided to journalists, both women and men alike. IWMF established a gender-specific security training, preparing women to be in hostile environments. This includes role-play scenarios, risk assessments and communication plans.

Effective, knowledgeable and compassionate leaders are also needed in news agencies in order to help staff minimize threats, Carroll added.

Panelists urged for reform, noting that women are needed in the field.

“The more women you have out there covering those stories, the more those stories get told,” Barker said.

In an essay, Lima also reflected on the importance of women’s voices, stating: “Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard. Our words can stir a fight or bury the hope of change forever.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom/feed/ 1
Musicians Champion LGBT Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/musicians-champion-lgbt-rights-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=musicians-champion-lgbt-rights-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/musicians-champion-lgbt-rights-2/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:24:20 +0000 Lydia Matata http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144842 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/musicians-champion-lgbt-rights-2/feed/ 0 Abortion Saga: Morality vs Choicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/abortion-saga-morality-vs-choice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=abortion-saga-morality-vs-choice http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/abortion-saga-morality-vs-choice/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 05:41:25 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144838 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/abortion-saga-morality-vs-choice/feed/ 0 Eastern Europe’s Claims for UN Chief Questionedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/eastern-europes-claims-for-un-chief-questioned/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eastern-europes-claims-for-un-chief-questioned http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/eastern-europes-claims-for-un-chief-questioned/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 01:17:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144826 A Berlin Wall monument stands next to a Soviet sculpture at United Nations headquarters in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

A Berlin Wall monument stands next to a Soviet sculpture at United Nations headquarters in New York. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 2016 (IPS)

As the campaign for a new UN Secretary-General (UNSG) gathers momentum, there is one lingering question that remains unanswered: does the now-defunct Eastern European political alliance have a legitimate claim for the job on the basis of geographical rotation?

Of the nine candidates in the running, seven are from the former Eastern Europe. All previous secretaries-general have come from the four other regional groups, including Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Western Europe and Other States.

But none from Eastern Europe, which exists as a geographical entity only within the precincts of the United Nations.

After the end of the Cold War in 1990-1991, Eastern European nations joined either the European Union (EU) or the North Atlantic Organisation (NATO), or both.

These include: Bulgaria (joined the EU in 2007), Croatia (2013), Czech Republic (2004), Estonia (2004), Hungary (2004),Latvia  (2004), Lithuania (2004),Poland  (2004), Romania  (2007), Slovakia (2004) and Slovenia (2004).

And four countries awaiting membership in the EU include: Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and the former Yugolav Republic of Macedonia.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs and a one-time candidate for the post of Secretary-General, told IPS the end of the Cold War has transformed Eastern Europe from a political and geographical entity to a purely geographical group.

“Many of the East European countries are in NATO and the EU and their interests are closely linked to Western Europe – although some strains are showing in the wake of economic pressures and the recent migrant waves.

He said the principle of “geographical rotation” with regard to the UNSG position is therefore less strong than the vitally important gender equality criterion.

“The appointment of a competent and qualified woman as SG is therefore essential,” said Dhanapala, who lost out to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nine years ago.

Eastern Europe should rightfully be an integral part of Western European and Other States. But the geographical group continues to exist at the UN purely to claim seats, including as non-permanent members of the Security Council, under the banner of Eastern Europe, according to some diplomats.

At elections for subsidiaries of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last week, Belarus got a seat in the Statistical Commission purely on the basis of its non-existent Eastern European credentials.

So did many others: Estonia in the Commission on the Status of Women; Belarus and Montenegro in the Executive of UN Women; Romania in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Albania and Moldova in the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme (UNDP)/ UN Population Fund (UNFPA)/UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

Since the creation of the UN over 70 years ago, the post of Secretary-General has been held by: Trygve Lie of Norway (1946-1953); Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden (1953-1961); U. Thant of Burma, now Myanmar (1961-1971); Kurt Waldheim of Austria (1972-1981); Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru (1982-1991); Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt (1992-1996); Kofi Annan of Ghana (1997-2006); and Ban Ki-moon of South Korea (2007 through 2016).

The nine candidates for the post of UNSG who made their presentations to delegates recently include: Dr Srgjan Kerim of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Ms Vesna Pusic of the Republic of Croatia; Dr Igor Luksic of Montenegro; Dr Danilo Turk of Slovenia; Ms Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; Ms Natalia Gherman of the Republic of Moldova and Vuk Jeremić of Serbia – all from the former Eastern Europe.

The two non-Eastern Europeans who are in the running include Helen Clark of New Zealand and Antonio Guterres of Portugal, the former from a Pacific nation and the latter from Western Europe.

When Clark was asked about Eastern European claims, she told reporters: ”When nominations were called for from Member States, they were called for from all Member States”.

“Already one senior representative from outside Eastern Europe has been nominated (Guterres of Portugal). I anticipate there will be other nominations. I judge it to be an open contest and my hope is that Member States will look at what are the challenges that the Secretary-General’s going to have to lead the organisation forward on and who has the best skills for that job.”

Currently, the strongest claims for the jobs are from women candidates.

Although the UN is one of the strongest advocates of gender empowerment, only three women have so far been elected President of the General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the UN: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).

With women comprising half the world’s 7.2 billion people, the move to install a woman is perhaps the most legitimate of the claims.

James Paul, a former executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum who monitored the politics of the UN for nearly 19 years, told IPS there is the important question of whether a woman will finally be chosen for the post and the secondary issue of whether the East European bloc will be represented.

As for the longstanding complaints about secrecy, the recently-announced “open process” and “dialogues” with candidates, provide a small step forward in what has always been an outrageously secretive procedure, he said.

“But predictably little attention is directed at the biggest issue of all – a selection still based on the will of a small oligarchic group.”

This year, as in the past, the Secretary General will effectively be chosen by the “P-5,” the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (the US, UK, France, China and Russia), Paul pointed out.

“As in previous years, there will be little reference to the will of all the other countries, the concerns of the world’s people or the pressing leadership needs of the organisation.  Polite conversation in the General Assembly will not stop the P-5 juggernaut,” he argued.

“The P-5, with Washington always in the lead, has a record of choosing weak and compliant candidates for this post – people who will reliably cater to the interests of the powerful and agree to a weak and relatively inactive UN,” said Paul, an onetime writer and consultant on several projects with Human Rights Watch, Oxford University Press and Physicians for Human Rights.

The selections of Secretary General in 2006 and 2011 showed clearly that strong and dynamic candidates are set aside, that poor performance in the job is no barrier to re-election, and that the overwhelming majority of member states – even those sitting on the Security Council – have almost no influence over the outcome, he declared.

“Could this despotic arrangement be changed in favour of a more democratic process and a far better end-result?,” he asked.

Paul said no small-scale, incremental reforms will do.  Excluded governments and ignored citizens will have to say “no” in this round and again five years from now.

“The public is increasingly fed up with those who govern.  The P-5 will not be able to continue their despotism forever.”

But in the meanwhile, can the UN survive as the climate clock ticks towards midnight?, asked Paul.

Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who headed the Department of Public Information (DPI) told IPS the Eastern European Group was initially a political alliance supporting the former Soviet Union balancing Western Europe and Other States.

While political lines were scrambled with the fall of the Berlin Wall, it seemed politically expedient to interpret it geographically mainly for balancing purposes, he added.

“Some would push the boundaries around to interpret it in general European terms,” he noted.

Geographical rotation was obviously not essential in electing two Scandinavians successively (Trygve Lee and Hammarskjold), he pointed out.

And a third European, an Irish General Assembly President, was in line when an Asian, U Thant became a surprise candidate, by a practical consensus, initially as “acting” UNSG, said Sanbar who served under five different UN secretaries-general.

When U Thant refused a second term “as a glorified clerk” it was not extended to another Asian. Instead Kurt Waldheim of Austria was elected.

While African diplomats presented Salim Salim of Tanzania to succeed him on geographical grounds, a Latin American Javier Perez de Cuellar was elected in a last minute vote in 1982.

As long as geographical groupings remain, however nominally, Eastern European candidates would naturally stake an obvious claim, said Sanbar.

But qualified women from anywhere in the European continent would have a more credible claim, he declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/eastern-europes-claims-for-un-chief-questioned/feed/ 0
Cold-Blooded Lechery and Hushed Silence!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/cold-blooded-lechery-and-hushed-silence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cold-blooded-lechery-and-hushed-silence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/cold-blooded-lechery-and-hushed-silence/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 06:31:20 +0000 Shah Husain Imam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144812 By Shah Husain Imam
Apr 25 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The photograph of a toddler in a Chinese street, published on an online portal, waving a steel pipe at an urban management force working to clear up pavements would itself have made news. But there was so much more to it with the infant actually shouting: ‘Don’t touch my grandma, go away’, to the appreciating, if somewhat amused, glance of onlookers.

toddler_It highlighted a child’s courage, his concern and love for a near and dear one standing up to a goliath-like adversary to defend his grandmother’s dignity against a perceived use of force.

Where a toddler could bravely resist what in his eyes looked like an imposition on his grandmother, you have a mob of grownups at Hatia in Noakhali and Sonagazi in Feni as silent, abetting bystanders to the reported stripping of two women of their clothes in broad daylight and being tortured mercilessly.

The victims are Shahana, 32, of Hatia and Wahida Khatun, 68, of Sonagazi in Feni a beneficiary of Adarshagram Ashrayan project at Chardarbesh union. The first woman failing to pay ‘subscription’ (toll) to Hatia pourashava was disrobed in public and beaten black and blue, allegedly by local thana dalal (collaborator) and Jubo League cadre Shahjahan. Her husband too, was detained briefly, for not complying with their extortionist demands. At one stage, when Shahana was carrying three and a half lakh taka out of sale proceeds from a plot of land, her purse and necklace would be snatched away.

When the video was put online it went viral and the police registered the case four days after the incident. And they said Shahjahan was not a thana dalal and that the police was getting a move on to arrest him.

The second victim Wahida Khatun’s fault, was to cultivate some vegetables in front of her room allotted under a shelter project. She was stripped, tied with her clothes to a tree by a goon named Sabuj, 38, in broad daylight.

Let’s pinpoint the core issues of such rabid-dog-like behaviour assaulting the dignity of women. Far from being macho, it represents the worst abomination of a woman’s person. And, are they not our mothers, sisters and daughters? This has happened in the rural outback where the reach of the law’s long arm stops short or is laid back or compromised by patently unequal power relations in the countryside. Why would that be so when the urban-rural line is fast disappearing through women’s empowerment in the garment sector, their local government representation and the women workers overseas sending in money to their relatives at home?

Here is an issue with trafficking behind which is a push factor of young women’s sense of insecurity in the country making them look for jobs abroad. And they sometimes land from the frying pan to the fire. Also, they become vulnerable to illegal trafficking such as the recovery of 250 women from the India-Bangladesh border has recently pointed to.

Hated as the women’s tormentors are the onlookers of atrocious scenes are equally to blame. The community did not raise a single finger or voice of protest, little realising that a single grunt of protest could have broken into a crescendo of resistance against the rowdies, freezing them on their tracks. Instead, they were watching as though a circus, leery-eyed at the baring of the women’s body. Rampant exposure to pornography and the culture of video-recording induced incidents for blackmailing are having all sorts of unsavoury consequences. This is why even governments in the liberal West are working to find remedies to a breakdown of old world family and social values.

Why must a majority be so afraid of a tiny minority of the wickedest? To explain this in terms of the thugs living off scare-mongering, notorious credentials, impunities from offences committed earlier on as though they are beyond and above law, is being pedestrian. For it amounts to abdication of the government’s responsibility and authority on the one hand and that of the community at large on the other.

In one of the human chains seeking justice to Tonu after a full month of simulated mystery surrounding her case, a placard read jarringly but insightfully “When alive we are a ‘commodity’ and when raped and murdered we become sisters”.

This sarcastic line is a razor-sharp pointer to a societal hypocrisy. We are casual with the living, dropping all our guards but chest-beating in delirium about the brutal end of a woman. To compound the burden of our unfinished agenda, a new brutality keeps kicking up the previous one into the long grass.

Let it not be lost on us that the sensitisation campaigns are mistimed in the aftermath, rather in the prelude to a pernicious occurrence when we would be in with a chance of preempting it. An infinitely less costly option that. In spite of the vociferous aftermath do we see any remission in the phallic fever?

There are two ways to be ahead of the problems: One, we have special units or task forces comprising law enforcers particularly women police, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, local body and NGO representatives to attend to the brewing and emerging issues of women’s or any vulnerable groups’ safety and security. The second option that could be a silver bullet is setting up communication help lines to hear out problems and arranging timely law enforcement intervention. The community policing by young Turks, with a small retainer allowance, could do the rest of the magic.

The writer is an Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/cold-blooded-lechery-and-hushed-silence/feed/ 0
Boosting the Future of the Food Movementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/boosting-the-future-of-the-food-movement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boosting-the-future-of-the-food-movement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/boosting-the-future-of-the-food-movement/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 18:11:06 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144794 Investing in entrepreneurs will help make the food system more sustainable. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Investing in entrepreneurs will help make the food system more sustainable. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
WASHINGTON, Apr 24 2016 (IPS)

Investing in new entrepreneurs who bring a holistic approach to food sustainability is one way that the food movement can overcome mounting global challenges from environmental degradation to food waste.

“I grow food, I feed people, body and minds. We must look at the food system at large,” Washington told IPS during the recent Food Tank Summit.

Karen Washington, is a 62 year old community activist who co-foundered the movement Black Urban GrowersAfter decades of working as a physical therapist in the Bronx, New York City, she decided to become a food entrepreneur advocating low-income communities to have inclusive access of to fresh, healthy food and a fair market.

“I am active, it is not about talk, it is easy for people to talk, you can look at my hands, I also talk but I farm as well.”

Washington is a member of a community garden in the Bronx and also grows collectively in a three acre piece of land in Chester, New York. She grows vegetables and flowers selling to local markets and restaurants.

As a health care professional Washington saw her patients having problems with their diet and, ultimately, with their health.

“They were developing diet related diseases like type two diabetes, hypertension and obesity. And all of this had to do with the food they were eating. I looked at my patients holistically and saw they were eating the wrong thing”.

An holistic approach to food systems must also address the racial divide in the production and consumption of food.

The face of agriculture in the United States is a white male farmer. As a matter of comparison, New York state has 55,000 white farmers but only 150 are black. “If you look at some states there are no black farmers, so we felt that this was something we had to bring out and expose, racism that continues to persist in the food system,” said Washington.

“We needed to have our own stories and seek for a black leadership on agriculture. There was no place like it, where black young people could see black leadership in action or have a conversation that affected black neighbourhoods, and also to find out we could get together and look at solutions,” she said.

Activists, entrepreneurs and food experts agree there is an urgent need to reinvent the cycle of food, empowering local based solutions and intersecting with economics, education, health, environment and, of course, “the four letter word ‘race’ that no one talks about”, said Washington. “We have to look to those intersections and move the full system in the right direction”.

Supporting entrepreneurs like Washington is one way that the food system can become more sustainable, experts at the two-day summit agreed.

“We have to create a new alliance of people wanting to ensure sustainability for the present generation and also guarantee the future generations can meet their demands and needs,” Alexander Muller, leader of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosted project TEEB for Agriculture & Food (TEEBAgriFood), told IPS during the summit.

“If we look at the whole cycle, we see we cannot guarantee that the future generations can feed themselves and, therefore, we have to act,” said Muller.

Around one billion people suffer from hunger worldwide, and more than two billion have food related health problems like diabetes and obesity. The global food system also relies on increasingly fragile resources. The world is losing 24 billion tons of fertile soils a year because of erosion and the food system is currently losing about 70 percent of all water withdrawn from natural cycles.

“Waiting would only increase the problems. We already see that major agriculture production systems are at risk. We need to know the true price of our food and have clear signals on the markets that sustainable food in the long-run is cheaper than unsustainable food,” said Müller.

The summit featured more than 75 speakers from the food and agriculture fields – such as researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students – that came together to discuss on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, and farm workers.

They agreed that supporting sustainable agriculture is a a matter of urgency. The food movement is at the beginning of transforming a complex system with multiple actors, the time is now, warned Danielle Nieremberg Founder and President of Food Tank, a research organization dedicated to cultivating individuals and organizations to push for a better food system.

“A lot of innovations that farmers are using in the fields cover a great potential to be scaled up,” Nieremberg told IPS. “We have things like climate change conflicts, and we really need to move forward if we are going to make changes and leave this planet in good enough conditions for future generations,” she said.

For Jason Clay, the senior vice president of Food & Markets at WWF, there is a need to increase efficiency and change the way we value food.

“If we can reduce and eliminate waste, that would be half of the new food we need to produce by 2050. We have to double food production by that year. It also means 10 percent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and more than 20 percent of water used to produce food that is going to be wasted,” Clay told IPS.

Clay said that bringing efficiency, conscious consumption and infrastructure to food distribution, especially in developing countries, are relevant strategies to help enhance the food cycle.

“Governments should also be investing in rehabilitating land rather than subsidising business as usual. This is an opportunity to do better,” said Clay.

For Clay and also for Muller, it is important to ensure that the positive signals from the food movements are growing faster than the negative signals of destroying the environment.

The attention on food and linking the act of eating to sustainability are the key issues. Without changing the food systems this planet will not become sustainable and the way society produces food cuts across the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed September 2015 at UN headquarters.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/boosting-the-future-of-the-food-movement/feed/ 0
Unsung Heroes of Rural Resiliencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:13:43 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144771 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience/feed/ 1 Laws Criminalizing Drug Possession Can Cause More Harmhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/laws-criminalizing-drug-possession-can-cause-more-harm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=laws-criminalizing-drug-possession-can-cause-more-harm http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/laws-criminalizing-drug-possession-can-cause-more-harm/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 10:40:56 +0000 Tenu Avafia and Rebecca Schleifer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144749 Tenu Avafia is a policy adviser on law, human rights and treatment access issues in the HIV, Health and Development Group at the United Nations Development Programme

Rebecca Schleifer is a consultant at the United Nations Development Programme working on HIV, drug policies, disability and sexual rights issues.]]>

Tenu Avafia is a policy adviser on law, human rights and treatment access issues in the HIV, Health and Development Group at the United Nations Development Programme

Rebecca Schleifer is a consultant at the United Nations Development Programme working on HIV, drug policies, disability and sexual rights issues.

By Tenu Avafia and Rebecca Schleifer
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

In many countries, a criminal record, even for a minor offense can have serious implications. Being convicted of a criminal offence renders one ineligible for certain jobs, social grants or benefits or from even being able to exercise one’s right to vote. It can also severely limit the ability to travel to certain countries and can result in the loss of custody of minor children. As prison conditions are often poor and health care services limited, a custodial sentence can have implications on the health outcomes of individuals.

Laws criminalizing drug possession for personal use and other non-violent, low-level drug offences drive people away from harm reduction services, placing them at increased risk of HIV, Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis and death by overdose. Prison sentences for women may result in the incarceration of their infants and young children, who stay with them for all or part of their sentence.

Another area where the shortcoming of many drug control policies is evident is that of controlled medicines. Overly restrictive drug control regulations and practices, have effectively excluded 5.5 billion people – or approximately 75 percent of the world’s population – from access to essential medicines like morphine to treat pain.

Many countries are exploring or initiating law and policy reforms with the aim of giving greater prominence to the Sustainable Development Goals as adopted by UN Members States in September 2015 or as enshrined in numerous human rights treaties. Some of these reforms will address the social harms of traditional drug policies on the poor and most marginalized. These include providing alternatives to arrest and incarceration for minor drug offences, harm reduction programmes, decriminalization of drug users and small farmers and increased access to pain medication.

One such example is the case of Jamaica, which decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis and legalized its cultivation and consumption for religious, medicinal and research purposes. Jamaica also reformed its legislation to permit expungement of convictions for the personal possession or use of small quantities of cannabis. These decisions were prompted, in part, by concerns about the serious harmful consequences of criminalization on the long term prospects of young men who otherwise would be ensnared in a legal system that could undermine access to for example decent employment and economic growth as envisioned by Sustainable Development Goal Eight.

Jamaica’s reforms recognize that the connection between drugs and crime is not so straightforward. They put people first and in turn promote its citizens human development. The implications of this measure, together with others described in a recent discussion paper released by UNDP will be important as more countries look to make evidence informed, development sensitive changes to drug policy.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/laws-criminalizing-drug-possession-can-cause-more-harm/feed/ 0
HIV Time Bomb Ticks Onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 06:48:39 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144746 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on/feed/ 0 When Only Men Make the Newshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/when-only-men-make-the-news/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-only-men-make-the-news http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/when-only-men-make-the-news/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 16:10:10 +0000 Sushmita Preetha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144730 men_news_

By Sushmita S. Preetha
Apr 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

On the onset, it seems women are everywhere in the media. You switch on the TV, there is inevitably an attractive woman luring you into buying a product. On the radio, there is the ‘young new thing’ vivaciously flirting with her male co-host while shuffling through songs; and in print, the entertainment pages would simply not sell without a titillating image of a female celebrity and a scoop on her latest rendezvous. But take a closer look, beyond the objectified and stereotypical images of women, being manufactured and mass consumed ad nauseam, and where are the women, really? Take a look at the news media, for instance. Where are the women in the newsrooms, in the bylines on the front and back pages, in the column spaces of our opinion pages, in the talk shows, not simply as hosts, but as commentators on so-called hard issues such as politics and foreign affairs? Where are the women in our news (discounting the PM and her alter-ego), except as wailing victims of violence, natural disasters and such and as muses of our male photographers during cultural festivals?

A recent report by the Gender Media Monitoring Project 2015 – a project initiated since 1995 to analyse news media in 71 countries – presents some alarming, but not altogether shocking, statistics on representation of women in news media in Bangladesh. Analysing the content of 12 newspapers (8 national, 4 local), 8 TV channels, three radio channels, and two online platforms, the Project found that the presence of women in radio-TV-newspapers have actually decreased compared to the last decade. In sharp contradiction to our loud proclamations of women’s equality and progress, women are mentioned as little as one-fifth of the time in news. The number of bylines by women has remained stuck at 8 percent over the last five years. Women reporters in radio constitute only one-third of all reporters, while the condition of women reporters in TV is even worse. Since 2010, the number of TV women reporters has increased by only 1 percent, but overall, they still constitute less than one-fifth of reporters. The only instance where women overshadow men is at hosting shows; in two-thirds of the cases, the hosts are women.

These statistics are downright embarrassing for us who work in news media. At a day and age when women are making their mark in all sectors, no matter how challenging, why is it that journalism remains, still, a male-dominated profession? Why, even today, do the newsrooms remain hostile to female reporters, comfortable to designate “soft” bits to women, such as social welfare, women’s issues or at best health or education, while “hard” bits, such as politics, remain the prerogative of men? Women, in the logic of patriarchy, make sense in the supplements, but not in news and business which are “manly” serious affairs. Opinions, too, are apparently a “male” thing, with an overwhelming majority of commentators, whether in print or electronic media, being old, privileged and male.

Yes, it’s true that journalism in a country like Bangladesh can pose added security risks to women, when they go out to collect information at random places at random hours of the day, or meet and interview unknown sources; it’s also true that the ungodly working hours are not what many women with families can negotiate with ease, in a society where women, even if and when they work outside, are expected to take care of the household and children single-handedly. But rather than enable its women colleagues to face these challenges, for instance, by providing safe transport support and flexible work hours, media houses seem content with the status quo. Even if and when they make these adjustments, such as allowing women to leave early, there is the obvious implication that women just aren’t as adept at the job as their male counterparts (how many times have we heard, “This job is just too demanding for women!”), as if the only marker of efficiency is one’s ability to stay late in the office (even if staying in the office means smoking cigarettes and discussing the ongoing IPL match). On the other hand, the “protective” regime of the office can be equally stifling, such as when bosses think that women shouldn’t be given challenging tasks with the supposedly good intention of protecting them from harm.

While the NGO, banking and public sectors have made considerable progress in instituting gender-friendly policies, our media houses seem to be stuck in the days of horse shoe tables, copy boys and typewriters. It is unfortunate that most media houses, which should lead by example, do not have a gender policy or strict guidelines on how to institute gender equality within the organisation. Most of them don’t even have a sexual harassment policy, or a designated committee to oversee complaints, despite a HC ruling making it mandatory for print and electronic media houses to have a committee in their respective organisations as per Article 9 of the guideline.

Given that it is men in the management positions, it is hardly a surprise that there is severe resistance to the idea of gender sensitivity trainings, even though as members of the media community, we hold tremendous power over the masses to disseminate and reproduce gender stereotypes and harmful discourses about women and children through what we write (or don’t write). So forget that many reporters, subeditors and even editors don’t realise that there’s something severely problematic in using the word “dishonoured” when referring to rape or in revealing the name and details of the survivors; they fail to see that by circulating the seemingly harmless image of a “violated” and “victimised” woman hiding her face in fear while strong male hands grip her, they are reproducing the idea of women as helpless and weak; they do not comprehend that they reinscribe gender inequality when they only interview male sources or experts, or when they decide a story with a gender dimension is just not “news-y” enough to make a lead story. Within the organisations, these esteemed male colleagues do not seem to understand that it is inappropriate to make crude jokes about women, objectifying them, that unwarranted sexual attention is “sexual harassment” not flattery, that they take up way too much space during meetings when their voice rings the loudest and for the longest, silencing others who may not feel quite as comfortable to challenge the hierarchical power structure of a media house, and that it’s institutionalised sexism when you pay the male staff more than the female staff even when they do the same amount of work.

If the media is really to change the world for the better, and play a progressive role in transforming how women are perceived in society, then we must begin by changing our institutions from within. And this task of gender sensitisation should not fall on the women alone, but on the editor, management, board of directors and department heads, who must assess the ways in which their institutions sustain inequality and play a proactive role to recruit more women, promote qualified women to important positions, and ensure a respectable workplace for all. Pretending we’re all equal while retaining the same old patriarchal mindsets and structures simply won’t do if we want women to also make the news.

The writer is a journalist and activist.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/when-only-men-make-the-news/feed/ 0
Champions of Hygienehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/champions-of-hygiene/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=champions-of-hygiene http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/champions-of-hygiene/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 05:43:21 +0000 Moraa Obiria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144709 Hildah Kwamboka shows how the innovative water spitting jerrican works. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

Hildah Kwamboka shows how the innovative water spitting jerrican works. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

By Moraa Obiria
NAKURU, Kenya, Apr 20 2016 (IPS)

Lydia Abuya, a tenant living in the Kaptembwa informal settlement west of Nakuru town, leaves one of the six on-plot toilets. She returns with a pail of water to splash away the waste.

This kind of a toilet, in this densely populated low income area, is now saving hundreds of residents from the spread of diarrhoea and cholera, very common with presence of a pit latrine which was earlier available for her use. Let alone the suffocating odour, overflowing faeces and fear of children playing in the filth.

But this pour flush toilet, as it is called, has given Abuya and 15 other tenants in the plot a new meaning to their lifestyle.

Soon as she finishes pouring the water, she heads to a five-liter jerrican hung outside the wall of the toilets, pulls off a stick covering a hole made on the lower side of the container and lets out water to wash her hands.

“This is our sink. Nowadays, it is our routine to wash our hands once we leave the toilet. Earlier we ran away because of the strong smell that made you hold your breath while inside the toilet,” she told IPS while shying away from the camera.

Her landlady Hildah Kwamboka who has lived in the area since 1990 does a daily inspection of the facilities to ensure their cleanliness. She says the improved toilets have brought forth a change in her compound. “A lot has changed since they (tenants) started using these new facilities late last year. You cannot see any faeces anywhere in this compound. The pit latrines were unclean which encouraged some to soil the open spaces within the compound, “says Kwamboka who is now a hygiene champion.

In the East African nation, county governments are now responsible for provision of sanitation services formerly administered by local authorities. This follows transfer of functions under devolved governance enacted in 2010 Constitution.

According to Nakuru county public health regulations, pit latrines are not permitted in the urban set up. However, they make up 63 per cent of sanitation facilities in Kaptembwa and its neighbouring informal settlement — Rhonda. Pour flush toilets connected to septic tanks or sewer lines are allowed but in these areas pit latrines put up with planks and mud is a common sight that is slowly fading away.

Worse still is the fact that more than 10 households equivalent to users exceeding 40 people share one latrine as indicated in Practical Action’s 2012 baseline findings. This is against the UN habitat recommendations of one toilet for 20 people or four households.

While Kwamboka has made a leap in bringing her tenants closer to achieving the sixth sustainable development goal on accessing and enjoying better sanitation services, her efforts are as a result of a partnership between Practical Action,Umande Trust and Nakuru county’s department of health.

She is a beneficiary of a Comic Relief-funded project themed ‘realising the right to total sanitation’ which the partners implemented in Kaptembwa and Rhonda — highly dense low income settlements — where approximately 140,000 people live.

The project utilised an innovative approach — community led total sanitation — which involves mobilising communities to identify their sanitation problems and address them using own local resources.

With the project, the partners sought to eradicate all urban forms of open defecation, promote better solid waste management activities and proper hygiene behavior.

Achieving these involved educating the locals on maintaining a clean environment and observing high hygienic standards. Also, facilitating landlords to construct improved toilets and provide innovative hand washing solutions such as the water spitting jerrican hang on the wall of Kwamboka’s toilets.

“We introduced a loan facility in which we linked landlords to K-Rep bank from which they borrowed loans at 7.5 per cent interest. And at the end of the project 17 of them had borrowed a sum of up to Sh 4.8 million (US $ 47,300) constructing 43 new improved sanitation units,” said Patrick Mwanzia, the senior project officer for Practical Action’s urban water sanitation and hygiene and waste programme.

Mwanzia, however, says they entered into a memorandum of understanding with the lending institution to continue offering land owners tailor-made loans to specifically meet costs of constructing or upgrading sanitation facilities.

Between March 2012 and January 2015, the partners sensitised more than 135,000 people who have now become agents of change for the provision of sanitation services and adherence to high hygienic standards.

“There was a positive reception from the communities which resulted to construction of 2,204 sanitation facilities with 58,260 people within the plots directly benefitting,” said Mwanzia.

According to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, only 15 per cent of the 9,126 villages in Kenya had been targeted to eradicate open defecation by 2014.This means thousands of rural and urban residents live with exposure to open space faecal disposal.

“I can now stand outside with a plate of food and eat peacefully. There is no stench or disturbance of flies. Life is more comfortable and bearable, “notes Hesbon Nyambare, a beneficiary of the project.

He is in charge of 35 rental houses and his house is adjacent to six newly built pour flush toilets which cost him Sh 100,000 (US$985). He completed the construction in mid-2015.

While deputy Nakuru county public health officer, Daniel Mwangi, acknowledges the existing gaps in observing recommendable levels of sanitation in the informal settlements, he says enlightening locals on sanitation and hygiene is key since it unlocks their power to engage in proper sanitary activities.

“We have seen tremendous changes following the implementation of the project. Defecation in areas where it was so rampant has declined significantly,” he observes.

He adds that: “There is a challenge of landlords ignoring rules and regulations but we are committed to keeping them within the laws. The law has to be enforced”.

Even so, the locals reversing their habits remain a concern that the county government hopes to address through the hygiene champions trained under the project.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/champions-of-hygiene/feed/ 0
Innovations Boost Income for Women Rice Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 04:46:52 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144658 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/feed/ 0 The Unknown Fate of Thousands of Abducted Women and Girls in Nigeriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-unknown-fate-of-thousands-of-abducted-women-and-girls-in-nigeria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-unknown-fate-of-thousands-of-abducted-women-and-girls-in-nigeria http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-unknown-fate-of-thousands-of-abducted-women-and-girls-in-nigeria/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 16:16:23 +0000 IPS Africa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144635 This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

By IPS Africa Desk
Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

The plight of 219 Chibok schoolgirls abducted two years ago is all too common in Nigeria’s conflict-affected north-eastern communities, and up to 7,000 women and girls might be living in abduction and sex slavery, senior United Nations officials on 14 April 2016 warned.

“Humanitarian agencies are concerned that two years have passed, and still the fate of the Chibok girls and the many, many other abductees is unknown,” said Fatma Samoura, Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

At the hands of their captors, they have suffered forced recruitment, forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape, and have been used to carry bombs. “Between 2,000 and 7,000 women and girls are living in abduction and sex slavery,” said Jean Gough, Country Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram have reported undergoing a systematic training programme to train them as bombers, according to UNICEF. And 85 per cent of the suicide attacks by women globally in 2014 were in Nigeria.

In May 2015, it was reported that children had been used to perpetrate three-quarters of all suicide attacks in Nigeria since 2014. Many of the bombers had been brainwashed or coerced.

As the Nigerian military recaptures territory from Boko Haram, abducted women and girls are being recovered. Over and above the horrific trauma of sexual violence these girls experienced during their captivity, many are now facing rejection by their families and communities, because of their association with Boko Haram.

“You are a Boko Haram wife, don’t come near us!” one girl reported being told. Effective rehabilitation for these women and girls is vital, as they rebuild their lives.

Chibok Abduction Not Isolated Incident

Children have suffered disproportionately as a result of the conflict. The Chibok abduction was not an isolated incident, the UN reports. In November 2014, 300 children were abducted from a school in Damasak, Borno, and are still missing.

A UNICEF report, released earlier this week, states that 1.3 million children have been displaced by the conflict across the Lake Chad Basin, almost a million of whom are in Nigeria. Similarly, Human Rights Watch have reported that 1 million children have lost access to education.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children, are scattered across the arid land of Nguigimi, Niger, after fleeing Boko Haram violence in Nigeria. Photo credit: WFP Niger/Vigno Hounkanli.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children, are scattered across the arid land of Nguigimi, Niger, after fleeing Boko Haram violence in Nigeria. Photo credit: WFP Niger/Vigno Hounkanli.


“The abducted Chibok girls have become a symbol for every girl that has gone missing at the hands of Boko Haram, and every girl who insists on practicing her right to education,” said Munir Safieldin, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

More needs to be done by the Nigerian Government and the international community to keep them safe from the horrors other women and girls have endured. Safe schools are a good start, but safe roads and safe homes are also needed.

“We Cannot Forget the Girls from Chibok”

Marking two years since Boko Haram abducted 276 girls in Nigeria, a United Nations child rights envoy on 13 April reiterated a call to bring them back, stressing that the international community must “be their voice” and help give children of Nigeria and the region the peaceful, stable lives they deserve.

“It is up to us to be their voice and give them back the life they deserve,” said Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in a message on the anniversary.

Two years ago, in the middle of the night, 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram from their school dormitory in Chibok, in Nigeria’s northeast. Fifty-seven escaped hours later but what happened to the remaining 219 girls has been unknown.

In the past two years, the conflict has continued to grow and Boko Haram’s activities have spilled over into the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. More children have been abducted. Hundreds of boys and girls have been killed, maimed and recruited by Boko Haram.

Children Used as Suicide Bombers

In what has become one of the armed group’s most gruesome tactics, women and children, girls in particular, have been forced to serve as suicide bombers in crowded markets and public places, killing many civilians, according to Leila Zerrougui.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui (centre), meets displaced children and their families in northeastern Nigeria, in January 2015. Credit: UN

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui (centre), meets displaced children and their families in northeastern Nigeria, in January 2015. Credit: UN


“It is no surprise that in the midst of such violence, families decided to flee to safer areas in Nigeria, and to neighbouring countries. With over two million people displaced, including more than one million children, often separated from their families, the UN has described these massive displacements as one of the fastest growing crises in Africa.”

In the past year, as the Government of Nigeria has retaken control of some territory in the country’s northeast, Boko Haram captives were liberated or have been able to escape, including many children.

“Girls and boys told distressing stories about their captivity, including how entire villages were burned to the ground, and recounted stories of rape and sexual violence, recruitment and use of children by the group, as well as other violations,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

“These children yearn for the safety of their families, but going back to their communities can mean persecution and mistrust,” she said. “Girls who come back as young mothers face even greater challenges. These traumatised children require assistance and our support to fight stigma and rejection.”

Missing Out on Education

The conflict’s impact on education has been no less profound. Over 1,500 schools in North Eastern Nigeria have been destroyed and the teachers are gone. Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on their education. The international community’s efforts to support initiatives to bring children back to school are essential and must be maintained.

Much has been done to help children reintegrate back into their communities and return to school, but the need far exceeds the resources available.

“It is our collective responsibility to keep shining a spotlight on these children in need and ensure they have a future in which they can overcome these challenges,” she said.

The abduction of the Chibok girls catalysed international action, including in the Security Council. In June 2015, Council members adopted resolution 2225 that made the act of abduction by an armed group or force a trigger to list them in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, she noted.

This means future acts of abduction, like in Chibok, can translate into a listing for those perpetrators and increase pressure on them by the international community.

“We cannot tolerate the abduction of children. We cannot forget the girls from Chibok,” she said.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-unknown-fate-of-thousands-of-abducted-women-and-girls-in-nigeria/feed/ 0
Will the UN’s new leader stand for the powerful or the powerless?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-uns-new-leader-stand-for-the-powerful-or-the-powerless/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-uns-new-leader-stand-for-the-powerful-or-the-powerless http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-uns-new-leader-stand-for-the-powerful-or-the-powerless/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 21:59:30 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144627 Helen Clark former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the UN Development Program is one of four female candidates to be the next UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe.

Helen Clark former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the UN Development Program is one of four female candidates to be the next UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 14 2016 (IPS)

After hundreds of questions were posed to nine candidates vying for the role of United Nations Secretary-General this week, a lasting question remains; will the UN’s new leader stand for the powerful or the powerless?

The selection of the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations has been seen as a chance for change within the 70 year old global organisation. Some see 2016 as the time for the first woman to be chosen to lead the global organisation which represents over 7 billion people. Others believe that it is time for the selection process to become more open so that all of the UN’s 193 member states get a say in who is chosen. Historically it has been the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – which have ultimately decided.

The latter concerns were in part addressed this week, with the nine candidates who have so far announced their candidacies answering questions from the UN’s 193 member states, civil society and the media during an open selection process.

Four of the nine candidates are women, also raising hopes on the gender equality front.

Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima told IPS that the next Secretary-General should not only be a woman, but that she should also be a feminist.

“It is time for the next Secretary-General of the United Nations to be a woman,” Byanyima told IPS. “She must also be a feminist, promoting women’s rights and gender equality, she must stand up for the poorest and most vulnerable,” said Byanyima.

Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK agreed that the Secretary-General should be a feminist but said that the process should be open to women and men from all countries, adding that she would still love to see a woman selected. “I think that it’s appalling a sign of how bad the process is that we haven’t had good women seriously considered in the past,” said Samarasinghe.

A custom at the United Nations means that it is considered to be Eastern Europe’s turn to provide the next Secretary-General, however Europe is the only continent which is split into more than one group, making this custom open to challenges. Two of the nine candidates so far are from outside Eastern Europe.

Samarasinghe said that she hoped to see more geographically diverse candidates emerge. “It would be massively remiss of states not to put forward a developing (country) candidate,” she said.

Carne Ross, the director of Independent Diplomat told IPS that the nationality or gender of the candidate is not the most important issue. “What really matters most is somebody who’s strong who’s smart and has got the courage and the judgment to stand up to some of the unhealthily dominant powers at the UN,” said Ross.

Ross said that he believes it is still unclear whether the new more open selection process will ultimately result in a better candidate being selected.

However Samarasinghe said that the more open process was important because it reflected on the UN more broadly.

“There is a huge onus on institutions to become more transparent and inclusive,” said Samarasinghe.

You have the UN which goes around the world promoting good governance having this hugely secretive process, so I think that the process is important,” she said.

Samarasinghe said that many member states feel that “the vast majority of states are sidelined” in the selection process and that the more open process may help rebalance this relationship.

Byanyima also called for greater UN reforms, arguing that the UN needed to help the UN meet unprecedented global challenges “be it confronting protracted conflicts and a massive global displacement crisis, or tackling climate change.”

“The UN and its Security Council must undertake much-needed reforms to become more inclusive, accountable, democratic, effective, and reflective of a world in which political and economic power has shifted,” she said.

The current pool of candidates includes former heads of state and government and several current and former high level UN officials with experience working on issues representing the world’s poor and vulnerable, experience also reflected in their answers this week. For example Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the UN Development Program told journalists of her intentions to be a “voice for the voiceless” and Antonio Guterres, of Portugal, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees told journalists of how his experience volunteering with the homeless had inspired his career in politics.

Yet it remains possible that none of the nine candidates who have so far made their campaigns public will ultimately be chosen.

“In the past it was the best strategy for the candidates to hang back and go quietly lobby in the P5 (permanent five members of the Security Council) capitals but this time around I think there is a transparent open process that they cannot ignore,” said Samarasinghe.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-uns-new-leader-stand-for-the-powerful-or-the-powerless/feed/ 0
Land Tenure Still a Challenge for Women in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/land-tenure-still-a-challenge-for-women-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-tenure-still-a-challenge-for-women-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/land-tenure-still-a-challenge-for-women-in-latin-america/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 17:51:58 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144608 Blanca Molina holds up organic peas picked in one of the four greenhouses she built with her own hands on her small family farm in Villa Simpson, in the Aysén region in the Patagonian wilderness in southern Chile. Credit: Marianela Jarroud /IPS

Blanca Molina holds up organic peas picked in one of the four greenhouses she built with her own hands on her small family farm in Villa Simpson, in the Aysén region in the Patagonian wilderness in southern Chile. Credit: Marianela Jarroud /IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Rural women in Latin America continue to face serious obstacles to land tenure, which leave them vulnerable, despite their growing importance in food production and food security.

“Women are the most vulnerable group of people with respect to the question of land tenure,” Soledad Parada, a gender adviser in the regional office of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the Chilean capital, told IPS.

She added that “in general, the activities carried out to improve the land tenure situation have failed to take women into account.”

As a result, “women have access to land through inheritance or because they were granted it by an agrarian reform programme, but they are always at a disadvantage,” she said.

Like in other developing regions, family agriculture is the main supplier of food in Latin America, and women produce roughly half of what the region’s 600 million people eat.

An estimated 58 million women live in the countryside in this region. But “the immense majority of land, in the case of individual farmers, is in the hands of men,” said Parada.

“Only between eight and 30 percent of land is in the hands of women,” she said, which means that only this proportion of women “are farmers in the economic sense.”

The country with the largest percentage of land owned by women is Chile (30 percent), closely followed by Panama, Ecuador and Haiti. At the other extreme is Belize (eight percent), with just slightly larger proportions in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Argentina.

Another FAO study, conducted in only a handful of countries in the region in 2012, reported that women accounted for 32 percent of owners of land in Mexico, 27 percent in Paraguay, 20 percent in Nicaragua and 14 percent in Honduras.

Furthermore, women tend to have smaller farms with lower quality soil, and have less access to credit, technical assistance and training.

“Of people who work in technical assistance, 98 percent do not even think of visiting women,” land tenure expert Sergio Gómez, a FAO consultant, told IPS.

Moreover, he said, “All formal procedures require the man’s signature, otherwise the visit doesn’t count, because the property is in his name.”

The gender gap in land ownership is historically linked to factors such as male preference in inheritance, male privilege in marriage, and male bias in state land redistribution programmes and in peasant and indigenous communities.

To this is added the gender bias in the land market.

Aura Canache, in front of one of her sheep enclosures on her small farm, less than one hectare in size, located 130 km from Caracas, in the Barlovento farming region in the coastal area of northern Venezuela. She has had difficulty accessing credit to help run her farm. Credit: Estrella Gutiérrez/IPS

Aura Canache, in front of one of her sheep enclosures on her small farm, less than one hectare in size, located 130 km from Caracas, in the Barlovento farming region in the coastal area of northern Venezuela. She has had difficulty accessing credit to help run her farm. Credit: Estrella Gutiérrez/IPS

Because of all of these handicaps, women “have been explicitly left out” of land ownership, Parada said.

There are other inequalities as well. In Mexico, for example, women in rural areas work 89 hours a week on average, compared to just 58 hours for men. A similar gap can be found throughout the region.

Nevertheless, nearly 40 percent of rural women have no incomes of their own, while only 14 percent of men are in that situation.

Some progress has been made in recent years, as the region has experienced a significant increase in the proportion of farms in the hands of women. Parada said that in the last few decades, many countries in the region, such as Nicaragua, reformed their laws to ensure more equal access to land for women.

“In other countries advances have been seen in terms of legislation, such as setting a condition that in the case of a married couple, both members are in charge of the land, and the authorisation of either one is needed to carry out any transaction,” Parada said.

But much more still needs to be done, largely because the effective right to land not only depends on legislation, but also on the social recognition of this right – and inequality still persists in this respect.

“All of this has tremendous consequences,” Parada said.

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar pick improved beans grown on her three-hectare farm in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar pick improved beans grown on her three-hectare farm in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

“The fact that land is mainly in the names of men, especially in the case of family farms and small-scale agriculture, represents an enormous barrier for women to access other kinds of benefits,” she said.

Alicia Muñoz, the head of the Chilean National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri), told IPS that achieving the right to land “has been one of our longest and biggest struggles.”

“We are fighting for women’s work to be recognised, because it is women who are the leaders in the countryside, in small-scale family agriculture. Access to land tenure has always been a demand of peasant women,” she said.

Muñoz said it is a “cultural issue” faced by countries in the region which so far has no solution.

Despite all of the efforts to close the gender gap in different countries of Latin America, “in agriculture, the men speak for the women,” he said.

Against this backdrop, gender equality is one of the main “implementation principles” of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, approved in 2012 by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to facilitate dialogue and negotiations.

The guidelines adopted by the intergovernmental CFS, which is described as the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all, say states must ensure that women and girls have equal tenure rights and access to land, independently of their marital status.

The document also urges states to “consider the particular obstacles faced by women and girls with regard to tenure rights and take measures to ensure that legal and policy frameworks provide adequate protection for women and that laws that recognize women’s tenure rights are enforced and implemented.”

The CFS stresses the need to guarantee women’s participation in all decision-making processes, as well as equal access to land, water and other natural resources.

But in order to achieve this, the presence of women in negotiations must be fomented “by the authorities or by whoever agrees to implement the guidelines. And the FAO has a role to play in this,” Parada said.

Muñoz agreed, saying that “both governments and the FAO have to promote women’s participation, otherwise everything will stay the same.”

“We love land and nature, we are very reliable and responsible,” the Chilean activist said. “It is women who know about family farming, who carry the farms on their shoulders. It’s time we were recognised.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/land-tenure-still-a-challenge-for-women-in-latin-america/feed/ 0
Gender Equality and Equity in Health Will Anchor Drive Towards a Sustainable National Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/gender-equality-and-equity-in-health-will-anchor-drive-towards-a-sustainable-national-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-and-equity-in-health-will-anchor-drive-towards-a-sustainable-national-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/gender-equality-and-equity-in-health-will-anchor-drive-towards-a-sustainable-national-development/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 15:37:56 +0000 Sicily Kariuki and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144598 Sicily K. Kariuki, (Mrs), CBS is the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in the Government of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UNFPA Representative to Kenya.]]> Sicily K. Kariuki.  Photo Credit: @UNFPA

Sicily K. Kariuki. Photo Credit: @UNFPA

By Sicily K. Kariuki, CBS and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Last month, the Government of Kenya (GoK) in partnership with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at the sidelines of the 60th Session of the UN Commission of Women in New York, launched the report on the ‘Assessment of the UNFPA Campaign to End Preventable Maternal and New-born Mortality in support of the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa’

The assessment report by Deloitte Consulting captures the important strides the country has made to significantly address disparities in advancing maternal and new-born health at all levels.

These findings manifests Government’s commitment and determination to address inequalities as envisioned by one of the key principles of Agenda 2030, by ensuring that no one is left behind.

The cornerstone of the Government’s commitment is to strengthen the partnerships between GoK, development partners, and other stakeholders nationally, regionally and globally.

This manifested in March 2015, His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta opened a high-level meeting in Nairobi which engaged religious leaders as key partners in fighting against social and cultural drivers that inhibit women’s empowerment, many of which contribute to their poor sexual and reproductive health.

That advocacy drive by the Government of Kenya and UNFPA has culminated in an innovative project that is now being implemented in six of the forty seven counties with the highest maternal and child deaths.

The program in Kenya’s underserved counties by public and private partners together with UN agencies is a good benchmark in identifying the sub-populations that are not obtaining health care, the reasons for those barriers, and the actions that can be taken to remove them.

The project recognizes that to achieve health equity, gender equality, and fulfil the right to health as guaranteed in the Constitution, it is essential to identify the underlying causes of health inequalities. This calls for a need to look inwards, rather than global indicators. It is only by identifying the disadvantaged or excluded groups, that evidence-based policies, programs and practices can be designed and inequalities tackled effectively.

The focus on 15 counties that bear 98.7% of all maternal deaths in the country was preceded by a survey undertaken by one of Kenya’s premier institution of higher learning -University of Nairobi, which revealed the multiple challenges faced by these communities. These challenges include various historical and cultural reasons that disadvantage the most vulnerable, invariably female, poor, rural and thus voiceless and marginalized.

In short, while national averages are important for monitoring overall progress, it is time to realize that these national indicators do not provide the complete picture. One example should suffice: in 2014, the national female genital mutilation prevalence rate in Kenya dropped to 21% from 27% in 2009. However, in the principle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)- no one can be left behind, focus should remain on the communities where prevalence rate still stands as high as 98%.

The SDGs now emphasize the need for active focus on equity, gender and human rights, specifically Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 10 on reducing inequality within and among countries and the role of health services in securing national and global peace. There is general consensus that health can serve as a bridge for peace and can have collateral benefits, including nipping in the bud some of the drivers of violent extremism.

It is also apt because some of the counties with high maternal death burden are also prone to internal conflicts, feelings of exclusion and poverty that drive extremism.

Reproductive health complications represent a hideous feedback loop, as they are not only the result of poverty, but also contribute to poverty.

In addressing access to reproductive health matters and gender equality, there is no space for complacency. We are talking about sheer survival not just of the women but of the entire nation. Healthier women mean healthier children and that means thriving societies.

As the UNDP Administrator, Ms Helen Clark remarked, “Women are powerful agents of change – and empowering women benefits whole societies.” A good place to begin is empowering Kenya’s youth, especially girls. The multiplier effect of girls’ education on several aspects of development is now well documented. Education reduces high fertility rates, lowers infant and child mortality rates, lowers maternal mortality rates and increases labour force participation.

Empowering, educating and employing Kenya’s women and girls will launch our economy to new heights and ensure Kenya reaps a demographic dividend. His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta, has stressed that “Progress for women is progress for all …….”

For development to be sustainable and resilient, it must be inclusive and equitable, given that half of humanity are women, their empowerment is a must and not an option.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/gender-equality-and-equity-in-health-will-anchor-drive-towards-a-sustainable-national-development/feed/ 0
Female Engineers Defy the Oddshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/female-engineers-defy-the-odds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=female-engineers-defy-the-odds http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/female-engineers-defy-the-odds/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 05:19:36 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144592 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/female-engineers-defy-the-odds/feed/ 0