Inter Press ServiceGender – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:36:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Keeping the Spotlight on Violence against Women and Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/keeping-spotlight-violence-women-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=keeping-spotlight-violence-women-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/keeping-spotlight-violence-women-girls/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:36:53 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153133 16 Days of Activism begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

As cases of sexual harassment and assault continue to come to light every day, a different campaign to end such violence wants to keep the spotlight shining.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual campaign by UN Women, aims not only to end violence against women and girls, but also to leave no one behind.

More than one in three women have experienced violence in some form in their lifetime—that is equivalent to 700 million women, or close to the total population of sub-Saharan Africa. Cases of sexual violence have increasingly come to light among marginalized communities in conflict and humanitarian crises, from Mexico to Myanmar.

The campaign is beginning this year against the backdrop of a global outcry against the “global pandemic”.

Millions have rallied behind the #MeToo campaign, which aims to reveal the magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women all over the world experience every day.

Though the original #MeToo movement was launched ten years ago by activist Tarana Burke, the more recent viral campaign has inspired many to come forward with their stories, including those who have exposed celebrities and public officials.

Lakshmi Puri. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

IPS spoke with the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Lakshmi Puri about global gender-based violence and how to end it.

Q: Why did 16 Days of Activism begin? What is its significance and what does it entail this year?

The most important promise of Agenda 2030 and something that is so essential for sustainable development is leaving no one behind.

So this year’s theme of ending violence against women in the context of empowering and protecting women and girls that tend to be left most behind in terms of being most excluded or marginalized.

That means women who are migrants, refugees, or internally displaced and who, because of displacement, are more exposed to violence including sexual violence, exploitation, and trafficking.

Also, women living with disabilities—those women living, for example, in rural areas where they face communication barriers or various force of discrimination when accessing health or social services.

All of these people are those the farthest from our reach and we must reach the farthest first.

Q: What needs to be done to end such violence?

In the context of leaving no one behind and violence against women, data, statistics, and evidence of what is actually happening to them. Identifying the most marginalized girls is fundamental so that we are able to plan and implement policies and programs that reach them.

We need to understand the special vulnerabilities and how to empower them to resist violence, respond to violence, escape violence and be empowered in every way.

The second aspect is that we need to also address is prevention which means changing the whole culture and context of sexism and male patriarchy.

That is why men have to take responsibility, especially men with public influence taking a very strong stand. That is why we have the HeForShe movement and one of the major commitments for those that join is how they will model positive masculinity and principles of equality, rights, and respect in themselves and in others including their sons and those men and boys they come into contact with as well as holding peers accountable to non-discrimination.

So changing mindsets, changing gender stereotypes, and zero tolerance for violence against women is essential.

The issue is also identifying the different types of violence is very important because sometimes
we find that women and girls live with violence without actually recognizing it, whether it is sexual harassment at the workplace or psychological violence or economic violence.

We should recognize that no violence is acceptable, and all harmful practices need to be recognized.

Q: Is gender-based violence perpetrated by individuals or is it a larger institutional failure? Is everyone complicit in this culture?

Education is a very important aspect—education of both women, girls, men and boys and of institutions.

Institutions need to have their employees, clients, managers fully educated on this issue and aware about principles of equality, rights, and respect and zero tolerance for violence.

Then there is an issue of protection—in the context of what type of policing do you have, particularly when violence takes place in public spaces, and how do you respond as law enforcement when there is a domestic violence case. And in terms of the judiciary and legislature, what kind of laws are there to enforce protection.

Protection is an important part of how the state exercises its duty.

If you have the conviction of perpetrators, then people will know that these are the consequences. But otherwise the culture of impunity that we see then defeats the purpose of prevention and all the actions that we take.

All of this is even more needed in the context of the most marginalized and most lacking in these kinds of situations.

Q: In many conflicts around the world, sexual violence is often used as a weapon of war. What needs to be done to prevent these cases? Will raising the issue of sexual violence to the ICC help in the context of prevention?

Sexual violence in conflicts has now been recognized by the international community and by the Security Council as a war crime. ICC [International Criminal Court] also now recognizes this as one of the elements of a war crime.

What is needed is a policy of acting strongly against [sexual violence] as the UN but also holding perpetrators accountable and supporting victims and survivors.

Advocating with member states and governments and parties to the conflict because this violence is committed sometimes by state agents or sometimes non-state parties including in the context of violent extremism and terrorism.

We also recognize that sexual violence is a predictor of larger conflicts. It is one of those human rights violations that we insist must be seen as a warning of an impending major outbreak of conflict, and it has been proven that this is so.

Q: Sexual violence and harassment is in the spotlight now. How does 16 Days of Activism work alongside or even reinforces other ongoing campaigns right now like #MeToo?

It is really important that we keep the spotlight. And 16 Days of Activism is the high point of spotlighting.

But throughout the year, from the ground to up or top to down, the focus and awareness about this issue of violence against women is really important to highlight in everything that we do.

The revelations that are coming out, the #MeToo movement—all of this is part of what we call movement building.

There is a tendency to say “this happens, stuff happens”—but no, it cannot be seen as inevitable. It can be prevented. Women and girls can be protected. We can punish perpetrators.

It is something that needs to be supported as a society, community, private sector, governments—everyone must act.

It is important that movements are built up. Unless we have a people mobilization around the issue ending violence against women, we are not going to really achieve our objective.

We are very heartened by this reawakening.

Q: What is your message to the girls and women who have experienced some form of violence, whether or not they have spoken out? And to the people who may not have experienced such violence but don’t know how to act/go about addressing the issue?

To women and girls, know that it is wrong that anybody should violate your human rights in the way that violence seeks to do. Understanding that inherent right to be free from violence is the first point that all women and girls must understand. It is not inevitable or something to be accepted as part of the circumstances that they find themselves.

That’s one of the things we have been doing in refugee camps and in humanitarian situations, bringing this message that women are entitled to zero tolerance and freedom of violence in every circumstance.

Secondly, it is important to recognize when violence happens. Inform yourself as to what the forms of violence are whether it is sexual or otherwise.

Third, stand up to it. I know there may be situations where women and girls feel helpless and feel that they can’t stand up, but there are ways to circumvent that and really have the courage to stand up to it and take action.

For people who haven’t experienced violence, one of the things that is important to remember is you can never say that it doesn’t affect me—everything affects you.

Violence against women and girls is such a widespread and ever-present phenomenon that there is hardly a family that has not been affected by it.

And it is incumbent on women and men both, boys and girls, to call out when violence happens against women and girls in your neighborhood, in the street, park, schoolyard, college campuses.

Empathy and action, not apathy and inaction.

All those who have the duty to care must make special efforts to support women and girls in particularly vulnerable situations and circumstances.

Violence against women has no boundaries, and this must be recognized by all.

*Interview edited for length and clarity.

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For Africa to Root out Modern Day Slave Trade, Youth Empowerment Is Crucialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/africa-root-modern-day-slave-trade-youth-empowerment-crucial/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-root-modern-day-slave-trade-youth-empowerment-crucial http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/africa-root-modern-day-slave-trade-youth-empowerment-crucial/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:05:45 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153127 Amb (Dr.) Amina Mohamed, EGH, CAV is Kenya’s Foreign Minister. Follow her on twitter.

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Credit: Italian Coast Guard

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

If the thought of a man armed with a rifle and driving with whips a group of African men, women, and children to sell them at a slave market makes you marvel at what kind of greed motivated such revolting barbarity centuries ago, the shocking truth is that we are witnessing a 21st century repeat of that abhorrent practice on African soil.

Kudos to the team from CNN led by International Correspondent, Nima Elbagir, who uncovered a human trafficking ring in Libya which specializes in selling human beings as slaves and sex workers.

Now we know.

For those of us who were at the Durban World Conference 16 years ago when racism declared slavery and slave trade crimes against humanity, our horror and sadness at reports that sub-Saharan migrants are being sold at slave markets in Libya is immeasurable. That the world would be silent as this heinous crime were reported is something we cannot comprehend and tolerate.

That a people and country that claim African citizenry can practice this repulsion in a continent that bears so many scars is scary at so many levels. For several years now, Libya has continued to serve as the primary departure point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, with more than 90 percent of those crossing the Mediterranean Sea departing from Libya.

Often, migrants to forced labour and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage.

Reports of auctioneers advertising a group of West African migrants as ‘big strong boys for farm work’, and references to the migrants as ‘merchandise’ indicates a new low, and human rapacity that is difficult to comprehend in the modern age.

It defies at a horrid level international statutes such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as well as the more recent UN Palermo Protocol that made the abolition of modern-day slavery a part of international law.

The conscience of the Libyan nation must be roused; its propriety must be startled. All Libyans must vehemently reject the inhumane practice of slave auctions that will forever blight their history and shred to pieces their relationship with the rest of humanity. I know that the frightened faces of human beings turned into merchandise and put in cages that haunts our collective psyche also affects Libyans of goodwill.

Young Africans being held to be sold as slaves in Libya. Credit: SAHARA REPORTERS

The African Union Commission has condemned this trade as an ‘egregious abuse of human rights’ and demanded that the culprits be brought to justice and this violation of fundamental human rights be immediately ended. As Africans we will discuss the slave auctions in Libya at all fora, African and otherwise until we finally and conclusively deal with it.

Horrifying as the situation in Libya is, migration elsewhere in the world continues to be an avenue through which many men, women, and children continue to live in modern-day slavery through the scourge of human trafficking.

Unlike the ages gone by, today’s victims may not be in iron fetters, but most are poverty-stricken and forced to migrate for work, believing it presents an opportunity to change their lives and support their families. It is a desperation that comes with extreme costs in the form of modern slavery.

While everyone must denounce everything that serves to perpetuate slavery, African countries must now begin confronting the factors that force thousands of people to risk their lives seeking a fighting chance for survival abroad through illegal migration.

A report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has shown that seven in ten of those heading for Europe are not refugees fleeing war or persecution, but economic migrants in search of better lives.

Africa must give special priority to those SDGs that will give the continent a competitive edge through its youth. These include ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, all which have particular resonance with the challenge of empowering youth and making them effective economic citizens.

With between 10 and 12 million Africans joining the African labour force each year and a continent that creates only 3.7 million jobs annually, there is hard work to be done if we are to extirpate the shame of modern slavery.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres remarked, “Slavery has no place in our world and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity”

Like our forefathers who fought against the obdurate slave-drivers of yesteryears, we too must be determined that development priorities are geared towards nipping all circumstances that abet the horrid human trafficking trade.

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Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:55:54 +0000 Tim Wainwright http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153067 Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive at WaterAid

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Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equality

Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

By Tim Wainwright
LONDON, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

This weekend marks World Toilet Day (November 19)– and the news is disheartening. One in three people are still waiting for a toilet; still having to face the indignity and often fear of relieving themselves in the open or using unsafe or unhygienic toilets.

It is frustrating that the headline statistics have not made greater progress two years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), when having a toilet is such a fundamental boost to gender equality, as well as health, education and economic opportunity.

Tim Wainwright, CEO, WaterAid UK

In ‘Out of Order: State of the World’s Toilets 2017’, WaterAid’s annual analysis based on WHO-Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) data, we show that Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.

Being denied access to safe, private toilets is particularly dangerous for women and girls, impacting on their health and education, and exposing them to an increased risk of harassment and even attack.

There have been some improvements. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of people defecating in the open globally dropped from 1.2 billion (20% of the world’s population) to 892 million (12%). India is making incredible strides with its Clean India Mission, progress that has not yet been fully captured in the JMP data. In Ethiopia, the number of people defecating in the open has dropped from nearly 80% in 2000 to 27% today – a tremendous step towards the goal of safe sanitation for all.

However, change is not happening fast enough.

The 10 worst countries for access to basic sanitation are all in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress has been abysmally slow. In 2000, 75% of people lacked access to even basic toilets; by 2015, this had only dropped to 72%.

Population growth and the huge numbers of people moving to cities where services can’t keep up means sanitation is falling behind; the number of people practising open defecation in the region has actually increased.

Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.
Nigeria is among the countries where open defecation is increasing and is No. 3 in the world’s worst countries for the number of people without toilets. This comes at a heavy price: A WaterAid survey revealed one in five women in Lagos have experienced harassment or been physically threatened or assaulted when going for open defecation or using shared latrines. Anecdotal evidence suggests the problem may be underreported.

Rahab, 20, lives in a camp for internally displaced people in Abuja, where there are no decent toilets.

She said: “We go to the toilet in the bush. It is risky as there are snakes, and I have also experienced some attacks from boys. It is not safe early in the morning or in the night as you can meet anyone. They drink alcohol and will touch you and if you don’t like it, they will force you. If I see men when I go to the toilet, I go back home and hold it in.”

Imagine every time you need the toilet you are frightened. And what scares you is not only the threats you can see – any community without decent toilets is contaminated with human waste.

Diarrhoeal diseases linked to dirty water and poor sanitation and hygiene claim the lives of 289,000 children under 5 each year, while repeated bouts of diarrhoea contribute to malnutrition and stunting, causing impaired development and weakened immune systems.

Women who have suffered stunting are more likely to experience obstructions when giving birth. Poor sanitation and hygiene also increase the risk of infection during and after childbirth, with sepsis accounting for over one in ten of maternal deaths worldwide.

Girls are more likely to miss classes while on their periods when their schools don’t have private toilets, and the same goes for female workers in factories that don’t have decent facilities. None of this is acceptable and so much is preventable.

The world promised that by 2030 everyone will have a safe toilet, but at the current rate of progress, even the moment when everyone basic provision will be decades after that. Next summer, leaders will review progress on Goal 6 to ensure universal access to water and sanitation. As countries prepare for this, there needs to be a dramatic step change in ambition and action.

It is a no-brainer. For every $1 spent on water and sanitation, $4 is returned in increased productivity as less time is lost through sickness. We need governments and donors to acknowledge the importance of sanitation and make the urgent long-term investments needed.

Girls and women should feed into the decision making process to make sure the services meet their needs whatever their age or physical ability. And the issue of sanitation must be taken out of its cubicle – the health, education and business sector must realise that providing safe, accessible toilets to all within their premises is non-negotiable.

Only then girls and women be able to fully participate in their communities, enjoying the health, education and gender equality premiums brought by just being able to use a safe toilet.

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Girls in Afghanistan—and Everywhere Else—Need Toiletshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:04:55 +0000 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153051 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing are senior women’s rights researchers at Human Rights Watch.

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Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

By Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing
LONDON/WASHINGTON DC, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“I never come here, just because of boys,” Atifa says, pointing at the door of the stall. “They’re opening the door.” Atifa, a sixth grader in Kabul, Afghanistan, attends a school of 650 girls. Since they study in tents in a vacant lot, the only toilets the girls have access to are on the far side of the boys’ school next door. The school is one of a very few for girls in the area, so some students walk over an hour each way to get there.

The toilets in the boys’ school consist of two separate blocks of pit toilets with four stalls per block. Both blocks are used by the boys, none of the stalls have locking doors, and none are reserved for  the girls’ use. On the day Atifa showed Human Rights Watch around, the floors were awash with urine and feces.

The school’s only water point—for drinking, handwashing, and any other uses— is a several-minute walk down a hill. Girls using the toilets have to cope with sexual harassment from male students on the way there, and boys trying to open the stall doors while girls are using the toilet.

When we interviewed girls, parents, and experts about this situation for a new report they said  that lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. Sixty  percent of schools here do not have toilets, 85 percent of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.

Lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. 60% of schools here do not have toilets, 85% of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.
Lack of access to clean, safe, private toilets is a major barrier around the world to girls like Atifa, and it’s an issue that disproportionately affects girls. No child should have to attend a school without toilets. But put bluntly, where toilets are not available it is easier–and more socially accepted–for boys to urinate outside than for girls, even in countries with far less strict views on girls’ behavior than Afghanistan.

When girls reach puberty and begin menstruation, the problem becomes even worse. Without privacy in the toilets, somewhere to dispose of waste or clean reusable hygiene materials, and running water in close proximity to toilets, girls face great difficulty managing menstrual hygiene. This leads many girls to stay home during their periods, and as these absences accumulate, they fall behind on their studies, suffer poor academic achievement, and are at increased risk of dropping out completely.

Countries around the world have recognized the need to reach universal coverage for sanitation—put simply people should be able to use a safe, hygienic toilet wherever they are—home, work, the hospital, and, yes, at school. As part of the global sustainable development goals– the 17 goals agreed upon by the United Nations in 2015 as part of a new sustainable development agenda– governments have set ambitious targets to end open defecation and achieve universal access to basic sanitation services by 2030.

Such a clarion call is nearly herculean. Six out of every 10 people in the world lack safely managed sanitation. That is 4.5 billion people. Given these numbers, it is easy to conclude a safe toilet is a privilege of the rich and urban, not a universal right.

 

 

Today is World Toilet Day. An odd thing to celebrate, perhaps. Yet, given those numbers it’s easy to see why we should stop and consider the humble toilet and all the benefits it provides to those who have access to it. For starters, those of us who can use the toilet and wash our hands are at reduced risk of the diarrheal diseases that claim the lives of more than 350,000 children a year.

But sanitation is more than just a privilege or a tool to prevent disease. It is a fundamental human right, one that can  enable people to realize other rights—like the right to health. For girls like Atifa, a simple, safe and private toilet can be essential to putting education within reach.

Governments will face many competing demands as they work to try to reach universal coverage by 2030. In the crush of priorities, there is a grave risk that the most marginalized and vulnerable will be left behind. In Afghanistan and in places around the world where girls have to fight and struggle to receive a basic education, toilets in school for girls should  not be lost in the shuffle.

 

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On Gender Day at Climate Meet, Some Progress, Many Hurdleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:42:44 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153031 “Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj. Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of […]

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Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Germany, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj.

Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it." --indigenous leader Lina Gualinga

Established in 2009, the WGC is an umbrella group of 27 organizations working to make women’s voices and rights central to the ongoing discussions within the UNFCCC and the climate discussions known as COP23 in Bonn.

On Tuesday, as the COP observed Gender Day – a day specifically dedicated to address gender issues in climate change and celebrate women’s climate action – UNFCCC had just accepted the Gender Action Plan, a roadmap to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment in all its discussions and actions.  For WGC and other women leaders attending the COP, this is a clear indication of progress on the gender front.

“For the first time ever, we are going to adopt a Gender Action Plan. It’s very good and over one year, it will be a matter of implementing it. So that’s where we are,” said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Climate Change.

Gender Action Plan: The main points

The creation of a Gender Action Plan (GAP) was agreed upon by the countries at last year’s conference (COP22) in Morocco. All over the world, women face higher climate risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change. Yet they are often left out of the picture when decisions on climate action are made.

The aim of the GAP is to ensure that women can influence climate change decisions, and that women and men are represented equally in all aspects of the UNFCCC as a way to increase its effectiveness.

The GAP is made of five key goals that are crucial for improving the quality of life for women worldwide, as well as ensuring their representation in climate policy. These range from increasing knowledge and capacities of women and men to full, equal and meaningful participation of women in national delegations, including women from grassroots organizations, local and indigenous peoples and women from Small Island Developing States.

In brief, the five goals are:

  • Gender-responsive climate policy including gender budgeting
  • Increased availability of sex and gender disaggregated data and analysis at all levels
  • Gender balance in all aspects of climate change policy including all levels of UNFCCC.
  • 100% gender-responsive climate finance
  • 100% gender responsive approach in technology transfer and development.

The adopted draft, however, is a much watered-down version of the draft GAP that the GEC submitted. It has omitted several of the demands, especially on including indigenous women and women human rights defenders in the climate action plan.

“I would have expected a much-expressed acknowledgement of the participation, the voices and the knowledge of the indigenous and local women. We worked very hard to get that in, but it’s not there as much as I would have liked,” said Robinson, before adding that the adoption of the GAP, nonetheless, is “definitely some progress.”

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Omission leads to disappointment

Not everyone, however, is taking the omissions in the GAP quietly. At Tuesday noon, representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia gathered at Bula zone 1 – where the negotiations are taking place and held a protest.

“We are here because we want to tell the parties that women human rights defenders are legitimate and critical actors not only in SDG 5, but all the SDGs including combating climate change and all areas of 2030 agenda and Paris Agreement,” said a protester as others nodded in silence, their mouth sealed with black tape.

Prior to the protest, however, Lina Gualinga, an indigenous leader from the Kichwa tribe in Ecuador shared some details of how women environmental activists feel.

“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it. So, very few women can actually be here and be part of the COP,” she said.

“In the meantime, the language of the negotiations is drafted and shaped leaving no room to address our concerns. For example, what is sustainable development? For us, it’s nothing but clean water, fresh air, fertile land. Is that reflected in the language of the COP?” she asked.

No access to climate finance

Besides the continuous disappointment over human rights and indigenous issues, accessing finance has emerged as the biggest hurdle for women climate leaders. According to Robinson, the number of women who are getting climate finance is shockingly small.

“The latest figures by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) shows that only 2 percent of the finance is going to women in the grassroots and southern groups. Only 2 percent! Its tiny. And yet that is where an awful lot of climate work is taking place, where women are trying to make themselves resilient,” Robinson said.

There are three simple ways to solve this, she said:  One, increase local funding. Two, simplify the process to access climate. And three, train women in new, green technologies.

Citing the example of the Barefoot College in India –  a government funded and NGO-run institution that trains women from developing countries in solar technologies before they become “Solar Mamas” or solar entrepreneurs – Robinson said that trainings like this are a great way to include women in climate action at the local level.

“This not only builds their capacity to be more climate resilient, but also helps them become economically empowered,” she said, before admitting that more such initiatives would require more direct funding by local institutions.

Numbers still missing

White the central debate is on mainstreaming gender in the core process of negotiations, some also want to draw attention to the low representation of women in the conference. At the 2015 Paris summit, just over 38 percent of national delegations were women, with Peru, Hungary, Lesotho, Italy and Kiribati among the most balanced delegations and Mauritius, Yemen, Afghanistan and Oman the least.

This year, some countries such as Turkey, Poland and Fiji have 50 percent female delegates while three countries – Latvia, Albania and Guyana – have sent all-female delegations. But the average percentage of female negotiators at country delegations is still 38. Several countries, including Somalia, Eritrea and Uzbekistan, did not include a single women in their delegations.

Noelene Nabulivou, an activist from Fiji, said that it’s time to seriously fill the gender gap at the conference.

“If we are asking for equal opportunity, why can’t we ask for equal participation?” asked Nabulivou.

Meanwhile, Kalyani Raj thinks that quotas could limit the potential scope. “We want a balance, but at the same time, why limit ourselves to a mere 50 percent? It could be anything!” said Raj.

The first report to evaluate the progress on the implementation of the Gender Action Plan will be presented in November 2019.

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Are Prospects of Rural Youth Employment in Africa a Mirage?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:59:35 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153004 (Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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(Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

Many recent accounts tend to dismiss productive employment of youth in rural areas in Africa as a mirage largely because they exhibit strong resistance to eking out a bare subsistence in dismal working and living conditions. We argue below on recent evidence of agricultural transformation that this view is overly pessimistic, if not largely mistaken.

Raghav Gaiha

The 15–24-year-old age group represents 20% of SSA’s population today and, unlike in other regions, this youth share will remain high and stable (19% in 2050). In absolute terms, SSA’s youth will grow from nearly 200 million in 2015 to nearly 400 million in 2050, and its share in the labour force will remain the highest in the world, even if following a declining trend. Representing 37% today – in comparison with 30% in India, 25% in China and 20% in Europe – it should still account for 30% in 2050 (ILO, 2016).

Agriculture has a substantial role in meeting the youth employment challenge facing Africa. Even in a most optimistic scenario, non-farm and urban sectors are not likely to absorb more than two-thirds of young labour market entrants over the next decade. But there will be vast opportunities for the innovative young people in agricultural systems as they adapt to a range of challenges in the near future. These challenges relate to raising productivity in a sustainable way, integration into emerging high value chains, and healthy diets.

While the challenges are daunting, the potential benefits of addressing them are enormous. Higher prices, more integrated value chains, widening connectivity to markets in some areas, and greater private and public engagement in the sector are creating new opportunities. A major barrier is, however, strong negative preferences/attitudes of the youth towards agriculture.

A survey of rural in- and out-of school young people towards agriculture, based on field-work in two regions in Ethiopia, is remarkably rich and insightful (IDS Bulletin Volume 43 Number 6, 2012). Life as a farmer was tied to life in a village which most respondents saw as hard and demanding. Yet there was considerable heterogeneity in the views of the young. Participants in both regions concurred that agriculture has changed significantly over the last decade. The introduction and adoption of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds, fertilisers and better farming methods (such as slash ploughing, sowing seeds in rows, water pumps, modern beehives) have produced significant increases in productivity and earnings.

There were competing narratives on whether agriculture was becoming more desirable to young people as a result. Participants felt that these developments were making agriculture more and more profitable and therefore more appealing. But they felt that there was a huge obstacle in engaging in it – scarcity of land. Although the dominant view was that young people are disinterested in agriculture, some participants pointed out that this was not always the case.

A slightly more positive attitude towards agriculture was evident among young people who had left school, either failing to complete high school for various reasons or to qualify for higher level education. Although this group of respondents were equally aware of the grimness of traditional agriculture and the life of the common farmer, many were not dismissive of agriculture as a possible future livelihood, while a few even saw it as a preferred livelihood option, under improved conditions.

Recognizing agriculture as a viable employment option is even more challenging when economic and social restrictions related to access to productive resources (eg land, credit and improved seeds) are taken into account. All these limitations are exacerbated for young women who, in general, have no prospect of land access due to rules of inheritance, and who know that they will mainly have to work for their husbands (ILO, 2016).

Although the government considers rural educated youth as instrumental in bringing about a transformation in agricultural skills, knowledge and productivity, it has not effectively addressed either the attitude of many young people towards agriculture or the obstacles preventing their entry into the sector.

To create opportunities commensurate with the number of young people who will need employment, constraints on the acquisition of capital, land, and skills must be removed or relaxed.

A few selected initiatives are delineated below.

Allowing alternative forms of collateral, such as chattel mortgages, warehouse receipts, and the future harvest, can ease the credit constraints-especially for young farmers. The OHADA7 Uniform Act on Secured Transactions, in effect in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries, was amended at the end of 2010 to allow borrowers to use a wide range of assets as collateral, including warehouse receipts and movable property such as machinery, equipment, and receivables that remain in the hands of the debtor. Leasing also offers young farmers some relief, as it requires either no or less collateral than typically required by loans. A case in point is DFCU Leasing in Uganda, which gave more than US$4 million in farm equipment leases in 2002 for items such as rice hullers, dairy processing equipment, and maize milling equipment. Some outgrower arrangements prefinance inputs and assure marketing channels. In Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, Rabo Development (a subsidiary of Rabobank) offers management services and technical assistance to financial institutions, which, in turn, finance supply chains with a range of agricultural clients.

The two aspects of land administration that matter most to young entrants to the labour force are the need to improve security of tenure and the need to relax controls on rental. Land redistribution will also enhance young people’s access to land. In general, policies and measures that help the poor to gain access to land will also help young people.

The growing food demand in Africa is a major avenue for agro-processing, which can easily be developed using small and medium-sized entities (SMEs). This option requires less capital, is more labour intensive and facilitates the proliferation of units in rural boroughs and small towns, offering employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, local value added and new incomes. Agro-processing SMEs can also facilitate the resolution of post-harvest problems, which are a significant issue in SSA resulting in a loss of revenue for farmers.

In the Niger Delta, for instance, the IFAD-supported Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme is promoting a new category of entrepreneur-cum-mentor called the ‘N-Agripreneur’. These N-Agripreneurs own and run medium-scale enterprises at different stages of food value chains. They deliver business development services to producers, especially young people, who are interested in agro-based activities, such as farming as a business, small-scale processing, input supply and marketing.

In order to enable young people to respond to the environmental, economic and nutrition challenges of the future, they must develop suitable capacities. A case in point is ICTs which can develop young people’s capacities, while improving communication and easing access to information and decision-making processes. Investing in extending these technologies to rural areas, in particular targeting young people – who are generally more adaptable to their use – has allowed them to keep themselves up-to-date with market information and new opportunities.

In sum, there is an abundance of remunerative employment opportunities for the youth in rural areas that could dispel the mirage through imaginative government policies.

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SDG Fund Report Reaches a Higher Moral Groundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/sdg-fund-report-reaches-higher-moral-ground/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sdg-fund-report-reaches-higher-moral-ground http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/sdg-fund-report-reaches-higher-moral-ground/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 11:46:03 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152898 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School and Advisor, UN SDG Fund

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Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School and Advisor, UN SDG Fund

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 6 2017 (IPS)

At this historic moment – this new report (“Business and SDG 16”) is a tryst with destiny, one that fulfills a promise that was made both by the United Nations and the private sector at the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.

Rangita de Silva de Alwis

In 2015, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, spoke to the business community a day after the adoption of the SDGs and said: “Governments must take the lead in living up to their pledges. At the same time, I am counting on the private sector to drive success.”

Now is the time to mobilize the global business community as never before. The case is clear. Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals will improve the environment for doing business and building markets. “

Just last month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, addressing the private sector, was even bolder in his charge: “Let me start by a brutal sentence: either the Sustainable Development Goals are fully assumed with enlightened self-interest by the business community, the private sector, and the financial sector, or the Sustainable Development Goals will be a very nice exercise in diplomatic discussions in New York and maybe in some policies of some Governments, but the impact on people, the impact on poverty, the impact on the planet, will be extremely, extremely small.”

“This is now an objective that can only work if the whole of society engages, and the role of the business community, the private sector, the financial sector, is also crucial. Without your leadership, our project will simply fail.”

The UN SDG Fund has taken up this charge and issued a call to action: In essence, the Report is a charge for the private sector to be involved on a higher moral ground, for the advancement of the human civilization and calls upon the private sector to privilege the sustainability over transient profitability.

This flagship report is a tool box and a road map to show case ways in which companies should not merely “first do no harm” but also proactively and constructively do good.

The first SDG Fund Report released two years ago made these key findings:

1) Many companies do not understand the depth of the SDGs— how best to implement them, provide a multi stakeholder partnership and common language and target.

2) It was understood in three dimensions – economic, social and environment- and is the key feature

Goal 16 has been described as the “fourth dimension” of sustainable development. This moniker emerged in the consultative process of the Open Working Group as a punitive label: opponents to rule of law in the Sustainable Development Agenda claimed that, as a fourth dimension, rule of law did not belong in a set of goals consisting of the first three dimensions.

This debate occurred despite the specific and explicit affirmation of the links between rule of law and sustainable development in previous UN conferences.

The SDG’s go beyond traditional notions of development. The three spheres of sustainable development – economic, environmental, and societal – typically are not interconnected with peace-building, access to justice, or inclusive institutions.

Instead Goal 16 is, a “cross-cutting” goal that reflects the overarching promise of the UN Charter: that development, peace and security, and human rights are all irrevocably interlinked. In Goal 16, peace-building and rule of law, are essential to support the rest of the development agenda. Goal 16 must be acknowledged as the keystone of sustainable development.

The bedrock of the Report is that it is not enough for Goal 16 to just react to numerous challenges and obstacles. Instead, Goal 16 must be proactive. Instead of adapting after the fact, the private sector must anticipate and begin responding before the fact. This is the ambitious goal of this Report.

I wish to organize key findings under five thematic pillars:

Combating Violent Extremism:

The increased emphasis on prevention represents a meteoric metamorphosis of United Nations policy. Previously, peacebuilding was originally viewed “sequentially,” coming after “comprehensive” peace-accords.

“[P]eacebuilding was presented as the logical follow-on to peacemaking and peacekeeping: the main objective was to prevent relapse into conflict once a peace agreement had been secured.” This siloed vision is only recently being replaced by a novel holistic one that places prevention at the center.

A new UN architecture has ushered in the sea-change, codifying the concept of “sustaining peace” as “a goal and a process to build a common vision of a society […] which encompasses.

As the Secretary General’s Action Plan on the Prevention of Violent Extremism states: “Lack of socio-economic opportunities are drivers of extremism and conflict. Countries that fail to generate high and sustainable levels of growth, to create decent jobs for their youth, to reduce poverty and unemployment, to improve equality, to control corruption and to manage relationships among different communities in line with their human rights obligations, are more prone to violent extremism and tend to witness a greater number of incidents linked to violent extremism. “

Goal 16 presents a valuable opportunity to bridge the development and security divide. It explicitly provides an entry point for development and security actors to come together to promote inclusive, multidimensional approaches to achieve a peaceful society.

Here again, the Report highlights the work of the private sector – which is working on controlling money laundering and financing of terrorism, in building structures on zero tolerance of corruption, and gender equality in institution building.

Gender Equality in the Private Sector

Goal 16, read with Goal 5, is a clarion call for gender equality as a preventative tool and as an important signifier of the rule of law. Corporate board leadership is an important cornerstone of private sector leadership that impacts the public sphere.

The feminization of boards also engages the private sector in the public goal of fostering women’s corporate leadership. Such policies, if universalized, would fundamentally shift both corporate governance and public governance. Increasing the role of women in corporate governance increases gender equality by advancing women’s contributions to the public economy among other things.

Recent studies show that higher numbers of women in executive positions can result in higher rates of corporate return on equity. Similarly, countries with higher levels of women’s political representation tend to have higher levels of economic growth.

Building a New Vernacular:

SDG 16, both its targets and its indicators, revolves around the rule of law and building a new vernacular. The Report introduces a new language for businesses to engage in the rule of law: The Basic View of Self Interest: Private sector itself are creatures of rule of law. Businesses depend on reliable rule and reasonable justice; The Enlightened Corporation: The private sector should build its own effective, accountable and inclusive institutions and support the expansion of rule of law in society.

The Costs of Corruption:

The World Bank states that: “Businesses and individuals pay an estimated $1.5 trillion in bribes each year. This is about 2% of global GDP and ten times the value of overseas development assistance.

The Report analyzes anti-corruption legal reforms on the ground in Cambodia, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, India and the United Kingdom, including challenges and opportunities in law reform and highlights gaps and progress. In the final analysis, law reform remains laws on paper unless they are given life to through political will.

Building Bridges and Partnerships:

This report embodies the values of collaborations and partnerships. The UN SDG Fund’s vision has been to build partnerships with the private sector and academic communities so as to strengthen the UN’s new architecture— for a reimagined global order— one that sees the pivotal importance of the private sector and academic institutions.

The role of academic institutions to spur the next generation of leaders to advance and accelerate the SDGs in the 21st Century and to reach a higher moral ground is the key to unlocking the transformative potential of the SDGs.

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The Weinstein effect: The Global Scourge of Sexual Harassment & Exploitationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/weinstein-effect-global-scourge-sexual-harassment-exploitation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=weinstein-effect-global-scourge-sexual-harassment-exploitation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/weinstein-effect-global-scourge-sexual-harassment-exploitation/#respond Fri, 03 Nov 2017 13:46:06 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152877 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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The Weinstein effect: The Global Scourge of Sexual Harassment & Exploitation

A demonstrator shouts slogans during a protest against rape in Bangalore, India. 2014. STRINGER/REUTERS

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3 2017 (IPS)

When the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA’s) Goodwill Ambassador Ashley Judd, detailed an incident involving the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein for The New York Times in their eyepopping investigation into decades of alleged sexual harassment, it came as a shock to many.

So now we know.

What started as a Hollywood scandal featuring a powerful man and a string of young women whose lives he had the power to shape has turned into a global shockwave revealing a staggering scale of harassment, misogyny and violence.

Frankly, though, the fact that this problem is too big to sweep under the frayed edges of the world’s carpet has come as a surprise to only half the population. The other half knows what it is to have to fend off inappropriate remarks and unwelcome advances while fearing that doing so may jeopardise their careers.

Consider this. One in three women has experienced sexual harassment, violence, assault or rape in their lifetime. These statistics have been out there for years, but it took the Weinstein story to bring them into public consciousness.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women estimates that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives, with some national studies suggesting the figure may be as high as 70 per cent.

Around 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at, with current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends being the most common perpetrators. Around 700 million women alive today were married as children. Of those women, more than one in three—or some 250 million—were married before the age of 15.

Misogyny is deeply ingrained across the world. It feeds into a sense of entitlement by men that legitimises sexual harassment and sometimes violence. In some parts of the developing world the culture of entitlement and gender inequality is so pervasive that women themselves buy into it. The World Bank Gender Data Portal shows that 76.3 per cent of women in Mali and 92.1 per cent in Guinea believe a man is justified in beating his wife if she goes out without telling him, neglects the children, refuses sex, burns the food or argues with him.

From Hollywood via the corridors of power in Westminster to New Delhi and Nairobi, we face a gender inequality crisis on an epic scale. Sexual and gender-based exploitation, harassment and violence is a global issue.

Sometimes the sheer size of a problem may engender a sense of hopelessness. Many people feel that climate change or poverty, for example, are just too big to solve; that the individual is powerless in the face of such scale and complexity.

But this is not the case here. There are things we can and must do. After all, while much of gender inequality is institutionalised in social, economic and political structures, it is individual men and boys who exploit, intimidate, harass and assault women and girls.

How?

There are five key frontiers for behaviour change.

The first is home. In too many families across the world boys are more valued than girls, and an attitude of ‘boys will be boys’ excuses much aggression, exploitation and injustice. Husbands must set an example of respect for their wives. Parents must raise their sons to value girls and to respect their rights and autonomy. A girl’s body is her own. A boy has no right to comment on it or touch it uninvited, no matter what a girl might be wearing, or where she is.

The second front for action is education. Schools must teach respect and gender equality to both sexes. An organisation that does just this is No Means No Worldwide, which partners with local organisations in Kenya and Malawi to work in schools. Girls are taught assertiveness and boundary setting, which is backed up with physical self-defence training. But boys are a crucial part of the scheme too. Dramatic changes in boys’ attitudes to girls and sex have been seen after only six sessions, and rape cases have fallen by 50% in some areas of Nairobi after the training.

The workplace is the third area for action. Victims of harassment or assault must be able to report their experiences without fear of retaliation on their careers. Workplace expectations and procedures must be clear and transparent, and action following a report of inappropriate behaviour must be equally clear and transparent. Impunity that has lingered too long, aided and abetted by patriarchy, must no longer prevail.

Fourth, when inappropriate behaviour becomes criminal behaviour, women must feel confident that reporting sexual crime will not add to their trauma. Police forces in many parts of the world have no special training in dealing with victims of sexual abuse and assault, and many do not take it seriously. They deserve to be treated with sensitivity and respect, and need to know that police will investigate their cases and arrest perpetrators.

Finally, justice must be unrelenting and exemplary, in pursuit of individuals who commit such acts, regardless of their rank or station.

Most survivors of sexual harassment, violence and exploitation are far from the glitz of Hollywood. Many are poor and ill-educated. Countless are growing up in cultures where their life chances are severely diminished simply by virtue of their gender and circumstance.

If the Weinstein story and its aftermath have shown us anything, it is that sexual exploitation and harassment is part of everyday experience for girls and women no matter where they live in the world.

This has to stop and we as men have to be at the vanguard of change. #HeForShe

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya. Follow him on twitter.

This article was originally published by Thomson Reuters, and was published with express permission from the writer

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Women and Malnutrition in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-malnutrition-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/#comments Tue, 31 Oct 2017 15:55:42 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152836 Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI and PHILADELPHIA, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Undernutrition is widespread and a key reason for poor child health in many developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, around 40 percent of children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth, that is, severely reduced height-for-age relative to their growth potential. Stunting is a result of periods of undernutrition in early childhood, and it has been found to have a series of adverse long-term effects in those who survive childhood. It is negatively associated with mental development, human capital accumulation, adult health, and with economic productivity and income levels in adulthood.

Raghav Gaiha

Vitamin A deficiency is associated with the higher risk of morbidity and mortality, and ocular disorders such as night blindness, xerophthalmia and blindness, affecting infants, children and women during pregnancy and lactation. African regions account for the greatest number of preschool children with night blindness and for more than one-quarter of all children with subclinical vitamin A deficiency.

The central premise is that agricultural development has enormous potential to make significant contribution in reducing malnutrition and the associated ill health. With its close links to both the immediate causes of undernutrition (diets, feeding practices, and health) and its underlying determinants (such as income, education, access to WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene- and health services, and gender equity), the agriculture sector can play a strong role in improving nutrition outcomes.

Women are vitally important agents, both in their roles as producers and as custodians of household welfare. Their importance, moreover, is generally greater in the lowest-income settings and among households with high dependency ratios—in which a large proportion of household members are nonearning and often nutritionally vulnerable dependents.

The resources and income flows that women control often have positive impacts on household health and nutrition. In some countries, women tend to lack access to economic opportunities outside the domestic sphere to which traditional customs often confine them, especially in rural areas. They are also very often severely constrained by time and the multiple—often simultaneous—roles they play as producers and caregivers. Agricultural programmes and policies that empower and enable women and that involve them in decisions and activities throughout the life of the programme achieve greater nutritional impacts.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Although women comprise more than 50% of the agricultural workforce in most of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region, the productivity gap between men and women farmers persists. To illustrate how wide the gap is, in Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda narrowing the gender gap in agricultural productivity has the potential of raising the gross domestic product by USD 105 million, USD 100 million, and USD 65 million, respectively (IFAD,FAO and WFP, 2015). Women farmers typically use lower levels of purchased technological inputs, such as fertilizer and high-yielding seed varieties. That women lack access to these key technological inputs explains a significant portion of the productivity gap. They are often hesitant to adopt these technologies if they do not control the benefits that accrue from adopting. Moreover, women also face unique challenges, due to their lifecycle and reproductive roles, which further influence their participation on- and off-farm.

In Kenya, new varieties of sweet potatoes rich in beta-carotene were introduced to women farmers with an end goal of improving vitamin A intake of young children, thereby preventing vitamin A deficiency. There was a significant increase in the intake of vitamin A-rich foods, among children whose mothers received both the production-focused intervention of planting materials and access to agricultural extension services, and the consumption-focused intervention of nutrition education and training in food processing and preparation. By contrast, there was a decrease in vitamin A intake among children whose mothers received only the production-focused inputs. This example suggests that: (a) women’s farm production offers an entry point for interventions that can improve nutrition; and (b) interventions that increase women’s agricultural productivity and increase their health and nutrition knowledge may yield more benefits than ones that target only productivity or only knowledge.

In Ethiopia, a women-focused goat development project was expanded to include interventions to promote vitamin A intake, nutrition and health education, training in gardening and food preparation, and distribution of vegetable seeds. Goat owning households consumed all produced milk; 87% by the adults as hoja; children in the participating households had slightly more diversified diets; they were also more likely to consume milk more than 4 times a day. As substitutions occur between foods, in the absence of anthropometric indicators, nothing definitive could be inferred about improvements in child nutrition.

Women’s employment in agriculture has positive impacts on nutrition in the household when women have decision-making power over resource allocation. In Uganda, for example, evidence from randomized controlled trials showed positive impacts from biofortified crops, including orange-fleshed sweet potato, on vitamin A status among women and children. Ownership of livestock was associated with better household food security in Kampala. However, there were mixed impacts on the links between women’s empowerment, intrahousehold decision-making, and better nutrition outcomes.

Failure to understand cultural norms and the gender dynamics within the household can result in unanticipated outcomes. In the Gambia, for example, a project geared to increasing women’s rice production was so successful that the land it was grown on was reclassified internally within the household. This resulted in output from that land being sold by men as opposed to women. Women therefore lost their original income stream, but remained committed to increased labour.

Vegetables and legumes are often regarded as women’s crops. Recognizing this, a project in Togo was successful because it promoted the introduction of soybeans as a legume rather than as a cash crop. Promotion as a cash crop would have resulted in the crop switching to male control. Interventions promoting the production of animal source foods also assessed their impact on maternal income or women’s control over income. The results were quite mixed. For example, an intervention involving intensified dairy farming in Kenya showed that an important share of the additional income was controlled by women, whereas in Ethiopia men’s incomes benefited significantly more from intensified dairying than did women’s. Whether women’s income is likely to increase depends on the livestock or aquaculture production system, the nature of the intervention, and cultural beliefs and practices relating to gender. Even if the intervention is targeted to women’s livestock and aquaculture activities, women lose control over the income generated by those activities.

In conclusion, it is arguable that there are improved impacts on nutrition if agricultural interventions are targeted to women and when specific work is done around women’s empowerment (for example, through behaviour change communication), mediated through women’s time use, women’s own health and nutrition status, and women’s access to and control over resources as well as intrahousehold decision-making power. That this may be dismissed out of hand is not unlikely either, given the persistence of male dominance.

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UN Member States, With Exceptions, Pay Lip Service to Women & Peacekeepinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/un-member-states-pay-lip-service-women-peacekeeping/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-member-states-pay-lip-service-women-peacekeeping http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/un-member-states-pay-lip-service-women-peacekeeping/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 07:59:52 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152823 A UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted on 31 October 2000, underlying the role of women in peacekeeping, has long been described as both historic and unprecedented. But 17 years later, there are widespread expressions of disappointment over the mostly non- implementation of the resolution known by its symbol UNSCR 1325. Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Chief […]

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Sweden and the UN. We build peace. Credit: Jonas Svensson, Swedish Armed Forces

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

A UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted on 31 October 2000, underlying the role of women in peacekeeping, has long been described as both historic and unprecedented.

But 17 years later, there are widespread expressions of disappointment over the mostly non- implementation of the resolution known by its symbol UNSCR 1325.

Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Chief Executive Officer/International Coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, (GNWP) told IPS that despite all the ballyhoo following the resolution, the percentage of women in peacekeeping “is incredibly low”.

In 1993, women made up 1% of deployed uniformed personnel. As of August 2017, women constituted only 3.7 % of military personnel; and 9.4 % of police personnel.

“This is beyond shocking. If we are going to use this as an indicator to assess the achievements of UNSCR 1325, we are failing miserably,” she declared.

Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, told the Security Council last week although women’s absence from peace tables is no longer easily brushed off as normal, it is still commonplace.

“Every year, we track women’s overall participation in peace processes that are led by the UN. We track the inclusion of gender expertise and gender-sensitive provisions in peace agreements, and the requirement to consult with women’s civil society organizations. In all of these indicators, we performed slightly worse than a year ago.”

At the Myanmar Union Peace Conference in 2016—before the current crisis—there were seven women and 68 men among the delegates. And recent peace talks on the Central African Republic hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio did not include a single woman.

Six years into the Syrian civil war—and in spite of significant efforts by the UN and the Special Envoy—women’s participation in the peace talks is still inadequate, and often limited to an advisory role. This political marginalization extends beyond peace talks, she declared.

Only 17 countries (out of 193 UN member states) have an elected woman Head of State or Government. This includes only one post-conflict conflict country, Liberia, where Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s presidency has just ended after two terms, following democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power.

“That is something to celebrate,” she added. Meanwhile, the proportion of women parliamentarians in conflict and post-conflict countries has stagnated at 16 per cent in the last two years.

Focusing on another neglected aspect, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, co-founder of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), told IPS there has to be some element of institutional or state responsibility for sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in UN peacekeeping missions.

She said it cannot just be “a soldier” — after all “a government” sent the soldier to the peacekeeping mission, so that government must bear responsibility for egregious behavior.

Second, “we have to be more honest about the ‘grayness’ of exploitation. Poverty and the need for food and water can induce ‘consent’ – so it can be abusive and exploitative but technically not illegal, if it involves an adult.”

Finally, for over 20 years we have heard the common refrain that “it is difficult to find women in militaries”. Why not have a radical re-think regarding the recruitment of women into peacekeeping forces?

It is not only about equal opportunities for jobs that pay better than others, but also about deep personal empowerment, and of course prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.

“How do we do it?”, she asked. “Why not have regional women’s peacekeeping institutes where women can come and get the basic military training needed, as well as skills specific to peacekeeping?”.

There are plenty of countries that export women for domestic work, which entails poor pay and exposure to abuse. Why not support them to become peacekeepers? Their salaries would be higher and their skills could be useful once they return home, she argued.

Cabrera Balleza told IPS the benefits of having more women in peacekeeping are numerous and very tangible. Female peacekeepers serve as role models, they inspire women and girls to assert their rights and to take on leadership and non-traditional positions, including as part of the security sector.

“They are also more sensitive to the needs of female ex-combatants, women refugees, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. No doubt, women peacekeeping personnel are critical to the success of peace operations”, she noted.

She also pointed out that it is easy to criticize the UN for this dismal failure to achieve gender parity in peace operations.

“However, we need to examine the source – and those are the (193) Member States. There are very few women in UN peacekeeping because the sources are shallow. Discriminatory recruitment and hiring polices as well as unsafe work environment within the Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) prevent women from joining police and military institutions”.

This, she said, is symptomatic of the major obstacles in implementing Resolution 1325– initiated by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury of Bangladesh when he presided over the Security Council in October 2000– and the supporting women-and-peace and security resolutions.”

She also pointed out that the underrepresentation of women in peacekeeping is mirrored by the under-representation of women in peace negotiations; by the lack of women in decision-making and governance positions; by the absence of women in the design of disarmament programs; by the lack of funding for women’s peacebuilding work.

The problems are multi-pronged: they are political, economic, social and cultural. Hence the solutions should also be multi-pronged and holistic.

The call for a holistic and coherent strategy to implement Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions is not new, she added.

The three reviews in 2015, namely the Global Study on UNSCR 1325; the High Level Peace Operations; the Peacebuilding Architecture Review all highlighted the need to address the fragmentation in the UN system in order for peacebuilding efforts to be successful.

Needless to say, the global policy decisions and the efforts to find coherence in the work of the UN should be informed by the voices of women in conflict affected communities and translated into localization initiatives.

“Let’s all roll up our sleeves, buckle down to work and take 1325 out of New York, and bring it to local communities. Only then can we fulfill the promise of this ground breaking international policy,” she declared.

In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Naraghi Anderlini said when she started working in peacebuilding over 20 years ago, the United Nations was coming under fire because multinational forces working as peacekeepers in Cambodia had sexually abused women and girls and spread HIV/AIDS and other diseases among local populations.

In the many years since, UN peacekeepers have been accused of doing the same in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, and beyond. In 2014, peacekeepers from France and Georgia were implicated in incidents of sexual violence against young children in the Central African Republic.

In 2016, following investigations, the UN reported 41 cases of abuse involving peacekeepers from Burundi and Gabon, including eight paternity cases and six filed on behalf of minors.

With the arrival of Antonio Guterres as the new UN secretary general and Sweden’s presence in the Security Council in 2017, the issues have again gained traction, said Naraghi Anderlini.

As a champion of a “feminist foreign policy,” Sweden has made the Women, Peace, and Security agenda a priority at the UN, she noted.

As Guterres and the Swedish delegation noted, a better balance of women and men in peacekeeping forces would enable greater access to communities while increasing transparency and accountability among the forces themselves and reducing levels of sexual abuse.

“If this seems farfetched, it is worth imagining a scenario where UN peacekeepers are 100 percent female. Incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse likely would disappear altogether. Yet little effort has been put into increasing the number of women,” she declared.

Meanwhile, Sweden has been a staunch supporter of UN peacebuilding and assumed the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission in 2015 while maintaining a long tradition of participating in UN peace operations.

According to the Swedish government, more than 80,000 Swedish women and men have taken part in UN peacekeeping to date. From the very first group of Swedish military observers, who participated in the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in 1948, to Sweden’s current engagement in the UN stabilisation mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Sweden’s commitment has remained firm.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Adolescent Health Congress Skirts Issue of Abuse, Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/adolescent-health-congress-skirts-issue-abuse-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adolescent-health-congress-skirts-issue-abuse-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/adolescent-health-congress-skirts-issue-abuse-trafficking/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 11:34:43 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152795 Twenty-year-old Gogontlejang Phaladi of Mahalapye, Botswana is grateful she was never sent to a so-called “hyena” like scores of girls in neighboring Malawi were. In a ritual approved by the community, a solo man (the hyena) would have sex with the adolescent girls of an entire village to “sexually cleanse” them so they would be […]

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Attendees at the 11th Congress on Adolescent Health in New Delhi, Oct. 27-29, 2017. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Attendees at the 11th Congress on Adolescent Health in New Delhi, Oct. 27-29, 2017. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
NEW DELHI, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Twenty-year-old Gogontlejang Phaladi of Mahalapye, Botswana is grateful she was never sent to a so-called “hyena” like scores of girls in neighboring Malawi were.

In a ritual approved by the community, a solo man (the hyena) would have sex with the adolescent girls of an entire village to “sexually cleanse” them so they would be considered fit for marriage."It makes sense to bring village and religious leaders in this conversation on violent crimes. After all, most of them are validated by the society and traditions.” --Gigi Phaladi

“I am so glad that in Botswana we do not have hyenas, but we face other forms of sexual violence such as stepfathers molesting stepdaughters and giving them HIV,” says Phaladi, founder of Pillar of Hope, a project that counsels, educates and trains local adolescents to tackle these challenges.

Violent Crimes Left Out

Last week, Phaladi attended the 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health which was held in New Delhi and focused on different health aspects of youth in the age group of 10-24. Speaking to an audience that included diplomats, bureaucrats, researchers, doctors and activists, Phaladi stressed that if the problems of adolescents were to be truly addressed, they had to be involved in the process.

Talking to IPS on the sidelines of the Congress later, Phaladi said that there were adolescents who experienced the most heinous and violent crimes across the world such as sexual assaults, trafficking, violent social norms and religious practices of violent crime.

Aside from HIV, beating, molestation, and sexual exploitation at schools by teachers – the challenges faced by adolescents were multiple. But the adolescents directly affected by the violence and crime were not included in the process to address them.

“You see, the laws in these countries are not firm enough to protect the adolescents from these crimes. So, it’s not just a health issue, but a governance deficiency and we need to talk about this at such events, from the adolescents themselves,” she said.

Unfortunately, violent crimes like sexual slavery, hyenas, molestation at schools or breast ironing – another crime reported widely from Western Africa – were missing from the Congress on Adolescent Health, as were issues of cross-border sex trafficking of adolescent boys and girls in Asia and community-backed forced prostitution of young women in India. Mental health was discussed as a generic issue, but rising cases of mental illness in militarized and conflict zones were also missing.

Lack of Studies and Data

A big reason behind this could be lack of any data, said Rajib Acharya, a researcher from Population Council of India, a New Delhi-based NGO researching population issues across India. Acharya just conducted a study of 20,000 adolescents aged 10-14 in two states of India – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Presented at the Congress, the study showed, among others, severe levels of anemia among the adolescents. According to the study, 1.2 million and 2.8 million are severely anemic, respectively, in these two States.

But it took four months and a team of 50 researchers to interview the adolescents on nutrition and sexual and reproductive health.  Three weeks were spent on training the researchers, and analyzing the data took another four to five months. To generate data on multiple issues would mean multiplying the investment of this time, effort and money, Acharya reminded.

He also said that if the issue was complicated, sensitive and involved  traveling to conflict zones, it was less likely to be taken up for research as gathering credible date would be incredibly hard.

Forums like the Congress should ideally be utilized to bring on the hard-hitting issues related to adolescents,  said Thant Aung Phyo, a young sexual and reproductive healthcare activist in Myanmar. Pointing out the severe restrictions on adolescents in accessing abortion care, Phyo said, “The rigid government policies and social traditions that restrict the rights of adolescents need to be brought up and discussed at forums like this.”

Myanmar is currently caught in a human rights  disaster where over a million Rohingyas had been forced to flee their homes, taking refuge in neighboring countries including Bangladesh, India and Thailand.  The refugees included hundreds of thousands of adolescents who are living in trauma, poverty, fear and uncertainty.

Decribing their suffering as “unfathomable” and “unprecedented”, Kate Gilmore,  Deputy High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Commission, says that refugee and migrant adolscents  across the world must be provided  free and regular healthcare as a right.

“Migrant adolescents must have access to healthcare without the fear of being reported, detained and deported,” Gilmore said.

Improving World’s Largest Adolescent Program

India, home to the world’s largest adolescent population (253 million), launched  an adolescent-specific program in 2014 – the first country in the world to do so on such a scale. Titled Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (KRSK), the program aimed at improving health and nutrition of adolescents besides protecting them against violence and injuries.

It is currently run in 230 of the country’s 707 districts,  but even after three years, there was  little data available on the program’s impact. The data presented at the event by the health ministry of India at the Congress only specified the facilities built by the government so far (700 adolescent health clinics) and services provided (training over 20,000 adolescents as peer educators).

However, the selection of the peer educators and the skills of the field workers had been questioned by experts from the non government sector.

“The peer educator component is the most controversial aspect of the program. The skill of the workforce on the ground is also questionable,” observed Sunil Mehra, one of the pioneers on adolscent health in India and head of Mamta Health Institute for Mother and Child which coorganised the Congress.

Agreed Rajib Acharya: “If we spoke with community level  health workers, we would see  that only 5 or 6 out of  every 30 or 40 knew what they were supposed to say or do to adolescent patients.”

On Saturday, however,  the ministry  announced certain changes  to improve the RKSK program and monitor certain services  Said Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner (Adolescent Health) at the minsitry, the government would “now make the program  promotion and prevention-centric and monitorable”.

The ministry would particularly monitor its  Weekly Iron Folic Supplementation (WIFS) programme  on digital platforms to tackle anemea among adolescents. A special toolkit called “Sathiya” was also launched at the World Congress on Friday for better peer education. The Toolkit—available both in print and online – focused on six broad themes of the RKSK such as integrated child health , sexual and reproductive health, injuries and violence, nutrition, substance abuse and mental health.

Leveraging the Traditional  System

There are other instituions and systems that  India and other countries could make better use of  to address the “wicked problems” faced by the adolescents, reminded  Anthony Costello, Director, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Promoting greater interaction among adolescents of different age and sex is one. Involving parents in learning of the health issues of adolescents is another. Talking of difficult and disturbing issues like breast ironing, rape, trafficking is yet another. We need to use all of these,” Costello told IPS.

Gigi Phaladi added that traditioonal and religious leaders  also must be roped in to talk about adolescents. In Botswana, she said, pastors in churches were urged to talk of gender violence, HIV and other gender-based crimes.

“People were surprised to hear their religious leaders talk about sex etc, but they also started paying attention. The general feeling among people was ‘if the pastors do not feel hesitant to talk about these issues, why should we?’ So, it makes sense to bring village and religious leaders in this conversation on violent crimes. After all, most of them are validated by the society and traditions,”she said.

The three-day (Oct. 27-29 ) 11th Congress on Adolescent Health, which had 1,200 participants from 65 countries, concluded on Sunday.

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Historic Resolution on Women & Peacekeeping Remains Mostly Unimplementedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/historic-resolution-women-peacekeeping-remains-mostly-unimplemented/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=historic-resolution-women-peacekeeping-remains-mostly-unimplemented http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/historic-resolution-women-peacekeeping-remains-mostly-unimplemented/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 08:24:02 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152792 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is internationally recognized as the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 when he was President of the Security Council in March 2000

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Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is internationally recognized as the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 when he was President of the Security Council in March 2000

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

At the 26 October launch of GNWP’s (Global Network of Women Peacebuilders) manual “No Money, No NAP” on dedicated budgetary allocation to fund the implementation of the 1325 National Action Plans, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka characterized UNSCR 1325 as the most unimplemented resolution of the UN Security Council.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN

Representing the UN Secretary-General, his Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribiero Viotti said at the Security Council Open Debate on Women and Peace and Security on 27 October that “…seventeen years since the passage of resolution 1325, our own implementation remains too often ad hoc. While there is a clear recognition of the relationship between gender equality, women’s participation and stability and resilience, too little is being done to operationalize this understanding.”

I agree with both of them in a big way particularly bearing in mind that adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture.

We need to understand that 1325 by itself envisages a broad-based conceptual transformation of the existing international policies and practices that make women insecure and deny their equality of participation, basically as a result of the Security Council’s support of the existing militarized inter-state security arrangements.

I am referring to the concept of security based on current strategic power structures rather than on human security which highlights the security of the people. That change itself remains very distant.

Here I would mention enthusiastically a dedicated woman, Peace and Security Program which was launched last week at New York’s prestigious Columbia University. Led by 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate dynamic Leymah Gbowee, this Program has identified all the key areas which need special attention, particularly emphasizing the human security dimension and grassroots level experiences in WPS agenda. I wish her and the Program all success!

Apart from that I find there four areas where greater progress was possible during last 17 years:
One, in real terms, National Action Plan (NAP) is the engine that would speed up the implementation of 1325. It should be also underscored that all countries are obligated as per decisions of the Security Council to prepare the NAP whether they are in a so-called conflict situation or not. So far, only 68 out of 193 UN Member States have prepared their plans – what a dismal record after 17 years.

Leymah Gbowee launches WPS Program at the Columbia University, as its Executive Director

There are no better ways to get country level commitment to implement 1325 other than the NAPs. I believe very strongly that only NAPs can hold the governments accountable. There needs to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs.

Two, I would say that special attention should be given to building awareness and sensitivity as well as training of the senior officials within the UN system as a whole with regard to 1325. That will create a foundational culture of recognizing women’s equality of participation as essential.

Three, another missing element is a greater, regular, genuine and participatory involvement of civil society in implementing 1325 both at national and global levels. We should not forget that when civil society is marginalized, there is little chance for 1325 to get implemented in the real sense.

Four, what role the Secretary-General should play? I believe there is a need for his genuinely active, dedicated engagement in using the moral authority of the United Nations and the high office he occupies for the effective implementation of 1325. Would it not have a strong, positive impact on countries for the implementation of 1325 if their leaders received a formal communication from the S-G suggesting a date for submission of respective NAPs?

Implementation of 1325 should be seriously taken up in the SG’s UN system-wide coordination mechanism – at the next CEB meeting. DPI needs to have an information and awareness raising strategy for 1325 – mainstreamed in its work – not as an event and anniversary oriented publicity.

UN Resident Coordinators who represent the SG and the whole UN system at the country level and UN country teams should assist all national level actors in preparation and implementation of national action plans.

In short, through implementation of 1325, we want complete and real, practical, functional, operational equality between women and men to end the cycle of all forms of extremism which continue to sabotage humanity’s quest for sustainable peace and development.

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Stopping Child Marriage Foreverhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/stopping-child-marriage-forever/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stopping-child-marriage-forever http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/stopping-child-marriage-forever/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 06:58:47 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152788 The mother moved in like a tigress to save her cub. In 2015, when her 13-year-old daughter Shumi Akhter was about to be married off, Panna Begum pleaded with her husband, Dulal Mia, to cancel the marriage he’d arranged for their daughter. Panna argued vehemently that Shumi was just a child and it was wrong […]

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Akhter and her mother, Panna Begum, who saved her from being married off at the age of 13. Credit: Shahiduzzaman/IPS

By Shahiduzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

The mother moved in like a tigress to save her cub. In 2015, when her 13-year-old daughter Shumi Akhter was about to be married off, Panna Begum pleaded with her husband, Dulal Mia, to cancel the marriage he’d arranged for their daughter.

Panna argued vehemently that Shumi was just a child and it was wrong for her to be married off at such a tender age. Dulal was adamant, countering that it was tradition and custom and his responsibility as a father to give his daughter away in marriage. He was furious with Panna for objecting, but she wouldn’t back down.

“I don’t agree with you because I know the reality, the legal age of girls’ marriage and consequences of child marriage. Please don’t try to kill the future of my daughter. If you proceed any further on this matter then I’m even ready to split from you to ensure my daughter’s future,” Panna warned her husband.

The Dulal family lives in Noler Char of Hatia UpaZilla, Noakhali, a southern coastal district of Bangladesh.

Panna never went to school and was herself a victim of child marriage. Fortunately, just a week before her daughter Shumi’s wedding, Panna participated in a sensitization meeting on women’s rights issues organized by Sagarika Samaj Unnayan Sangstha(SSUS), a local NGO. As soon as the meeting ended, she reached out for support from the participating NGO representatives and others to stop her daughter’s marriage. And she succeeded.

In the chars (accreted coastal land) of Noakhali district, where the Bangladesh government with the assistance of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Netherlands are implementing a project titled the Char Development and Settlement Project (CDSP IV), the story of Panna’s efforts and success in averting a disastrous child marriage is well known and widely appreciated.

The CDSP IV aims to reduce poverty and hunger among poor people living on newly accreted coastal chars by providing more secure livelihoods.

Shumi Akhter runs her sewing machine. Credit: Shahiduzzaman/IPS


Sagarika Samaj Unnayan Sangstha (SSUS) is one of the four partner NGOs working with the CSDP IV to promote understanding of the social issues in the project areas. SSUS took responsibility to help the young Shumi learn skills that would eventually help her to earn money.

Within a couple of days following Panna’s appeal for help, the NGO admitted her into a CDSP IV month-long training on tailoring. She did well and she received a sewing machine free of cost. The training helped build her confidence. Within a short period Shumi became a popular tailor for the villages in the neighbourhood. Now she is earning between 50 and 70 dollars per month.

Her father Dulal Mia now says, “My decision was wrong. God saved us. I am sorry for causing such tension in my family. Like my wife, now I am also campaigning against child marriage.”

Today, at 16, Shumi is a major contributor to the family income. “I am dreaming of a better life. My parents and the villagers are with me. I will make my own decision about my future,” she stated confidently.

The other partners of CDSP IV are BRAC, Dwip Unnayan Songstha(DUS) and the Society for Development Initiatives (SDI).

Some 25 years ago, this correspondent visited the same char lands to report on the ‘Life of Char People’. At that time poor and marginal people who were victims of river erosion and natural disasters in various costal districts were trying to settle in this area. None of them aware of their basic rights, simply struggling for survival each day.

Those people were highly influenced in their outlook and were entrenched in taboos. Attitudes toward women and girl children were critically narrow. Over 95 percent of the girls were victims of child marriage. Women were strictly restricted in their movement outside their homes. They were bound by rules set by their husbands. In fact, the situation of women and girls was the worst in char areas compared to other parts of the country.

Then-local government officials and NGOs activists said low literacy rates and social insecurity of the families were the principal causes of the high rate of child marriage. Another important cause was that girls and young women in remote areas were vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse. To avoid incidents of abuse and rape and to ensure safety and security of their daughters, parents took the initiative to give away girls in marriage as early as possible.

Those days are now in the past. Md. Hanan Mollah of SSUS said, “All credit goes to CDSP IV. It has broken the barrier and women are more socially secure and empowered, and their rights on assets have been established. They are now the major mainstream workforce in the area. Their contribution makes our rural economy vibrant.”

Although child marriage has been reduced drastically, many families continue the practice by producing fake birth certificates.

In fact, Bangladesh has many successes in social sectors, but sadly it has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world. According to UNICEF, “52 percent of country’s girls are married before the age of 18. Early marriage causes girls to drop out of education and limits their opportunities for social interaction.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently reported that child marriage in Bangladesh is deeply destructive to the lives of married girls and their families; it pushes girls out of school, leaves them mired in poverty, heightens the risk of domestic violence, and carries grave health risks for girls and their babies due to early pregnancy.

Marriage of girls before the age of 18 and men before 21 is treated as child marriage, which is strictly prohibited by law in Bangladesh. It is a punishable offence for the organisers of child marriage including parents, registering entities and related persons.

“I can say confidently that child marriage in the area has reduced more than 90 percent after the CDSP IV project was launched. Often, when we receive information, our local officials including myself rush immediately to stop such marriages at any cost. A couple of months ago we intervened and stopped a child marriage when the couple were about to sign the marriage contract,” said Khondaka Rezauil Karim, Hatiya Upazila Nirbahi (sub-district Executive Officer).

“It is true some child marriages are still happening but within the next 12 months that will be stopped forever because by this time 100 percent birth registration will be completed, which is important for any marriage registrar to check the age of both male and female before registering the marriage.

“Several police camps and investigative centers and ground communication have been established in the areas to ensure peace and security. Now, police can rush within 30 minutes to any part of the chars to tackle the situation. Combating violence against women, promoting women’s empowerment and their rights based issues are our priority tasks,” Rezaul Karim said.

Deputy Team Leader of CDSPIV Md. Bazlul Karim said, “We have introduced multiple social programmes and support to stop child marriage effectively and promoting empowerment of women. ‘Legal and Human Rights’ programme is one of them, where an initiative has been taken to sensitize and raise awareness of the people by educating them on the country’s seven basic laws including Muslim and Hindu family laws, land law, inheritance law and constitutional rights. It also includes legal literacy classes, raising awareness about legal rights, and empowering the poor, especially women, both legally and socially by encouraging them to take legal action.”

“Around the project area, 984 groups are working on these issues. They are also acting like defenders on rights based issues. Now we are receiving complete information on the violation of rights and intolerance against women. And nothing is overlooked. So since the project started we were able to stop 93 child marriages,” he said.

The project is also providing life skill training and various kinds of support to young women, widows and destitute women. Tailoring training is one. So far the project has trained up 125 women and distributed 125 sewing machines free of cost. Each of the recipients are now earning a decent wage and helping their families. Credit is also being made available for small businesses, agro-based farming and livestock.

Achieving gender equality and empowerment of women are the most important goals of the project. Women’s position in their communities has improved remarkably. They are participating in all sorts of developing activities, including constructing roads, cultivating lands and agro-based farming.

The project officials and the NGO activists said that at the beginning it was very difficult to reach women. Their husbands were not cooperative at all, but with time they realized that empowering women only strengthened their own welfare.

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Ending the Male Monopoly on Peace: Women Still Need More Seats at the Tablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ending-male-monopoly-peace-women-still-need-seats-table/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-male-monopoly-peace-women-still-need-seats-table http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ending-male-monopoly-peace-women-still-need-seats-table/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 06:29:41 +0000 Shaheen Chughtai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152743 Shaheen Chugtai is Oxfam’s Global Women, Peace and Security Policy Lead

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Women participate in an event in Morocco organized to support and encourage women running for local election and to encourage voting. Credit: Ellie Kealey / Oxfam

By Shaheen Chughtai
NEW YORK, Oct 26 2017 (IPS)

Whether targeted by perpetrators of sexual violence, oppressed by ideological extremists, or uniquely threatened by the bombing of hospital maternity units, women often bear the brunt of conflicts. Yet when it comes to peace negotiations, women too often don’t have a seat at the table. The continuing reality that men, particularly armed men, enjoy an almost exclusive role in peace processes defies both logic and evidence.

It is now 17 years since UN resolution 1325 was adopted – the first Security Council resolution to establish the so-called women, peace and security agenda, which aims to uphold women’s rights in war and roles in peace.

Ahead of the Open Debate on Peace and Security at the UN, it is the time reflect and double down both on what promises are left unfilled, as well as what progress has been made – there are examples of both.

There have been some positive signs of headway, as seven subsequent UN Security Council resolutions have helped strengthen policies and norms worldwide over the past decade. Almost 70 countries have national action plans to put women, peace and security aims into practice.

This year, renewed peacekeeping and peace enforcement mandates for Western Sahara, Sudan and Somalia included new language on the importance of women’s participation. Hopefully this trend will continue with South Sudan’s peacekeeping mandate renewal just around the corner.

And just weeks ago, the US Congress passed the Women, Peace and Security Act. Among other aims, the act makes it US policy to promote the meaningful participation of women in efforts to address conflict overseas. But crucial gaps remain – not least, the routine exclusion of women from peace processes.

Why does this matter? Because women missing from peace talks means world leaders are missing opportunities to save countless lives and stabilize an increasingly fractured world.

Analysis of various conflicts and peace processes worldwide shows that when women able to bring crucial perspectives and experiences from civil society and local communities, the chances of peace agreements being reached and sustained rises dramatically.

Worldwide, women already play crucial roles in resolving disputes in their families and communities, and identifying challenges and solutions that influence social cohesion and stability. Tapping into that experience and expertise, a peace that reflects the needs and aspirations of the whole population, benefits everyone, male and female, and is more likely to last.

That simple logic should drive a paradigm shift in international diplomacy to prevent and resolve conflicts. Wars not only take and destroy lives. It is estimated that the total monetary cost of violence and conflict around the world was $13.6 trillion in 2015.

But instead, we hear excuses. Time and time again, key members of the UN Security Council stubbornly stick to strategies that not only struggle to resolve conflicts but offer only hollow rhetoric about supporting women’s participation.

All speak loudly in favor of women’s rights and role inside the UN Security Council chamber, but for the rest of the year leading governments routinely prioritize other interests when it comes to international diplomacy. The standard group photograph of male delegates at any of the major peace talks on Syria or Yemen gives us a damning snapshot of just how far we still have to go.

When the US Security Council Resolution 2242 was adopted, mandating the UN to double its female police representation and reaffirming support for women in civil society, it enjoyed historic support. Unfortunately, in the time since, there has been very little action to back it up.

Friday’s Security Council annual debate will be a chance to reflect on the advances and challenges that have emerged since the adoption of Resolution 2242 and for members to recommit to back up their words with actions.

Several key areas of UN reform would also help: improving the number of women in senior UN positions, including in conflict missions, strengthening gender capacity in peacekeeping missions and assessments, and drastically increasing funding and other support for local women’s organizations.

Addressing these specifics will signal progress, but above all, we need a radical shift in mindsets and priorities to accelerate progress, with support for both the quantity and quality of women’s involvement in peace processes and political decision-making a key objective.

In a world seemingly frayed by growing divisions, with conflicts on the rise and record numbers of people forced from their homes, the continued male monopoly on resolving and preventing conflicts is not just anachronistic – it is a danger to us all.

The post Ending the Male Monopoly on Peace: Women Still Need More Seats at the Table appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Let’s Harness the Egalitarian Spirit of Sport for Global Cohesionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lets-harness-egalitarian-spirit-sport-global-cohesion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-harness-egalitarian-spirit-sport-global-cohesion http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lets-harness-egalitarian-spirit-sport-global-cohesion/#respond Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:19:25 +0000 Ann Therese Ndong Jatta and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152658 Ann Therese Ndong Jatta is Director UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa.
Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Football match to raise awareness on environmental issues in Watamu, Kenya jointly organized by UNESCO, UN Environment and UN Information Center. Credit: @UNESCO

By Ann Therese Ndong Jatta and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 24 2017 (IPS)

24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948.

In his message to the world the UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres remarked, “When we achieve human rights and human dignity for all people – they will build a peaceful, sustainable and just world”.

Sport has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives

Consider this. On assuming the presidency, one political masterstroke by the late Nelson Mandela was his use of sports to foster the country’s healing process. As hosts of the 2010 World Cup, white and black fans stood and cheered the country’s team together, forgetting past antagonisms.

Mandela said, “Sport can create hope where there was once only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. Sport has power to change the world.”

Sport eliminates barriers and stereotypes in a way few other human endeavors do, rendering innocuous differences in gender, religion, and cultures, and uplifting the importance of team work, discipline and rules of the game for a team to score and win. It is the ideal opportunity to teach team-building, peace and appreciation of the other person’s qualities and abilities.

A team implies a group of people linked to a common purpose. Though human beings learn and work together various professional and personal settings, sports and games strengthen human ties most, endearing most effectively the pain or joy of losing or winning.

That team spirit and a belief in promoting peace, justice, happiness for the whole of humanity are what define us at the United Nations. That is what drives what we do to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The values of sports are universal. Olympism is a philosophy that combines the qualities of body, mind and spirit. Blending sports with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational values of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

This is especially relevant today in a world where values are increasingly under threat, with wars, violent extremism, especially gender-based violence and civil conflicts becoming the order of the day.

Research has provided evidence of the benefits and outcomes of physical education and sports in schools, for both children and for educational systems, which include children’s physical, lifestyle, affective, social and cognitive development.

According to data from the Education for all Global Monitoring Report 2015, the number of children enrolled in primary schools in Sub-Saharan Africa rose by 75 % to 144 million between 1999 and 2012, and this is attributed partly to the abolition of school fees in countries like Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya, as well as to an increase in the number of teachers.

This is a population that is a potentially powerful force for cohesion if all these schools have compulsory physical education class.

At UNESCO, Values Education contributes to the development of self-confidence, healthy lifestyle choices, life skills, and an understanding of rules and rights. Values-based education is at the heart of the Kenya Curriculum Reform, supported jointly by UNESCO and UNICEF.

Sport is often seen as of secondary importance to the traditional or ‘legacy’ subjects. However, sensitizing young people to the universal values of sport, such as fairness, inclusion, equality and respect, can equip them with the knowledge and skills needed for the SDG 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

In East Africa, UNESCO together with members of the UN family is working tirelessly to build a culture of peace, human rights, gender equality and to tackle the social and human dimensions of climate change among other initiatives seeking social transformations for human dignity. Towards these values, we work with youth through sports and cultural activities to unleash their potential and make their dreams possible to achieve.

As enablers of youth growth and development, sport and social actions can lead to raising of awareness of other topics, like gender, domestic violence, drug abuse, breaking stereotypes, religion, race and identity.

Our imagination is the only limit to what sports can achieve for humanity. In a remarkable feat, during the 2016 Rio Olympics Games, a team of Refugees, comprising of 10 members from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria, used sports to break the cycle of poverty, hopelessness and to give courage to millions of people around the world about the power of will, discipline, excellence, solidarity and hard work. Through Sport, the team became the heroes, powerful and inspirational stories of triumph over adversity.

As we celebrate UN day today, our shoulders are squared for the task of giving our youth the tools they need to live happy, fulfilled lives, thus cascade their inner and outer healthy state of beings to a greater human and global cause.

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Lack of International Action on Rohingya Crisis Called a “Disgrace”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace/#respond Mon, 23 Oct 2017 22:29:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152655 As the crisis in Myanmar reaches unprecedented levels, frustration is at its peak as the international community remains slow to respond and act cohesively. Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh since the renewal of violence on August 25, making it the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world. The UN warns that up to […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 2017 (IPS)

As the crisis in Myanmar reaches unprecedented levels, frustration is at its peak as the international community remains slow to respond and act cohesively.

Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh since the renewal of violence on August 25, making it the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The UN warns that up to one million—representing the entire Muslim population of Rakhine state—could flee to the neighboring nation by the end of the year if the crisis continues.

Rohingya refugees have provided the outside world with glimpses of their horrific experiences, from villages being burned and attacked to women being raped by Burmese soldiers.

One 26-year-old Rohingya woman recounted her story to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) rapid response team, deployed to Bangladesh to assess the situation on the ground, stating:

“I woke up at 3 a.m. and my house was on fire. There was chaos, everyone was running everywhere, they were shooting to kill us, they took women and dragged them away to rape them. They did not spare anyone—even children were beaten and tortured…I have tried for a long time to live in peace, even during difficult times, but this attack was horrible.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the government’s campaign against the minority a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” while others have said that the violations may amount to crimes against humanity.

Those that are able to reach Bangladesh often arrive to no food or shelter and are at risk of disease outbreaks as the resource-strained South Asian nation struggles to cope with the influx.

Despite the evidence for the scale of violence and suffering, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has largely remained silent on the crisis while divisions in Security Council (UNSC) have prevented decisive progress towards any measure.

With no end in sight, IPS spoke to the Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures and the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Idriss Jazairy about the crisis in Myanmar, as well as his frustrations and appeals for action.

Q: What is your response to the crisis in Myanmar and what is the Geneva Centre doing to help end the crisis?

I have sent, to all members of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a letter appealing to them to organize a special session on the desperate situation of the Rohingyas that have been pushed back from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

I have not received one single answer.

About 650,000 people have been pushed out mercilessly—all of their property has been burned or destroyed, many have disappeared in large numbers, women have been raped, children have been killed—and nothing happens.

I know in terms of politics there are all sorts of elements that need to be taken into account, but there comes a time when a situation of a violation of human rights exceeds certain proportion, whatever the politics, we should speak up.

Otherwise it shows that, in the UNHRC, politics have definitely taken precedence over values and this would be the beginning of the end of this Council.

It would be enough to have 16 states taking the initiative for a special session to take place.

Can’t we find, in the whole of the membership, a few others that claim they are sensitive to human rights to respond and take this initiative?

In 2007, the UNHRC held a special session on Myanmar because there were some peaceful demonstrations that had been exposed to violent responses by the military.

The situation today is 100 times worse, so I cannot imagine why there isn’t a similar reaction.

Q: Do the atrocities in Myanmar amount to crimes against humanity or even genocide?

I am not qualified to say but I believe that some more qualified than myself have talked at least about ethnic cleansing.

It is a case of ethnic cleansing but no one has responded to my appeal for a special session which would in fact have had a dual purpose—first, to impose, under UN control, a return of these people that have been brutally thrown out of a country in which they were born and lived for generations and secondly, to come to the help of Bangladesh which is one of the poorest countries that finds it difficult to face these financial consequences of the mass arrival of refugees.

We therefore have a double moral obligation.

The lives of all 650,000 people who have lost their homes—doesn’t that justify just a one-day special session when we have special sessions about every other country, every other crisis in the world?

I do not understand that. My multilateral faith in human rights is being undermined.

Q: If such a special session were to happen, what are you hoping would result from that?

A recognition of the right of the Rohingyas to go back to their land, including a recognition of their status of citizens.

I am aware that this [crisis] is the consequence to a great extent of British colonizers who would take some labor from what was then India and bring them over to Myanmar to work.

The source of the problem goes back centuries but you can’t redo history. These people have been there for generations, sometimes hundreds of years.

There must be a proper law that gives them the right to citizenship—citizenship should not be based on race.

Bangladesh should also be given compensation and people or victims themselves must be given compensation for what they have undergone.

It is true that there has been a group of violent protestors that have carried out some unacceptable violent actions like attacking police stations and we would not condone these actions.

But let us have a commission of inquiry that looks into all the issues and submit an official report, including to determine the nature of the crimes in this awful situation.

Q: If the crisis continues, should the international community take more drastic measures? Some are pushing for an arms embargo or targeted financial sanctions, what are your thoughts on that?

I have always been hesitant about sanctions.

Myanmar was exposed to sanctions and then the sanctions were removed. Neither did they improve their performance when the sanctions were on nor obviously since the sanctions have been removed and it has now become even worse.

So for me, this is not a question of just sanctions.

It is a grave issue—I understand the Secretary-General raised the issue four times in the Security Council (UNSC)—and I hope that the international community and UN system can join forces in addressing every aspect of this situation.

But the UNHRC not having a special session on this now is a disgrace.

Q: What is your response to the current divisions within the Security Council on the crisis as both Russia and China cite issues of sovereignty and ask to exercise “patience”?

This is why I say: I understand the politics behind these issues but I do feel that the situation has reached such a peak that there must be action.

The UNSC provides the politics, and the UNHRC provides the ethics. But where are the ethics now?

Idriss Jazairy is the former Algerian Ambassador and has long worked with the UN and other organizations.

Among other high-level positions, he has been the President of UN agency IFAD and the Chief Executive of a consortium of international organizations ACORD.

In 2015, Jazairy was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

A ministerial-level pledging conference is set to be held in Geneva on 23 October to help meet the most urgent needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

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Innovation for Climate-Smart Agriculture Key to Ending Hunger in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/#comments Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:15:32 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152645 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Vaccination of live stock in Samburu County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/LUIS TATO

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya , Oct 23 2017 (IPS)

Some parts of Kenya are reeling from the effects of probably the worst drought in the last 20 years. With nearly 3.4 million people food insecure, Kenya’s food security prognosis looks gloomy, with climate change and natural resource depletion set to pose even greater risks in the long term.

Rising temperatures and unpredicatble rainy seasons could destroy crop yield gains made in the recent past, and the threats of extreme weather such as flooding, drought and pests becoming more real. These will make production more difficult and spike food prices, hurting the prospects of reaching SDG 2 on ending hunger.

Already, many countries in Africa have seen a decline in food security, with other key factors contributing to this deterioration being urban growth, greater household expenditures on food and decrease in international food aid programmes.

The recent drought across Eastern and Southern Africa has slowed down programmes for adaptation and resilience-building, forcing a shift towards alleviating hunger and malnutrition-related crises.

Now observing 40 years since opening operations in Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that in the first quarter of 2017, 2.6 million Kenyans were already classified as severely food insecure. Up to three consecutive years of poor rains have led to diminished food production and exhausted people’s coping capacities particularly in the North Eastern, Eastern and Coastal areas of Kenya.

FAO is at the centre of response initiatives that require significant collaboration by the national and county governments, the private sector, non-profit organisations and other stakeholders, whose objectives include developing structurally-sound food systems and fixing dysfunctional markets.

One example is an agreement between FAO and Kenya signed in early 2017 to provide immediate assistance for affected pastoral households in the country. So far, it has provided animal feed and water, animal health programmes and purchase of animals for slaughter (de-stocking).

A return on investment study carried out by FAO in Kenya in July 2017 revealed that providing animal feed for key breeding stock – at a cost of USD 92 per household – ensured their survival and increased milk production. As a result, there was a return of almost USD 3.5 on every USD 1 spent.

FAO’s highly committed and passionate Kenya Representative, Dr. Gabriel Rugalemasays, “given the long-term threats, sustainable agriculture as envisaged under SDG 2 calls for innovation towards climate-smart agriculture. Some of the goals must be better seeds, better storage, more water-efficient crops and technologies that put agricultural data into the hands of farmers”.

FAO Representative Gabriel Rugalema visits Nadzua Zuma in Kilifi. Nadzua lost 36 of her 40 cattle during Kenya’s 2016-2017 drought. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


It also requires looking into areas with untapped potential. This is what the FAO-led Blue Growth initiative aims to achieve towards building resilience of coastal communities and restoring the productive potential of fisheries and aquaculture.

Kenya has a large aquatic biodiversity, with estimates of sustainable yield of between 150,000 and 300,000 metric tonnes, while the current production level is only about 9,000 metric tonnes per year. Optimal harnessing of resources is often hindered by infrastructural limitations and inappropriate fishing craft and gear.

Targeted improvements include regulatory changes, research and development, and access to markets, all aimed at empowering the small fish farmers who contribute consistently to the seafood supply chain.

As Africa’s population continues to grow, the continent can only harness the demographic dividend by creating a huge working-class youth base. Agriculture is undoubtedly the one sector that can absorb most of the unemployed young people in Kenya as well as semi-skilled to highly skilled labour.

FAO is part of the efforts by the government of Kenya to create opportunities that will present youth with the allure and career progression currently lacking in agriculture.

Through National Youth in Agribusiness Strategy (2017-2021), Kenya seeks to enable access by youth to friendly financial services for agricultural entrepreneurship, improve access to markets, promote climate-smart agricultural technologies and address cross-cutting challenges including gender disparities, cultural barriers, alcohol and substance abuse and HIV & AIDS.

A young man, inspecting and packaging fingerlings for sale – Kakamega County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


FAO together with the United Nations family in Kenya is determined to work with the government and people of Kenya to turn the country’s youthful population into an agricultural asset, because agriculture presents the best opportunity for attaining Vision 2030 and achieve SDG 2.

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Global Interfaith LGBTIQ Leaders Convene at UN for Expert-level Dialoguehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/global-interfaith-lgbtiq-leaders-convene-un-expert-level-dialogue/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:43:14 +0000 Patricia Ackerman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152638 Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

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Rev. Patricia Ackerman is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, and the New York UN Representative for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

By Rev. Patricia Ackerman
NEW YORK, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

On September 29, 2017, Yvette Abrahams, an indigenous religious leader from Cape Town, South Africa who served as the country’s Commissioner For Gender Equality for five years, gasped when she learned that South Africa had just voted in favor of United Nations Human Rights Council resolution condemning the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts. She could not believe that the United States had not.

Rev. Patricia Ackerman

Just the month before, waves of concern arose in her as she read the text of the Nashville Statement, an anti-LGBTIQ document authored by the conservative Christian Right in the US, with the aim of equipping pastors with a consolidated justification for excluding LGBTIQ people in both spiritual and civic life.

Abrahams herself has lived through the effects of US based anti-LGBTIQ efforts that are are exported to Africa, leading to deaths, rapes, and beatings. Working against anti-LGBTIQ violence in South Africa and across the continent has been her life’s work, so Abrahams immediately noted that many of the Nashville Statement signers had also funded anti-gay legislation across Africa.

This is why she plans to travel to the UN Headquarters in New York on October 26th for the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue, to begin a meaningful and healing conversation with her religious opponents.

Abrahams is joined by LGBTIQ faith leaders around the world – including supporters of the Nashville Statement – for the first expert-level international discussion by interfaith LGBTIQ religious leaders at the UN about how to work together to end abuses, violence, beatings, and murders of LGBTIQ people, often because of religiously sanctioned beliefs.

Yvette Abrahams knows that this dialogue can save lives. She was a key player during End Hate Campaign in the South African West Cape, working to highlight hate violence against LBGTIQ people.

“As late as 2008 there were no monitoring mechanisms or reporting systems for such crimes, and political leaders did not even recognize this as a problem”. She recalls a conversation she had with a Ugandan activist:

“We realized we were both dealing with criminalization, and then police abuse, which made reporting almost impossible. In Uganda, the arrests of LBT/Kuchu people weren’t always recorded because the police were using sexuality to extort money instead of pressing charges – making it difficult to track police abuse.

She explained to me how if you’re arrested in Uganda, the police lock you up and intimidate you, and because they steal your money, they won’t report the arrest. This violence has been made invisible.

Abrahams is joined by an LGBTIQ Baptist minister from Uganda named Brian Byamukama, a Baptist minister from Uganda, who has seen first-hand how the efforts of the Christian Right at the UN have rippled out to his community. In Uganda, same-sex acts are punishable by death.

Abrahams and Byamukama recount the story of a Ugandan lesbian woman who was raped: “So many people – church people and members of my own family – told me that this was God’s way of punishing me for being a lesbian. Because I was unwilling to ‘change’, they said, God was using this method to teach me a very hard lesson…I was hurt in two ways; firstly I was dealing with the pain and humiliation of the rape, and secondly I suffered because of my people’s judgement.”

Both leaders say that rape as an ‘instrument of God’ is common in South Africa and Uganda. A number of conservative, moderate, and progressive religious organizations such as C-Fam, The Salvation Army, The Lutheran Church, numerous Catholic religious orders in consultation with the UN including Sisters of Mercy, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Big Ocean Women, many other are attending.

Noticeably absent from the consultation will be the Office of the Holy See at the UN, the Vatican. Father Roger Landry, Attaché, has stated he “doubts they will attend.” About their participation in the UN event, Byamukama said: “This is where we stand together or fall apart. We cannot afford to waste energy fighting each other. The UN is the closest thing we have to a world government. It is where conversations about love and justice should happen on a planetary scale.”

Religious leaders participating at the Ethics of Reciprocity dialogue hail from Uganda, Malawi, Tajikistan, Hong Kong, Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Ghana, and Brazil. This is the first time LGBTIQ faith leaders will be formally addressing communities at the UN, where international leaders will hear these stories from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Indigenous, and Buddhist faith traditions.

There was also the US’s recent affirmative vote in the UN resolution on a ban on the death penalty for homosexuality as a renewed call for religious leaders to commit to end to criminalization and violence of LGBTIQ people. “The death penalty for consensual same-sex acts currently exists in 13 countries, but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear that all of us are born free and equal. It’s time for faith leaders to come together where we agree, which is to treat others the way we would like to be treated – free from violence. The golden rule of do unto others is something we can all agree on.”

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Good Men Should Not be Quiet Spectators in Sexual Assaultshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/good-men-not-quiet-spectators-sexual-assaults/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 14:34:52 +0000 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152628 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

The pain and anger of more than a million people who tweeted #MeToo in the last week have crowded social media with personal stories of sexual harassment or assault.

This virtual march of solidarity marks both the urgency of finding a shared voice and the hidden scale of assault that did not previously have a register. When women are almost invisible, when they are not really seen, it seems that people do not have to care what happens to them.

Protesters gather outside the Lahore Press Club in the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province on July 12, 2016 to demand justice for victims of sexual violence. Credit: IPS

This online outcry is important because it is giving voice to acts that are public, but that are silenced and neutralized by convention. It is a cruel privilege to be able to harass a girl or a woman with impunity, but in so many cases this is the norm.

What we are seeing currently, as women build and reinforce each other’s accounts, and as men join in to acknowledge their role, is a validation of the rightness of speaking out. We are seeing also the strength in numbers that comes from accumulated individual experiences that are characteristically undeclared.

As the crowd builds of those telling their story, we see a picture of real life begin to emerge. A critical mass is growing that proves how much goes wrong when people can act with impunity in a culture of silence.

The online wave joins the other mass movements collectively expressing women’s activism: the Latin American ‘ni una menos’ marches to protest violence against women and particularly against the least privileged; the women’s marches that took place across the world earlier this year in support of women’s rights and other freedoms; and the marches in Poland and Ireland against abortion bans.

The blanket of silence has also shielded perpetrators of assaults on LGBTI communities and others who are more vulnerable for reasons of ethnicity, poverty, or age. These women are the ones most affected, least visible and have the most to gain from the collective strength of voices building peer pressure and culture change.

After all, it was Tarana Burke, a New York community organizer serving young women of colour who originated ‘me too’, and her friend Alyssa Milano who picked it up and became the catalyst for the billions who have now been reached by its message.

The full and free participation of women in society, in politics, and in the workplace is essential for women’s voices to be heard and for their rights to be respected. The more women there are who take on senior representation roles across public and private sectors, the more opportunities there are for change in the culture of invisibility and impunity, where more powerful men are able to prey on women. Sexual and all other forms of harassment at work, home and outside the home are not acceptable and must not be ignored.

Casual indifference, and people saying “it’s nothing” have to stop. The number of men who have joined this campaign is promising but far from being enough (30 per cent in one report). It has already been too long that permissive blindness is the norm.

This is about both women and men changing their response to acts of sexual aggression and acting in solidarity to make it visible and unacceptable. Good men should not be quiet spectators.

We need to have all women empowered to speak, their rights and bodies respected, and behaviours established and entrenched as normal that let no one off the hook. No more impunity.

We salute the thousands of women who have been fighting against all violations of women’s and girls’ rights and call for renewed investment in the fight to end all violence against women.

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An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:54:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152578 While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health. In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls […]

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A mother and her child from West Point, a low-income neighbourhood of Monrovia, Liberia. The 10-worst countries to be a mother in are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health.

In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls from a productive and prosperous future.

“It’s not just about money,” Editor of UNFPA’s report Richard Kollodge told IPS.

“Economic inequality reinforces sexual and reproductive health inequality and vice versa,” he continued.

Despite its recognition as a right, access to sexual and reproductive health is far from universally realized and it is the poorest, less educated, and rural women that continue to bear the brunt of such inequalities.

Globally, women and girls in the poorest 20 percent of households have little or no access to contraception and skilled birth attendants, leading to more unintended pregnancies and higher risk of illness or death from pregnancy or child birth.

In the developing world, 43 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and this is more prevalent among rural, poor, and less educated women.

These inequalities are particularly prevalent in West and Central Africa.

In Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Nigeria, use of skilled birth care is at less than 20 percent among the poorest women compared to at least 70 percent among the wealthiest.

The lack of power to choose whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit
girls’ education, delay their entry into the paid labour force, and reduce earnings, trapping women in poverty and marginalization.

“The absence of these services in these women’s lives leads them to be poor or makes them even poorer,” said Kollodge.

A woman with no access to family planning may be unable to join the labor force because she has more children than intended.

In high-fertility developing countries, women’s participation in the labor force remains low, from 20 percent in South Asia to 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once in the paid labor force, underlying gender inequalities lead to women earning less than men for the same types of work.

Though the gender wage gap has decreased in recent year, women still earn 77 percent of what men earn globally.

At the current pace, it will take more than 70 years before the gender wage gap is closed.

Further gaps can be seen for women who have children—a “motherhood penalty,” Kollodge said—as well as for women of color and those with less education.

Illiterate people earn up to 42 percent less than their literate counterparts and a majority of the world’s estimated 758 million illiterate adults are women.

This can also be traced to harmful gender norms that keep girls from school, and creates a vicious cycle that keeps women in the bottom rung of the economic ladder and without access to sexual and reproductive health services.

If all girls stayed in and received secondary education, it’s estimated that child marriages would decrease by 64 percent, early births by 59 percent, and births per woman by 42 percent.

Among the countries that have made most progress is Rwanda, which has effectively closed the gap between poor and rich households in access to contraception.

Kollodge told IPS that Rwanda’s achievement shows that a low-income country can advance access to sexual and reproductive health.

“The policies that [countries] adopt really make a difference. There are things you can do, regardless of your GDP, to improve well-being and reduce inequality in sexual and reproductive health and rights,” he said.

Rwanda’s success is partly due to the expanded availability and integration of family planning services in each of the country’s villages and health centers.

But inequality in sexual and reproductive health is not just a developing country issue, Kollodge noted.

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American woman.

Meanwhile, the government is working to repeal health coverage which risks returning to a time where many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

Already, the Donald Trump administration has rolled back access to contraception, affecting up to 60 million women.

Elsewhere, the U.S.’ decision to cut funding to UNFPA is affecting the health and lives of thousands of women.

In 2016, the government provided 69 million to UNFPA programs, helping avert almost one million unintended pregnancies and prevent 2,300 maternal deaths.

“Any reduction to UNFPA has a direct impact on women and adolescent girls in developing countries,” said Kollodge.

The report calls to make information and services more available and accessible and recommends a number of actions including increasing access to child care which can help women join the labor force and climb out of poverty.

This will lead to not only better reproductive health outcomes, but also a healthier economy and society as a whole.

“If you eliminate these inequalities in accessing sexual and reproductive health and thus give women control over their own lives, you are going to make a lot of headway in economic inequality,” Kollodge told IPS.

He said that though eliminating inequalities in sexual and reproductive health alone will not be enough, countries will never achieve economic inequality if half of the world’s population lacks access to health services and rights.

“And if you continue to have extreme economic inequality, it drags down whole economies and prohibits countries from rising out of poverty fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Kollodge continued, pointing to SDG 1 which aims to end poverty by 2030.

The internationally adopted SDGs also include a goal to reduce inequality within and among countries by accelerating income growth of the poorest 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.

“If you don’t do that, you are never going to achieve shared prosperity,” Kollodge said.

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