Inter Press ServiceGender – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 21 Sep 2018 15:51:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Ethiopian Domestic Workers Battle for Survival in Saudi Arabiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:08:47 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157714 Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says. For nearly a decade, she lived and worked […]

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African refugees await news of their work and residency visa applicatiosn in Lavinsky Park near the Tel Aviv, Israel. Credit: Zack Baddorf/ZUMA Press / IPS

By Rabiya Jaffery
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says.

For nearly a decade, she lived and worked as an undocumented domestic worker employed by a Saudi family until she was deported in 2017.

“The rules on keeping workers who don’t have their papers are getting stricter and the family I worked for were scared they would have to pay heavy fines,” she explains. “They knew someone who had to pay penalty for keeping undocumented help and I guess they got scared – but didn’t want to pay for my sponsorship either so they sent me back.”

Marjani is now living in Bahir Dar, a city in Ethiopia, and describes her life back home as “hopeless”.

“My children aren’t even close to me anymore – I was just someone who would send them money and speak on the phone every now and then for so long,” she says. “And most of my family has been killed in political protests or are in military camps now – it is all futile.”

Marjani was one of the reportedly 5 million undocumented migrants living in Saudi Arabia – a country with an official population of 33 million.

“For the most part – the authorities had turned a blind eye to them,” says Abdullah Harith, a migrant lawyer working in the Gulf countries. “Every few years there would be a couple of crackdowns and some people would be deported back – but overall for decades, the millions of undocumented migrants – some who have been living in the country for generations at this point – were just overlooked.”

But this leniency have changed radically recently as the Kingdom is now actively seeking to deport them as part of its new economic reforms agenda.

A campaign called “Nation Without Violators” was launched in 2017 that was to “progress to deport foreign workers illegally staying in violation of residence, labor, and border regulations of the Kingdom”.

“A 90-day amnesty began in March 2017 that allowed undocumented migrants to finalize their status and leave the country without any penalties,” says Harith.

The amnesty was extended twice and, according to official statistics, at least 800 violators per day were voluntarily deported during the 9 month period.

By the end of the amnesty period, reportedly 45,000 Ethiopians – including Marjani – had registered with the Saudi government and voluntarily returned home.

The remaining estimated 500,000 Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are continuing to live in fear as security authorities are actively continuing to deport undocumented migrants in the country. Violations can result in deportation, a prison sentence, and fines ranging between SR15,000 ($4,000) and SR100,000 ($26,700).

“There are concerns over the humanitarian impacts of returning hundreds of thousands of people back to endemic poverty and potential harm,” says Ayda Gebre , an aid worker for RATSON – Women, Youth and Children Development Programme, a community development NGO based in Ethiopia. RATSON has been working on assisting Ethiopian migrants settle back in the country.

While the role Ethiopian migrants play in helping the country’s economy is significant – in 2015, Ethiopians abroad sent back nearly $4 billion to the country coping with crippling poverty. And while many Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia come for economic reasons, a significant number arrived after fleeing serious abuses at the hands of their government.

During crackdowns on undocumented migrants in 2013 in Saudi Arabia, over 160,000 Ethiopians were returned. Most of the Ethiopians interviewed by Human Rights Watch who were part of the 2013 Saudi expulsions were detained within a week of their return to Ethiopia.

“Most of them were tortured in detention and had, in fact, originally left because of Ethiopian government human rights violations,” says Gebre.

Ethiopia has long been criticized for its human rights violations including its harsh prison conditions, brutality of security forces, lack of freedom of speech, and forced displacement.
“In many other countries, Ethiopians just might be able to claim asylum and potentially be entitled to international protection,” says Gebre.

“But Saudi Arabia has no refugee law and is not a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention, which means that, should expulsions be carried out, many thousands of Ethiopians could be forcibly returned home to face the persecution they fled.”

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Experts Call For Global Momentum on Gender Parityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/experts-call-global-momentum-gender-parity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-call-global-momentum-gender-parity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/experts-call-global-momentum-gender-parity/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 12:45:26 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157711 The world’s most important meeting is underway in New York, providing yet another opportunity for world leaders to discuss a wide array of issues such as peace, security and sustainable development. And experts stress that the role of women in peace, security and sustainable development cannot be over-emphasised. “Of the six United Nations organs, it […]

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Mary Wanja, a farmer at Ngangarithi, Kenya, using water from a stream to water her produce. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicates that the face of farming is still very much female comprising at least 45 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. In parts of Africa and Asia, women’s representation is much higher contributing at least 60 percent of the labour force. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

The world’s most important meeting is underway in New York, providing yet another opportunity for world leaders to discuss a wide array of issues such as peace, security and sustainable development. And experts stress that the role of women in peace, security and sustainable development cannot be over-emphasised.

“Of the six United Nations organs, it is only at the General Assembly where member states have equal representation with each nation having one vote, so issues discussed at the forum tend to be very critical and central to global development,” explains Grace Gakii, an independent consultant on gender issues in East Africa.

The 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) is being held in New York, United States, starting on Sept. 18th and running through to October.

“There are expectations that the high level meeting will also provide a platform to address issues of gender equality and women empowerment,”Gakii tells IPS.

The meeting comes amidst heighten efforts by the U.N. towards gender parity among its staff across all levels of its employment structure as well as through its work. A number of U.N. entities are already showing impressive progress towards a more gender balanced workforce in the period spanning 2007 to 2017.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) has particularly been lauded for progress made towards gender parity within its workforce.

“We have no doubt that gender equality can have a transformative as well as multiplier effect on sustainable development, climate resilience, peace building, and drive economic growth,” Maria Helena Semedo, FAO deputy director general, Climate and Natural Resources, tells IPS.

Since the organisation’s director general Jose Graziano da Silva took office in 2011, it has not been business as usual as gender issues are taking centre stage.

“FAO works to support women as agents of change to help harness this untapped potential. We have been striving to recruit the best possible talent to help meet our gender parity objectives,” Semedo affirms.

A U.N. system wide action plan on gender parity within this organisation indicates that: “As of the close of 2017, 41 percent of all international posts were held by women, the organisation’s highest representation of women in 10 years.” Moreover, when it comes to junior positions within the organisation, FAO has achieved gender parity.

“These trends point to an organisation that is keen on pushing for gender equality, equity and essentially women empowerment in its structures. Such robust efforts to engender its workforce will without a doubt impact greatly on the work that FAO does with rural communities,” Gakii explains.

Against this backdrop, according to the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women), the entire U.N. system is not far behind.

One year into secretary-general António Guterres’ strategy to improve gender parity within its system, for the first time in the history of the U.N. there is now gender parity in top leadership.

“We will continue working to translate our success at having more women in senior staff positions. We also strive to have a friendly work environment for both male and female staff, with zero tolerance to sexual and power harassment in line with the secretary-general’s direction,” Semedo says.

Gender expert Wilfred Subbo says that in achieving gender parity, equality and equity within its own system, the U.N. is also able to set the standards for “rural communities and economies whose lives are impacted on a daily basis by policies and strategies set by the global humanitarian body.”

Subbo is an associate professor at the Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies, University of Nairobi.

Nonetheless, there are concerns that overall progress towards gender parity within FAO has been fairly slow. In the last decade, the representation of women has increased by only 12 percentage points.

That notwithstanding, experts are optimistic that as FAO continues its robust push for a more equitable society, this will have a more significant impact on food security, agriculture and rural developmentparticularly as climate change continues to impact on the world’s ability to feed its people.

FAO’s State of Agricultural Commodity Markets 2018 report states that national agricultural and trade policies will need readjusting for the global market place to become a “pillar of food security and a tool for climate change adaptation.”

The report further details the extent to which climate change will impact on the ability of many world regions to produce food as well as influencing trends in international agricultural trade.

“Today, agriculture and food systems face an unprecedented array of challenges and our most recent numbers show that hunger is on the rise with the greatest vulnerability being amongst rural women and girls,” says Semedo.

Associate Professor Subbo is emphatic that without readjusting labour market structures for better representation of women, it will be impossible to comprehensively address the most pressing global needs.

He says that labour market structures are inherently skewed in favour of men, making it difficult for women to influence policy and decision-making processes.

“There is a need for a global momentum to speak to gender issues and especially the role, place and representation of women in the labour force because women are important pillars of the economy,” Subbo tells IPS.

He says that the fact there are now more women working in many sectors of the economy has served to mask an uncomfortable truth. “You will find these women at the bottom of the career ladder, they are the labourers in farms but absent in the boardroom,” he says.

Take for instance the agricultural sector, FAO indicates that the face of farming is still very much female comprising at least 45 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries.

In parts of Africa and Asia, women’s representation is much higher contributing at least 60 percent of the labour force.

The numbers are even higher in countries such as India where 79 percent of the female rural workforce is in agriculture.

“Even though a significant majority of the labour force in the agricultural sector is largely female constituted, women hold only 14 percent of the managerial positions,” Gakii expounds.

She says that as the world grapples with food insecurity, it is worrisome that women are also at the periphery of services that are crucial to the productivity and sustainability of rural economies. According to FAO, only an estimated five percent of women have access to agricultural extension services.

This is despite the significant role that the agricultural extension officers play in bringing advances in technology and better farming practices closer to farmers.

With fewer women in managerial and other such influential positions, compared to men, women receive fewer and smaller loans.

According to FAO, women in forestry, fishing and agriculture receive a paltry seven percent of the total agricultural investment.

Alice Wahome is an elected member of parliament in Kandara Constituency, Murang’a County, Kenya. She is the first woman to be elected to parliament in the county, and tells IPS that there is an urgent need to engender leadership across institutions and in key pillars of the economy.

“Promoting leadership that understands gender issues, the intricacies of gender and development does improve the participation of women at all levels of the workforce,” she observes. More importantly, “their participation accelerates development at all levels,” Wahome says.

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The Causes Behind Africa’s Digital Gender Dividehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/causes-behind-africas-digital-gender-divide-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=causes-behind-africas-digital-gender-divide-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/causes-behind-africas-digital-gender-divide-2/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 16:00:10 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157628 Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation.  

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Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation.

By IPS World Desk
MAPUTO, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation.

 

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‘Women Not Speaking at the Same Table as Men’ Means a Widening Digital Gender Gap in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 10:48:41 +0000 Mercedes Sayagues http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157613 ‘Think Bigger’, urge the colourful posters on the walls of Ideario, an innovation hub in Chamanculo, a modest neighbourhood in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. The message is right on target for the new female trainees, eager eyes glued to laptop screens as they learn internet and computer skills. Three times a year Ideario runs a free, three-month-long […]

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Marcia Julio Vilanculos brought her baby to the digital literacy training at Ideario innovation hub, Maputo, Mozambique. Women’s caregiving responsibilities must be factored in by training programmes. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Mercedes Sayagues
MAPUTO, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

‘Think Bigger’, urge the colourful posters on the walls of Ideario, an innovation hub in Chamanculo, a modest neighbourhood in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. The message is right on target for the new female trainees, eager eyes glued to laptop screens as they learn internet and computer skills.

Three times a year Ideario runs a free, three-month-long course on digital literacy for 60 poor young women, selected among 500 candidates from Chamanculo.“Our survey highlights the gendered barriers to internet access and use in particular contexts - urban, peri-urban and rural women, with low income levels.” -- Chenai Chair, evaluations adviser at ICT Research Africa.

Ideario’s operations manager, Jessica Manhiça, tells IPS many girls initially fear using computers. Nine in 10 do not have one at home.

“I was afraid of erasing other people’s documents,” Marcia Julio Vilanculos, 25, tells IPS. In high school she paid a classmate to type her handwritten assignments.

“Overcoming fear opens the door to thinking bigger,” says Manhiça. “Girls are raised to be afraid of technology, of making mistakes, of being ill-judged as different, unconventional or masculine.”

The course starts by reinforcing self-esteem and unpacking the myth that tech is for men.

“Many parents discourage the girls from the course, worrying they will become independent, delay marriage, or exchange sex for jobs,” says Manhiça. “The young women internalise their families’ negativity.”

Not surprisingly, less than three percent of jobs in Mozambique’s booming tech sector are filled by women, reports a market survey by Ideario’s partner, MUVA Tech. MUVA Tech is a programme that works for the economic empowerment of young urban girls.

Among Mozambique’s 28 million people, less than 10 percent are internet users and only less than one in 10 users are women, according to a recent After Access survey by Research ICT Africa.

According to Research ICT Africa:

  • 30 percent of all women own cellphones,
  • 15 percent of these women own a smartphone (but not all use it for internet for a number of factors),
  • and 6.8  percent of all Mozambican women, with or without owning a cellphone, use the internet. 

Of the seven African countries surveyed, only Rwanda has lower internet penetration and greater gender disparity.

“Our survey highlights the gendered barriers to internet access and use in particular contexts – urban, peri-urban and rural women, with low income levels,” says Chenai Chair, researcher at Research ICT Africa. “The findings reflect the gendered power dynamics that people live with daily.”

The digital gender gap is widening in Africa, warns the International Telecommunications Union.

Even Kenya, celebrated for its digital innovation and a relatively low overall digital gender gap of 10 percent, shows vast disparity among the urban poor. A digital gender audit in the slums of Nairobi by the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) in 2015 found that 57 percent of men are connected to the internet but only 20 percent of women are.

In poor areas of Kampala, Uganda, 61 percent of men and 21 percent of women use the internet, and 44 percent of men and 18 percent of women use a computer.

When women go online, they may find harassment. In Uganda, 45 percent of female internet users reported online threats, as did one in five in Kenya. The gender stereotypes and abusive behaviour found in daily life continue online.

“It is still believed in many cultures in Uganda that women should not speak at the same table as men and that includes discussions on social media,” Susan Atim, of Women of Uganda Network, tells IPS.

 

 

The WWWF research identifies the root causes of the digital gender divide: high costs, lack of know-how, scarcity of content that is relevant and empowering for women, and barriers to women speaking freely and privately online.

Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation. Without digital literacy, women cannot get the digital dividends – the access to jobs, information and services essential to secure a good livelihood.

Simple steps like reducing the cost to connect, teaching digital literacy in schools, and expanding public access facilities can bring quick progress, says WWWF.

Tarisai Nyamweda, media manager with Gender Links, a regional advocacy group, points out the scarcity of women role models in tech for schoolgirls. The percentage of female high school teachers ranges from fewer than two in 10 in Mozambique and Malawi to just over half in South Africa.

“We need to change the narrative so girls can identify new ways to do things,” says Nyamweda.

Digital literacy training must consider women’s domestic responsibilities.

To be at Ideario at 8 am, Vilanculos would wake up at 5 am, to make a fire and heat water. She prepared breakfast for her husband (a car painter) and their two children. She then dropped her eldest at school at 7am and brought her baby with her to the training. During lunch she picked up her oldest and took both her children to stay with an aunt, and returned to Ideario.

“I was tired, my feet hurt,” she recalls. But the effort paid off: today she is a microworker with Tekla, an online job platform.

The use of information and communication technologies is now required in all but two occupations, dishwashing and food preparation, in the American workplace, notes a policy brief on the future of work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Considering that 90 percent of jobs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require digital skills, according to a World Economic Forum study,  there is no time to lose in closing Africa’s digital gender gap.

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

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Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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Former Wall Street Banker Who Advanced the Cause of Women & Children in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/former-wall-street-banker-advanced-cause-women-children-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=former-wall-street-banker-advanced-cause-women-children-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/former-wall-street-banker-advanced-cause-women-children-africa/#respond Mon, 10 Sep 2018 17:20:45 +0000 Sir Richard Jolly http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157537 Sir Richard Jolly, an eminent development economist, is Honorary Professor, former Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK, and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director (1982-1995)

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A family from Central African Republic who fled to Cameroon’s East Region. Credit: Monde Kingsley Nfor/IPS

By Sir Richard Jolly
BRIGHTON, UK, Sep 10 2018 (IPS)

What is it like to work for the United Nations? Many probably imagine little more than an almost endless round of boring speeches, bureaucrats and governments discussing and disagreeing over long-standing conflicts with stalemate and few results.

After all, this is so often what one reads about the UN in the newspapers. And it is true that this is a part of what takes place in the UN buildings in New York or Geneva.

However, such activities are only a small fraction of what the UN does. In contrast to debate in the Security Council and the General Assembly, most of the UN’s work and most of the UN’s staff – 80% or more –are engaged in things more practical, more positive and much less fraught.

These include health, agriculture, education, culture, employment, technology, economic development with a focus on children, women and human concerns – and a multitude of other issues which countries want to pursue and which make up the agenda of what the UN calls development.

In some of the worst trouble spots of the world, UN activities have to be more basic, providing immediate support for children, women and vulnerable communities caught up in the tragic consequences of violence and destruction. For all its difficulties, even this for the UN has its positive and humane side.

A recently-released honest and forthright memoir— “A Destiny in the Making” by Boudewijn Mohr — tells what working for the UN is like on the frontlines, in a range of different situations and different countries, large and small, poor and rich, many in Africa.

Most unusually, the perspective is that of a banker, who after some 17 years of banking in money making Wall Street and later at the French Bank Société Générale, decides to try something different and gets taken on by UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund. Initially, there is caution on both sides, the banker wondering whether this is a good career move,

UNICEF wondering what skills the banker can bring which would really be useful. But with emerging experience on both sides, the story becomes a love affair, the banker realizing that he now has the best job in his life, his wife, son and daughter discovering roles for themselves and UNICEF promoting the banker to ever more responsible positions.

There are bits in this fascinating story for everyone. Those wondering about what the UN actually does when working in Africa will find fascinating examples, with frustrations and failures as well as struggles and successes – and uplifting accounts of creativity and commitment by staff, national and international.

Those who have worked for the UN, past and present, may recognize some of the names and situations as well as enjoying the well-told experiences. Everyone will find memorable anecdotes. Even some bankers, I hope, may be led to reconsider their daily preoccupations with money-making and wonder whether it is time for a change.

Boudewijn illuminates his story with colour and detail, enlivened by accounts from his diaries written at the time. Fortunately, he has not edited out frank comments and reactions to some of the less helpful colleagues or officials he has encountered on the way. All this makes for lively reading.

It is also a family memoir, with detail of how Annette, Boudewijn’s wife, developed her own parallel interests and activities, with her anthropologist’s eye for what also was going on and what local people were thinking and feeling.

And their son, Nadim, when not away in school, joined in with his own activities which are recorded. Their daughter Vanessa followed her own multicultural track that included acting in the First All Children’s Theatre of Manhattan and then sociology with study and research in London, Paris and Hanghzou, China.

At a time when it is in vogue to urge governments and non-profits to learn from international business and banking, Boudewijn Mohr’s insightful book offers a different lesson.

It shows how much international business and the banking sector have to learn from the UN and NGOs – about motivation and commitment, about goals focused on human welfare rather than profit, and about broader approaches to efficiency and effectiveness.

The book is a great read –for a wide variety of readers, NGO workers in development, in the UN, people young and old, possibly even some bankers!

The post Former Wall Street Banker Who Advanced the Cause of Women & Children in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Sir Richard Jolly, an eminent development economist, is Honorary Professor, former Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK, and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director (1982-1995)

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Equality and Territory: the Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:57:59 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157456 This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Excerpt:

This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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The Plight of Women & Young People in the Rohingya Refugee Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 12:37:46 +0000 Asa Torkelsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157424 Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

By Asa Torkelsson
DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS)

August 25, 2018 marked one year since violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, triggering the massive Rohingya exodus to neighbouring Bangladesh. As the crisis continues with no immediate end in sight, it is crucial to expand and sustain health and life skills services for Rohingya women, girls and youth to locate opportunities amid challenges.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

A year ago, renewed violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State ripped 14-year-old *Fathema’s family apart. Her father and brothers were killed, her widowed mother became the head of a household on the run, escaping with Fathema and her other daughters to the crowded Rohingya refugee camps in neighbouring Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Given the atrocities experienced by so many thousands of Rohingya women and girls, the immediate humanitarian response focused on providing urgent medical attention and health supplies, along with psychosocial counselling for traumatized survivors, including those who became pregnant through rape.

Much of this help came through Women Friendly Spaces in Cox’s Bazar – the “shanti khana” or “homes of peace” – which have long provided a safe space for women and girls to avail of essential services, or simply to bond with others, as they seek to heal. The help and information provided there have also inspired many Rohingya women to become community volunteers themselves.

40-year-old Zarina* recalls, “In Myanmar, I didn’t know child marriage was bad.  Here, through the caseworkers at the Women Friendly Space, I’ve learnt about it and other issues like domestic violence.  My eyes are now open, my brain is working. I realise that child marriage is bad for health, it robs a girl of her youth and her life.  I want to end child marriage.”

Zarina and other community volunteers are also seeking to improve a key health indicator.  Currently, only about one in five pregnant women in the refugee camps will give birth in a proper health facility, despite the availability of dozens of trained midwives and other personnel.

Sometimes they are prevented by their husbands – or, in the case of women who have been raped, they fear stigma and discrimination from the wider community.

“Giving birth is like a war, it can be so challenging,” said 35-year-old Nasreen*, another community volunteer. “Every month I help four to five women to the facility here for deliveries. If girls or women don’t willingly want to go to the delivery services, I convince them to access health points and ensure safer pregnancy and childbirth.”

Back in Myanmar, Fathema would probably have been married by now, and, at 14, may already have become a mother. But, just as Zarina and other women were provided with key information about life and love, a new youth-focused initiative at these Women Friendly Spaces is transforming them into learning centres for Fathema, her sisters and other young persons, teaching them about the spectrum of gender equality and rights through the prism of sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

The module – adapted from the global Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) prototype – underscores how crucial it is to impart life skills education as early as possible, to better equip young persons to navigate the often difficult choices faced during the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, including issues such as gender equality, pubertal changes and hygiene, relationships and conflict management.

For young girls in particular, long constrained by the complexities of patriarchy and sexism, the sessions can be liberating, showing them how they should be in charge of making decisions about their own lives – including if and when to marry and to whom, whether to have children and how many, and how to better address and protect themselves from gender-based violence and child marriage.

 

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox's Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

 

These concepts can be overwhelming for any young person, and all the more so for those raised in particularly conservative environments. But by bringing such issues to the forefront in a gentle, non-threatening way, multiple points of view can be discussed and debated openly and safely.

Fathema learnt so much from the sessions at the Women Friendly Space, she’s become a volunteer herself. “The first people I talk to are my parents,” she said. “And then I talk to other young people in my area. I knew nothing about the changes that happen to girls. Now I know how to cope, and I can help other girls as well.”

Putting all these lessons into practice will not be easy for Fathema and her peers, just as it hasn’t been for Zarina and older refugee women, but introducing them to these ideas is an important first step towards moving from disempowerment to empowerment, even in this challenging context.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

“Initially I faced violence from my husband because I had four daughters which he wasn’t happy about,” Zarina said. “But I now teach my husband and others about gender equality.”

*Not their real names

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Excerpt:

Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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The Fight for the Right to Abortion Spreads in Latin America Despite Politicianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 22:41:33 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157331 The Argentine Senate’s rejection of a bill to legalise abortion did not stop a Latin American movement, which is on the streets and is expanding in an increasingly coordinated manner among women’s organisations in the region with the most restrictive laws and policies against pregnant women’s right to choose. Approved in Argentina by the Chamber […]

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Rohingya Refugees Left in Limbo One Year Onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/#respond Wed, 22 Aug 2018 16:05:44 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157318 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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Rohingya refugees now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Credit: ASM Suza Uddin/IPS

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Aug 22 2018 (IPS)

Aid funding for refugee relief is running out while conditions are still not in place for the safe return of over 700,000 people forced to flee Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh after violence broke out one year ago.

The mass human exodus of refugees from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, which started on 25 August 2017, was one of the fastest growing refugee crises last year. It then attracted huge international attention, but one year on only 34 percent of the United Nations aid appeal to help the refugees and the host community has been funded.

The Rohingya refugees are living in limbo. The safety of families returning to Myanmar cannot be guaranteed, yet they’re receiving scant international support in Bangladeshi camps.

We urgently need to scale up the support. The international community must shoulder more of the enormous responsibility that the Bangladeshi authorities and local communities have taken on, as well as show persecuted Rohingya refugees they are not forgotten.

Facts

Around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh. About 725,000 have arrived after 25 August 2017, according to UNHCR.

By 21 August the UN appeal for support to the Rohingya refugee crisis joint response plan was less than 34 percent funded, according to Financial Tracking Service.

NRC is working in Myanmar and through partners in Bangladesh.

NRC’s expert deployment capacity, NORCAP, has worked in Cox’s Bazar since the onset of the disaster last year. So far more than 40 experts have provided shelter, education opportunities, health, water and sanitation services.

Today, Cox’s Bazar is the world´s largest refugee settlement. Most of the displaced are Rohingya, a Muslim minority who have escaped extreme violence and persecution. In total, around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh, with the humanitarian aid system overwhelmed by the vast scale of needs.

“I have not cooked any food for my children today. I do not feel safe enough to go out and collect firewood, so I exchanged some food items for fuel, but now I do not have enough to eat,” Janoara, a single mother of two sons, told the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The humanitarian emergency was further compounded by the onset of the monsoon season in June, with heavy rain, flooding, landslides and high winds damaging or destroying refugees’ shelters. Despite ongoing relocations to safer land, the camps are still dangerously overcrowded, with the average usable space reported to be a mere 10.7 square meters per person.

Far more appropriate land is needed – a major challenge in one of the already most densely populated countries in the world. In Cox’s Bazar, rumours abound and people are worried about being expected to return to their villages before their own preconditions for repatriation are met.

“I will not return before Rohingyas get citizenship, equal rights, free movement and compensation for the houses they burned down and my land. I will not return with my family before we feel completely safe,” Nurul Amin (35) told the Norwegian Refugee Council. He fled Rakhine about one year ago and his demands are echoed by many others in the camps.

The Rohingya people have the right to return. One year after the start of this crisis, we urgently need to speed up efforts to ensure conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return, in line with international standards.

Access for humanitarian agencies to people requiring assistance in northern Rakhine State is currently restricted and it is not possible to independently verify information about conditions in the locations of return. There are also no guarantees in place that returnees will be allowed to return to their original homes and land, or to a place of their choice.

Humanitarian agencies need full access to people in need in northern Rakhine State to make independent assessments, provide assistance and protect communities who want to return.

 

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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The Gender of Law: What the Mapping of Family Laws Revealshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/gender-law-mapping-family-laws-reveals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-law-mapping-family-laws-reveals http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/gender-law-mapping-family-laws-reveals/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 11:02:46 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157289 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Global Adviser, UN SDG Fund & UN Women High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice

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Women protest on the streets of Rabat to demand equal rights. Credit: Abderrahim El Ouali/IPS.

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Recent developments around the world give support to the idea of the #MeToo movement’s transformative potential. A postmodernist claim was that the feminist movement was essentialist and that no one expression of feminism can be applicable to women of different ethnicity, cultural, or class identity. The #Me Too movement has found expression in different cultural traditions and helped to challenge this theory. 

China’s #我也是; Latin America’s #YoTambien; the Middle East’s and the United States’ #MeToo have sparked a mini revolution for women.  However, the data on the laws remain disappointing.

The newly released IFC Report on Women, Business and the Law (2018) reveal that 104 economies still prevent women from working in certain jobs, because of their gender.  In 59 economies there are no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace.

In 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. A tour- de- force of Penn Law’s newly released first phase of the family law data base show that legalized discrimination remains enshrined in the law.  See: http://www.law.upenn.libguides.com/globalwomensleadership

 

Constructing ‘Honor” and “Shame” in the Law:

Notions of a woman’s “honor,” “shame,” and “obedience” are intimately tied to the way in which the law constructs those concepts. The Algerian Family Code in Article 39 (1) legalizes a woman’s obedience not only to her husband but to his relatives:

Despite much remaining legalized discrimination, the year 2017 was a watershed year for women. Although it is difficult to prove causation, it could be argued that the #MeToo movement has helped to spark some policy change and debate in different parts of the world

“The wife is required to obey her husband and grant him respect as the head of the family. The wife is required to “respect the parents of her husband and relatives.”

In Gabon too, according to Article 178 of the Family Law, “the spouses may, during the marriage, renounce the option of monogamy.” In Gabon, women still need the permission of a guardian or husband to open a bank account.

According to Article 257 of the Civil Code although a woman may, on her own signature, open a special current account to deposit or withdraw funds reserved for the household, the opening of this account must be notified by the custodian to the husband.

The law’s power to construct marriage relations and shape women’s inferior status in the family can be both subtle or direct. In Tanzania, Marriage Act. Section 63(a) states that it shall be the duty of every husband to maintain his wife or wives and to provide them with such support as to his means and station in life.  However, the duty of support is not mutual.

Polygamous marriages are recognized in several legal systems and reduces women’s status in the marriage and family. In Tanzania according to the Marriage Act. Section 10, monogamous marriages can be converted to polygamous unions at any time during the marriage.

Several countries also call for four adult witnesses of good moral conduct to bear witness to a crime of rape making it almost impossible for a victim of rape to meet this evidentiary requirement.  Moreover, these provisions render a woman’s evidence worth half that of a male witness. For example, The Iranian Penal Code states:

“Article 74: Adultery, whether punishable by flogging or stoning, may be proven by the testimony of four just men or that of three just men and two just women.”

Virginity testing is sanctioned by law and is meant to control a woman’s sexuality and the notions of a woman’s chastity is tied to a family’s honor. The South African Children’s Act 12(3) allows for virginity testing of girls over the age of 16.

A woman’s so-called honor plays a role in regulating abortion too. For example, in Chile, according to Article 344 of the Penal Code, the punishment shall be reduced if the abortion was done in order to hide a woman’s “dishonor.”

An estimated 93 percent of women of reproductive age in Africa live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. The Ugandan and Zambian Penal Code carry a similar penalty of a seven-year imprisonment for any woman who tries to voluntarily miscarry. In Namibia, the prison sentence could be extended up to 14 years.

 

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

 

Second Class Citizenship in the Law

Nationality laws in over twenty countries (The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Brunei, Burundi, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Togo, United Arab Emirates) worldwide exclude mothers from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis with fathers.

This creates a category of second class citizens and when children are unable to acquire their parents’ nationality; it leads to statelessness. Gender discrimination in nationality laws impede a child’s access to public education and health care.  Unequal nationality laws also curtail access to driver’s licenses, bank accounts and access to social welfare programs and employment.

Unexamined assumptions in the law such as overprotection of women or exclusion of women from certain categories of work reinforce stereotypes that women are fragile and do more harm than good to a woman’s ability to care for her family and community.

Russia excludes women from 400 categories of employment, and the Nigerian Labor Act in Section 57 provides the Minister of Labor a blanket authorization for the exclusion of women from categories of employment as he/she thinks fit: “The Minister may make regulations prohibiting or restricting, subject to such conditions as may be specified in the regulations, the employment of women in any particular type or types of industrial or other undertakings or in any process or work carried on by such undertakings.”

 

Protest march of women workers for higher wages, and against male domination in trade union politics in tea plantations at Munnar in southern Indian state of Kerala. Credit: K.S. Harikrishnan/IPS

 

Are Laws Changing?

A longitudinal mapping of the alterations in the laws that regulate the status of women will reveal whether there are changes in the law and how and where these changes occur.

Despite much remaining legalized discrimination, the year 2017 was a watershed year for women.  Although it is difficult to prove causation, it could be argued that the #MeToo movement has helped to spark some policy change and debate in different parts of the world.

In Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon, parliaments repealed provisions in their penal codes that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims. In 2017, the Tunisian parliament repealed Article 227 of the penal code exonerating the rapist if he married his victim.

The recent domestic violence law approved by the Tunisian parliament in 2017 was a long time coming and was preceded by a decade long struggle by women to create a normative and legal framework to address violence against women.

However, it could be argued that the global forces unleashed by the #MeToo movement was the final nudge to see it through parliament. The law also criminalizes sexual harassment in public spaces.

After years of mobilizing by women, in 2017, Lebanon’s parliament rolled back Article 522 of the Penal Code, which had allowed rapists to escape prosecution by marrying the victim. However, the legislative body retained a loophole relating to sex with children between the ages 15-17 and seducing a “virgin” girl into having sex with the promise of marriage.

Again in 2017, India’s Supreme Court banned the controversial Islamic divorce practice known as “triple talaq” or instant divorce in a landmark ruling. The practice allowed a husband to divorce his wife simply saying the Arabic word for divorce, talaq three times.

Even when laws failed to pass, it seems that the #MeToo movement helped spark otherwise long suppressed debate. Just this month, in the Pope’s home country, the Argentinian senate narrowly rejected a Bill that would allow elective abortion in the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy.

In Brazil, home to the largest Catholic population, where abortion carries a punishment of three years, both supporters and opposers discussed a bill to decriminalize abortion.

More than 25 years ago Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was Secretary General Kofi Annan’s  First Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Under Secretary General, gave me a copy of the 1985 case of Sha Bano. Shah Bano, a sixty-five year old woman living deep in the byzantine confines of the old royal state of Madhya Pradesh, was divorced after forty-five years of marriage by her husband by the triple talaq method.

Shah Bano filed an action in court seeking a small subsistence from her wealthy lawyer husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, a colonial piece of legislation intended to prevent “vagrancy” of wives. The Indian Supreme Court’s decision to award Sha Bano maintenance of five dollars a month polarized the Hindu and Muslim communities and created fissures in the Muslim community.

A year later, Martha Minow, now the 300th Anniversary Professor at Harvard University gave me a copy of her article, “Forming Underneath Everything that Grows: Toward a History of Family Law.” She argues that family law grows “underneath” other legal fields in the sense that its “rules about roles and duties between men and women, parents and children, families and strangers historically and conceptually underlie other rules about employment and commerce, education and welfare, and perhaps the governance of the state.”

Both Coomaraswamy and Minow hoped that my generation would address the contested nature of family law reform. It seems that it is the next generation- the #Me Too generation that will propel these changes.

Catharine MacKinon argues that #MeToo has done what the law could not.  I argue that the #MeToo movement has the power and potential to mobilize political and social forces to influence debate and to contribute to law and social reform.

At a moment when the traditional liberal world order as we know is floundering, the global women’s movement and the #MeToo movement offer potentially transformative ways to translate women’s experiences into lawmaking in areas where the law itself is complicit in the unequal status of women. The mapping of laws will allow us to see how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

Footnote: I thank the Council on Foreign Relations and Rachel Vogelstein, Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of Women and Foreign Policy Program for hosting a discussion on Family Law Reform and Women’s Rights on September 5th. I am grateful to Under Secretary Gender Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Head of UN Women for inspiring the Mapping of Family Law and Dean Theodore W. Ruger, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School for making the first phase of the Mapping possible. I also thank Dr. Paula Johnson, President of Wellesley College for setting the standard for the reexamination of ways in which gender differentials in different systems, whether in the global legal systems or in health care, impact women.       

This is excerpted from an article to be published on the “SDG Goal 5 and de Jure Discrimination in the Law” by the UN SDG Fund.

 

The post The Gender of Law: What the Mapping of Family Laws Reveals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Global Adviser, UN SDG Fund & UN Women High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice

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Children and Women with Disabilities, More Likely to Face Discriminationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination/#comments Mon, 13 Aug 2018 06:46:05 +0000 Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157190 This article is part of a series of stories on Disability inclusion.

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Women with disabilities in Afghanistan protest for their rights. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

By Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 13 2018 (IPS)

Children with disabilities are up to four times more likely to experience violence, with girls being the most at risk, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“Children with disabilities are among the most marginalised groups in society. If society continues to see the disability before it sees the child, the risk of exclusion and discrimination remains,” Georgina Thompson, a media consultant for UNICEF, told IPS.

According to the World Health Organisation, 15 percent of the global population lives with disabilities, making it the largest minority in the world—with children and women numbering higher among those disabled.

Last month, more than 700 representatives of non-governmental organisations, private companies and governments got together to address the systemic discrimination that exists against people with disabilities at the Global Disability Summit in London.

“Creating a more equal world where children with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as all children is everyone’s responsibility,” Thompson said.

More than 300 organisations and governments signed an action plan to implement the U.N. International Convention on Disability, which included 170 commitments from multiple stakeholders to ensure disability inclusion. The summit was organised by the governments of Kenya and the United Kingdom, along with the International Disability Alliance. The most important topics discussed during the meetings included passing laws to protect disabled citizens and promoting access to technology for people with disabilities.

Women and children face the most discrimination within the disabled community. A report presented to the U.N. Secretary-General on the situation of women and girls with disabilities stated that while 12 percent of men present a disability, a slightly higher amount of women—19 percent—have a disability.

In addition, girls are much less likely to finish primary school than boys, if both present disabilities. And girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence.

According to the U.K.’s Department for International Development, mortality for children with disabilities can be as high as 80 percent in states where child mortality has significantly decreased.

There is a strong consensus regarding the risk that both children and women face. “Women with disabilities are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence (three to five times more likely to suffer from violence and abuse that the average [female] population),” André Félix, external communications officer at the European Disability Forum, told IPS.

When asked what to do to address this issue, A.H. Monjurul Jabir, co-lead of the U.N. Women’s Global Task Team on Disability and Inclusion, explained his viewpoint on establishing a targeted gender agenda: “The implementation of strategy requires a bottom-up approach by offices, colleagues, and partners on the ground.”

According to Jabir, U.N. Women’s strategy is “to support U.N. Women personnel and key stakeholders to facilitate the full inclusion and meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities.”

“This would be done across all U.N. Women’s priority areas through our operational responses and internal accessibility to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls with disabilities,” he said.

Thompson suggested the following strategy for UNICEF: “We must increase investment in the development and production of assistive technologies. Assistive technologies, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, prosthetics, and glasses, give children with disabilities the chance to see themselves as able from an early age.”

The aforementioned strategy was one of the goals of the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, a collaboration launched during the summit to accomplish the sustainable development goals and offer technology to those who with disabilities. “And yet, in low-income countries, only five to 15 percent of those who need assistive technology can obtain it,” Thomson added.

And, as 80 percent of the population with disabilities live in developing countries, emergency situations and lack of education are also crucial issues to be addressed when launching policies for disability inclusion.

“We must make humanitarian response inclusive. In emergency situations, children with disabilities face a double disadvantage. They face the same dangers as all children in conflicts or natural disasters do, including threats to their health and safety, malnutrition, displacement, loss of education and risk of abuse.

“But they also face unique challenges, including lack of mobility because of damaged infrastructure, difficulty fleeing harm and the prejudices that keep them from accessing the urgent assistance they need,” Thompson said.

According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, 90 percent of children who live in developing countries that have educational opportunities available do not attend school.

“We must make education inclusive. Around half of all children with disabilities do not go to school because of prejudice, stigma or lack of accessible learning. Of those who do go to school, about half do not receive quality education because of a lack of trained teachers, accessible facilities, or specialised learning tools,” Thompson urged. “Excluding children with disabilities from education can cost a country up to five percent of its GDP due to lost potential income.”

But, who is responsible?

As was seen during the summit, member states are not the only stakeholders taking responsibility for disability inclusion. U.N. agencies, NGOs, and private firms are constantly launching programmes to reduce the gap and erase discrimination.

However, Félix explained what each stakeholder would be responsible for: “Member States are the policymakers. They need to guarantee that all the population is included and benefits from international development and inclusive policies. They also need to make sure that they consult civil society in the process.”

As for civil society, he said: “Civil society’s role is to monitor and advise the project and while they need to be included and part of international development (especially local civil society), the resources should come from member states.”

Thus, their work is intrinsically linked: “Structures of support for persons with disability must be community-based, which means no support for institutions that segregate persons with disabilities.”

Thompson added that those actors must work so closely that it would be hard to separate roles.

Agreeing with her, Jabir concluded: “It is the responsibility of everyone, all actors and stakeholders, we must work together, cohesively, not separately. The days of only standalone approach, or silo mentality is over.”

The post Children and Women with Disabilities, More Likely to Face Discrimination appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories on Disability inclusion.

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Campaigns Promote Women’s Participation in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 22:04:43 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157184 An alternative network in Brazil promotes women’s participation in elected offices with media support. This campaign, like others in Latin America, seeks to reverse a political landscape where, despite being a majority of the population, women hold an average of just 29.8 percent of legislative posts. It is the first meeting in Rio de Janeiro, […]

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2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 09:11:19 +0000 Joep Roest http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157167 Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

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Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest. 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh

Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest

By Joep Roest
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

On the face of it, the 2017 Global Findex shows that Bangladesh has made great strides toward financial inclusion since the previous Findex was released in 2014.

In that time, the percentage of adults with financial accounts rose from 31 to 50 percent — a gain almost entirely due to a 20 percent increase in bKash mobile money accounts. As remarkable as these advances are, the data also reveal some challenges Bangladesh faces around financial inclusion.

To start with, Bangladesh has a lot going for it that help explain these overall gains. Its economy has done well over the past decade, with annual growth of 5 to 7 percent.

Roughly 20.5 million Bangladeshis escaped poverty between 1991 and 2010, more than halving the poverty rate from 44.2 to 18.5 percent. The increase in spending power likely fuels the growing demand for financial services.

Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion. Why are women being left behind?

The fact that Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (three times more so than India) also works to its advantage when it comes to financial inclusion.

Banks, mobile network operators and other providers can cover large portions of the country’s 161 million people with relatively little infrastructure.

According to Intermedia, the percentage of the population living within 5 km of an access point jumped from 89 percent in 2013 to 92 percent in 2017, putting Bangladesh far ahead of other countries in South Asia.

This is important because studies show that proximity to an agent greatly increases the likelihood of use of financial services.

Bangladesh also enjoys rapidly improving mobile phone and internet connectivity, which has no doubt fueled the remarkable 20 percent surge in mobile money account ownership. In 2010, just 32 percent of the population subscribed to mobile services.

That number rose to 54 percent in 2017. Over the same period, mobile internet connectivity grew from 26 to 33 percent. Of course, there is still a lot of room for improvement. More than 70 million people still do not subscribe to mobile services at all.

Nevertheless, the growing popularity of cell phones is creating new opportunities for a new class of providers like bKash to reach customers with mobile financial services.

For all of these impressive gains, Findex also points to significant challenges for Bangladesh. A stark gender gap stands out. As my colleague Mayada El-Zoghbi discussed in an earlier post, Bangladesh is among a number of countries like Pakistan, Jordan and Nigeria whose overall advances in financial inclusion have left women behind.

In fact, Bangladesh’s gender gap in financial access grew a whopping 20 percentage points from 2014 to 2017. At 29 percentage points, it is now one of the largest gender gaps in the world.

 

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

 

Overall, Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion.

Why are women being left behind? It has often been noted that cultural norms play a role in Bangladesh, limiting women’s access to accounts and agents. While these constraints certainly play a big role, another related factor is the disparity in access to mobile phones.

According to Intermedia, 76 percent of Bangladeshi men own a phone, but just 47 percent of women can say the same. Since most of the country’s gains in financial inclusion have been driven by mobile financial services, this is a significant constraint for women.

Another challenge in Bangladesh, and a likely reason why overall financial inclusion numbers are not even higher, is the fact that its mobile financial services ecosystem has yet to mature to the point where a stream of innovative offerings entice more people to use digital financial services.

Although 18 mobile financial services providers are active in Bangladesh, bKash claims 80 percent market share. Its main competitor, Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited, has enjoyed moderate success but not enough to make much of an impression on the overall market.

As Findex shows, having such a dominant player in the market is a blessing and a curse. bKash has considerably increased people’s access to financial services. At the same time, the lack of competition has stifled innovation. There are few compelling mobile financial services in Bangladesh beyond person-to-person (P2P) transfers, which are the bread and butter of bKash’s business.

The lack of use cases beyond P2P transfers may be one of the reasons why over-the-counter transactions — in which people use agents’ accounts to transfer money so they don’t have to sign up for their own accounts — comprise 70 percent of total transactions, even though they are officially not permitted. People just don’t see good enough reasons to sign up for their own accounts.

Government policy has played a significant role in both driving these advances in financial inclusion and holding them back. On the one hand, the government’s “Digital Bangladesh” initiative and government-to-person (G2P) digitization programs have increased the number of people with financial accounts.

For example, in just six months, payments provider SureCash and the Ministry of Education enrolled 10 million poor women with accounts, into which they receive stipends. Programs like this can help close the gender gap.

Even more encouraging, the government has been exploring interoperable payments infrastructure that works beyond G2P. There is also momentum to clarify electronic know-your-customer requirements, which would make it easier for providers to use biometric identity verification and extend services to the poor.

On the other hand, mobile financial services regulations have been partly responsible for the lack of competition and innovation in the mobile financial services space. The market is open to banks and bank subsidiaries, but not nonbanks in general.

For instance, mobile network operators have a long-standing interest in directly providing mobile financial services to customers but have not been allowed to do so. As a result, bKash sits atop the market with only lackluster competition from banks.

A key question for the future of financial inclusion in Bangladesh will be to what extent FinTech players will be allowed to capitalize on the country’s generally favorable conditions around connectivity, scale and distribution. Another important question is to what extent international actors will shape the market.

Ant Financial’s recent stake in bKash may shake up the entire space. If their entry into other Asian markets is any indication, they take an active approach to their investments and will inject a much-needed stimulus into Bangladesh’s sleepy digital financial services space.

 

The post 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

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The Legalization of Abortion in Argentina will Benefit Thousands of Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 09:19:39 +0000 Nelly Minyersky http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157123 The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

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A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

By Nelly Minyersky
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

We are at an historic moment in Argentina, a turning point in the path of women’s rights.

Although women in Argentina enjoy a regulatory framework that can be considered progressive in Latin America (regardless of its efficiency and/or effectiveness), it is clear that criminalization of abortion (Art. 86 of the Criminal Code of the Nation) constitutes a flagrant violation of a plethora of rights that are legitimately ours and which are enshrined in the National Constitution and Human Rights Treaties. These texts form a body of constitutional rules and regulations that include the right to freedom, equality, autonomy, to freedom from discrimination, to public health, family planning, etc.

For decades, Argentine women have been fighting to break the iron fist that attempts to decide our destiny and our life choices for us. One sector of society and the state exercise power over the lives and autonomy of women without mentioning the illegitimacy and immorality of their position, turning legitimate behaviour (such as sexual relations) into potentially criminal action.

These people do not understand that when the human rights platform is expanded (such as through the decriminalization and legalization of abortion), no-one is forced to exercise those rights. The beliefs and conscience of each individual empowers them to invoke such rights or not, as they see fit. Maintaining the current situation therefore involves imposing beliefs on a wide sector of society, with the state interfering in the private lives of pregnant women.

Through their action, the anti-rights or “pro-life” sector, as they call themselves, imposes authoritarian restrictions on the life and destiny of a majority of women in our country. They prevent women from enjoying human rights that relate fundamentally to the most intimate, private and deep aspects of their personality: their sexual freedom, family planning, when, how and with whom to have children.

The tragedy is that these positions are held without any minimum or essential basis in the biological or legal sciences. They have tried, vexatiously, to place the embryo and/or fetus on an equal footing with women in all rights and aspects, and to give equal weight to the embryo and to the life of the woman, even though this latter physically exists and is a legal and moral person. In their presentations, they show videos which, in reality, are premature births and not abortions, they falsify statistics and refer to techniques that neither exist nor are practised in this country, with the sole aim of deceiving society.

Nelly Minyersky

They also incorrectly refer to Human Rights Treaties, particularly the Pact of San José, with regard to references to the right of a person as from the moment of conception. The proper interpretation of this article, as noted in the Pact itself and in the way in which the Convention was approved, makes it clear that this wording was intended to protect norms that already respected terminations taking place in Latin America.

We must also not forget that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the CEDAW Committee have both repeatedly called on the Argentine State to protect women and adolescents of all ages by making available to them the legal and other means that will help to prevent forced pregnancies and by amending abortion laws.

The draft Law on Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy is an enormous step forward in the recognition of women’s autonomy. It accepts the principles of bioethics, which are based on express recognition of human dignity as a founding principle. It completely decriminalizes consensual abortion up to and including week 14.

It maintains that women should not be penalized when they have been the victim of rape or where there is a risk to the mother’s life, and includes norms such as informed consent and the right of adolescents to seek medical care even without the presence of an adult (on the understanding that it is a bioethical duty to treat any person within the health system who, when faced with rejection, would clearly opt for the worst solution). It also includes a duty on the part of the health service to prevent, inform and support. In the context of a plural society, neither bioethics nor the law can be subordinate to “a moral duty”.

After decades of fighting for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, spearheaded by members of the “National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion” (Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito) which, in recent years, has been calling for laws to be passed in this regard and has submitted draft bills on seven opportunities,  a debate and preliminary approval have finally been achieved in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies, with more than a million people of different genders and ages protesting in the streets of the city.

In accordance with our legislative procedure, the draft is now therefore being considered in the Senate, with a vote due on the 8th of this month. On that day, there will be two million people on the streets of Buenos Aires to support and demand approval of a law that the women of Argentina deserve.

Approval of this law, which already has preliminary legislative approval, will offer health and quality of life benefits to thousands upon thousands of girls, teenagers and women. We must not be afraid when debates result in an extension of rights, and in full equality before the law and in life.

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Excerpt:

The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

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“Outrage is Appropriate, Surprise is Not”: Tackling Sex Abuse in the Aid Sectorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outrage-appropriate-surprise-not-tackling-sex-abuse-aid-sector/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 13:30:28 +0000 Jacqui Hunt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157075 Jacqui Hunt* is Regional Director for Europe, Equality Now

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Horror of sexual exploitation in the aid sector must be confronted. Credit: International Development Committee

By Jacqui Hunt
LONDON, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

A new report on the scale and extent of sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector should come as no surprise. It is now time for international agencies, including the UN, to step up and show some much-needed leadership to tackle this issue once and for all.

The report, published 31 July 2018 by the UK House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC), has condemned the “complacency, verging on complicity” of the aid sector in responding to widespread sexual abuse and exploitation by its staff.

The IDC established its enquiry following revelations that Oxfam covered up accounts of sexual misconduct be senior employees, including allegations that staff made women – some of whom may have been minors – transact sex for aid during the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The enquiry and subsequent report reveal that this is far from an isolated incident, with the several aid and development organizations involved apparently being more concerned with their reputation than with the safety of victims.

While outrage at these findings is appropriate, unfortunately surprise is not. The enquiry’s report reaffirms what those of us campaigning for change have known for some time: sexual abuse and exploitation is endemic, and is sustained through a lack of accountability for perpetrators. It is carried out in all walks of life, including by the so-called good guys.

A sector-wide issue

For years, aid organizations have systematically ignored problems and failed to effectively implement policies to stop predatory sexual misbehavior, including the use of prostituted women and girls.

Let’s be clear. Whether or not you believe prostitution is sexual exploitation or not, there is no such thing as a child prostitute and men who “buy” sex from minors are rapists.

Reporting procedures are often unclear or non-existent, and the prevailing lack of accountability has undermined reporting mechanisms by sending a strong message that there is little to be achieved by disclosing allegations.

Even in cases where abuse is reported, culprits have often not been held to account, and instead have been moved to different posts or enabled to get jobs at other organizations within the sector, where they have abused more victims elsewhere.

Adding to the toxic mix has been the tendency for whistleblowers to feel penalized, unprotected, and at risk of their career being damaged by speaking out.

These issues have made it impossible to accurately measure the true extent of the problem, although according to the IDC, the cases recently made public are just the “tip of the iceberg”.

This kind of impunity for those who sexually exploit and abuse others when they are at their most vulnerable is utterly unacceptable. Aid and development agencies need to put in place effective zero tolerance policies regarding sexual exploitation, including a total and enforced ban on staff and contractor use of prostitution.

This involves having a comprehensive understanding about the various crosscutting forms of discrimination and oppression that women and girls may face, and which are exacerbated in situations of conflict and natural disasters.

A lack of support for victims compounds the problem. The IDC report recommends a ‘victim-centered’ approach, where their welfare is put front and center. This needs to be fully integrated across all aspects of the sector’s response.

Indeed, evidence submitted jointly by Rape Crisis and Equality Now is referenced in the report, citing our recommendation that anyone who speaks out about violations should be afforded independent advocacy and support from a specialist in sexual violence and its impacts.

The role of the UN

Addressing these issues will require fundamental changes to be made to the way that aid and development agencies operate, and the IDC’s findings highlight the need for clear and effective leadership to guide best practice in the sector.

As the gold standard for international aid agencies, it is the UN that should be leading by example.

The United Nations has admitted receiving 70 new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse from April to June this year alone. However, the UN has itself consistently failed to address sexual abuse and exploitation, not only of aid recipients but also of its own staff – something on which Equality Now has been calling for change since at least 2009.

The IDC report is critical of the UN for its lack of joined-up approach, despite its self-professed “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.” This is not the first time that the UN has come under fire for its ineffectiveness in this area, with revelations earlier this year about key exemptions to its policy “making a mockery” of its ongoing fight against harassment.

With the aid sector reeling from the recent revelations, and the extent of the problem clear from the IDC report, it is now more important than ever for the UN to put in place clear, effective policies that protect victims and whistleblowers.

The tremendous work achieved by the international development sector should not mean we turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation and other violence and abuse of power perpetrated predominantly against women and girls by men employed in the industry.

It is crucial that all those within the industry take account of the superior position of power that someone from an aid organization may have and can easily exert over those who are vulnerable. Sexual exploitation must end and the exploiters held properly accountable – the UN among others has to fully recognize and internalize its role in achieving this, and step up to the challenge.

*Jacqui Hunt is a prominent campaigner for women and girls’ rights, and has spearheaded several of Equality Now’s successful campaigns, including for creation of a United Nations Working Group to focus on ending discrimination against women in law and in practice.

A lawyer who trained and worked with international law firm Linklaters, she started her professional career with Amnesty International, working in campaigning and research at the United Nations and in press and special projects. She joined the Board of Equality Now in 1992, the year of its founding, and was later asked to start the London office, which she opened in 2004.

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Excerpt:

Jacqui Hunt* is Regional Director for Europe, Equality Now

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Paid Leave In New Zealand For Victims of Domestic Violence Praised Globallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally/#respond Sun, 05 Aug 2018 19:36:51 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157060 Domestic violence in New Zealand is one of the highest rates in the developing world and recent legislation there that gives victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave, without having to present any documentation in support, has been praised across the globe. The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill was passed at the […]

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By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 5 2018 (IPS)

Domestic violence in New Zealand is one of the highest rates in the developing world and recent legislation there that gives victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave, without having to present any documentation in support, has been praised across the globe.

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill was passed at the end of July with 63 to 57 votes and was launched by Green member of parliament Jan Logie.

“We were very happy to hear about the passage of legislation in New Zealand affording victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave and scheduled flexibility from their employment to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children,” Kristine Lizdas, legal policy director at Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), shared with IPS.

According to United Nations Women30 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner, and in some countries that number goes up to 70 percent.

“Such policy can contribute to and facilitate the exercise of the right of women who experience domestic violence in New Zealand to support, services and protection for themselves and for their children,” Juncal Plazaola, an expert on ending gender violence at U.N. Women, told IPS.

Back in 2004, the Philippines also passed the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, which provided the same 10 days of paid leave to victims of domestic violence.

Civil society and law experts have analysed the benefits of this new policy, given that women who suffer from domestic violence underperform at work. In the United States, victims of domestic violence lose around 10 days of paid work every year, and they work 10 percent of hours less than those who do not suffer from abuse at home.

Plazaola, from U.N. Women, explained: “Women can be constantly harassed at work, delayed getting to work or prevented from going to work. This can lead to either quitting their job or being terminated.” Seeing these types of occurrences, it is vital to promote a corporate environment that takes this reality into account.

“Women who experience domestic violence have high rates of absenteeism at work and such a measure can support them keep their employment. This policy can therefore contribute to more job security, economic opportunities and independence and greater chances for abused women to abandon an abusive relationship,” Plazaola added.

Employment and labour attorney Mark I. Shickman, from Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP, also expressed his agreement with the New Zealand policy: “Employers can allow time off to do what is necessary legally or medically without fear of adverse work consequence or lack of confidentiality.”

However, he did not idealise it.

“Employment accommodations won’t solve every problem, but they are a big help. Vulnerable survivors do not want to risk the work situation which is often their most secure environment, so knowing that they cannot be retaliated against or fired for the time they need to speak to law enforcement, or to counsellors, or to children/family agencies, etc., is a huge help,” Schickman said.

Regarding the risks of the policy—as it does not require the victim to justify in any way that she/he is being abused—all experts seemed optimistic. The risk of the company being subject to fraud by its employees are low.

“The benefits of the law far outweigh the risks involved. The prevalence of false reporting is historically hyperbolised in many contexts. Very few individuals will fraudulently assert that they are victims of domestic violence for the sole purpose of receiving paid leave days,” Lizdas, from BWJP, said.

Plazaola agreed with her by saying that this policy “will most probably contribute to more empowered and satisfied staff with higher productivity.” The issue, she claimed, is not fraud, as most cases are not reported; less than 40 percent of women who have been abused look for help.

“Reasons for this often include shame, as well as blame, from one-self and from others. Therefore, it is not expected that this type of measures will lead to an over- or mis-use of it,” she concluded.

For Lizdas, this kind of policy was a good way to avoid victims’ isolation: “If awareness of intimate partner violence pervades the private/corporate sectors, as well as employers more generally, and if employers are incentivised to identify and provide assistance to employees suspected of being victims of IPV, this should have the effect of reducing victims’ isolation.”

Isolation, an abusive relationship, and a lack of external help increase the risk of domestic violence; at least half of the women victims of homicide every year have been killed by their intimate partners. But homicide is the last step of a violent relationship.

“An abusive relationship doesn’t start with murder, but the abuse escalates and without timely intervention and support, the women may end up murdered,” Plazaola said.

Asked how to avoid this fatal ending, Plazaola was adamant: “We need  legislation and policies on femicide, as well as the tools to properly investigate and punish all forms of violence against women, including femicide. Ending impunity is critical.”

Lizdas agreed: “Reducing intimate partner homicide requires a commitment from a wide variety of social sectors – legal, medical, public health, education, social service, military, etc.”

However, in the U.S, there is another factor that plays into the numbers of female homicide—the easy access to guns. In 2015, 55 percent of the intimate partner homicides in the U.S. were by gun. Shickman warned IPS: “The first issue is getting guns out of the house.”

“Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if the abuser has a gun,” he added.

For Plazaola, the solution to end, or at least reduce, the number of fatal victims on the hands of an intimate partner lies within the whole society.

“Understanding that femicide is the ultimate act in a chain of acts of violence against women, means understanding that health sector, social services, the police and the justice sectors must work together,” she said.

“Having policies that recognise the rights of abused women to protection as well as to other measures that will help them deal with the consequences and harm of this violence, can help us all have a better understanding of their realities, and can contribute to questioning the blaming and shaming too often associated with it.”

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Save the Children Warns Untraceable Minors in Italy May be Traffickedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 12:08:14 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157020 Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked. A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy […]

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The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from some EU member countries. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 2 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked.

A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy are untraceable as of May.

Once they escape the facilities, their vulnerable position—having no money, not knowing the language and being often traumatised after their trip to Italy—places them at the mercy of traffickers and exploiters.

Many of these children end up in networks of sexual exploitation, forced labour and enslavement. Save the Children reported that some girls are forced to perform survival sex—to prostitute themselves in order to pay the ‘passeurs’ to cross the Italian border or to pay for food or a place to sleep.

“I left Nigeria with a friend and once we arrived to Sabha (Libya) we were arrested,” Blessing, one of the victims, told Save the Children.

“I stayed there for three months and then I moved to Tripoli. For eight interminable months I was forced to prostitute myself in exchange for food,” she added.

Blessing then reported that her nightmare continued in Italy where she was sexually exploited by a compatriot. She ultimately was able to enter a protection programme thanks to Save the Children. But her story is a rare case of rescue as many other children find themselves enslaved with no end in sight.

According to testimonies collected by the NGO, minors leave reception facilities because they judge the processes of entering the child protection system as a useless slowing down towards the economic autonomy they aspire to and usually leave the centres a few days after identification.

This has been occurring largely in the southern regions of Italy.

But according to the report, “the flow of minors in transit through Italy to northern Europe is, by its own nature, difficult to quantify.” Though it noted that minors transiting through Italy between January and March, make up between 22 percent and 31 percent out of the total transitioning migrants across the country. The minors are mostly Eritrean (14 percent), Somalis (13 percent), Afghans (10 percent), Egyptians (9 percent) and Tunisians (8 percent).

“The fact that the European Union relocation programme was blocked in September 2017, has contributed in an important way to forcing children in transit to re-entrust themselves to traffickers, or to risk their own lives to cross borders, as well as it continues to happen for those minors who transit through the Italian north frontier with the aim of reaching the countries of northern Europe,” Roberta Petrillo, from the child protection department of Save the Children, Italy, told IPS.

The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from the EU member countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary.

The EU’s initial plan provided for the relocation of 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other European countries within two years. As of May, 12,690 and 21,999 migrants were relocated from Italy and Greece respectively. To date, the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 refugees, Slovakia 16, with Hungary and Poland having taken no refugees.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 10 million children and youth across the world were forced into slavery, sold and exploited, mainly for sexual and labour purposes in 2016.

They make up 25 percent of the over 40 million people who are trafficked, of which more than seven out of 10 are women and girls. According to the ILO estimates, nearly one million victims of sexual exploitation in 2016 were minors, while between 2012 and 2016, 152 million boys and girls aged between five and 17 were engaged in various forms of child labour. More than half of these activities were particularly dangerous for their own health.

“When we talk about data of this kind we must be very cautious because we are dealing with numbers that only concern the emergence of the phenomenon, without keeping track of the submerged data,” Petrillo added.

There were 30,146 registered victims of trafficking and exploitation in 2016 in the 28 EU countries with 1,000 of them minors.

However, according to 2016 figures from the ILO, 3.6 million people across Europe were reportedly modern day slaves.

According to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world, second only to the illegal drug trade. It is estimated to be an industry worth USD32 billion annually.

The most targeted

Nigerian and Romanian girls are amongst the most targeted by the trafficking networks.

According to Save the Children, for the journey that will take them to Italy, the Nigerian girls contract a debt between 20,000 and 50,000 euros that they can only hope to repay by undergoing forced prostitution.

Like their peers from Romania, they enter a mechanism of sexual exploitation from which they cannot get free easily.

While Nigerians escape mainly for security issues and political instability, Romanian girls flee their country because of a total lack of opportunities and economic autonomy there. Their deep economic deprivation makes them highly vulnerable and easy targets for traffickers, who deceive or coerce them to enter into networks of sexual exploitation. 

According to the Save the Children Report, in 2017 there were a total of 200 minor victims of trafficking and exploitation who were put into protection programmes. The vast majority of these, 196, were girls with about  93.5 percent Nigerian girls aged between 16 and 17 years.

In addition, almost half of the minors were sexually exploited 

Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy,  told IPS that migrant men were welcomed with open arms because they were useful for working under exploited conditions.

However, migrant women were welcome only because they were used for prostitution.

“By not guaranteeing legal and safe paths for those fleeing wars and persecution, by not organising and recognising the presence of migrant workers, we just do a favour to the criminal groups, who build real fortunes on trafficking in human beings,” Noury told IPS.

While Petrillo said that “the Italian and the EU legal framework is solid and a good one,” she cautioned that  “what is needed, instead, is a unitary intervention that closely links the issue of anti-trafficking reality with that of minors in transit. And we must be able to guarantee universal protection for the victims.”

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The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 01:40:08 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157012 “The sun which used to torment us now blesses us,” said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. “Without solar energy our bakery would be closed, we would […]

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