Inter Press Service » Gender http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:48:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.14 A Crisis of Overweight and Obesity in Latin America and the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/a-crisis-of-overweight-and-obesity-in-latin-america-and-the-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-crisis-of-overweight-and-obesity-in-latin-america-and-the-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/a-crisis-of-overweight-and-obesity-in-latin-america-and-the-caribbean/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 14:41:44 +0000 Eve Crowley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148626 The change in the eating habits in Latin America and the Caribbean has led to an increase in overweight and obesity in the region. Credit: Eduardo Bermúdez / FAORLC

The change in the eating habits in Latin America and the Caribbean has led to an increase in overweight and obesity in the region. Credit: Eduardo Bermúdez / FAORLC

By Eve Crowley
SANTIAGO, Jan 23 2017 (IPS)

Obesity and overweight have spread like a wildfire throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, threatening the health, well-being and food and nutritional security of millions of people.

According to the new publication of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security, close to 58 percent of the inhabitants of the region are overweight (360 million people) while obesity affects 140 million people, 23 percent of the regional population.

In almost all countries of the region, overweight affects at least half the population, with the highest rates observed in the Bahamas (69 percent), Mexico (64 percent) and Chile (63 percent).

Over the last 20 years there has been a rapid increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity across the population, regardless of their economic, ethnic or place of residence, although the risk is higher in net food-importing regions and countries, which consume more ultra-processed foods.

Eve Crowley, acting regional representative of FAO for Latin American and the Caribbean. Credit: Max Valencia/FAORLC

Eve Crowley, acting regional representative of FAO for Latin American and the Caribbean. Credit: Max Valencia/FAORLC

This situation is particularly serious for women, since in more than 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the rate of female obesity is 10  percentage points higher than that of men. The impact has also been considerable in children: 3.9 million children under 5 live with overweight in our region, 2.5 million in South America, 1.1 million in Central America and 200 000 in the Caribbean.

How did we get here? According to FAO and PAHO, a key factor has been the change in the region’s eating habits.

Economic growth in recent decades, increased urbanization, higher average income and the integration of the region into international markets reduced the consumption of traditional preparations based on cereals, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, and increased consumption of ultra-processed products, with high amounts of sugars, salt and fats.

To curb the rise in overweight and obesity, countries in the region can draw on some of the valuable experiences they gained in their fight against hunger. Today, undernourishment affects only 5.5 percent of the regional population, while stunting in children has also dropped from 24.5 percent in 1990 to 11.3 percent in 2015, a reduction of 7.8 million children.

However, it should be noted that although hunger has declined, it has not been eradicated: there are still 34 million people unable to access the food they require for a healthy and active life, which means that the region faces a double burden of malnutrition.

According to the FAO / PAHO Panorama, combating both malnutrition and obesity requires a healthy diet that includes fresh, healthy, nutritious and sustainably produced foods. The key to progress is to promote sustainable food systems that link agriculture, food, nutrition and health.

In order to eradicate all forms of malnutrition, States should encourage the sustainable production of fresh, safe and nutritious foods as well as ensuring their diversity, supply and access, especially for the most vulnerable in regions that are net importers of foods.

These measures should be complemented with policies to strengthen family farming, short production and food marketing circuits, public procurement systems linked to healthy school feeding programs and nutritional education programs.

Fiscal measures should also be implemented to discourage the consumption of junk food, improve food labeling and warnings with regard to high sugar, fat and salt content, and regulate the advertising of unhealthy foods to reduce their consumption.

These policies are more urgent than ever in light of the current signs of stagnation in regional economic growth, which pose a significant risk to food and nutrition security.

Governments should maintain and increase their support to the most vulnerable to avoid undoing their advances in the fight against hunger and to reverse the current rise in obesity and overweight, working together through initiatives such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’s Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication.

Although there are significant variations according to subregions and countries, Latin America and the Caribbean considered as a whole has a food availability that far surpasses the requirements of all its population, thanks to its great agricultural performance. However, in several countries, this process of agricultural development is currently unsustainable, due to the consequences it is having on the ecosystems of the region. The sustainability of food supply and its future diversity are under threat unless we change the way we do things.

The region must make more efficient and sustainable use of land and other natural resources. Countries must improve their techniques of food production, storage and processing, and put a stop to food losses and waste, as 127 million tons of food end up in the trash every year in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To meet the Sustainable Development Goals, and especially SDG2 / Zero Hunger, which aims to eradicate undernourishment by 2030, the region needs to act on the complex interactions between food security, sustainability, agriculture, nutrition and health, to build a hunger and malnutrition free Latin America and the Caribbean.

The eradication of hunger and malnutrition is not a task that can be left to the indifferent hand of the market. On the contrary, governments must exercise their will and sovereignty to develop specific public policies that attack the conditions that perpetuate hunger, overweight and obesity, as well as their consequences on the health of adults and children. Only by turning the fight against malnutrition into State policy can we put a stop to the rise of malnutrition in the region.

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Harvesting Peace: How Rural Development Works for Conflict Preventionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/harvesting-peace-how-rural-development-works-for-conflict-prevention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harvesting-peace-how-rural-development-works-for-conflict-prevention http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/harvesting-peace-how-rural-development-works-for-conflict-prevention/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 13:18:59 +0000 Josefina Stubbs http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148622 Josefina Stubbs is candidate for President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). She has served in IFAD as Associate Vice-President of Strategy and Knowledge from 2014 to 2016 and as Director of Latin America and the Caribbean from 2008 and 2014.]]> Fair and regulated access to the Mount Kenya’s national Park helps diffuse tensions among the members of Mount Kenya’s neighboring communities competing for the forest’s natural resources. Credit: Anna Manikowska Di Giovanni

Fair and regulated access to the Mount Kenya’s national Park helps diffuse tensions among the members of Mount Kenya’s neighboring communities competing for the forest’s natural resources. Credit: Anna Manikowska Di Giovanni

By Josefina Stubbs
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic and ROME, Jan 23 2017 (IPS)

The year 2016 has seen a massive population flow, unprecedented in its range and reach. Millions of people have fled war-torn communities, natural disasters and violence, some overflowing neighboring countries’ refugee camps, some crossing perilous seas and walking hundreds of miles to reach safer grounds, others seeking refuge in countries half a world away. Thousands have died on their way to safety, countless more were victims of violence and abuse, among them many women and children.

Conflict and violence force people out of their communities, leaving them without resources or means to start afresh. They stall the lives of millions of people, depriving adults of their dignity and children of their childhood. According to the most recent UNHCR data available, 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced in 2015 and that figure has been growing at a rate of 34,000 people per day. Of these, 21.3 million are refugees and half of them under the age of 18. Refugees put enormous pressure on receiving countries, where this sudden population increases puts their host countries at risk of food shortages and competition for limited employment opportunities.

In rural areas, conflict has devastating consequences. Being more sparsely populated and more difficult to police, rural spaces offer relatively safe havens for violent groups to gain ground and base their operations, terrorizing rural communities in the process.

This is one way that conflict and rural development are related. In fact, the relationship between the two is complex and tightly intertwined. In addition to brutally affecting rural communities, conflict often stems from competition for land and natural resources, such as water. Poverty, lack of employment and opportunities of a better future fuels resentment and offers extremists fertile recruiting grounds. When conflict erupts, rural development becomes difficult, if not impossible. Conversely, prosperous rural areas are more resilient to conflict. Investing in rural areas with the aim to strengthen rural communities in food production, business creation, productive as well as basic infrastructure and conflict mitigation helps prevent conflict escalation, promotes stability and reduces food insecurity that results from massive displacement of famers.

In Burundi, a community-owned livestock project contributed to build solidarity and reduce conflict between village members despite a raging civil war. Credit: Anna Manikowska Di Giovanni

In Burundi, a community-owned livestock project contributed to build solidarity and reduce conflict between village members despite a raging civil war. Credit: Anna Manikowska Di Giovanni

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has considerable experience in preventing conflict and buffering its impact through investments in inclusive, sustainable rural transformation in Africa, the Middle East and in Latin America. By investing in rural development, we can provide rural people the option to stay and the strength to resist the onset of violence. By focusing on agriculture production and rural business development, countries become more resilient to food shortages and natural resource degradation. This is particularly important in countries that heavily depend on food imports and who have little or no autonomy in food production. On the other hand, rural business development offers alternatives to farmers and producers to diversify their activities and income sources, and invest in their territories, making them more likely to survive bad harvest as well as natural or man-made disasters. Building rural centers of diverse economic activities is key to reducing the pressure from highly populated urban areas and to creating opportunities for youth to plan their future in the countryside.

Development is a complex process – a social, cultural, religious, political, economic and technological puzzle in which the pieces constantly change shapes. Investment in inclusive rural transformation strengthens the fabric of the society that will build the puzzle and hold the pieces together for years to come. In conflict zones, the coordinated work and investment of the international community is crucial and should be geared toward providing the tools and knowledge to rural organizations and local institutions to take ownership of their communities’ development. It should support local and national authorities how represent the people to create policies that favor sustainable and peaceful growth, and to gain the skills and tools to negotiate, enforce and maintain peace and security. While contributing to achieving Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, it is also a moral obligation.

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A Women’s March on the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/a-womens-march-on-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-womens-march-on-the-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/a-womens-march-on-the-world/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:27:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148588 Participants in the 2015 New York March for Gender Equality and Women's Rights. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Participants in the 2015 New York March for Gender Equality and Women's Rights. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jan 20 2017 (IPS)

Just one day after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands of women are expected to attend one of the largest demonstrations in history for gender equality.

Starting out as a social media post by a handful of concerned women, the Women’s March on Washington quickly transformed, amassing over 400 supporting organisations representing a range of issues including affordable and accessible healthcare, gender-based violence, and racial equality.

“It’s a great show of strength and solidarity about how much women’s rights matter—and women’s rights don’t always take the front page headlines,” Nisha Varia, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division told IPS.

Despite the variety of agendas being put forth for the march, the underlying message is that women’s rights are human rights, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA Margaret Huang told IPS.

“All people must be treated equally and with respect to their rights, no matter who is in positions of authority and who has been elected,” she said.

Organisers and partners have stressed that the march is not anti-Trump, but rather is one that is concerned about the current and future state of women’s rights.

“It’s not just about one President or one candidate, there’s a much bigger banner that we are marching for…our rights should not be subject to the whims of an election,” Kelly Baden, Center for Reproductive Rights’ Interim Senior Director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy told IPS.

The health system also risks returning to a time when many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

“It’s about women, not Trump,” she continued.

The rhetoric used during the election is among the concerns for marchers as it reflects a troubling future for women’s rights.

During his campaign, President-elect Trump made a series of sexist remarks from calling Fox News host Megyn Kelly a “bimbo” to footage showing him boasting of sexual assault. Though Trump downplayed his remarks as “locker room talk,” his rhetoric is now being reflected in more practical terms through cabinet nominations.

Huang pointed to nominee for Attorney-General Jeff Sessions who has a long and problematic record on women’s rights including voting against the reauthorisation of the Violence Against Women Act, rejecting anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and opposing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 which addresses pay discrimination.

During her confirmation hearing, Nominee for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wouldn’t say if she would uphold title IX which requires universities to act on sexual assault on campuses.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

The new administration has also recently announced cuts to the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Grants, which distribute funds to organisations working to end sexual assault and domestic violence.

“There is no question that we’re going to have some challenges in terms of increasing protections for women’s rights over the next few years,” said Huang to IPS.

Meanwhile, Varia pointed to other hard fought gains that risk being overturned including the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, which U.S. Congress is currently working to repeal, provides health coverage to almost 20 million Americans by prohibiting insurers from denying insurance plans due to pre-existing conditions and by providing subsidies to low-income families to purchase coverage.

If repealed, access to reproductive services such as contraception and even information will become limited. The health system also risks returning to a time when many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

“Denying women access to the types of insurers or availability of clinics that can help them get pre-natal checks and can help them control their fertility by having access to contraception—these are all the type of holistic care that needs to be made available,” Varia said.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where the number of women dying as a result of child birth is increasing, Varia noted.

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 women. This constitutes the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, closer in numbers to Mexico and Egypt than Italy and Japan, according to World Bank statistics.

A UN Working Group also expressed their dismay over restrictive health legislation, adding that the U.S. is falling behind international standards.

Though the ACA repeal and potential defunding of Planned Parenthood, another key reproductive services provider, threatens all women, some communities are especially in danger.

Francis Madi, a marcher and Long Island Regional Outreach Associate for the New York Immigration Coalition, told IPS that immigrant and undocumented immigrant women face additional barriers in accessing health care.

Most state and federal forms of coverage such as the ACA prohibits providing government-subsidised insurance to anyone who cannot prove a legal immigration status. Even for those who can, insurance is still hard or too expensive to acquire, making programs like Planned Parenthood essential.

“I can’t even do my job as an organiser asking for immigrant rights if I’m not able to access the services I need to live here,” Madi told IPS.

Madi highlighted the opportunity the march brings in working together through a range of issues and identities.

“I’m going because as a woman and an immigrant and an undocumented immigrant as well…it’s very important to attend this march to show we can work together on our issues,” she told IPS.

“If we don’t organize with each other, we can’t really achieve true change,” she continued.

In its policy platform, organisers of the Women’s March on Washington also stressed the importance of diversity, inclusion and intersectionality in women’s rights.

“Our liberation is bound in each other’s,” they said.

This includes not only women in the U.S., but across the world.

“There’s definitely going to be an international voice in this, not just U.S. activists,” Huang told IPS.

Marching alongside women in Washington D.C. on January 21st will be women in nearly 60 other countries participating in sister marches from Argentina to Saudi Arabia to Australia.

“Women are concerned that a loss of a champion in the U.S. government will have significant impacts in other countries,” Huang said. Of particular concern is the reinstatement of the “global gag rule” which stipulates that foreign organisations receiving any U.S. family planning funding cannot provide information or perform abortions, even with funding from other sources. The U.S. does not fund these services itself.

The policy not only restricts basic right to speech, but analysis shows that it has harmed the health of low-income women by limiting access to family planning services.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest family planning bilateral donor.

Though the march is important symbolic act of solidarity, it is just the first step.

“We are also part of a bigger movement—we need to come together and be in solidarity on Saturday and then we need to keep doing the hard work [during[ the long days and months and years of organising that we have ahead of us,” Baden said.

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UN Meeting Says No to Anti-Muslim Hatredhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/un-meeting-says-no-to-anti-muslim-hatred/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 23:49:48 +0000 Andy Hazel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148538 Anti-muslim hatred has been particularly targeted at women. Credit:  UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Anti-muslim hatred has been particularly targeted at women. Credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

By Andy Hazel
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 17 2017 (IPS)

The rise in anti-muslim attitudes around the world prompted a special UN meeting Tuesday, just days before the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump whose controversial policies have drawn on anti-Muslim sentiments.

As if to illustrate just how easily noble intentions are misinterpreted, co-opted and misused, the event’s hashtag #No2Hatred was quickly taken over by nefarious social media actors and became an outlet for angry political diatribe.

“Anti-muslim hatred does not occur in a vacuum,” said David Saperstein, American Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom at the event. “The rise of xenophobia across the world creates challenges that focus our attention and the data leaves us no doubt that this is happening.”

Saperstein quoted studies showing a massive rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence, France has seen a 223 percent increase in attacks on Muslims between 2014 and 2015, the British investigative group TELL MAMA reported a 326 percent increase in abuse and public attacks on Muslims in the UK over the same period. A 2016 study found 72 percent of  Hungarians admit to a negative view of Muslims.
"Most Muslim hate crime is against women and I would encourage everyone to consider the gender-specific aspects to this violence," -- Richard Arbeiter, the Director-General, Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, Global Affairs Canada.

“Underreporting is a very serious structural problem that obscures these numbers. The silencing effect is enormous and we must resolve to confront this,” Saperstein said.

“I sincerely regret just how necessary these deliberations have become,” said Richard Arbeiter, the Director-General, Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, Global Affairs Canada. “Most Muslim hate crime is against women and I would encourage everyone to consider the gender-specific aspects to this violence.”

Panels looked at civil society building how governments could best combat anti-Muslim discrimination, and positive narratives to promote inclusion. Several topics recurred for discussion; how best to engage with political actors and organisations of different beliefs, and how to counter misinformation online.

The American Jewish Committee’s Muslim-Jewish relations director, Mr Robert Silverman reinforced the idea of creating powerful messages by finding alliances and shared priorities with unlikely groups.

“Too often initiatives result in people speaking within bubbles to each other. In a country like the United States or in a place like Europe, we need to get out of our bubbles and reach out to the unlikely and unorthodox partners.”

“You should focus on the common ground,” he continued. “Don’t try to bring in an issue like climate change. Just focus narrowly on the common grounds.”

European Commission Coordinator on Combating anti-Muslim hatred David Friggieri outlined his meeting with the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google where “open and frank discussion” lead to the enforcement of the European Union’s free speech laws in an effort to counter anti-Muslim sentiment. The ‘red line’ agreed to by the companies and the European law, he told IPS, was one of incitement.

“We have a law prohibiting incitement to violence or hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity or nationality,” said Friggieri. “We are monitoring the situation with them every few months. We have had our first monitoring and there are some improvements but we look forward to seeing more.”

“In terms of the really bad type of hate speech such as incitement to violence, we look at: how are they taking it down? How long before they take it down? What responses does the company give to individuals who notify and to trusted flaggers? Ultimately the aim is to take down (from the internet) the worst type of incitement to violence.”

In a similar effort to address the recent increase in hate speech and anti-Muslim rhetoric, Moiz Bokhari, advisor to the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation spoke of the Center for Dialogue, Peace and Understanding a newly established website that provides foundations to deconstruct dangerous narratives. The site is aimed at addressing the potential for crimes, radicalisation and to “counter all types of radical extremist discourse in order to delegitimise the violent and manipulative acts committed in the name of religion, ideology or claims of cultural superiority.”

 The High Level Forum on Combating Anti-Muslim Discrimination and Hatred was dominated by discussion of how to address anti-Muslim sentiment and increase the  message of tolerance and inclusion. The forum was convened by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations and the Permanent Missions of the United States and Canada.

UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres used his introductory address to reaffirm the recently-launched initiative Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An outcome from the Summit for Refugees, the strategy is designed to strengthen the bonds between refugees migrants and host countries and communities.

Speakers throughout the day highlighted bipartisan interfaith success stories: the Canadian town that raised money to rebuild a mosque that had been burned down following the Paris terror attacks, the Norwegian mosque that was protected from attack by Oslo’s Jewish community, the power of positive stories of Muslims in the news and popular culture, and the success of Sadiq Khan who overcame a campaign rife with xenophobic rhetoric to become the first Muslim Mayor of London.

“Politics is moving against us, but local politics not so much,” said Catherine Orsborn, director of interfaith anti-Islamophobia campaign group Shoulder to Shoulder.

Several panellists highlighted the importance of establishing relationships with local political and law enforcement agencies so that any future instances Islamophobia could be dealt with more effectively.

Friends of Europe’s Director Europe and Geopolitics Alfiaz Vaiya ended the discussion on civil society and coalition building with an optimistic note: “The political climate is very toxic, but it’s about politicians being able to sell and be confident in selling a strong narrative on inclusion and diversity. I think youth are the way forward, we see how they vote we see how they follow progressive trends and we should encourage more youth to get involved in conversations like this.”

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Bangladesh’s Women Journalists Rise Against the Oddshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/bangladeshs-women-journalists-rise-against-the-odds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladeshs-women-journalists-rise-against-the-odds http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/bangladeshs-women-journalists-rise-against-the-odds/#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2017 13:44:10 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148466 Wahida Zaman of United News of Bangladesh. Photo Courtesy of Wahida Zaman.

Wahida Zaman of United News of Bangladesh. Photo Courtesy of Wahida Zaman.

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Jan 11 2017 (IPS)

Journalism is a profession that attracts both sexes, but social taboos and hostile office climates have kept the numbers of women working in Bangladesh’s media sector dismally low. Still, a new generation of women is stepping up, with the support of their path-breaking colleagues.

According to an October 2016 report by senior female journalist Shahnaz Munni of News 24, a private TV channel in Bangladesh, women journalists in Bangladesh’s media industry account for only 5 percent in print and 25 percent in electronic media.“You have to face some obstacles, some real challenges. And they start straight from your own home." --Wahida Zaman

Braving these odds and obstacles, young female graduates are increasingly joining the profession. Wahida Zaman, for example, recently joined United News of Bangladesh (UNB), an independent wire service, as an apprentice sub-editor.

“Unlike many other classmates of mine, both male and female, I chose to study journalism by choice. Before being a journalist, I was actually a photographer. Nothing thrills me more than the thought that journalism can give me all these opportunities in one package,” Zaman told IPS.

“I can go to places, meet new people, get to know new stories — stories of both successful and unsuccessful people, and of course take lots of photographs. That’s how my dream of being a journalist started blooming.”

But, she said, being a woman and a journalist at the same time is not so easy in real life. “You have to face some obstacles, some real challenges. And they start straight from your own home,” Zaman added.

There is often resistance among family members, who want their women to be ‘safe’, she said.

“First of all you’ll have to convince your family that journalism is not a ‘risky’ profession at all for you. In our society, you’ll often get undermined for being a woman. You cannot go far because you’re a woman, you cannot move alone because you’re a woman, you cannot work at late night because you’re a woman, you cannot be brave enough to do investigative reporting because you’re a woman — and excuses keep coming.”

Nadia Sharmeen, a reporter at Ekattor TV, a private television channel in Bangladesh, came under attack in 2013 while covering a rally organised by Hefazat-e-Islam, for Ekushey Television, her previous workplace, in the capital Dhaka.

Sharmeen, who won the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Award in 2015, told the IPS that women in Bangladesh face challenges in all sectors. “Threats and intimidation have been part of this profession for women,” she said.

Hailing from Bagerhat, a remote southwestern district of Bangladesh, she said she enjoys the full support of her family in pursuing her career.

Sanchita Sharma, a news editor with Boishakhi Television, said the atmosphere for female journalists in Bangladesh is better now than at any time before and their numbers are growing — but are still not satisfactory.

Sharma said one problem is that women still focus on being news presenters rather than reporters or copy editors, which can help them get elevated to top positions.

Sanchita Sharma of Boishakhi Television. Photo Courtesy of Sanchita Sharma.

Sanchita Sharma of Boishakhi Television. Photo Courtesy of Sanchita Sharma.

Apart from social problems, a common challenge for women journalists is they have to manage both their homes and their offices. “It’s a double trouble for them,” she said.

Regarding the Bangladesh National Press Club, Sharma said the men who dominate its Executive Committee are reluctant to grant membership to women. “It’s very painful that women account for only 54 among the Club’s 1,218 members,” she said.

Echoing Sharma, Rashada Akhter Shimul, a Joint News Editor at Somoy TV, said male journalists misinterpret the successes and promotions of their female counterparts with concocted juicy stories.

She said their male bosses can be unnecessarily tough in putting their female colleagues on night shifts. “They (male bosses) can easily spare us from nightshift duty if there is no emergency, but they don’t. That’s why many promising girls are quitting the profession.”

Every profession has hazards, but in journalism this is disheartening, particularly for women. “Things are improving, but slowly,” she said.

Shimul said male bosses also undermine female journalists and ignore them when it comes to covering important and challenging news beats like that of crime and PMO (the Prime Minister’s Office).

Shahiduzzaman, Editor of News Network, a leading non-profit media support organisation of Bangladesh, said the atmosphere in Bangladesh for female journalists is still far from ideal.

Shahiduzzaman, also a Representative and Senior Adviser for South Asia with Inter Press Service (IPS), said it was the News Network that first came forward in the mid-1990s to provide journalism training to female university graduates by offering them fellowships.

He said News Network has so far provided training to nearly 300 young and upcoming women journalists with support from donors like Diakonia, Free Press, USAID, Ford Foundation, Norad, Canadian International Development Agency, The World Bank and Janata Bank, a public sector local bank. And 60 percent of them are now working in the country’s mainstream media. “Sanchita and Shimul are among them,” he mentioned.

Stressing the importance of gender equity in Bangladesh’s media industry, Shahiduzzaman said a very few of the 5 percent female journalists hold policymaking positions, which is necessary for to make far-reaching changes.

Regretting that there are hardly any female journalists at the country’s district level, the News Network editor said widespread training programmes are needed to encourage female young graduates to take up journalism as their profession.

“We can do even better if we can get support from donors as in the past,” he said.

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PKSF and IPS to Partner on Communicating for Positive Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/pksf-and-ips-to-partner-on-communicating-for-positive-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pksf-and-ips-to-partner-on-communicating-for-positive-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/pksf-and-ips-to-partner-on-communicating-for-positive-change/#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2017 17:27:50 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148401 The MOU between PKSF and IPS was signed by Dr. Md. Jashim Uddin, Deputy Managing Director, PKSF and Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General, IPS. The Chairman of PKSF Dr. Kholiquzzaman, managing Director Md. Abdul Karim, Deputy Managing Director Md. Fazlul Kader were also present during the signing. Credit: IPS

The MOU between PKSF and IPS was signed by Dr. Md. Jashim Uddin, Deputy Managing Director, PKSF and Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General, IPS. The Chairman of PKSF Dr. Kholiquzzaman, managing Director Md. Abdul Karim, Deputy Managing Director Md. Fazlul Kader were also present during the signing. Credit: IPS

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Jan 4 2017 (IPS)

The Palli Karma Sayahak Foundation (PKSF), a public sector apex development body in Bangladesh, and Inter Press Service (IPS), the international news agency focused on development issues, have teamed up to raise public awareness globally about PKSF’s best practices and provide vital information to decision-makers.

The PKSF and IPS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this regard at PKSF’s Dhaka Headquarters on Jan. 3.

IPS Director General Farhana Haque Rahman and PKSF Deputy Managing Director Dr. Md Jashim Uddin signed the deal on behalf of their respective organisations.

Set up in 1990 by the Bangladesh government as a not-for-profit organisation, the PKSF now works with over 200 partner organisations (POs) across Bangladesh in all upazilas (sub-districts) of the country, serving over 10 million families (45-50 million people), with its people-focused, multidimensional integrated approach to poverty eradication and sustainable development.

According to PKSF Chairman Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, several countries and organisations are now showing interest in learning about the new PKSF approach as they meet their goals with success.

Credit, he says, is now provided from PKSF as part of a package that also includes skills training, access to technologies, and marketing assistance, as the PKSF made a retreat from its initial microcredit approach.

Having a life-cycle approach that starts with conception of a child and completing with old age,
intervening at all stages of life, the PKS model is drawing international attention.

Some African countries also want to replicate it, Kholiquzzaman says.

The key objectives the PKSF-IPS MoU are to build the capacity of journalists, including those in the IPS team, to analyse and report more effectively on the activities of PKSF carried out in accordance with its mandate, and enhance the capacity of women journalists, up to 60 annually, enabling them to report on gender-related issues as well as socio-economic aspects, including empowerment of women.

img_1739There are issues where journalists need to be well-informed to analyse, understand and file meaningful stories. Raising the level of understanding on issues like development and equality is critically important so that journalists can to do justice to their reports. Balanced reporting will only be possible when one can conceptualise and contextualize these.

When it comes to the issues relating to women and their development and empowerment, female journalists need to be encouraged to write about their own issues as they have clearer understanding of what’s most relevant to report. To make that happen, it is necessary to enhance their capacity as well through providing training.

Under the MoU, IPS will organise media field visits for firsthand news gathering and reporting. PKSF will facilitate rapid access to critical sources of information for timely news production.

Under the agreement, IPS will serve as PKSF’s international media partner at international, regional and national seminars and workshops.

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Family Planning in the Philippines: Stalled Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/family-planning-in-the-philippines-stalled-again/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-in-the-philippines-stalled-again http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/family-planning-in-the-philippines-stalled-again/#comments Wed, 28 Dec 2016 20:25:47 +0000 Barry Mirkin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148339 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/family-planning-in-the-philippines-stalled-again/feed/ 0 Bringing South Africa’s Small-Scale Miners Out of the Shadowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bringing-south-africas-small-scale-miners-out-of-the-shadows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-south-africas-small-scale-miners-out-of-the-shadows http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bringing-south-africas-small-scale-miners-out-of-the-shadows/#comments Wed, 28 Dec 2016 11:21:31 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148327 The Masakane village in Mpumalanga sits mere meters away from coal heaps feeding Duvha Power Station. The formal coal industry has failed to bring economic opportunities to local communities, so many residents turn to informal coal mining for an income. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

The Masakane village in Mpumalanga sits mere meters away from coal heaps feeding Duvha Power Station. The formal coal industry has failed to bring economic opportunities to local communities, so many residents turn to informal coal mining for an income. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

By Mark Olalde
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 28 2016 (IPS)

In a country with unemployment rising above 25 percent, South Africans are increasingly looking for job creation in small-scale mining, an often-informal industry that provides a living for millions across the continent.

“How do you make formalisation not kill their businesses but rather improve their businesses?" --Sizwe Phakathi
Estimates for the number of small-scale miners in South Africa range from 8,000 to 30,000. Across the African continent, estimates put the number of such miners around 8 million. Roughly another 45 million are thought to depend on their income.

According to the United Nations’ African Mining Vision, almost 20 percent of Africa’s gold production and nearly all the gemstone production besides diamonds are mined by small-scale miners.

Sizwe Phakathi, now the head of safety and sustainable development at the Chamber of Mines, previously researched informal coal and clay mining in Blaauwbosch, KwaZulu-Natal with the Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance and the African Minerals Development Centre.

“We can’t classify it as ‘illegal mining.’ This has been happening for years, and people got to mining this area through customary practices,” he said.

Small-scale gold miners prepare to descend underground for a shift in an abandoned gold mine. South Africa’s mining industry shed 9,000 jobs last quarter alone, so activists search for ways to create new economic opportunities for small-scale mining. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/583/31093312584_6189501f5d_o.jpg

Small-scale gold miners prepare to descend underground for a shift in an abandoned gold mine. South Africa’s mining industry shed 9,000 jobs last quarter alone, so activists search for ways to create new economic opportunities for small-scale mining. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

These miners are often unaware of the law and operate with permission from the local chief or municipality but without a valid mining permit. In the community Phakathi studied, 94 percent of the miners had never held a mining permit and many did not know of the relevant legislation.

“Many of these people that work there, many of them are breadwinners of their households, and they are heads of households,” Phakati said.

Pheaga Gad Kwata, director of the Department of Mineral Resources’ (DMR) small-scale mining division, believes that bringing these miners into compliance would allow them greater access to technical knowledge and markets.

“We’ve realized that it is one of the activities where you can probably get a job quickly,” Kwata said, adding that the DMR is busy with workshops to educate miners on the benefits of working within the law.

An artisanal miner in Johannesburg displays ore. Activists argue that formalizing small-scale mining could create jobs and allow for the implementation of health and safety regulations. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

An artisanal miner in Johannesburg displays ore. Activists argue that formalizing small-scale mining could create jobs and allow for the implementation of health and safety regulations. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

This type of cooperation could assist Jiyana Tshenge, who works with the Prieska Protocol, a program aimed at linking the small-scale miners of a semiprecious gemstone called tiger’s eye to a lapidary and onward to international markets. This streamlined approach is expected to significantly increase the wages of the miners by cutting out the middlemen operating in the informal economy.

A lack of this market access, though, has tabled the project for the moment.

“If we can establish that market and establish a proper plan, we will then go back and engage with the people of the community properly,” Tshenge said. “I think we can create a lot of jobs.”

According to Phakati, an immediate benefit of regulation would be the implementation of health and safety standards, something he found severely lacking in his research. In his case study, the vast majority of workers never used personal protective equipment such as hardhats, goggles or gloves. The local Mzamo High School also had to be relocated when mining encroached on the school and released harmful gases.

The Matariana informal settlement houses illegal gold miners on the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, about 50 miles west of Johannesburg. South Africa is home to more than 6,000 abandoned mines, many of which attract small-scale miners. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

The Matariana informal settlement houses illegal gold miners on the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, about 50 miles west of Johannesburg. South Africa is home to more than 6,000 abandoned mines, many of which attract small-scale miners. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

However, formalisation is slowed by the very poverty it is meant to alleviate. Small-scale miners have trouble paying for transport to the DMR’ offices, which are often far from their communities. The costs associated with procuring a permit – such as setting aside a financial provision for environmental rehabilitation and producing environmental impact assessments – also continue to present a barrier to entry.

“How do you make formalisation not kill their businesses but rather improve their businesses? Formalisation should be tailored to their needs,” Phakati said.

Pontsho Ledwaba of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry argues that legislative changes are necessary to smooth the formalisation process. Mining permits currently must be renewed every few years, which could make it difficult to guarantee a return for anyone lending money to these miners. The amount of land allocated in mining permits also weakens these operations’ financial sustainability.

“Five hectares is actually too small for some of the minerals. For granite, sandstone, it’s too small. In terms of investment, [small-scale miners] don’t get investment because two years, five years is a small time to break even and pay back,” Ledwaba said.

According to Ledwaba, the government needs to aim regulations toward historic mining sectors that already operate nearly legally.

“The bulk of them actually mine what we called industrial and construction minerals. These are your sands, your clay, your sandstone,” Ledwaba said. “Those are the ones government has tried to move to the legal space.”

Many of these sectors operate outside the law simply because the relevant legislation came into effect after mining began.

Besides the economic barriers to formalisation, experts agree that sweeping changes to small-scale mining cannot succeed without the participation of female miners.

Between 40-50 percent of Africa’s small-scale mining workforce is female, according to research from the international relations consulting firm German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation.

“Clearly one of the beneficiaries of formalising this is you should create employment for women,” Phakati said. “The formalisation and development of this sector need to target women.”

In rural South African provinces such as Limpopo, women have mined clay for generations. In other areas such as the North West, there are examples of mining permits held by women. Although mining is seen as a male-dominated industry, experts say small-scale mining can be a breeding ground for female entrepreneurship.

“I’ve come across a number of operations actually owned by women,” Ledwaba said. “[Formalisation] will definitely have a gendered impact.”

Mark Olalde’s work is financially supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Fund for Environmental Journalism and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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Feminism Helps Villagers Coexist with Drought in Northeast Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/empowering-women-to-coexist-with-drought-in-northeast-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-to-coexist-with-drought-in-northeast-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/empowering-women-to-coexist-with-drought-in-northeast-brazil/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2016 01:26:56 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148244 “This vegetable garden changed my life,” said Rita da Silva (right, in yellow), in the Primeiro do Maio village, where some 65 families live. A group of women organised to collectively grow vegetables and fruit to sell in the market in Caraúbas, a nearby city in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“This vegetable garden changed my life,” said Rita da Silva (right, in yellow), in the Primeiro do Maio village, where some 65 families live. A group of women organised to collectively grow vegetables and fruit to sell in the market in Caraúbas, a nearby city in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
CARAÚBAS, Brazil, Dec 20 2016 (IPS)

“The vegetable garden changed my life,” said Rita Alexandre da Silva, in the village of Primeiro do Maio where 65 families have obtained land to grow crops since 1999, in this municipality in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, in Northeast Brazil.

She is part of the Group of Women that organised in 2001 and adopted the slogan “United to overcome”, with the goal of having their own productive activities, reaffirming their rights and combating sexism.

“I used to only stay at home or in the fields, I wasn’t allowed to go out, to go to town. With the garden I started to go to the city to sell our products in the market, over the objections of my husband and my oldest son,” Da Silva told IPS.

“Bringing money home when my husband was sick” helped overcome the resistance, she said. “Now my son, who is married, has a different attitude towards his wife.”

The 60-year-old mother of three grown-up children shares with five other local women one hectare of the village’s collective land, where they grow lettuce, coriander, onions, tomatoes, manioc, papayas, coconuts and other fruits and vegetables.

The difficulty is transporting products to the city of Caraúbas, 22 km away. The women hire a truck for 25 dollars, and they also have to pay for the maintenance and cleaning up of the stand where they sell their produce.

“We get up at two in the morning every Saturday to get to the market,” said Antonia Damiana da Silva, a 41-year-old mother of four.

But “our life has changed for the better, we eat what we produce, without poisonous chemicals, and we are different people, more free, we decide what we’re going to do and tell our husbands,” she said.

The village was created by families of farmers who lived in the surrounding areas, without land of their own, who occupied an unproductive piece of land. Their first attempt to occupy it lasted 18 days in 1997, when the owners of the land obtained a court order to evict them.

Part of the “agrovillage” where 65 families of the Primeiro do Maio village live, an oasis of green vegetation in the midst of aridity caused by five years with almost no rain in the caatinga, the semi-arid ecosystem exclusive to the Northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Part of the “agrovillage” where 65 families of the Primeiro do Maio village live, an oasis of green vegetation in the midst of aridity caused by five years with almost no rain in the caatinga, the semi-arid ecosystem exclusive to the Northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two years later, they tried again, and the National Institute of Colonization and Land Reform assigned each family 13 hectares and a good house in the “agro village”. They were also awarded a common area for the community association building, for raising livestock, and for growing fruits and vegetables.

“Agro villages” in Brazil are rural settlements created in isolated areas, where houses and community and service facilities are concentrated near the plots of land. They form part of the government’s land reform programme, and offer previously landless farmers urban advantages such as schools, health posts and in some cases sewerage.

The drought which has dragged on for five years in the semi-arid Northeast is all too evident in the grey vegetation, apparently dead, throughout the entire ecosystem exclusive to Brazil known as the caatinga. But its low and twisted bush-like trees tend to turn green a few hours after it rains, even if it barely sprinkled.

The Primeiro do Maio agro village appears in the landscape almost like an oasis, because of the green of its trees and of the vegetable garden and orchard, populated by birds and other animals.

The traditional crops grown by the families, mostly corn and beans, were lost to the drought. But the community garden is still productive, irrigated with well water and managed according to the principles of agro-ecology, such as crop diversity and better use of natural resources, including straw.

They receive technical assistance and support from Diaconía, a non-profit social organisation composed of 11 evangelical churches, which are very active in the Northeast.

  Antonia Damiana da Silva (C) proudly explains how her biodigester uses the manure from her small livestock to produce cooking gas for her family in the rural settlement where she lives in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in the Northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Antonia Damiana da Silva (C) proudly explains how her biodigester uses the manure from her small livestock to produce cooking gas for her family in the rural settlement where she lives in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in the Northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

 

The income from the garden empowers the women, particularly in times of drought when the local crops are failing.

But because of the difficulties in getting the produce to market, and the prevailing but rarely mentioned sexism, the Group shrank from 23 to six members, who work in the garden and sell their produce in Caraúbas.

The garden, irrigated without any water wastage, is based on a production model promoted by Networking in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Region (ASA), which groups together some 3,000 social organisations in the Northeast, including trade unions, religious groups and non-governmental organisations.

“Coexisting with the semi-arid” is its slogan, in contrast to the former official policy of ”fighting drought” which generated one failure after another, with the construction of big dams, aqueducts and canals that do not provide solutions to the most vulnerable: poor peasant farmers scattered throughout rural areas.

The Primeiro do Maio village was one of eight places visited by participants in the National Meeting of ASA, which drew about 500 people Nov. 21-25 to Mossoró, a city in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, 80 km from Caraúbas.

“There can be no coexistence with the semi-arid, without feminisim,” according to ASA, which supports the Group of Women and other initiatives that bolster gender equality in rural communities.

 The green of the garden cultivated by women in the Primeiro do Maio village stands in sharp contrast to the aridity of the surrounding area in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, in the Northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


The green of the garden cultivated by women in the Primeiro do Maio village contrasts with the aridity of the surrounding area in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, in the Northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The “social technologies” that drive that coexistence are in general more rapidly embraced and with more determination by women.

Damiana, for example, has an arsenal of resources in the backyard of her house that enable her to assert that she enjoys “a wonderful life”.

A biodigester, fed with the manure from her small livestock, provides her with cooking gas. In the village there are 10 other houses that use this technology, which consists of a sealed container where organic waste ferments until producing methane gas and natural fertilisers.

“Biowater”, a chain of filters which cleans the wastewater produced in her home, makes it possible to reuse it in her vegetable garden and orchard. She also raises fish in a small three-metre-diameter tank. The fish she raises is the tilapia azul (Oreochromis niloticus), native to the Nile River, which is highly productive in fish farming.

Vanusa Vieira, a 47-year-old mother of two, is another participant in the Group who works in the collective garden, although she says she prefers working with animals. “I love raising animals, I can’t live without them, I look after them from early morning to night,” she told IPS standing in her yard where she has birds, goats and a cow.

“I learned from my father and mother, who had cattle and chicken,” she said. Now that she has her own house with a big yard she has an aviary and pens.

But the drought has forced her to reduce the number of animals she keeps. Corn got too expensive and water is scarce, she said. And her honey production, which “helped us buy a truck,” has stalled because the woods are dry and there are no flowers, Vieira explained.

But small livestock such as goats and sheep that are able to survive on limited food and water are a resource that helps families survive lengthy droughts like the one that has had the Northeast in its grip since 2012.

Also important is the small subsidy that the families of the agrovillage receive from the social programme Bolsa Familia, aimed at the poorest in this country of 202 million people. In addition, some of the men work as day labourers to boost the family income, in light of the fall in production on their plots of land.

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Bring Back Our Girls Campaign Faces “Hope Fatigue”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bring-back-our-girls-campaign-faces-hope-fatigue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bring-back-our-girls-campaign-faces-hope-fatigue http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bring-back-our-girls-campaign-faces-hope-fatigue/#comments Fri, 16 Dec 2016 21:32:35 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148230 Bring Back Our Girls campaign co-founder Saudatu Mahdi with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. Credit: Donor Direct Action.

Bring Back Our Girls campaign co-founder Saudatu Mahdi with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. Credit: Donor Direct Action.

By Lindah Mogeni
NEW YORK, Dec 16 2016 (IPS)

The Bring Back Our Girls Campaign has experienced some successes but must now overcome the challenge of hope fatigue, Bring Back Our Girls campaign co-founder Saudatu Mahdi told IPS in a recent interview.

“There is the challenge of hope fatigue, especially when the expected timelines are not achieved and financial streams are low…however, the campaign remains faithful in its advocacy,”Mahdi told IPS.

However Mahdi also noted that, “Bring Back Our Girls has been one of the longest-standing campaigns in Nigeria and has been largely sustained by the horrendous nature of what the girls have gone through.”

On April 14th 2014, 276 female students in a boarding secondary school in Chibok, Northern Nigeria, were loaded into trucks at gunpoint and kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists in the dead of the night.

The kidnappings sparked an international outrage which led to the foundation of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign – an homage to the social media hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Mahdi who is also the Secretary-General of Nigerian women’s rights group, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) appealed for an end to the rampant violence against Nigerian women and girls and the release of the girls currently in Boko Haram’s captivity.

Fifty-seven of the kidnapped girls managed to escape in June 2014, two months after their capture. Two years later, in May 2016, one of the kidnapped girls was found clutching a four-month year old baby in the outskirts of Sambisa forest in Northeastern Nigeria- rumored to be one of Boko Haram’s strongholds.

More recently, 21 of the kidnapped girls, along with a twenty-month old baby born to one of the girls, were released by Boko Haram on October 12th this year after negotiations with the Nigerian government finally bore fruit.

Asked whether there are any plans in motion to rehabilitate the released Chibok girls, Mahdi told IPS that the Nigerian government and philanthropic organizations have been involved in “forming rehabilitation plans which specifically target survivors of Boko Haram.”

Mahdi also told IPS that, “I can confirm that the 21 recently released girls are currently in a government hospital where their health is being looked after and they have undergone a full regime of both psycho-social and medical examinations.”

“There is a dire need for the rehabilitation and reintegration of all girls as a responsibility of the Nigerian government,” said Mahdi.

“The recent release of some girls is only part of the deal and we have to be careful. There is hope and we can build on hope. There is still a window of opportunity that we will see all girls released…” said Mahdi at a Donor Direct Action panel discussion held in New York on December 8th.

Currently, the Bring Back Our Girls campaign is pressuring the Nigerian government to release results from rescue operations, said Mahdi.

Also speaking at the panel, prominent global women’s group’s supporters, Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, stressed the urgency of standing in solidarity with women’s rights groups by helping increase their funding.

“It is not about one person passing on the light but all of us being able to shine our own lights,” said Steinem.

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Gender Equality “Clear Priority” for New UN Secretary-Generalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/gender-equality-clear-priority-for-new-un-secretary-general/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-clear-priority-for-new-un-secretary-general http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/gender-equality-clear-priority-for-new-un-secretary-general/#comments Tue, 13 Dec 2016 06:40:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148195 António Guterres takes the oath of office for his five-year term as UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten.

António Guterres takes the oath of office for his five-year term as UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 2016 (IPS)

Achieving gender equality in UN staff appointments will be a “clear priority” for incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, when he takes up the UN’s top administrative role in January 2017.

Guterres who was sworn in as Secretary-General at a ceremony at UN Headquarters on Monday, said that achieving gender parity among UN staff will will form an important part of his agenda for his first 100 days in office.

“In the appointments I’ll be making – and the first ones will be announced soon – you will see that gender parity will become a clear priority from top to bottom in the UN,” Guterres told journalists after the ceremony.

Guterres was selected as UN Secretary-General by the 15 members of the UN Security Council in October.

His selection upset campaigners, and many within the UN, who had hoped that the successor to Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s eighth Secretary General, would be the first woman to lead the international organisation in its more than 70 years.

However UN member states proved unready to seriously consider a woman for the role, with several highly qualified female candidates failing to perform well in successive UN Security Council votes.

Guterres, like many of his rivals, campaigned on a platform of gender equality, and is keen to show that despite his own gender he is committed to promoting women within the UN system.

He noted that the first target to achieve gender equality within the UN had been set as the year 2000 and that the new target year of 2030 was too far off.

“The UN set itself a goal of reaching gender parity by 2000,” Anne Marie Goetz, Professor in the Center for Global Affairs at New York University told IPS. “It set that goal in 1993. 23 years later and progress in reaching the goal has been pathetic, faltering, and sometimes flatlining.”

Despite commitments from current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, senior appointments in 2015 and 2016 have repeatedly gone to male candidates.

“While gender, geographic and other forms of diversity are incredibly important, merit should be the primary consideration for every appointment,” -- Natalie Samarasinghe

However while Guterres will bear the responsibility for making numerous high level UN appointments, Goetz noted that UN member states also bear responsibility for the lack of women in high-level positions at the UN.

“The Secretary-General relies on Member States to supply suggestions about qualified candidates for these high profile roles,” said Goetz, who is also a member of the Campaign to Elect a Woman Secretary-General.

According to various media reports, one of Guterres’ first appointments is expected to be Nigerian Minister of the Environment, Amina Mohammed as Deputy Secretary-General.

“Ms Mohammed’s appointment is an excellent choice but not a specific gain for gender equality at the UN as the Deputy position has been held by women before,” said Goetz.

Unlike the position of UN Secretary-General the position of Deputy Secretary-General has been previously held by two women.

However Goetz noted that this role has been more likely to be given to women, not only because it is not selected directly by UN member states, but also because “women are much more commonly found in the deputy or second rank position than they are at the very apex of power.”

Meanwhile, Guterres also noted that the same concerns with gender representation also applied to regional diversity in UN senior appointments.

However, pressures from powerful UN member states to appoint their own candidates to high level positions should not overcome the need for high calibre candidates, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK told IPS.

“While gender, geographic and other forms of diversity are incredibly important, merit should be the primary consideration for every appointment,” said Samarasinghe who also represents the 1 for 7 Billion campaign which has pushed for a more open and transparent process for the selection of the UN Secretary-General.

“Several General Assembly resolutions make clear that there should be no monopoly on senior posts by any state or group of states,” said Samarasinghe.

“States – especially those that feel entitled to certain jobs – should field high calibre candidates. They should not try to foist failed or inconvenient politicians onto the UN.”

However despite the General Assembly resolutions, certain top UN roles are usually taken up by nationals of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

For example, the current head of UN Peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous is a national of France. Rumours are circulating, that China, which has recently increased its own involvement in UN peacekeeping, may have its eye on this role from 2017.

Meanwhile, recent media reports have suggested that the UK’s David Milliband may be being put forward for the role of Administrator of the UN Development Program, currently held by former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark.

Milliband, who is currently head of the International Rescue Committee, may have appropriate qualifications for the role, however this would mean that the UN’s top development body would again be led by an administrator from a developed country.

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Putting Women Front and Centre in the Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/putting-women-front-and-centre-in-the-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-women-front-and-centre-in-the-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/putting-women-front-and-centre-in-the-development-agenda/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:15:38 +0000 Robert Kibet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148192 Delegates participate in one of the women’s forums during the Nov. 28-Dec. 1 HLM2 Nairobi meeting. Credit: Robert Kibet/IPS

Delegates participate in one of the women’s forums during the Nov. 28-Dec. 1 HLM2 Nairobi meeting. Credit: Robert Kibet/IPS

By Robert Kibet
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2016 (IPS)

Reengineering the framework of support by bringing in women as new actors in effective development cooperation will play a pivotal role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We need to deliberately make sure that women are part of the development agenda,” Stephen Gichohi, country manager at Forum Syd’s office in Kenya, told a recent Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Second High Level Meeting (HLM2) on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) in Nairobi.“If you look across countries, institutions working on gender equality and women’s rights issues are the least funded." -- Patricia Akakpo of the Network for Women Rights in Ghana

The HLM2Nairobi meeting brought together over 5,000 delegates from across the globe, and saw a 400 delegation Civil Society Organisations Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) endorse the Nairobi Outcome Document.

“Through the government of Kenya’s hosting of this meeting and its leadership, stronger language on gender equality, women’s empowerment and youth’s role in development was made possible,” Theresa Nera-Lauron, co-chair and CSO Policy Advisor, Effective Development Cooperation told IPS.

The HLM2Nairobi built on the Rome Declaration on Harmonisation (2003), the set of principles adopted in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005), the Accra Agenda for Action (2008), the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan (2011) where the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was born, and the outcome of the First High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Mexico City (2014).

Patricia Akakpo, Programme Manager, Network for Women Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), says despite progress on gender equality and women’s rights, much needs to be improved.

“The general CSO concern, for instance, on democratic ownership is not about shared ownership. The shrinking space of women’s rights and a backlash on gains made in gender and women rights clearly reveals that more needs to be done,” Akalepo told IPS.

She says gender-responsive budgeting has been sector-specific, coupled with failure of the governments to meet commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“If you look across countries, institutions working on gender equality and women’s rights issues are the least funded. Gender ministries are the least funded. Feminists organizations don’t have the funds to organize to advance women’s rights,” she says.

This comes in the wake of concerns regarding the failure of development support to marry country development policies.

“We need to look at quality for development cooperation and aid in general as countries have been getting much on development support, but little concern is given to whether the support marry with the country development policies, such as the Vision 2030 for Kenya, “said Gichohi.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta reiterated the need to include all sectors of the population in the development and implementation of the socio-economic agenda.

“We are happy that the topic of incorporating women, youth and persons with disabilities in the development cooperation has raised big interest in this meeting. We must chose to champion the economic empowerment of women and youth in recognition to the potential they can contribute to the Agenda 2030,” said Uhuru when he opened the HLM2Nairobi meeting.

“HLM2Nairobi focussed on women and youth, a population largely left out. Nothing about us without us. We must involve the voices of youth and women in the development agenda,” Memory Kachambwa, Programme Manager for the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), told IPS in an interview.

Reacting to President Uhuru’s sentiment, Kachambwa reiterated the need for policymakers to stop viewing women as victims, and rather as agents of change in their own right who should influence the aid agenda.

Africa, a continent endowed with rich natural resources – especially from the extractives sector – has borne the brunt of tied aid and illicit financial flows, but concern was also raised about the impact of it on the women.

“For every one dollar that comes through development aid, 10 dollars leaves African countries. African has natural resources, but cannot be accounted for, and has been the interest of donor countries which have Multi-National Companies. Governments need to work on certain jurisdictions that provide multinational companies loopholes for tax avoidance,” said Kachambwa.

In a report last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that companies and government officials are skimming as much as 60 billion dollars annually though illicit financial flows.

“The 60 billion dollars lost through illicit financial flows from African continent is much more than the aid being received. Women are disproportionately affected. This shows there is more in utilizing local resources to fund development in the developing world,” Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary General, told IPS in an interview.

With women facing the harsh reality of fragility in states witnessing violence, Kachambwa calls for linkages with instruments such as the UN Security Council Resolution 1825 and Beijing Declaration.

“Women’s leadership, active participation and influence on different levels in society is important for a sustainable development and a strong democracy,” says Lisbeth Petersen, head of the International Programme Department at Forum Syd.

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Women Human Rights Defenders: Targeted for Identity and Activismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/women-human-rights-defenders-targeted-for-identity-and-activism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-human-rights-defenders-targeted-for-identity-and-activism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/women-human-rights-defenders-targeted-for-identity-and-activism/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:38:56 +0000 Lejla Medanhodzic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148153

By Lejla Medanhodzic
BERLIN, Dec 9 2016 (IPS)

AWID’s 5th online tribute to Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) who have died in recent years, commemorates sixty feminists and activists. Thirty eight of these defenders died violently, and were murdered as a result of who they were, their identities, and the rights they defended.

Their biographies submitted to AWID include the following hard facts:

…shot and killed at point-blank range, brutally raped and murdered, beaten, home destroyed, killed by car bomb, abducted, her death considered a hate crime, received death threats, stabbed, disappeared, died of gunshot wounds, assassinated, shot dead in front of her children, went missing, circumstances of death unclear, sexually assaulted and murdered, stoned to death, kidnapped, tortured and publicly executed, message left by criminal gang next to her body, denied proper medical treatment, killed by unidentified gunmen…

These crimes are not coincidences and over the five years that AWID has honoured WHRDs who have died, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of activists who are murdered or disappear as a direct result of their activism. Although all WHRDs are at risk to some extent, there is a trend of increasing violence against certain groups of WHRDs. In this years’ Tribute alone close to 65% of those who were killed were part of one or more of the following groups: environmental justice activists, journalists, indigenous rights activists, LGBTQI rights defenders, and sex workers’ rights advocates. From Honduras alone, AWID commemorates six WHRDs murdered for either working to protect indigenous and environmental rights or trans and LGBQI rights. Amongst the defenders commemorated this year were  eleven journalists who had been murdered.

Context-specific risk

Protection International states that “vulnerability means the degree to which people are susceptible to loss, damage, suffering and death in the event of an attack. This varies for each defender or group, and changes with time.” The violence that WHRDs face is multifaceted and global with specific regional, social and political context affecting risk levels faced by activists. For the afore mentioned groups, threats and vulnerabilities are higher than the existing protection capabilities, which results in a corresponding increase in risk for these groups of defenders.

 

For three years Nilce de Souza Magalhães opposed the construction of a dam in north-western Brazil that would rob her community of their home, and cause  them to move to a place without running water and electricity. She went missing in January 2016, and her body was subsequently found in June 2016. Berta Cáceres, a Lenca woman from Honduras, fought to protect the Gualcarque river and the indigenous people who loved and lived by it against the world’s’ largest dam builder.  Berta Cáceres was murdered in March 2016 after numerous death threats.

The perpetrators of such crimes against environmental and indigenous rights activists mostly are not arrested and there is rarely accountability for the corporations and state actors that are suspected to be behind these murders. Before her death, Berta Caceres had stated in 2014 that the patriarchal alliances between corporations, states and repressive institutions resulted in an onslaught of violence that“… is three times worse for an indigenous woman”. For Trans and LGBQI defenders, especially in countries where the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) rights are violated and threatened, where society is widely homo and transphobic, and a lack of legal protection is chronic, there are multiple vulnerabilities and an increased risk of being targeted not only due to the type of work they do, but additionally because of their identities.

 

 

Hande Kader, a trans woman, sex worker and LGBTQI activist from Turkey, fought against discrimination and persecution in her country. In August 2016 she was brutally raped and murdered. Like Hande, Alesha, a trans woman from Pakistan who defended trans rights was shot in May 2016 and, after reportedly being denied proper medical treatment, died from the injuries she suffered.

 

Another group of WHRDs increasingly facing threats across the globe are those working as journalists especially in unstable and conflict environments. In these contexts, activist journalists experience violence as a result of investigating crimes, uncovering human rights abuses, reporting government corruption, abuse of authority and the wrongdoings of political establishments.

In the Philippines, Melinda “Mei” Magsino a journalist, was known for her political exposés that revealed corruption and injustices in her province. She was shot and killed by an unknown gunman in April 2015. Elisabeth Blanche Olofio, a radio journalist in the Central African Republic, worked in a community-based media setting to provide information to a population for whom radio is one of the main sources of news in a country that has been marked by conflict and violence in the past years. She died of injuries she sustained from a Seleka rebels attack in June 2014.

 

 

Who protects those that defend our rights?

Too often, States are failing to adequately protect Women Human Rights Defenders even though they have the obligation to do so under international law. A 2016 report by AWID and the Solidarity Centre shows that on the contrary, collusion amongst corporate actors, and the political elite is strengthened by state structures such as the police, and military. The rising power of corporate interests is an urgent challenge which oppressively, and in some cases lethally, negatively impacts on the rights of communities, and the defenders who stand up for human rights and justice. States need to centre, and prioritise human rights above corporate interests.

 

 

Funders who support the work of WHRDs also need to adequately resource, and support protection mechanisms beyond the immediate needs of physical safety. The wellbeing and care of WHRDs is political and essential, and needs to be fully funded as part of a holistic approach to safety and security.

Feminist, human rights, and social justice movements, also need to continue to build solidarity with one another, whilst amplifying our calls for security, safety and collective self-care in our political agendas. AWID’s Tribute to WHRDs is a contribution to the collective memory and recognition of defenders,  our struggles and, reminds us that we need to honor WHRDs we have lost and protect those living that defend our rights.

The 2016 WHRD Online Tribute is co-created with diverse feminists, activists, and organisations who contributed details of WHRDs who have passed away or have been killed recently. This year’s Tribute commemorates activists lost mainly between September 2014 and November 2016.

 

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India Steps Up Citizen Activism to Protect Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:34:28 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148122 Red Brigade, a female-only collective, equips Indian women and girls with self-defence techniques and targets males who have committed sexual assault. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Red Brigade, a female-only collective, equips Indian women and girls with self-defence techniques and targets males who have committed sexual assault. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Dec 7 2016 (IPS)

Last month, Delhi Police launched a unique initiative to check spiralling crimes against women in the city, also known dubiously as the “rape capital” of India. It formed a squad of plainclothes officers called “police mitras” (friends of the police) — comprising farmers, homemakers and former Army men — to assist them in the prevention and detection of crime and maintenance of law and order.

In another scheme, police chiefs launched their own version of “Charlie’s Angels” — a specially trained squad of crime-fighting, butt-kicking constables in white kimonos who take on sexual predators across the country. The 40-member women’s squad trained in martial arts guards “vulnerable” landmarks in the city such as schools and metro stations, while undercover as regular citizens."I carry pepper spray and a knife with me as I return late from the office." -- Shashibala Mehra, 52, an accountant in New Delhi

India, considered one of the world’s most unsafe countries for women, has lately seen a raft of innovative initiatives to safeguard women from sexual crimes. Ironically, despite increasingly stringent laws and a visible beefing up of police protection, crimes against women have surged.

According to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, such crimes (primarily rapes, molestations and stalking) have skyrocketed by a whopping 60 percent between 2010 and 2011 and 2014 and 2015.

A report by the National Crime Records Bureau found 337,922 reports of violence, including rape, cruelty and abduction, against women in 2014, up 9 percent from 2013. The number of reported rapes in the country also rose by 9 percent to 33,707 in 2014, the last year for which such figures were available.

In addition, sexual harassment on Indian streets or in other public spaces is a common experience for women. A survey by the NGO ActionAid found 79 percent of Indian women have been subjected to harassment or violence in public.

The rise in attacks on women has also led to a mushrooming of volunteer-led projects which provide a valuable social service. For instance, one such initiative — Blank Noise — in one of its campaigns #WalkAlone, asked women across the country to break their silence and walk alone to fight the fear of being harassed on the streets. In another campaign, women were urged to send in the clothing they were wearing when they were harassed which were then used to create public installations.

By engaging not only perpetrators and victims, but also spectators and passers-by, Blank Noise, launched in 2003, relies on ‘Action Heroes’ or a network of volunteers, from across age groups, gender and sexuality to put forth its message. Effective legal mechanisms, staging theatrical public protests and publicizing offences help the organization mobilize citizens against sexual harassment in public spaces. Week-long courses are also offered to teach women how to be active in building safe spaces.

Schoolboys are sensitized about sexual crimes at a seminar in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Schoolboys are sensitized about sexual crimes at a seminar in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Although the Indian Parliament passed a strong anti-rape law while also making human trafficking, acid attacks and stalking stringently punishable, it hasn’t translated into diminishing crimes against women. Some women’s rights activists believe that women are inviting a counter-attack by claiming their right in public spaces.

“There’s a lot of media coverage, candlelight marches and social media angst if women are outraged but in reality little has changed, ” says Pratibha Malik, an activist with a pan-India non-profit Aashrita. “I feel the very presence of women in non-traditional spaces like offices, in bars, restaurants etc in a patriarchal society like India’s is responsible for this backlash.”

The trigger for much of legislative and police action was the December 2012 rape of a 23-year-old Indian medical student in a moving bus when she was returning from a movie with a male friend. The couple were attacked by a group of men, including one aged 14. The woman was raped several times and later died, while her friend was beaten with an iron rod. The incident sparked mass protests demanding action.

Following the episode, which created global headlines, a committee — Justice Verma Committee — was instituted and its report cited “the failure of governance to provide a safe and dignified environment for the women of India, who are constantly exposed to sexual violence.”

The three attackers in the 2012 rape were sentenced to death and within months the government passed a bill broadening the definition of sexual offences to include forced penetration by any object, stalking, acid violence and disrobing.

However, such actions by the State haven’t really resulted in much succour for the fairer sex.
They feel they have to take charge of their own security. Many women IPS spoke to, say they feel danger still lurks around street corners, especially in the big cities, where venturing out at night is still considered an `adventure’.

“I don’t feel safe in public places at all nor while using public transport. I know nobody will come forward to help me if I get into trouble,” says Rekha Kumari, 30, a cook.

“I carry pepper spray and a knife with me as I return late from the office,” says Shashibala Mehra, 52, an accountant in New Delhi. “Throughout my 40-minute commute back home I keep talking to my husband on phone just so that he knows when I’m in trouble.”

Laxmi Aggarwal, 27, an acid attack victim who has now become an activist championing the ban on the sale of acid in India, says the government has done little to prevent its sale. “Young, vulnerable girls are attacked in many parts of rural India,” she says.

Aggarwal has joined hands with an organization called Stop Acid Attacks to assist other victims of such attacks and also fight for their rights in local courts.

Realizing how some Indian law enforcement agencies can no longer be trusted for their safety, many women are also resorting to buying weapons and pepper spray, downloading security apps, signing up for self-defence classes, and joining self-help groups.

Campaigns which help victims of violence fight social stigma have urged the government to enforce stricter laws and promote gender equality. Red Brigades, a female-only collective, for instance, equips women and girls with self-defence techniques and targets males who have committed sexual assault. Blank Noise, another volunteer-led project, is working to tackle street harassment and change public attitudes towards sexual violence.

Such initiatives, say activists, are vital to safeguard Indian women who are stepping out of their homes to work, travel and lead a full life.

“We try to make erring men see reason after talking to the man and his parents. If he still doesn’t listen, we go to the police station,” says Usha Vishwakarma. “If he’s still adamant, we go into the action stage.”

An important part of the support Red Brigade offers involves helping victims get rid of the self-guilt that the violence they suffered was their fault.

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Nicaraguan Women Push for Access to Land, Not Just on Paperhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 23:40:41 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148102 Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Dec 5 2016 (IPS)

A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large.

Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told IPS that since the late 1980s, when women trained in the Sandinista revolution organised to form cooperatives, access to land has been one of the movement’s main demands.

According to Rocha, as of 1997, the organisation has worked in a coordinated manner to fight for recognition of the rights of women farmers not only with regard to agriculture, but also to economic, political and social rights.

Femuprocan, together with 14 other associations, successfully pushed for the 2010 approval of the Fund for the Purchase of Land with Gender Equity for Rural Women Law, known as Law 717.

They also contributed to the incorporation of a gender equity focus in the General Law on Cooperatives and to the participation of women in the Municipal Commissions on Food Security and Sovereignty.

For Rocha, this advocacy has allowed rural women to update the mapping of actors in the main productive areas in the country, strengthen the skills of women farmers and train them in social communication and as promoters of women’s human rights, to tap into resources and take decisions without the pressure of their male partners.

“For rural women, land is life, it is vital for the family; land ownership and inputs to make it productive are closely linked to women’s economic empowerment, to decision-making about food production, to the preservation of our environment, and to ensuring food security and protecting our native seeds to avoid dependence on genetically modified seeds,” said Rocha.

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Femuprocan is the only federation in the country solely made up of women farmers: more than 4,200 members organised in 73 cooperatives in six of the country’s departments: Madriz, Managua, Granada, Región Autónoma del Caribe Norte, Matagalpa and Jinotega.

Rocha believes the progress made has been more qualitative than quantitative.

In 2010, when they pushed through Law 717, an estimated 1.1 million women lived in rural areas, and most of them owned neither land nor other assets.

The law was aimed at giving rural women access to physical possession and legal ownership of land, improving their economic conditions, boosting gender equity, ensuring food security and fighting poverty in the country, estimated at the time at 47 per cent.

Nicaragua currently has a population of 6.2 million, 51 per cent of whom are women, and 41 per cent of whom live in rural areas, according to World Bank figures.

Data from the Household Survey to Measure Poverty in Nicaragua, published in June by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge, indicates that 39 per cent of the population was poor in 2015.

The poverty rate in urban areas was 22.1 per cent, compared to 58.8 per cent in rural areas.

According to the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam, only 18 per cent of the rural women who work on farms in Nicaragua own land, while the rest have to lease it and pay before planting.

“Access to land ownership is a pending demand for 40 percent of the members of Femuprocan, which represents a total of 1,680 women without land,” said Rocha.

The struggle for access to land is an uphill battle, but the organisation is not giving up.

“In 17 municipalities covered by our federation, 620 women are active in the process of searching for lands for our members. Not only women who have no land, but also women who do are engaged in the process of identifying lands to make them productive, as are other governmental and non-governmental organisations,” she said.

One of the members of the organisation told IPS that there has been no political will or economic financing from the state to enforce the law on access to land.

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

“How many doors have we knocked on, how many offices have we visited to lobby, how many meetings have we held…and the law is still not enforced,” said the farmer, who asked to be identified only as Maria, during a trip to Managua.

“The problem is that the entire legal, economic and productive system is still dominated by men, and they see us as threats, more than competition, to their traditional business activities,” she said.

Other women’s organisations have come from rural areas to the cities to protest that the law on access to land is not being enforced.

In May, María Teresa Fernández, who heads the Coordinator of Rural Women, complained in Managua that “women who do not own land have to pay up to 200 dollars to rent one hectare during the growing season.”

In addition to having to lease land, the women who belong to the organisation have in recent years faced environmental problems such as drought, dust storms, volcanic ash and pests without receiving the benefit of public policies that make bank loans available to deal with these problems.

“Six years ago, Law 717 was passed, ordering the creation of a gender equity fund for the purchase of land by rural women. But this fund has not yet been included in the general budget in order for women to access mortgage credits administered by the state bank, to get their own land,” Fernández complained in May.

The Nicaraguan financial system does not grant loans to women farmers who have no legal title to land, a problem that the government has tried to mitigate with social welfare programmes such as Zero Hunger, Zero Usury, Roof Plan, Healthy Yards and the Christian Solidarity Programme for food distribution, among others.

However, sociologist Cirilo Otero, director of the non-governmental Centre of Initiatives for Environmental Policies, said there is not enough government support, and stressed to IPS that women’s lack of access to land is one of the most serious problems of gender inequality in Nicaragua.

“It is still an outstanding debt by the state towards women farmers,” he said.

Nevertheless, data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that Nicaragua was one of 17 Latin American countries that met the targets for hunger reduction and improvement in food security in the first 15 years of the century, as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

According to the U.N. agency, between 1990 and 2015, the country reduced the proportion of undernourished people from 54.4 per cent to 16.6 per cent.

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Unleashing Africa Full Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/unleashing-africas-full-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unleashing-africas-full-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/unleashing-africas-full-potential/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:22:37 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148058 Amb. Amina Mohamed is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and a Kenya’s candidate for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.]]>

Amb. Amina Mohamed is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and a Kenya’s candidate for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 2016 (IPS)

Africa, the cradle of mankind and home to the youngest population in the world, has a historic opportunity to realise its full potential, in sharing our potential prosperity, by enhancing economic growth, promoting and entrenching democratic ideals. That is why I am so passionate to be running for the coveted African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Amb. Amina Mohamed

It is time for the African Union to provide leadership. Africans of all walks of life are looking up to it. I also strongly believe our continent is at a turning point, a defining moment, when we must drive an agenda that realises a common vision of integration, cooperation, collaboration and committed leadership. It is Africa’s time; we cannot afford to miss this golden opportunity to put it at the centre stage of world politics and economics while improving the lot of our people and countries.

We already have a sound blueprint going forward as envisaged in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – TThe Africa We Want.

This blueprint has a clear roadmap for implementation. One of the critical areas is achieving synergy of member States through collaboration among the eight regional economic groupings and AU’s strategic partners.

Africa’s markets must communicate with each other to harness trade and investment. Infrastructure deficit stands as an impediment towards this objective. We must secure seamless connectivity through people-to-people interactions, ICT and knowledge transfer throughout the Continent. Hard infrastructure development should also be reinforced by more intra-Africa rail, road, air and water linkages.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere once said: “Together, we the people of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states’. It is no longer tenable to keep talking of our great potential. It is time to make the African Continent; felt, heard and respected on the global scene. For this to happen, Africa must take greater responsibility of financing its development and programmes. Such has been the agreement by our Finance and Planning Ministers since March, 2015. Domestic resource mobilisation is the assured strategic complement to foreign investment and official development assistance. Focused leadership at the AUC will guarantee that this decision is fully implemented.

In order to increase the financial resources available internally, industrialisation and diversification remain pertinent. More specifically, we need to harness our blue economy and fast-track the mining industry.

Africa has to build the capacity of our youthful population. In 2015, African Youth aged 15 – 24 years accounted for 19 percent of the global youth poppulation and projected to increase by 42 percent by 2030. This is a demographic dividend to Africa’s prosperity. Women must also be fully enabled to play an inclusive role in all spheres of Africa’s development. Tapping into African talent will be the hallmark of my tenure. The collective success to Agenda 2063 lies in creating an indomitable human force to resolve Africa’s challenges.

Every African citizen deserves a life of dignity free from harm, in order to promote social justice and the realization of their potential. I am optimistic that together we can continue to create a Continent that not only embodies our pride and dignity, but also the hub for peace and stability.

Africa must also make its cultural diversity a cause for celebration. Cultural exchange across the continent through education, travel and symposia. This will renew our Pan-African ideals especially among younger Africans.

Our continent has made significant strides in expanding access to education and better health care. In order to shelter our population from extreme want, we ought to explore skills diversification and universal health coverage.

Investing in value-addition through agro-processing will increase Africa’s global market share and attain collective food security and comparative advantage.

Going forward, we must remain in partnership with the rest of the world. Global challenges such as climate change will only be resolved through cooperation. However, Africa remains most vulnerable from effects of global warming. As such, we need to; take serious mitigation and adaptation measures, utilise indigenous knowledge to generate local shared solutions and build resilient communities in addition to our continued demands for climate justice.

Thus, united by the vision of an independent Africa working for better lives of all her people, it is now time for the AUC to foster the realisation of Africa’s full potential through transformative leadership harnessed by the AUC Secretariat.

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Ending AIDS Needs Both Prevention and a Curehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/ending-aids-needs-both-prevention-and-a-cure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-aids-needs-both-prevention-and-a-cure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/ending-aids-needs-both-prevention-and-a-cure/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:13:43 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148030 A poster about stigma in a HIV testing lab in Uganda. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

A poster about stigma in a HIV testing lab in Uganda. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 1 2016 (IPS)

Eighteen million people, just slightly under half of the people living with HIV and AIDS globally, are now taking life-saving medication, but global efforts to end the disease still largely depend on prevention.

While efforts to expand antiretroviral treatment have been relatively successfully, prevention efforts have been more mixed.

With the help of treatment, mother to baby transmission has dropped significantly. Transmission between adults aged 30 and over has also dropped.

However, transmission rates among adolescents have risen, causing concern, particularly about the high number of new cases among young women between the ages of 15 to 24.

According to UNAIDS, a new report published last week, “shows that the ages between 15 and 24 years are an incredibly dangerous time for young women.”

The report included data from six studies in Southern Africa, which showed that “southern Africa girls aged between 15 and 19 years accounted for 90% of all new HIV infections among 10 to 19-year-olds.”

“Young women are facing a triple threat,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. “They are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing, and have poor adherence to treatment. The world is failing young women and we urgently need to do more.”

The report also noted the countries that have increased their domestic funding for HIV prevention, “including Namibia, which has committed to investing 30% of its HIV budget in preventing HIV among adults and children.”

“Of course we all hope that this is a bi-partisan consensus but the fact that we, the U.S. government, continue to pay directly for service delivery in some countries is a huge risk,” -- Amanda Glassman

Ensuring the continued and renewed domestic and international funding for both treatment and prevention was the subject of discussion at the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C. on Monday.

The event, held ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December, focused on a U.S. government initiative aimed at involving government finance departments, as well as health departments, in the HIV response.

Currently over 55 percent of the HIV response in low and middle-income countries comes from the governments of low and middle income countries.

However a significant amount of international support, roughly one third overall funding, comes from the U.S. government, which has made tackling HIV and AIDS a priority through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

However while U.S. funding for the HIV and AIDS response is considered bipartisan HIV and AIDS support, like any U.S. government program may change under Presidency of Donald Trump.

IPS spoke to Amanda Glassman, Vice President for Programs and Director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development after the event:

“Of course we all hope that this is a bi-partisan consensus but the fact that we, the U.S. government, continue to pay directly for service delivery in some countries is a huge risk,” she said. “On the one hand I think maybe it makes it harder to cut, but on the other hand if it does get cut it’s a disaster.”

Of the 18 million people currently on antiretroviral treatment globally, “4.5 million are receiving direct support,” from the U.S. while an additional 3.2 million are receiving indirect support through partner countries.

While there remains broad consensus over treatment, prevention efforts are considered more politically contentious.

Previous Republican administrations have supported abstinence programs, which studies have shown to be ineffective at preventing HIV transmission.

Glassman noted that while there is more political consensus over treatment programs “you need prevention really to finish this.”

However she noted one positive example from incoming Vice-President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana.

“(Pence) actually eliminated (needle exchange) programs and then saw HIV / AIDS go up and so he reversed his position, so I think that sounds good, he listens to evidence and action,” said Glassman.

However Pence’s record on women’s reproductive rights and his reported comments that in 2002 that condoms are too “modern” and “liberal”, may not bode well for overall prevention efforts, especially considering that addressing higher transmission rates among adolescent girls also requires addressing gender inequality and sexual violence. Update: In 2000, Pence’s campaign website also said that a US government HIV/AIDS program should direct resources “toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” a statement many have interpreted as support for gay-conversion therapy.

Reducing the high rates of transmission among adolescent girls will not be easy. It involves increasing girls economic independence as well as helping them to stay in school longer.

“It’s a discussion of investment in secondary school … so the discussion is bigger than health,” said U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Deborah Birx at the event.

This is one of the reasons why involving government finance departments is important.

However finding additional funds for both education and health in the “hardest hit countries” will not be easy, said Glassman.

“(These countries) are coming in with growth projections that are much lower, they have pretty low tax yields meaning that the amount that they get from their tax base is pretty low.”

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Debate Roils India Over Family Planning Methodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/debate-roils-india-over-family-planning-method/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=debate-roils-india-over-family-planning-method http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/debate-roils-india-over-family-planning-method/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 21:34:55 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148002 A family in New Delhi. Given India's high infant mortality rate, one of the highest in the world, many women are not keen on sterilisation since they feel that it shuts out their option of having children later if required. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A family in New Delhi. Given India's high infant mortality rate, one of the highest in the world, many women are not keen on sterilisation since they feel that it shuts out their option of having children later if required. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Nov 29 2016 (IPS)

The Indian government’s decision to make injectable contraceptives available to the public for free under the national family planning programme (FPP) has stirred debate about women’s choices in the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country.

The controversial contraceptive containing the drug Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DPMA) is currently being introduced at the primary and district level. It is delivered in the form of an injection and works by thickening the mucous in a woman’s cervix which stops sperm from reaching the egg, thereby preventing pregnancy. It is also much cheaper than other forms of contraceptives available across the country.

Injectables have been part of family planning programs in many countries for the last two decades. They have also been available in the private sector in India since the early 1990s though not through government outlets. Advocates of injectable contraceptives say that their inclusion in the government’s programme will now offer women more autonomy and choice while simultaneously whittling down the country’s disquieting maternal mortality rate (MMR).

Nearly five women die every hour in India from medical complications developed during childbirth, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly 45,000 mothers die due to causes related to childbirth every year in India, which accounts for 17 percent of such deaths globally, according to the global health body. The use of injectable contraceptives is also backed by the WHO, which has considered the overall quality of the drug with evidence along with the benefits of preventing unintended pregnancy.

However, Indian civil society seems splintered on the issue. Several bodies like the Population Foundation of India and Family Planning Association of India support the government’s move. The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), an apex body of gynaecologists and obstetrics in the country, is also supportive of their use based on scientific evidence.

However, women right activists have opposed the initiative as a part of the national programme. They point to a report by the country’s premier pharmaceutical body — Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) — which has noted that DPMA causes bone loss. The report emphasizes that the osteoporotic effects of the injection worsen the longer the drug is administered and may remain long after the injections are stopped, and may even be irreversible. The DTAB had advised that the drug should not be included in the FPP until discussed threadbare with the country’s leading gynaecologists.

Several health groups, women’s organizations and peoples’ networks have also issued a joint statement protesting the approval of the injectable contraceptive. As far back as 1986, Indian women’s groups had approached the Supreme Court regarding serious problems with injectable contraceptives. based on a study by the country’s premier medical research organization — the Indian Council of Medical Research

Advocates of women’s health and reproductive rights add that the contraceptive is harmful to women as it leads to menstrual irregularity, amenorrhea, and demineralization of bones as a result of its long term use. Users have also reported weight gain, headaches, dizziness, abdominal bloating as well as decreased sex drive, and loss of bone density. The latest evidence from Africa now shows that the risk of acquiring HIV infection enhances because the couple is less likely to use a condom or any other form of contraception to minimise infection.

However, experts iterate that the real issue isn’t just about women’s health but about a human rights-based approach to family planning.

“Why should we control women’s access to choice? Is it not time to re-examine the issue and initiate a fresh debate?’’ asks Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India, who has opposed the introduction of DMPA.

Others say that while they are all for enlarging the basket of choices for women, and empowering them, pushing invasive hormone-based technology upon them is hardly the way to go about it. Besides, with the incidents of arthritis and Vitamin D deficiency in India already worrisome, demineralization of bones caused by DPMA will make matters a lot worse.

The total Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) in India among married women is estimated at 54.8 percent with 48.2 percent women using modern methods. This is comparatively lower than neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka whose CPR stands at 65.6 percent, 61.2 percent and 68.4 percent, respectively.

In India, the primary method of family planning is female sterilization – at 65.7 percent, which is among the highest in the world. One of the key reasons for this is the limited availability of a wide range of contraceptive methods in the public health sector in the country, say family planning experts. Some fear that the new method might also result in poor women being used as guinea pigs for public healthcare.

“Women’s reproductive health has always been contentious and has had a fraught history, plagued by issues of ethics, consent, and the entrenched vested interests of global pharma companies and developed nations,” says Mukta Prabha, a volunteer with Women Power Connect, a pan-India women’s rights organization. “So we need to tread with caution on DPMA so that women can make informed choices and their health isn’t compromised.”

Indian women suffer from a host of problems associated with unwanted pregnancies from unsafe abortions to maternal mortality and life-long morbidity. The paucity of trained medical personnel in the public health system adds to their woes.. Besides, India has always had a troubled history of sterilisation. In 2014, over a dozen women died as the result of contaminated equipment in a sterilisation camp in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

The resulting media uproar pressured the government to re-examine its policies and its long-held dependence on sterilisation. But in 2015-16 again there were 110 deaths due to botched sterilisation procedures. Given the high infant mortality rate, many women are wary of sterilisation. They also feel it restricts their choice of having children later if required. Despite this, over 1.4 m Indian women were sterilised in 2014 as against 5,004 men.

Worse, the controversial DPMA — which is aimed only at women — isn’t gender sensitive either. What should be pushed instead, say women activists, is male sterilisation which is a far simpler and minimally invasive procedure which also minimizes health risks for women.

As Prabha puts it, “Indian men’s participation in family planning has always been dismal even though they’re the ones who determine the number of children a women has. The current debate is a good opportunity to involve the men in the exercise and set right the gender skew.”

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Selling Their Bodies for Fish and a Handful of Shillingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 19:44:53 +0000 Diana Wanyonyi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147985 People at Gasi Beach in Kwale County, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, wait for fishermen to buy the daily catch. Credit: Diana Wanyonyi/IPS

People at Gasi Beach in Kwale County, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, wait for fishermen to buy the daily catch. Credit: Diana Wanyonyi/IPS

By Diana Wanyonyi
KWALE, Kenya, Nov 28 2016 (IPS)

It’s Saturday morning and Hafsa Juma* is seated on a traditional mat known locally as a mkeka under the scorching sun outside her homestead, located near Gasi Beach on the Kenyan coast.

Clad in a traditional Swahili dress known as a dera, complemented by a mtandio wrapped around her head, Hafsa, 15, says she has been suffering from flu and headaches for more than a week. She hoped the hot sun might ease her chills and shivering, since her parents are unemployed and too poor to pay for a doctor visit."As much as I don’t like what I do, I'm forced to do it because we need to survive.” -- Asumpta, age 14

Hafsa is one of many girls who barter their bodies for fish and a little money at Gasi Beach on the Indian Ocean, in Kwale County. The oldest of three siblings, she is the breadwinner for her family.

Living near the beach, she is easy prey for male fishermen. She said started sex work two years ago.

“I completed standard eight [the final year of primary school] in 2014,” she said. “My parents are not well and that is why there is no food to eat at home. I’m forced to go and look for something small to bring home. I leave at around 8 p.m. and I come back to the house at around 12 a.m. Every night, I have one client. After he agrees to my demands, he gives me 200 shillings (about two dollars) and half a kilogramme of fish,” she said, avoiding eye contact.

Hafsa described being forced by her parents, especially her mother, to provide food for her family by offering sexual favours to male fishermen.

“I usually go to Gasi beach every day,” the teenager said. “In a month, if I work well, I get 5,000 Kenyan shillings (equivalent to 50 dollars) and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Walking with Hafsa along the shore of the Indian Ocean, our conversation is interrupted by a green wooden fishing boat with fishermen from the deep sea approaching the shore, where women, men and children with baskets eagerly wait to buy fresh fish from the fishermen coming in from the night catch.

Most of Hafsa’s clients are fishermen from the neighbouring country of Tanzania, who travel to Gasi once a year during the northeast monsoon winds and stay there for three months, from December to March, to fish and sell their catch.

After the monsoon season is over, and the foreign fishermen go back home, her clients are mostly motorcyclists who carry passengers, locally known as bodaboda.

“When I want to go to any given place away from home, I just board a motorcycle. When I’m almost at my destination, the bodaboda rider agrees to have sex for money. He gives me 100 shillings, and I also do the same with different bodaboda men to return home.”

Iddi Abdulrahman Juma is vice chairman of the Gasi Beach Management Unit, and a beneficiary of training from a non-governmental organisation known as Strengthening Community Partnership and Empowerment (SCOPE) that works to end commercial sexual exploitation of children in Kwale County. Juma blamed parents and guardians for making children vulnerable by sending them to buy fish at the beach.

“We’ve been seeing like 10 children coming here to the beach to buy fish, which is also dangerous. Some of them are already pregnant and others infected with deadly diseases. The age group of children who indulge in commercial sexual exploitation is between 12 and 17 years old,” he said.

Twenty kilometers from Gasi, in the Karanja area of Kwale County, 14-year-old Asumpta Pendo* sweeps out a thatched mud shanty. She says it is a mangwe — a place where palm wine known as mnazi (a traditional liquor) is sold.

Just like Hafsa, Asumpta also indulges in sex for money with clients, often drunk, just to put food on her family’s table. She is also forced by her mother to sell mnazi.

“I dropped out in class seven because my mother was unable to educate me and we live in poverty. Life is hard,” she said. “Most of my clients are palm wine drinkers. In a day, I usually get one or two clients. Some of them prefer to use condoms, while others refuse. They usually give me money — between a dollar and 12 dollars a night.

“If I refuse to sell palm wine to male customers here at home, my mother beats me and goes to the extent of denying me food. As much as I don’t like what I do, I’m forced to do it because we need to survive,” Assumpta said.

A 2009 baseline survey conducted by the End Child Prostitution in Kenya network, an umbrella of various civil society organisations, found 10,000 to 15,000 girls living in the coastal areas to be involved in child sex tourism.

To address this problem, SCOPE has partnered with the organization Terre des Hommes (TDH) from the Netherlands to implement a programme aimed at ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Kwale County and three sub-counties, Matunga, Msambweni and Lunga Lunga.

The strategy includes creating awareness among the general community and calling on local citizen constituencies to raise their voices against these abuses.

The coordinator of SCOPE’s End Commercial Sex programme, Emanuel Kahaso, said that the problem is serious in Kwale County, popular with tourists for its clean, sandy beaches.

“In 2006, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported that there were more than 50,000 children in Kenya who have engaged in sexual exploitation and 30,000 who are selling their bodies along the beaches in coastal Kenya,” he said.

“As an organisation, we also found out that more than 15,000 children here in the Kenyan south coast are used for commercial sex work in tourism,” he said. “Because of traditions and taboos, parents do not talk openly with their children about reproductive health and some of the perpetrators who are found guilty of the vice are not arrested because of these taboos.”

Emerging hotspots such as drug dens, nightclubs and discotheques, as well as an increase in bodaboda transport, have lured many children into commercial sex. According to local sources, in many instances, early marriage and commercial sex work have been initiated by parents, as well as child sex tourism and prostitution along the beach areas.

The problem is further exacerbated by the cultures and traditions of the local tribes, which are gender-biased and support various forms of sexual exploitation of children. Illiteracy is high, the economy is poor and laws to protect children are rarely enforced.

At Msambweni Referral County Hospital, Saumu Ramwendo, a community health worker for SCOPE, empowers and counsels young girls on health matters and fighting commercial sexual exploitation. The group has so far been able to reach 360 children who are the victims of sexual exploitation and 500 others considered at risk.

*Names have been changed to protect their identities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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