Inter Press ServiceGender – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 A Gender-Specific Approach To Counter-Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 08:55:22 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156663 Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community. “Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by […]

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Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took credit for bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Algiers in December 2007, an act that claimed the lives of 17 U.N. personnel. The international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts. Credit: UN Photo / Evan Schneider

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community.

“Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by recruiters,” Mattias Sundholm, communications adviser to the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, told IPS.

Hundreds of members of civil society and representatives of member states met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York at the end of June for the first High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism. During the two-day conference, the role of gender in counter-terrorism strategies was discussed in length. 

A senior European Union official shared with IPS that “the international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts.”

“Gender inequality and corruption, combined with the lack of information, no access to education and lack of understanding of what’s happening on the battlefield seem to play a role in the recruitment of women fighters,” the official said.

Despite the military setback of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in many Middle Eastern countries, countering its influence in the media and public opinion, along with Al-Qaeda’s power and Boko Haram’s attacks, remains a top priority for the U.N.

Last year, the General Assembly decided to implement the U.N. Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and created the Office of Counter-Terrorism, while the establishment of a Global Network of Counter-terrorism coordinators was discussed. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Strengthening international cooperation to combat the evolving threat of terrorism,” with the goal of creating partnerships and finding practical solutions.

Different approaches to recruiting men and women

The way terrorists target men and women is different as they promise them particular rewards they find appealing.

“Extremist armed groups shrewdly exploit gender just as they exploit any other potential recruitment tool. For women, they may dangle the promise of adventure, travel, romance, commitment to a cause, and the possibility of being part of an extended family yet far from the yoke of immediate relatives. For men, the pitches are often more macho, complete with the promise of glory and multiple wives,” Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism at Human Right’s Watch (HRW), told IPS.

Megan Manion, policy analyst with U.N. Women, explained men are often recruited as fighters with a promise that fighters get wives as a reward.  “Extremist groups also offer a salary for services of the fighters.”

But on the other hand, Manion explained, women are promised different things.

“Women join extremist groups together with or to follow their husbands or boyfriends. Women also join violent extremist groups to get the opportunities they will not have in their own communities due to inequalities,” she said.

If terrorism strategies include gender-specific narratives, so should prevention plans.

“Women have a particularly influential role in families and can play an important role in preventing young people from radicalising,” the senior EU official said.

Thus, prevention strategies must raise to the level of terrorist strategies in terms of their nuances. “When extremist groups understand gender inequalities and the impact and power they hold, but we, those who are preventing violent extremism do not, there is a significant issue around identifying and responding to human rights violations, as well as serious security implications and risks,” Manion said.

When asked how prevention strategies should then be framed to be effective, Tayler firmly responded that any successful prevention strategy had to provide the same sense of belonging and thrill that groups like ISIL offered.

“That can only work if states stop marginalising communities and individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment,” Tayler said.

One of the ways to implement gender-specific strategies could be through the strengthening the role of women in law enforcement and policing both in terms of numbers but also on all hierarchical levels, the EU source said.

He argued in favour of reaching out to all communities, especially the de-radicalised ones.

“There is an important role for women religious leaders and local interfaith dialogue to build an environment which is less conducive to violent extremism,” he said.

Some civil organisations, such as the non-profit International Centre for Religion and Diplomacy, are already including religious actors in their counter-terrorism strategies.

Moreover, Sundholm, from the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, added that youth, and in particular girls, “should also be empowered to lead and participate in the design and implementation of prevention programmes.”

Tayler explained that at HRW gender was taken into account when the issue required it. For example, ISIL rapes or the sexual enslavement of Yezidi women require the counter-terrorism strategy to be very gender-specific. Another case would be Nigeria, where “women who managed to escape Boko Haram are reportedly being raped by Nigerian security forces who claim to be their rescuers.” 

What should member states do?

Most experts and policy makers say that counter-terrorism should be the responsibility of U.N. member states, as they control borders and pass laws, which can either give privilege to or marginalise groups. Member states should also take the lead in including a gender perspective into their policies.

“Gender-mainstreaming should be integrated in the work and programmes of both Member States and the U.N.,” the EU source said.

Manion believes that member states hold the key to prevention.

“Repressive laws and lack of security, rule of law or good governance are powerful drivers for radicalisation for women and men,

“They must make sure that the laws they pass to respond to terrorist threats do not impose unreasonable burdens on women, including women civil society organisations who are often working on the front lines to identify and prevent radicalisation and re-integrate returnees,” she added.

However, Tayler warned that while gender should be a critical focus of counter-terrorism efforts, “neither the U.N. nor national governments should assume that being gender-sensitive is a panacea.”

“Ticking off the “gender” box alone is not an effective counterterrorism strategy. Authorities need to address the myriad root causes of terrorism,” she said.   

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Family Planning Is A Human Righthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-human-right http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:32:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156639 It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world. For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is […]

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A basket of condoms passed around during International Women’s Day in Manila. Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world.

For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is a Human Right,” and aptly so.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights where family planning was, for the first time, understood to be a human right.“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children,” the Tehran Proclamation from the conference states.

The historic meeting also linked the right to the “dignity and worth of the human person.”

“Family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving sustainable development,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem.

However, in developing countries, more than 200 million women still lack safe and effective family planning methods largely due to the lack of information or services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that clinical guidelines are followed in less than 50 percent of cases in poorer nations, resulting in “deficient” family planning.

In such circumstances and without access to contraception, women and girls often turn to dangerous methods such as ingesting or inserting vinegar, which can cause bodily damage.

UNFPA found that in one country, the stiff plastic wrapper of an ice popsicle is used as a replacement for condoms which could result in genital lacerations.

While such practices have generally decreased, countries like Yemen where conflict has restricted access to family planning are seeing more women using unsafe, traditional methods of contraception.

In other places such as the United States, family planning is deliberately under attack.

Just a year after implementing the global gag rule, which cuts off international family planning funds to any foreign nongovernmental organization who advocate or even give information about abortion, the Trump administration is now turning inwards and targeting its own.

Title X is a USD300 million government programme dedicated to helping the four million low-income women who wish to access birth control and other family planning services

However, new proposed regulations echo a sense of a “domestic gag rule” by restricting people’s access to family planning care. One such proposal forbids doctors from counselling patients with unplanned pregnancies about their reproductive options and instead advocates coercing pregnant patients towards having children regardless of their own wishes.

The scenario can already be seen playing out across the country.

Recently in California, the Supreme Court reversed a law that required crisis pregnancy centres, which often trick women into believing they provide family planning services, to provide full disclosure.

The Supreme Court found that it “imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

“It’s clear the U.S. government is taking more and more swipes at a fundamental aspect of the right to health—the right to information,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” she continued.

Withholding such essential resources and information from women also heightens the risk of ill-health or even death for newborns.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, women with unintended pregnancies, which is often higher among the poor, often receive worse prenatal care and poor birth outcomes. When women are able to decide when to have children and space out their pregnancies, their children are less likely to be born prematurely or have low birth weights.

Already, a study found that U.S. babies are three times more likely to die compared to 19 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development largely due to high poverty rates and a weak social safety net.

Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S.

And now with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a history of undermining women’s reproductive freedom, we may even see worse including the dismantling of the historic Roe v. Wade case which legalised abortions.

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and meeting all family planning needs, the international community should not forget its affirmation at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights.

“Investments in family planning today are investments in the health and well-being of women for generations to come,” Kanem concluded.

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Age Appropriate Sexuality Education for Youth Key to National Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:52:36 +0000 Josephine Kibaru and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156636 Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right. It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its […]

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A community health volunteer informs community members about various methods of family planning. Photo Credit: UNFPA Kenya

By Dr. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right.

It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its youth, with parents shying off from the subject and policymakers largely equivocal. The result is that the continent has the highest numbers of teenagers joining the ranks of parenthood through unintended pregnancies.

The statistics are disquieting: as per the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014), one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Among the 19-year olds, this doubles to two out of ten. In a recent study, six out of ten girls surveyed in two Nairobi slums reported having had an unintended pregnancy.

Among sexually active unmarried adolescents, only about half use any form of contraceptives, yet only one in three women and one in four men, per the same study, knew the correct timing regarding when a woman is likely to get pregnant.

The World Population Day should awaken us all to the critical role of those in authority in ensuring children grow up not only in an atmosphere of love and understanding, but also that they live to their full potential.

Young mothers are four times more likely than those over 20, to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. If they live, they are more likely to drop out of school and to be poor than if they didn’t get pregnant. And their children are more prone to have behavioral problems as adolescents, which means they are also more likely to stay poor. This cycle of poverty has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, ideological and cultural fault lines appear every time discussions about teaching the youth about taking responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

As debates continue, the toll is unrelenting, with complications in pregnancy and childbirth being the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. The rate of new HIV infections among adolescents is rising, from 29% in 2013 to 51% in 2015.

The traditional role of families and communities as primary sources of reproductive health information and support has dissipated, replaced by peers and social media. Though the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of 2015 aims to address young people’s health and well-being, help realise gender equality and reduce inequalities, much remains to be done to implement the good intentions of the policy.

Yet evidence from many countries has shown that structured, age appropriate sexuality education provides a platform for providing information about sexuality and relationships, based on evidence and facts, in a manner that is positive, that builds their skills.

Scientific evidence shows that when young people are empowered with correct information they are less likely to engage in early or in unprotected sex. This is attributable to the fact that they can undertake risk analysis and make informed decisions.

The ultimate goal for Kenya’s population programmes should be anchored on the demographic dividend paradigm. In short, in which areas should we invest our resources so that we can achieve the rapid fertility decline that can change the age structure to one dominated by working-age adults?

Countries such as the Asian Tigers, that have achieved rapid economic growth have strong family planning programmes that help women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and have the smaller families. Family planning is a key tool for reducing poverty since it frees up women to work and leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to each child’s health and education.

First, we must make the obvious investments in reproductive health information and services for all who need them. The other key enablers for the demographic dividend window of opportunity include quality education to match economic opportunities, investing in the creation of new jobs in growing economic sectors and good governance

Second, education, especially for girls, increases the average age at marriage and lowers family size preferences. However, it must also be education that aims to promote the supply of a large and highly educated labour force, which can be easily integrated into economic sectors.

Third, Kenya must therefore identify the skills that are specific to the country’s strongest growing economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Finally, combining sound health and education policies with an economic and governance environment that favours capital accumulation and investment will move Kenya closer towards experiencing the economic spur of the demographic dividend.

As the country takes strides towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals targets, all stakeholders including the United Nations, the government of Kenya, faith based communities, parents and others should all work together to empower adolescents and young people for positive health outcomes.

Young people are the backbone of this country and we owe them the best investment for the future through a multi-sectoral approach. Failure to do that means any national transformative agenda, including the SDGs and the Big Four, will be difficult to achieve.

Josephine Kibaru-Mbae
(@NCPDKenya) is the Director-General, National Council for Population and Development, Govt of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Women Are Key to Fixing the Global Food Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/women-key-fixing-global-food-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-key-fixing-global-food-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/women-key-fixing-global-food-system/#respond Tue, 10 Jul 2018 10:03:00 +0000 Danielle Nierenberg and Emily Payne http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156622 Danielle Nierenberg is Founder and President of Food Tank. Emily Payne is a food and agriculture writer based in New York

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Women Are Key to Fixing the Global Food System - Women farmers clearing farmland in Northern Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Women farmers clearing farmland in Northern Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Danielle Nierenberg and Emily Payne
NEW ORLEANS, United States, Jul 10 2018 (IPS)

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide, and in some countries they make up 80 percent of all farmers. In addition to tending crops, most women—particularly in the Global South—are also responsible for seed saving, animal husbandry, grain processing, and other tasks related to growing food. This is in addition to cooking, cleaning, and taking care of sick elders and children.

It’s women farmers who produce the food that families eat. While male farmers often focus on growing commodity crops like maize, rice, and soybeans, women raise the fruits, vegetables, and small livestock that nourish families each day.

But if women had the same access to resources as men, they could raise their current yields by 20 to 30 percent—this would lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger. So when considering the global food system crisis, women should be at the top of mind.If women had the same access to resources as men, they could raise their current yields by 20 to 30 percent—this would lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger. So when considering the global food system crisis, women should be at the top of mind

Nourished Planet, a new book put forth by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, highlights stories of success through women’s efforts in agriculture throughout the world. Examples range from female PhD students from Jamaica developing workshops for small farmers on climate-adaptive irrigation strategies to women dairy farmers in Ghana starting a co-op to pay for their children’s healthcare and education.

The book goes on to highlight that, across the globe, women often have little agency over their own lives. They often lack the same access to resources—such as land, banking and financial services, education, and extension services—as male farmers. And in many countries, women aren’t allowed to own land or even inherit their land.

As farmers across the globe are aging, women need to be able to take their rightful role as leader of their land, farm, and family. The average age of the American farmer is 57 years old; in Africa, the average farmer is 60. When their husbands die, we need to ensure that the women of these households are able to maintain the land they have grown, cultivated, and lived on for often many generations.

Traditional power structures in the food system commonly ignore or undervalue the vital roles women play. Women need to be recognized for their part in feeding the world today, as well as empowered to grow their contributions into the future.

 

Women Are Key to Fixing the Global Food System

Credit: IPS

 

Across the globe, women are taking matters into their own hands by forming cooperatives and non-governmental organizations and innovating their way to a sustainable future.

The Women in Agriculture program in Nigeria is connecting women to vital extension services, and the Women Advancing Agriculture Initiative advocates for gender equality and access to information for women in Ghana. In America, the Women in Food & Ag Network is striving to create a global network to provide opportunities for education on economics and environment that promote a holistic view of agriculture.

Women farmers are letting governments, policymakers, and their own husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons know that we ignore women in the food system at our own peril.

A more economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and socially just food and agriculture system around the globe is within our reach. But it is an essential for farmers, eaters, businesses, policymakers, academics, funders, and anyone interested in contributing to a food system to value and support women to continue to grow our food, nourish our bodies and planet, and innovate to food system change.

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Excerpt:

Danielle Nierenberg is Founder and President of Food Tank. Emily Payne is a food and agriculture writer based in New York

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Declining Birth Rates Not Exclusive to Wealthy Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/declining-birth-rates-not-exclusive-wealthy-nations/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2018 20:15:42 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156508 Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates. Education, social security, environments conducive to economic development and good value systems are what promote this, as evidenced by the recorded experiences of Asian countries as far apart as Japan […]

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Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates. In India as the female literacy rate increased from 39 percent to 65 percent, the fertility rate dropped. These women pictured are studying an IT short course. Credit: Ranjita Biswas/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

Countries do not have to be economically prosperous to move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and mortality rates.

Education, social security, environments conducive to economic development and good value systems are what promote this, as evidenced by the recorded experiences of Asian countries as far apart as Japan and India.

According to Dr. Osamu Kusumoto, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association, the economy and demographic transition or DT are indirectly rather than directly correlated.

Demographic transition is the theory that holds that countries move from a situation of high birth and death rates to low fertility and low mortality rates as they industrialise. However, in more recent times, the theory has been hit by contradictions and there are debates over whether industrialisation leads to declining population or whether lower populations lead to industrialisation and higher incomes.“At the same time the spread of healthcare and public health services promote mortality transition or lowered death rates. But, with real prosperity there is potential for fertility to rise again.”

Thus, according to Kusumoto, in high-income oil-producing countries, DT is unlikely to advance unless the countries also implement modern economic systems.

There are also debates around such inter-related DT issues as higher female incomes, old-age security and the demand for human capital with experiences differing across countries and regions.

As a country transitions, the cost of education rises creating relative poverty and promoting fertility transition, or a lowered birth rate, says Kusumoto. “At the same time the spread of healthcare and public health services promote mortality transition or lowered death rates. But with real prosperity there is potential for fertility to rise again.”

Kusumoto cites the example of Japan where, even with high per-capita incomes, people live in relative poverty and find unaffordable the high cost of educating children. “It is possible to say that fertility declines, even when social security systems are in place and old-age pensions are provided for, because people will make the rational choice of avoiding the cost of having children through marriage and childbirth.”

Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 per woman, which has caused the population to decline by one million in the last five years.

What people in Japan fail to realise, adds Kusumoto, is that without children the social security system becomes unsustainable and cannot support them in old age.

Meanwhile India, a developing country that is home to the world’s second-largest population, the total fertility rate has shown a steady decline from 3.6 per woman in 1991 to 2.4 per woman by 2011. Over that 20-year period per capita incomes rose from 1,221 dollars to 3,755 dollars, going by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) figures.

During the same period the female literacy rate increased from 39 percent to 65 percent. Also the composite human development index score of the UNDP, which combines education, health and income, rose from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.609 in 2014.

A closer look at the statistics at the district levels shows curious results such as that in eight Indian states, where there was a drop in the use of modern contraceptive methods, fertility had decreased, according to studies by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in Mumbai.

Professor Sanjay Kumar Mohanty at the IIPS says that disaggregated analyses at the district level are important since the districts are the focus of planning and programme implementation in India, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Such analyses may throw light on the unexplained decrease in fertility levels.”

According to an IIPS study published in 2016, while most of India’s 640 districts experience substantial declines over the 1991-2011 period, no clear relationship between initial levels and subsequent changes was discernible.

In the Indian experience, says Mohanty, female education and literacy have been associated with the use of modern contraceptives, higher age at marriage and birth spacing.

According to Kusumoto, in order to achieve the SDGs, what is needed is mortality transition as well as fertility transition. “We need to design a system where young people can have children if they wish to do so.”

Advances in medicine and public health and the availability of healthcare services will inevitably lead to mortality transition, says Kusumoto. “But unless there is also fertility transition, the population will continue to increase beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity.” 

While fertility control was successfully promoted using healthcare-based family planning and services, as in the case of India, from the 1960s onwards Western Europe and more recently East Asia began to see fertility rates falling below mortality rates in a “second demographic transition,” Kusumoto says, adding that research is still lacking on why exactly low fertility occurs. 

A notable example of the unpredictability showed up in the rapid DT in China’s Sichuan province during a study carried out in the 1980s by Toshio Kuroda, a winner of the U.N. Population Award. Kuroda noticed that DT happened despite the province’s low gross national product, making it an exceptional case of the economic DT theory.   

While there is a correlation between the economy and DT there are clear cases where it is not the economy but changes in people’s norms and values that bring about positive transition.

The exceptional changes that took place in the former Soviet countries may be attributed to a shift from communism to a market economy, which people accepted as rational. A World Bank report shows that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan all had birth rates of 6 children per woman in 1950-55, but this declined by almost half by 2000. It was a decline also experienced by other former Soviet countries that previously had high birth rates. All former Soviet countries also showed increased life expectancy.

In the end, says Kusumoto, what is important is policies that promote “appropriate fertility transition” and are aimed at building a society in which “human dignity is maintained as envisioned in the SDGs.”

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Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/#respond Sat, 30 Jun 2018 02:20:14 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156475 At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”. “We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what […]

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In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
CUSIPATA, Peru, Jun 30 2018 (IPS)

At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”.

“We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what we eat, and we forget about other vegetables, but now we’re going to be able to naturally grow tomatoes, lettuce, and peas,” María Magdalena Condori told IPS, visibly pleased with the results, while showing her solar greenhouse, built recently in several days of community work.

She lives in the Andes highlands village of Paropucjio, located at more than 3,300 m above sea level, in Cusipata, a small district of less than 5,000 inhabitants."We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognized." -- Elena Villanueva

The local population subsists on small-scale farming and animal husbandry, which is mainly done by women, while most of the men find paid work in districts in the area or even in the faraway city of Cuzco, to complete the family income.

The geographical location of Paropucjio is a factor in the low fertility of the soils, in addition to the cold, with temperatures that drop below freezing. “Here, frost can destroy all our crops overnight and we end up with no food to eat,” says Celia Mamani, one of Condori’s neighbors.

A similar or even worse situation can be found in the other 11 villages that make up Cusipata, most of which are at a higher altitude and are more isolated than Paropucjio, which is near the main population centre in Cusipata and has the largest number of families, about 120.

Climate change has exacerbated the harsh conditions facing women and their families in these rural areas, especially those who are furthest away from the towns, because they have fewer skills training opportunities to face the new challenges and have traditionally been neglected by public policy-makers.

“In Paropucjio there are 14 of us women who are going to have our own greenhouse and drip irrigation module; so far we have built five. This makes us very happy, we are proud of our work because we will be able to make better use of our land,” said Rosa Ysabel Mamani the day that IPS spent visiting the community.

The solar greenhouses will enable each of the beneficiaries to grow organic vegetables for their families and to sell the surplus production in the markets of Cusipata and nearby districts.

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

With a broad smile, Mamani points to a 50-sq-m wooden structure that within the next few days will be covered with mesh on the sides and microfilm – a plastic resistant to extreme temperatures and hail – on the roof.

“We will all come with our husbands and children and we will finish building the greenhouse in ‘ayni’ (a Quechua word that means cooperation and solidarity), as our ancestors used to work,” she explains.

The ayni is one of the social forms of work of the Incas still preserved in Peru’s Andes highlands, where the community comes together to build homes, plant, harvest or perform other tasks. At the end of the task, in return, a hearty meal is shared.

The minga, another legacy of the Inca period, is similar but between communities, whose inhabitants go to help those of another community. In this case women from different villages and hamlets get together to build the greenhouses, especially the roofs, the hardest part of the job.

Training in production and rights

A total of 80 women from six rural highlands districts in Cuzco will benefit from the solar greenhouses and drip irrigation modules for their family organic gardens, as part of a project run by the non-governmental Peruvian Flora Tristán Women’s Centre with the support of the Spanish Basque Agency for Development Cooperation.

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognised,” Elena Villanueva, a sociologist with the centre’s rural development programme, told IPS.

She said the aim was comprehensive training for women farmers, so that they can use agro-ecological techniques for the sustainable use of soil, water and seeds. They will also learn to defend their rights as women, farmers and citizens, in their homes, community spaces and before local authorities.

The expert said the solar greenhouses open up new opportunities for women because they protect crops from adverse weather and from the high levels of ultraviolet radiation in the area, allowing the women to grow crops that could not survive out in the open.

“Now they will have year-round food that is not currently part of their diet, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce, that will enrich the nutrition and diets in their families – crops they will be able to plant and harvest with greater security,” she said.

The women have also been trained in the preparation of natural fertilisers and pesticides. “Our soils don’t yield much, they squeeze the roots of the plants, so we have to prepare them very well so that they can receive the seeds and then provide good harvests,” Condori explains.

In the 50 square metres covered by her new greenhouse, the local residents have worked steadily digging the soil to remove the stones, turn the soil and form the seed beds for planting.

Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS


Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“To do that we have had to fertilise a lot using bocashi (fermented organic fertiliser) that we prepare in groups with the other women, working together in ayni. We brought guinea pig and chicken droppings and cattle manure, leaves, and ground eggshells,” she explains.

This active role in making decisions about the use of their productive resources has helped change the way their husbands see them and has brought a new appreciation for everything they do to support the household and their families.

Honorato Ninantay, from the community of Huasao, located more than 3,100 metres above sea level in the neighbouring district of Oropesa, confesses his surprise and admiration for the way his wife juggles all her responsibilities.

“It seems unbelievable that before, in all this time, I hadn’t noticed. Only when she has gone to the workshops and has been away from home for two days have I understood,” he says.

“I as a man have only one job, I work in construction. But my wife has aahh! (long exclamation). When she left I had to fetch the water, cook the meals, feed the animals, go to the farm and take care of my mother who is sick and lives with us. I couldn’t handle it all,” he adds.

His wife, Josefina Corihuamán, listens to her husband with a smile on her face, and confirms that he is now involved in household chores because he has understood that washing, cleaning and cooking are not just a “woman’s job.”

She also has a solar greenhouse and irrigation module and is confident that she will produce enough to feed her family and sell the surplus in the local market.

“What we will harvest will be healthy, organic, chemical-free food, and that is good for our families, for our children. I feel that I will finally make good use of my land,” she says.

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Savagery of Rapes of Minorshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=savagery-rapes-minors http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2018 21:56:03 +0000 Geetika 3 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156382 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

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Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

By Geetika Dang, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Jun 22 2018 (IPS)

Rapes of minors surged from 16 per day in 2001 to 46 per day in 2016. As if this was not horrendous enough, their savagery adds to it.

In 2016, 43.3% of the total female rape victims were minors. Around 13% of the minor female victims were of age 11 and below. The deceased victim in the Kathua rape case from a nomadic Muslim community was barely eight years old. Her crumpled body was found in a blood-smeared dress in January, 2018. A group of Hindu men lured her into a forest, kidnapped her, drugged her, locked her in a Hindu temple, gang-raped her and then strangled her.

Geetika Dang

In another depraved and cruel assault, an eight-month-old baby girl was raped in New Delhi in January, 2018, by her 28-year-old cousin. As reported, the baby was on life support as her internal organs were damaged during the assault. In yet another case in Hisar’s Uklana town in December 2017, a 6-year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered. The post-mortem revealed that the murderer had inserted a wooden stick in her body. Her body parts were badly brutalized, bore multiple injuries and scratch marks, and blood was spilt all over her body.

In April 2018, a four-month-old baby was raped and murdered in the historic Rajwada area in Madhya Pradesh. The infant’s body was found in the basement area of the heritage Shiv Vilas Palace, with blood smears on the stairs telling a barbaric tale. The ravaged body was carried away in a bundle. Many more gruesome cases could be cited but are omitted as they differ in location but not in the brutality. At the risk of overstating it, the surge in the frequency of rapes of minors has been inextricably linked to their brutality in recent years. Why bestial masculinity has risen in recent years is unclear.

Our analysis with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and from other sources over 2001-16 yields useful insights into changes in incidence of rapes of minors (per lakh minors) across different states and over time.

Rapes of minors spiked between 2010-14, dropped sharply in 2015, and then spiked again in 2016. Surprisingly, after enactment of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in 2012, the incidence of rapes of minors surged. It covers crimes such as child rape, sexual assault and harassment and using children for pornography. However, NCRB began collecting data under POCSO in 2014. This may be partly linked to the spike in 2014.

Vani S. Kulkarni

There are some striking variations across the states (including Delhi as a sole union territory because of its infamous characterisation as the ‘rape capital’ of India). In 2001, the top three states (with lowest incidence of rapes of minors per 1,000,00 minors) were West Bengal (0.03), Jharkhand (0.12) and Arunachal Pradesh (0.19). In 2016, the top two states changed, with Bihar as the best (0.33), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (0.35) and Jharkhand (1.24) slipping from the second to the third best. So not just the states changed but the incidence was much higher among them.

In 2001, the three worst states/union territory were Delhi (4.44), followed by Chattisgarh (4.16) and Madhya Pradesh (3.24). In 2016, the three worst were Delhi (8.32), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (7.97) and Chattisgargh (7.58). Thus, while two out of the three worst states remained unchanged, the incidence of rapes rose.

At the regional level, the central was the worst in 2001 (33.53% of total rapes of minors), followed by a considerably lower share of the northern (19.01), and a slightly lower share of the southern (16.90%). In 2016, the central contributed the largest share (33.62%), followed by the southern (18.41 %), overtaking the northern region (16.10 %).

Raghav Gaiha

Using the NCRB and other data sets for the period 2001-16, we conducted an econometric panel analysis of rapes of minors during 2001-16, designed to isolate the contribution of each of the several factors associated with the surge in rapes of minors. Specifically, the panel model allows for individual state heterogeneity The larger the pool of minor girls (<17 years relative to men), the higher is the incidence of rapes of minors (hereafter just rapes). The greater the affluence of a state (measured in terms of state per capita income), the lower is the incidence of rape. The effect, however, is small. The lower the ratio of rural to urban population, the lower is the incidence of rapes, implying higher incidence in the latter. Congress and its coalition- ruled states lowered the rapes while President- ruled states saw a rise, presumably because the latter resulted from a breakdown of law and order. There are two surprising findings. One is that after the enactment of POCSO in 2012, the rapes increased. This is contrary to the spirit and intent of POCSO which was enacted as part of an initiative to make anti-rape laws more stringent. As convictions for rapes of minors are not available for the entire period of our analysis, we have used convictions for rapes as a proxy. This has a positive effect on rapes albeit small. This is not surprising as in 2016, out of 64,138 cases of child rapes for trials in courts, trials were completed only in 6626 cases and 57,454 (89.6%) cases are still pending. Of the cases in which trials were completed, offenders were convicted only in 28.2% of the cases.The problem is not just underreporting of rapes of minors for familiar reasons such as incest and fear of retaliation but also the incompetence and corruption of the police and judicial systems. So the recent legislation of capital punishment for rapists of girls below 12 years is a mere distraction from the imperative of systemic reforms. Worse, the capital punishment could add to the butchery of rapes of minors.

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

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EU Urged to Ban Early & Forced Child Marriageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 06:39:14 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156352 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Rashmi Hamal is a local heroine who helped to save her friend from an early marriage. She campaigns actively against child marriages in the Far Western Region of Nepal. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

Rashmi Hamal is a local heroine who helped to save her friend from an early marriage. She campaigns actively against child marriages in the Far Western Region of Nepal. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2018 (IPS)

Something historic was initiated at the European Development Days (EDD) in early June: the EDD placed women and girls at the forefront of Sustainable Development. Since its inception in 2006, EDD has become a barometer for ideas in global development.

Ever since then, the EDDs have developed into the Davos of Development and shapes how the European Union constructs its development policies. In 2018, the EU development agenda was transformed and shaped by a gender equality agenda.

This year’s speakers included the Norwegian Prime Minister, the director-general of the World Health Organization, the Crown Princess of Denmark, and Head of UN Women and Under Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Along with H.R.H Princess Mabel of Oranje-Nassau of Netherlands, the chair of Girls not Brides; Aichatou Boulama Kane, the Minister of Planning of the Republic of Niger; and Linda McAvan,Labour MEP for Yorkshire & The Humber, Chair of European Parliament Committee on Development, I served on the panel on child marriage to examine closely the Draft Resolution “Toward an EU external strategy against early and forced marriage” introduced before the European parliament by Member of the EU Parliament, Charles Goerens who moderated the panel at EDD on June 6.

The Resolution was unique in the way in which it called on European Union, in the context of its foreign policy and its development cooperation policy, to offer a strategic pact to its partners and to that end require that all its partner countries prohibit early and forced marriage in law and practice.

The Resolution points out that in order to comprehensively tackle early and forced marriage, the European Union, as a major actor in global development, must play a leading role.

The Resolution was drafted at an important political moment and captured the extraordinary global shifts and crises as a stated goal: “…whereas during the recent migrant crises, many parents, seeking to protect their daughters from sexual aggression, chose to have them marry before the age of 18.”

The Resolution also took into consideration of girls all over the world, including Yazidi girls and Chibok girls who are forced into marriage: “…calls for the act of forcing a child to enter into a marriage and that of luring a child abroad with the purpose of forcing her or him to enter into a marriage to be criminalized.”

The bedrock of the Resolution is that it calls upon all Member States to include a ban on early and forced marriage in their legislation. In a remarkable use of development cooperation, the Resolution sets out that: “The level of public development aid is made dependent on the recipient country’s commitment to complying with the requirements in the fight against early and forced marriage.”

My recommendation addressed the fact that around the world, even when the law is changed, the loopholes in the law remain. For example, I cited the recent Bangladesh Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2017 signed into law by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last year. The law significantly increased the punishment for contracting or conducting child marriage.

However, it includes a provision in Section 2(10) of the law that undermines the spirit of the law reform: “Within the definition of the law will not be considered an offense if the marriage takes place in special circumstances in the best interest of the underage woman in question.”

Co-opting the primacy of the best interest of the child principle as set out in the Convention of the Rights of the Child helps the government to legitimize child marriage in a way that the principle was never envisioned.

General Comment 14 issued by the Committee of the Rights of the Child recognizes that the best interest standard is vulnerable to manipulation of governments and obliges states parties to ensure the full rights recognized by the Convention.

“The best interest of the standard is rendered meaningless if not seen in the context of all the rights in the Convention. The right to education, access to health care services and protection from physical, and mental violence are in no way promoted and are in fact impeded by child marriage. ”

The EU has a critical role to play in influencing policy reform both in the EU member states and outside. The EU and many of its member states contribute significant amounts of development cooperation to countries with high rates of child marriage. However, it is important for the EU to acknowledge that law reform itself can be complicit in undermining the prevention of child or forced marriage.

Development cooperation must be aimed not only at addressing legislative reform but also on closing the loopholes in the law that render law reform meaningless. This calls for aligning development cooperation not only with changes in law and practice but with the transformation of political will.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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America First or America Alone?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/america-first-america-alone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=america-first-america-alone http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/america-first-america-alone/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:50:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156347 The United States’ move to withdraw from the Human Rights Council will have “reverberations” throughout the world in years to come, say human rights groups. This week, the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from the 47-member Human Rights Council, accusing it of bias against Israel. “The Human Rights Council has been a protector of […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2018 (IPS)

The United States’ move to withdraw from the Human Rights Council will have “reverberations” throughout the world in years to come, say human rights groups.

This week, the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from the 47-member Human Rights Council, accusing it of bias against Israel.

“The Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” said U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in a statement.

Nikki R. Haley, new United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations presented her credentials to Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

While it comes as no surprise to many, the move has been condemned by global human rights groups.

“It is the latest in a series of gestures that says we’re really only interested in transactional diplomacy—you give us something we want, and we give you something you want and we better get a better deal,” Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead Scott Paul told IPS, noting that it undermines human rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch’s Deputy UN Director Akshaya Kumar echoed similar comments on the U.S.’ “one dimensional” policy to IPS, stating: “By turning their back on the UN with this decision, they also turn their back on victims in Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Burma—all just because of this concern with Israel.”

Created in 2006, the Human Rights Council (HRC) plays a vital role in addressing rights violations around the world. It has initiated investigations in Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Myanmar, and South Sudan while also raising awareness and discussing key topics such as disability rights and violence against women.

Last month, the Council accused Israel of excessive use of force during demonstrations at the border and voted to probe killings in Gaza.

Paul also noted that the U.S. withdrawal is ill-timed as the country’s human rights record is “rightly” under the spotlight.

Most recently, the human rights body blasted President Donald Trump’s immigration policy of separating children from parents at the southern border. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the policy “unconscionable.”

A new report by the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston has also found and criticized the North American nation’s policies which have “overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”

“Quitting this body doesn’t in any way protect you from the scrutiny of the world, or from being assessed by international standards of human rights law…all of those issues are going to continue to be discussed,” Kumar said.

In a letter, Haley attacked human rights groups including Human Rights Watch for opposing her recent push for a General Assembly vote on changes to the Council.

“You put yourself on the side of Russia and China, and opposite the United States, on a key human rights issue. You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the U.S. decision to withdraw from the council,” Haley wrote.

Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau called it “outrageous” and that blaming organizations for the country’s own failure is “taking a page out of the book of some of the worst governments around the world.”

Though Haley promised to continue to work to reform the HRC and to engage in human rights in other fora such as the Security Council, it could be difficult to make significant progress.

For instance, China, a member of both the HRC and the Security Council, has blocked a number of justice and accountability measures at the Security Council including those concerning Syria.

Russia has vetoed Security Council action on Syria 12 times, and very little progress has been made to help protect Syrians.

“So its a rhetorical slight of hand for her to say that the U.S. is still committed to human rights and will pursue it in other spaces when they are walking away from the primary body dedicated to human rights,” Kumar told IPS.

Not only are they withdrawing their membership, the U.S., with almost 18 months remaining on its term, is refusing to attend anymore meetings.

Kumar noted that the move is “really rare” as countries often attend meetings if they come up on the body’s agenda and even if they are not members but are committed to human rights.

“To say that they are not going to come at all is a pretty significant step away from multilateralism,” she said.

“It is really deeply disappointing,” Paul said, noting the withdrawal is a major step back from the U.S.’ legacy at the HRC.

While their engagement with the Council has been spotty, the U.S. has helped some of the body’s key decisions such as the creation of a commission of inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea.

The U.S. has also played a leading role on initiatives related to Syria, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

While the HRC is not a perfect institution, the U.S. move to abandon ship does not help the Council either, Paul noted.

“I don’t think we should expect perfection over institutions, I think we should work to make them more perfect…simply walking away because it’s not going so well or because we are not getting everything we want isn’t actually the way to make things better,” he told IPS.

“They are taking themselves off the field and out of really important conversations and that’s something that is going to have reverberations for years to come,” Kumar reiterated.

And just because the U.S. is leaving the Council also does not mean that the North American nation should leave behind its commitments to human rights.

“At some point, we will be back at the table. And in the meantime, we will be doing everything we can to hold our own government to account,” Paul concluded.

The U.S. joined the HRC in 2009, previously refusing to be involved under the Bush administration due to concerns over the body’s members.

Among the HRC’s members are Burundi, the Philippines, and Venezuela.

It is the first time a member has voluntarily withdrawn from the Council.

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Project Population: Addressing Asia’s Ageing Societieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/project-population-addressing-asias-ageing-societies-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=project-population-addressing-asias-ageing-societies-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/project-population-addressing-asias-ageing-societies-2/#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 00:02:58 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156301 While populations have seen and undergone changes since the beginning of time, one trend in particular is unfolding across the world: less children, older people. In an effort to tackle the complex issue in Asia, government officials are convening to help create a sustainable society where no one is left behind. In Mongolia’s capital of […]

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A seventy-year-old woman laughs with family members inside a grocery store in Tachilek, Myanmar. UN Photo/Kibae Park

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2018 (IPS)

While populations have seen and undergone changes since the beginning of time, one trend in particular is unfolding across the world: less children, older people. In an effort to tackle the complex issue in Asia, government officials are convening to help create a sustainable society where no one is left behind.

In Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar, 40 Members of Parliament (MPs) are gathering to discuss sound policy approaches to population issues such as ageing and fertility transition which threaten the future of many Asian nations.

“This is an essential step to mitigating the impact of ageing on social systems and structures to achieve SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals),” the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Mongolia’s Director Naomi Kitahara told IPS.

By 2030, Asia could be home to over 60 percent of the total population aged 65 years or older worldwide, consulting group Deloitte calculated.

According to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), East and Northeast Asian countries have the largest such population, accounting for 56 percent of all older persons in the Asia-Pacific region and 32 percent in the world.

Not only is the scale of population ageing in Asia unprecedented, but so is its speed.

In France, the percentage of older people grew from 7 percent to 20 percent in approximately 150 years. However, the same demographic shift was seen in Japan within just 40 years.

Kitahara particularly pointed to Japan’s case as a prime example of population issues and their repercussions.

According to the United Nations, Japan’s fertility rates were approximately 2.75 children per woman in the 1950s, well above the total fertility rate of 2.1 which has been determined to help sustain stable populations.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: a smaller labor force and spending decreases which weaken the economy and discourage families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

“Without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain,” Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS, highlighting the importance of fertility research.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“High fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

At the same time, as people have a higher life expectancy, the elderly now make up 27 percent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 percent in the United States.

This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, and when the number of older persons grows faster than the working-age population, there are less funds for pensions and social security, thus creating an even weaker economy.

As many Asian countries are expected to follow in Japan’s footsteps, the parliamentarian gathering seems come at a critical juncture.

“This meeting gives countries the opportunity to learn from Japan’s current challenges, as well as successes…[it] provides an opportunity for other countries to share their experience,” Kitahara said.

And it is no coincidence that the meeting is taking place in Mongolia.

Mongolia, unlike many other Asian nations, has had a stable fertility rate of 3.1 and a slowly ageing population of 6 percent. This is in large part due to its population policies which have allowed for not only population growth, but also economic growth.

For instance, the recently approved Youth Development Law supports young Mongolians’ needs in relation to the economy, employment, health, and education including through the Youth Development Fund which provides access to development fund opportunities.

The new policy has also led to the establishment of youth development centers across the country which focus on skills development, helping young people grow into resilient and self-sufficient adults.

The East Asian nation is among the few countries in the region to have a law designated specifically for young people.

However, more must be done in Mongolia, Kitahara noted.

“To achieve the SDGs by 2030 Mongolia must give more attention to social and demographic issues, as well as giving and spending budgets for social and environmental aspects of sustainable development,” she told IPS.

“For instance, there is not sufficient funding to meet the need for modern contraceptives, and this has led to increased unmet need for family planning and reduced contraceptive prevalence,” Kitahara added.

Despite having been one of nine countries in the world that achieved the Millennium Development Goal’s (MDG) maternal mortality reduction target, Mongolia’s maternal mortality rate doubled in 2016 largely due to state budget cuts and a lack of access to contraception.

The role of parliamentarians is therefore critical in not only making laws, but also providing state budgets and fiscal management, issues that are set to be discussed during the meeting in Ulaanbaatar.

Kitahara also emphasized the need to employ a human rights lens in population policies and programs, giving individuals and couples to choose when and how many children they wish to have.

In an effort to address its ageing population and a shrinking labor force, China is now considering abandoning its two-child policy which put a cap on a family’s size.

The controversial policy contributed to its uneven demographics as the East Asian nation predicts that approximately a quarter of the population will be over the age of 60 by 2030.

It has also led to a gender imbalance with over 30 million more men than women.

Kitahara highlighted the need to provide equitable access to quality family planning information and services, in line with the SDGs.

“The ability to have children by choice and not by chance transforms communities, lives and countries…by ensuring that the rights of women and girls are respected, and they have access to reproductive health information and services, including contraception and family planning,” she concluded.

Dr. Kusumoto echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Nobody should interfere in other’s lives, but a constructive healthy society is essential to future of each society.”

Organized by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), the “Strengthening the Capacity of Parliamentarians for the Achievement of the SDGs: Ageing, Fertility and Youth Empowerment” meeting is also supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Among the countries participating in the 12-13 June meeting is Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Lao, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 Enrique Yeves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156293 We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted. We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, […]

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Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Enrique Yeves
ROME, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted.

We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, Africa and in Europe.

Enrique Yeves

We want to empower women and girls, yet in every sector we still see serious disparities in terms of equal pay for equal wages and getting more women into senior management positions. We worry about the mass movement of people, many of them disenfranchised, and yet fail to stop the exploitation and even death that too often awaits those who try to migrate.

What is to be done? First, we must understand how each of these issues is interlinked and how they can be alleviated using an integrated approach involving agriculture, education, social services, health and infrastructure. If we channel development assistance in an integrated way, rather than towards specific sectors, we are more likely to achieve sustainable changes – these in turn can ease the burden of coordination and enhance our ability to help governments to achieve more effective and long term improvements.

For this to happen, we need the political will of governments to achieve change, coupled with adequate resources.

These issues are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments committed to the SDGs in 2015, pledging to end hunger, extreme poverty, and other social, environmental and health evils that have left over 815 million people undernourished, and in many areas barely surviving in squalid and inhumane conditions.

The role of governments is central. Only they can exert the political will to enforce the required changes and to set aside the critically needed resources.

The role of development organizations, including the UN, non-governmental organizations and international and regional financial institutions, is also critical. They exist to support governments determined to achieve the SDGs and in so doing to improve their overall social, economic and political wellbeing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working for over 70 years on both the policy front and on the ground, doing so globally, regionally, nationally and at the community level. We have been documenting the state of food insecurity in the world, exploring and emphasizing the all-important role of small producers in achieving food security. Small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters, constituting a vast number of the rural poor, are vulnerable to environmental and market forces often beyond their control.

Yet it is they who, using tried and tested traditional systems enhanced where possible by improved technologies adapted to their needs, hold the keys to a world without hunger. As FAO has documented, family farmers produce more than two-thirds of the world’s food, with smallholders producing more per unit of land.

In the long run, tackling the direct relationship between mass migration and poverty and instability entails addressing basic challenges in the countries that people are leaving, and by providing more integrated assistance to refugees to improve their health and capacity to earn livelihoods in the receiving countries.

An important but frequently underplayed aspect for governments in developing countries is their need for assistance in defining and quantifying their present situation through internationally accepted benchmarks. Reliable statistics are crucial in order to measure progress towards attainment of the SDGs and general progress in development.

FAO delivers a lot of services to its members in this regard. And the effort produces globally relevant information, some of it alarming. Right now, for example, the global number of undernourished people is estimated at 815 million and that figure is rising for the first time in more than a decade. The number of countries reliant on external food assistance is now 39, the highest it’s ever been since FAO started tracking.

Eradicating hunger is a lynchpin for the entire 2030 Agenda, and governments must raise awareness about why achieving the SDGs is critical. This effort will both enable and benefit from women’s empowerment.

Programmes such as food for work, food stamps or a mix of both – especially in situations where conflict or natural disaster have impacted local production – are all part of the toolkit and are demonstrably efficient in fostering women’s power and interests. Increasing access to food is a building block to goals ranging from nutrition to women’s rights and assuring resilient livelihoods for producers.

What is essential is to find synergies – not only to avoid wasteful duplication but to forge the basis for sustainable solutions. Otherwise our worries are in vain.

Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Fertility Struggles More Open – and Shared on Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fertility-struggles-open-shared-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fertility-struggles-open-shared-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fertility-struggles-open-shared-social-media/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 13:21:40 +0000 Michelle Catenacci http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156269 Michelle Catenacci is an Infertility Specialist and IVF Doctor, Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

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By Michelle Catenacci, M.D
CHICAGO, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

Fertility health is an incredibly personal – and often vulnerable – topic. Fertility, infertility, and fertility preservation have gained increased public interest over the past few years. Infertility is formally defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 12% of women aged 15 to 44 in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. Even though a significant proportion of the population suffers from the challenges associated with infertility, awareness of these challenges has historically been limited, as many regarded fertility to be a “taboo” topic.

More recently (thankfully!), couples have become more and more open about their fertility struggles. Stories are being shared on social media, celebrities are discussing their experiences, and physicians are starting the dialogue with their patients about fertility health. This has led to increased “fertility awareness” and a more proactive approach to treating and preventing infertility.

Women experience an age-related fertility decline that impacts both quantity and quality of eggs. Infertility and miscarriage rates also generally increase as women age. Although egg quality is more difficult to decipher, we do have some testing that to look at egg quanitiy, or ovarian reserve.

With regard to egg quantity: unlike men, who produce new sperm throughout their lifetime, women are born with a fixed number of eggs. This pre-set number declines steadily as women age. A woman’s exact egg supply and her rate of egg depletion are unique to each woman and are likely related to her genetics. Environmental factors, such as smoking, have been shown to deleteriously affect egg quantity as well.

A physician can get a general sense of a women’s egg quantity, or ovarian reserve, through various hormonal tests and an ultrasound evaluation. Women will typically get blood test to measure a day three estrogen and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). FSH is the brain’s stimulating hormone for the ovaries.

As the egg supply decreases, the brain has to work harder to produce an egg, and thus we see an elevation in FSH levels. Another hormone frequently checked is AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone). AMH is secreted from small follicles in the ovary. Lower AMH numbers indicate a lower number of follicles.

A pelvic ultrasound is also frequently used to assess egg quantity by measuring the antral follicle count (2-9 mm follicles in the ovary), which also typically decreases with age. Having lower egg reserve does not necessarily cause infertility; however, it can make treating infertility more difficult as women with lower reserve tend not to respond as robustly to the stimulating medications used by fertility specialists to promote egg production.

Many women are now requesting fertility evaluations, even when they are not actively trying to become pregnant. These women may be considering fertility preservation techniques and want to see what their current ovarian status is, or they may simply wish to learn more about their reproductive health.

Although getting your ovarian reserve tested when not trying to get pregnant will usually not tell you for certain whether or not you will eventually have difficulty getting pregnant, these tests can provide some insights to prepare for possible future struggles.

Women who are concerned about their future fertility health may elect to undergo an egg freezing cycle to be used in the future, just in case they do have difficult conceiving. Fertility preservation via egg freezing had previously been recommended primarily for cancer patients, however in 2013, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine opened up this option for anyone wishing to preserve fertility.

Egg freezing for fertility preservation has been growing over the past several years due to increased fertility awareness, decreasing costs, and even insurance coverage. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology reports that in 2016, 3.7% of the 237,385 Assisted Reproductive Technologies cycles done in the United States were for egg freezing for fertility preservation and they expect this number to continue to rise.

Ideally, women should be freezing their eggs in their 20s or early 30s when egg quantity and quality are superior, but women of any age may elect this option after appropriate counseling.

As women gain a better understanding of their fertility health, more and more women have chosen to undergo egg freezing cycles to preserve their fertility or “stop the biological clock”. Although no procedure can guarantee a baby, improved egg freezing techniques have dramatically increased the success rates seen by women having babies from frozen eggs.

This has given women more options and the flexibility to build a family using their own eggs on their own timeline. Women interested in learning more about their reproductive health should contact a reproductive endocrinologist to receive fertility testing and interpret results to assess overall fertility health.

The post Fertility Struggles More Open – and Shared on Social Media appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Michelle Catenacci is an Infertility Specialist and IVF Doctor, Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

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Is there Gender Parity & Reverse Sexual Harassment at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2018 12:52:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156237 Faced with growing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year announced a “zero-tolerance” policy to fight harassment in the world body. But UN Women, which was created in July 2010 and dedicated to gender empowerment, has moved one step further– and appointed an Executive Coordinator and […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Faced with growing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year announced a “zero-tolerance” policy to fight harassment in the world body.

But UN Women, which was created in July 2010 and dedicated to gender empowerment, has moved one step further– and appointed an Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, perhaps one of the few UN bodies to do so.

Dr. Purna Sen, UN Women

Holding that new position is Dr. Purna Sen, Director of Policy at UN Women, who under the newly-created role, will build on the current momentum “to find lasting solutions to stop, prevent and respond to sexual harassment both, within and outside the UN.”

Asked whether there have been any charges of sexual abuse or sexual harassment at UN Women, she told IPS that in 2015, one case of sexual harassment was reported: the allegations, which involved a contractor for UN Women, were substantiated, and the contract was immediately terminated.

In 2016, she said, two cases of allegations of sexual harassment were reported. None of the allegations were substantiated.

In 2017, there was one case of allegations of sexual misconduct against one UN Women staff member. The case is still under investigation.

As part of her mandate, Dr Sen will be calling upon and supporting states, government administrations and the private sector to ensure actions are taken to respond to women’s experiences of sexual harassment.

She begins her assignment with two calls: firstly, asking women to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault and secondly, asking for examples of good practices, policies and laws dealing with harassment.

The email address follows: end.sexualharassment@unwomen.org

Announcing Dr Sen’s appointment, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director PhumzileMlambo-Ngcuka said: “UN Women was established to protect and promote women’s rights. We have a unique role to play in driving action towards accountability.”

“This means zero tolerance for violence and harassment, and actions to ensure that victims are supported. We currently see practices and cultural norms that enable harassment and penalize victims. This has to change.

”In her new role and with her directly relevant background, Purna will help address the deep-rooted patterns of inequality and abuse of women”, she declared.

In an interview with IPS, Dr Sen also responded to charges of “reverse sexual harassments” and the status of gender parity in the UN system.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: What is your response to charges of sexual harassment in reverse – where some high ranking UN officials point out cases where “women staffers throw themselves on their bosses to advance their careers?.”

Dr Sen: “Let’s decipher that statement: is it claimed that women are offering sex for jobs or promotion? If so, surely there are some clear responses.

Any muddying of professionalism, competency and recruitment with matters of sexual behaviour is inappropriate and not for defending. That holds whether it is powerful, high ranking officials (mostly men) or junior staff (more likely to be women, young people, national staff etc). Sexual activities in exchange for career advancement is of course unacceptable.

This possibility or practice must not be treated either as a distraction from the seriousness or ubiquity of gendered, structured sex discrimination that is manifest in sexual harassment, abuse and assault or riposte to accusations.

Those men in high ranking positions making these allegations have no doubt had the opportunity to use their positions to raise this issue over their careers. Has this been done? Or are these issues being raised now when women are calling for accountability for those who abuse?

Treating sexual harassment as isolated incidents, or as incomprehensible acts of individuals (as the formulation in the question suggests) is problematic. It leads to obfuscation or denial of the structural and systemic basis of sexual harassment and assault: these are expressions of patterns of unequal power structures where powerful men (predominantly) hold authority and control over junior staff (more likely to be women, local staff.) such that they can influence their careers or experiences at work.

Denial, distraction and excusing of sexual harassment and assault illustrate cultures where the seriousness and harm of harassment is not recognised or prioritized”.

IPS: A General Assembly resolution going back to the 1970s — and reaffirmed later– called for 50:50 gender parity amongst UN staffers, particularly in decision-making posts. How is UN women conforming to this resolution? What is the breakdown of your staff in numbers between men and women?

Dr Sen: UN Women is supporting the SG’s gender parity efforts through its unique mandate to lead and coordinate the UN system’s work on gender equality, as well as promote accountability, including through regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

UN Women is also a source of substantive guidance on gender parity and related issues for the UN system, and serves as a repository for best practices, provides guidance and tools, and analyses overall UN system trends to identify obstacles to and key drivers of change in advancing towards equal representation.

Additionally, UN Women supports interagency knowledge-sharing and collaboration, as well as capacity building of gender expertise, through system-wide gender networks, including the Gender Focal Points, IANWGE and the UN-SWAP network

Another important step UN Women is taking is the upcoming development of the Guidelines on Enabling Environment, containing system-wide recommendations and practical measures aimed at creating a work environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and abuse of authority, as well as supports women in their careers through family-friendly policies, work-life balance and professional development programmes.

As of today our overall workforce breakdown is 71% female; 29% male.

IPS: What is your response to the argument that jobs in the UN system should go to the most qualified and the most competent – rather than based on gender equality?

Dr Sen: “The problem with this question is that it assumes a contradiction between being ‘the most qualified and the most competent’ on the one hand, and the pursuit of gender equality, on the other. That is a false premise. It assumes that the goal of gender equality jettisons competency and good qualification.

What lies behind this assumption is the belief that women (for it is in general the appointment of greater numbers of women that makes up actions towards gender equality in staffing or representatives’ profiles) cannot be the best qualified or the most competent.

Therein lies a fully gendered belief in the essential incompetence of women and, in contrast, the innate competence of men. I reject that assumption and there are many examples that support such rejection.

In a nutshell, women can be and are both competent and qualified, including the most competent and qualified, in any sector. More pertinent is the question why is it that competent and qualified women are not being appointed?

The same gendered assumption that pre-supposes that women can be neither, is what stops their true talents, skills and competencies being recognized and rewarded. Cultures of gender inequality are insidious and have long passed their expiry date.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Nepali Mothers and an Irish Daughterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 18:50:25 +0000 Tej Thapa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156183 Tejshree Thapa is a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Nepal, often in the news because of its urgent development needs, was, on this crucial issue, ahead of many of its neighboring countries, decriminalizing abortion in 2002

Adolescent girls in Nepal continue to suffer severe disadvantages, discrimination and exclusion. Credit: UNFPA Nepal

By Tej Thapa
Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

I am the daughter of a formidable campaigner for women’s reproductive rights in Nepal. Decades ago, when such issues were not part of the playbook for development activists, my mother, a medical doctor, started setting up family planning programs after seeing women die in childbirth, shifting from hospital work into public health.

She established health posts for maternal and infant care. She fought for the reproductive rights of women and girls including access to contraception and comprehensive sexuality education. And most important, she instituted a network of female health workers all over Nepal.

Much remains to be done in Nepal, however, to ensure that those rights are available to all girls and women, regardless of financial or geographical situations.
For a woman raised at a time when it was unusual for girls to be educated, my mother has travelled long distances. Not only did she fight for Nepali women to have a choice, but she ensured that her two daughters had the same privilege.

I am myself now the mother of a daughter, who will soon enter adulthood.  She will then make her own decisions, including about her reproductive choices. My daughter is an Irish national.

So I spent the weekend of 26 May, during the Irish referendum on abortion rights, vacillating between crying with joy in one moment, and overwhelmed with anxiety about the outcome at another. My colleague Aisling Reidy, who is Irish, wrote movingly about her own experience of emotion and exhilaration that weekend. And about the need for other countries to move toward that arc of justice for girls and women.

Many Irish women and men travelled back to Ireland to cast their yes votes. The hashtag #HomeToVote was trending on Twitter that weekend. The resolve to give women rights over their bodies was quite incredible.

I write this not only because I care about my daughter’s rights. I write because the rights of so many women and girls in Ireland will hopefully change as a result of this vote. But above all, I write this also because it is occasion to be proud of my own country.

Nepal, often in the news because of its urgent development needs, was, on this crucial issue, ahead of many of its neighboring countries, decriminalizing abortion in 2002.

Women who had been imprisoned for abortion were released. Women today who want to exercise their choice over their bodies can legally do so, without restriction and with access to safe health care. Much remains to be done in Nepal, however, to ensure that those rights are available to all girls and women, regardless of financial or geographical situations.

But today I celebrate my Nepali mother. And I rejoice for my Irish daughter.

 

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Excerpt:

Tejshree Thapa is a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

The post Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labour appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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We Have Told G7 Leaders to Make Gender Inequality & Patriarchy Historyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 10:20:06 +0000 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Michael Kaufman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156161 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women &
Michael Kaufman is Co-founder, White Ribbon Campaign and Senior Fellow, Promundo institute

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women & Michael Kaufman is Co-founder, White Ribbon Campaign and Senior Fellow, Promundo institute

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Michael Kaufman
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

For most people, the annual G7 meeting may just seem like an expensive photo-op that doesn’t connect with any concrete change in people’s lives. But for us, appointed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit on his G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, it was a unique opportunity to push for strong commitments for girls’ and women’s rights.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at the G7 summit last week.

We had the opportunity to meet the seven leaders for breakfast and make a strong case for concrete commitments and accelerated action to achieve gender equality within a generation.

There is unprecedented momentum and support for gender equality and women’s rights. With the universal adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, which put gender equality at the center, and the global attention brought by #MeToo and related campaigns on ending sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women, support for improving outcomes for girls and women has never been so high.

The explosion of discussions in our offices and shop floors, our boardrooms and locker rooms, our dining rooms and bedrooms must come right to the G7 table. It is therefore significant that leaders spent two hours discussing gender equality and that it was also part of other discussions.

As the richest economies in the world, G7 countries can bring about far reaching systemic changes envisaged in the global agenda for sustainable development. The impact of G7 countries goes well beyond their borders. We have told leaders that they must use this unique footprint for the benefit of women and girls.

Together with the Gender Equality Advisory Council, we have put forward a comprehensive set of recommendations.

As a foundation, it is critical to eliminate discriminatory legislation which persists in G7 countries and around the world. We also called for the removal of barriers to women’s income’s security and participation in the labour market.

Concrete measures, such as legislation and implementation of pay equity can close the wage gap between men and women. And the jobs of the future, whether it is in the digital economy or artificial intelligence, must help close – not further widen – the gender gap.

For most women, the challenge of balancing productive and reproductive lives creates a “motherhood penalty” that triggers major setbacks for women in the economy. G7 leaders can shape an economy that closes the gap between women and men through affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and greater incentives for men to do half of all care work.

Addressing violence against women in the workplace is critical. Employers, shareholders, customers, trade unions, Boards, Ministers all have an obligation to make workplaces safe, hold perpetrators accountable and end impunity.

The emerging International Labour Organization’s standard to end violence and harassment at work should be supported to drive greater progress in this area.

None of this will happen without the full participation and voice of women at all decision-making tables. We applaud the increasing numbers of countries with gender equal cabinets. We need more countries to follow suit, as well as the private sector.

Because men still disproportionately control our political, economic, religious, and media institutions, they have a special responsibility to actively support policies and cultural change. Men’s voices and actions, including those of our predominately male political leaders, are critical because they have such a big impact on the attitudes and behavior of other men.

We welcome the announcement by Canada, the European Union, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the World Bank of an investment of nearly US$ 3 billion for girls’ education, including the single largest investment in education for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations. This is a significant step forward to build a foundation for greater progress.

In our own work, as the Executive Director of UN Women, and as a writer and activist focused on engaging men to promote gender equality and end violence against women, we’ve been witness to dramatic changes over the past few decades. The courage of individual women and the leadership of women’s movements have meant that patriarchy is being dismantled in front of our eyes.

But greater leadership is required. A strong commitment by G7 leaders to take this agenda forward beyond the Summit can push forward the most dramatic and far-reaching revolution in human history. The one that will make gender inequality history.

The post We Have Told G7 Leaders to Make Gender Inequality & Patriarchy History appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women &
Michael Kaufman is Co-founder, White Ribbon Campaign and Senior Fellow, Promundo institute

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UN Exemptions Make Mockery of Sexual Abuse in World Bodyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:41:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156105 When allegations of sexual harassment were made against a senior UN official—holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General at the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)– the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states. http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/ But this glaring exemption to […]

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The UN General Assembly, the ultimate authority to ban exemptions on sexual abuse in the UN system. Credit: UN photo/Manuel Elias

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

When allegations of sexual harassment were made against a senior UN official—holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General at the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)– the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states. http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/

But this glaring exemption to the UN’s much-ballyhooed “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse” (SEA) also applies to several other UN bodies created by the General Assembly, including, most importantly, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) — making a mockery of the ongoing fight against harassment in the world body.

And these exemptions may also cover some of the UN “Commissions, Boards, Committees, Councils and Panels” – all of which are considered subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly.

“I find it absolutely appalling that three of the UN entities entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring effective functioning of the UN system are themselves flouting some basic UN norms, taking advantage of legal lacuna without any supervision of the Secretary-General,” Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General, UN High Representative and Chairman of the General Assembly’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (commonly referred to as the Fifth Committee) (1997-1998), told IPS.

He said it is “extremely urgent” that this situation be addressed without any more delay by the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA).

“By feeling helpless about such abuse and misuse in view of its past resolutions, the Assembly is shunning its responsibility as the world’s highest intergovernmental decision-making body,” Chowdhury said.

Asked for her comments on the ICSC exemption from the UN’s zero tolerance policy, Dr Purna Sen, Director of Policy at UN Women, Executive Coordinator and newly-appointed Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, told IPS that zero tolerance is not an optional extra that (some) employers can apply or not.

“It must have universal reach so that all staff can enjoy safety and respect”.

First of all, she pointed out, sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation and assault are all aspects of sexual violence. There are laws against violence and all states have committed to ending violence by 2030 (Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals 5.2).

“The obligation for ending violence rests with states but all actors, the private sector, universities etc all have a role to play in making this happen. ICSC cannot be exempt from this work: independence cannot confer impunity,” Dr Sen said.

Secondly, the notion there can be places where accountability cannot reach is not tenable.

“With great respect for women who have shouted and hollered until they have been heard, I wish to note the international clamour from women who have put abusers on notice,” she noted.

The MeToo, BalanceTonPorc and other such women-led imperatives for change have at last got attention. Accountability has to be made real – at the ICSC, as well as elsewhere, Dr Sen said.

Finally, it seems that any exemption from the UN’ policies is something that exists due to a General Assembly resolution.

“It is surely within the authority and competence of the GA then to review and change that situation.”

The need for independence cannot trump the need for safety and respectful workplaces, where abuse of power and gender inequality are rendered obsolete, she declared.

“Surely our collective efforts are not incapable of finding arrangements for their co-existence such that staff and the public have confidence in the whole UN system.”

Seeking an intervention by the Secretary-General and the GA President, Chowdhury told IPS: “I believe very strongly that the President of the Assembly, with his trusted leadership, needs to take the initiative on a priority basis, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to table a UNGA resolution to overcome this lack of jurisdiction and control which results in such abuse without any higher supervisory control”.

He said “past decisions should not be an excuse to overlook such aberrations which the IPS article has very rightly highlighted. Independence of a UN entity should not give it immunity to disregard norms which are core values of the UN.”

Asked to weigh in with his comments, Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations of the UN System (CCISUA), told IPS: “We expect all parts of the UN system to have policies and structures in place to prevent sexual harassment, in line with Secretary-General Guterres’s promise of zero tolerance.”

“This allows our member unions to help victims assert their individual rights to a harassment-free workplace and get justice when their rights are infringed,” he added.

However, he pointed out, “we are currently unable to assist staff who work for bodies such as the ICSC, ACABQ and JIU, to benefit from these rights. This despite their staff also having UN contracts and being appointed by the Secretary-General.”

He said the ICSC will itself touch on this issue when it discusses workforce diversity at its 87th session this July in Bonn.

“We hope it will join us in calling for consistent HR policies and structures throughout, without of course compromising the independence these bodies require to do their job.”

Brenden Varma, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly (PGA) told IPS: “It’s for Member States to take such an initiative – not the PGA. From the PGA’s side, he continues to stand firmly against all forms of sexual abuse and harassment.”

Meanwhile, providing an update on cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the UN system, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters May 1 that for the first three months of this year, from 1 January to 31 March 2018, there were 54 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners.

But not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase, he added.

Out of the 54 allegations, he said, 14 are reported from peacekeeping operations and 18 from agencies, funds and programmes. Twenty-one allegations relate to implementing partners and one to a member of a non-UN international force.

Of the 54 allegations, 17 are categorized as sexual abuse, 34 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature.

The allegations involve 66 victims — including 13 girls (under the age of 18) and 16 victims whose age remains unknown.

With regard to the status of the allegations, he said, 2 have been substantiated by an investigation; 2 were not substantiated; 21 are at various stages of investigation; 27 are under preliminary assessment; and 1 investigation’s result is under review.

With over 95,000 civilians and 90,000 uniformed personnel working for the UN, sexual exploitation and abuse are not reflective of the conduct of the majority of the dedicated women and men who serve the Organization, Dujarric said.

“But every allegation involving our personnel undermines our values and principles and the sacrifice of those who serve with pride and professionalism in some of the most dangerous places in the world. For this reason, combating this scourge, and helping and empowering those who have been scarred by these egregious acts, continue to be key priorities for the Secretary-General in 2018.”

At a meeting with the Secretary-General in London on May 3, the executive heads of UN agencies, who are members of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), reiterated “their firm commitment to uphold a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment; to strengthen victim-centred prevention and response efforts; and to foster a safe and inclusive working environment.”

In addition, they pledged to provide mechanisms such as 24-hour helplines for staff to report harassment and access support; establish a system-wide database to avoid rehire of individuals who have perpetrated sexual harassment.

The CEB also pledged to institute fast track procedures to receive, process and address complaints; recruit specialized investigators, including women; enforce mandatory training; provide guidelines for managers; harmonize policies; and launch staff perception surveys to learn from experiences.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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“A Map and Plan”: When Greener Pastures End in a Blazing Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 00:22:12 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156070 “Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara […]

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The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonians who had attempted to relocate in Europe to reintegrate back into Cameroon - Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

“Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara in search of greener pastures.

He told IPS that when the desert winds get too wild, the smugglers take refuge inside and under their vehicles, while passengers perched on luggage in overloaded pickup trucks are left at the mercy of the deadly, dust-filled wind.

Njoya is one of over 1,300 returnees that IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has repatriated to Cameroon since it started its operation in sub-Saharan Africa in June 2017. Boubacar Seybou, IOM Chief of Mission in Cameroon, told IPS the European Union has set aside 3 million Euros for its migrant reintegration operation in this country.

The operation is carried out in collaboration with officials of the EU Delegation in Cameroon, Cameroon’s ministry of external relations, the ministry of public health, ministry of social affairs and ministry of youth and civic education.

The program was planned to run for three years, facilitating the socioeconomic reintegration of 850 returnees at a cost of 3 million euros. Now Seybou said the program needs to be reviewed as more than 1,000 returnees were registered barely six months after the operation began.

The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonian returnees to reintegrate safely back into Cameroon - Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Njoya graduated from the Francoise Xavier Vogt football school in Yaounde but never played in a professional club. He claims one is obliged to know someone or pay a bribe to be recruited into a good football club. “That is why I decided to try my luck abroad, especially as a strange illness had attacked my father, causing our family business to crumble. I had to make it on my own,” he said.

Like many of the one million sub-Saharan Africans who have migrated to Europe since 2010, he had a map and a plan. He had high hopes as he navigated his way from Cameroon through Chad, Niger and Benin, until the night he curled up on a street corner in Algeria to sleep. Only then did he realise illegal migrants were not welcome. Like many others, he was forced to leave the country.

“The police arrested many of us and dropped us off at the border in the desert. Many people who walked with us died as I walked on.”

Dubious agents

“Along the trajectory from Niger to Morocco are agents called ‘passeurs’. They offer three possibilities. They can help you get to the Mediterranean where you cross into Spain. They can take you to a detention facility and call your parents for ransom. Or [they will] rob you and abandon you in the forest,” Njoya told IPS.

He was fortunate to get passeurs who helped him travel. He met another migrant from Burkina Faso whowas Spain-bound before being forced to make a U-turn in Algeria. They both struggled to make it to Niamey where the IOM help them return to their various home countries.

But Ramanou Abdou, who was also heading to Spain from Cameroon, told IPS he was not as lucky. The agents, always heavily armed and noted for raping women, drove them into a Savanah forest, robbed them and zoomed off. They all had to struggle to find their way to Niamey where they could get help from IOM, he said.

Like Njoya and others who returned to Cameroon with the help of IOM, Ramanou was offered a package that would facilitate his reintegration. He chose to return to school. He currently studies geography in the University of Dschang.

“I am grateful for the help they offered. I wish they could continue until I obtain my bachelors degree. I also wish they could help me get medical care for the protracted skin disease and stomach problems I returned with. I am still suffering,” he said.

Besides illnesses, Ramanou says many people have a negative impression of those who return from abroad. “Most of my classmates think I am thief. Some think that all returnees are hoodlums or something. Few of them treat me well.”

Like Ramanou, Njoya equally thinks the assistance provided returnees should be stepped up. He was given about 800 euros to start a business which crumbled within a couple of months. He now loads vehicles at a motor park for a living.

“I am saving money to travel abroad through the right track. My dream is still alive and I will make it the right way. I pity those who have left again to follow the same road to perdition in the name of traveling to Europe by land,” he said.

Besides Njoya and Ramanou, another returnee used his seed capital from IOM to start a small business is Ekani Awono. He opened up a coffee shop, but now tells IPS the money was too little to keep his business alive.

The beneficiaries who spoke to IPS say their peers who left the IOM office in Niamey and returned to the Ivory Coast claim to have been given as much as 3,000 euros to start sustainable businesses.

“But in Cameroon, we are constrained to submit business plans for funding limited to FCFA 500,000,” said one of them who preferred not to be named.

But Boubacar Seybou of OIM says the business plans are approved by a steering committee consisting of the funder and government ministries. He told IPS that IOM makes sure reintegration packages are sustainable. He also pointed out that there are many returnees whose businesses are doing well.

Apart from financial aid, IOM and the government provide medical check-ups and psychosocial assistance to returnees when they arrive home, according to Edimo Mbappe of the ministry of social affairs.

“Some women who were raped in the forest, deserts and camps and get here pregnant. Alongside traumatised boys and girls, they are given psychosocial support before we let them move into the community,” she told IPS.

IOM and the government has organised a series of activities, including radio and TV shows, photo exhibitions and musical concerts to dissuade would-be migrants from attempting to travel abroad illegally. They are equally trying to educate the public to absorb returnees and reject the stereotypes that make them feel uncomfortable.

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The Spotlight Initiative: Eliminating Violence & Harmful Practices Against Women & Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 15:58:05 +0000 Natalia Kanem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156089 Natalia Kanem is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Population Fund, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women & Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme

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Credit: UN

By Natalia Kanem, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka & Achim Steiner
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

The numbers are shocking: at least one in three women on the planet has suffered physical or sexual violence, usually at the hands of a family member or intimate partner. More than 700 million women alive today were married as children. Up to 250 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation.

Although violence against women and girls is widely recognized as a global pandemic, the response has ranged from indifferent to sporadic to inadequate, with weak enforcement of laws, the continued impunity of perpetrators and limited resources to address the issue.

But less than a year ago, something significant emerged: the Spotlight Initiative, an unprecedented, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations, with 500 million euros in seed funding from the EU. Comprehensive in scope, targeted in focus, it is changing how we do business across the UN system and across countries and regions.

We recognize that violence against women and girls is a complex phenomenon deeply embedded in unequal power relations between men and women, and persistent social norms, practices and behaviours that discriminate against women at home, in the workplace, and in society at large.

Several factors can further heighten the risk of women and girls facing violence, such as their ethnicity, religion, age, income, immigrant status, disability, and sexual orientation. Those who are most vulnerable to violence are very often those whose lives are under threat in other ways, through poverty or lack of access to health or education.

They are often those who society has left out. They are also those who, through Spotlight, we will not allow to be left behind, following the central tenet of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Until now, investments in prevention and essential services for survivors of violence and their families have been insufficient or uneven across or within countries. We know that the solutions rely on working at multiple levels and bringing many different players to the table.

We need to hold the uncomfortable conversations that address the root causes of such violence and extend rights and opportunities to those who have previously been excluded.

Since its launch, the Spotlight Initiative has been working closely with countries in Asia (the Safe and Fair programme for migrant women workers), Africa (with a focus on sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices), and Latin America (focusing on femicide) with plans to extend activities to the Pacific and the Caribbean in the months ahead.

The planning phase has been nothing less than inspiring: government officials from multiple departments breaking through silos with international partners from different UN agencies and the EU, civil society and activists who are usually excluded from the tables of decision-making and project design.

Each country programme is being led by the UN Regional Coordinator, in line with the latest UN reform efforts to make the initiative more collaborative, transparent, and effective.

In Malawi, through Spotlight, we are supporting dialogue on discriminatory social norms, for example, through community theatre, engaging traditional leaders and educators to teach their communities how to build non-violent, respectful and equitable relationships from early childhood onwards.

In Mexico, we are training health care workers to identify early signs of abuse and prevent violence against women through school-based campaigns to raise awareness about gender stereotypes and negative ideas about masculinity.

In Niger, we are engaging men and boys and strengthening the ability of women’s rights defenders to advocate policy reform and hold decision-makers accountable. The focus in Niger, as in the other seven participating countries in Africa, is on sexual and gender-based violence, harmful practices (such as child marriage and female genital mutilation) as well as sexual and reproductive health rights.

In Zimbabwe, we are using radio and other media to spread awareness on the issue. To ensure that services are accessible to all women and girls, including those with disabilities, we are introducing measures such as access ramps at service centres, sign language, braille and audio versions of information materials.

Guided by common principles of human rights, the benefits of multilateralism, as well as the objectives set out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Spotlight Initiative reflects a deep commitment to eliminating gender-based violence across the globe. The Initiative is a flagship programme for UN reform to deliver in an integrated way on the SDGs.

Violence against women has been ignored or kept in the shadows for far too long. The name of the Initiative – Spotlight –symbolizes the importance of driving this issue into the light so it can be seen, tackled and eliminated. The UN and participating countries are willing to spread that light. Now it is time for everyone to join us.

The post The Spotlight Initiative: Eliminating Violence & Harmful Practices Against Women & Girls appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Natalia Kanem is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Population Fund, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women & Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme

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Nepal: Where Abortion is Treated as Homicidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepal-abortion-treated-homicide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nepal-abortion-treated-homicide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepal-abortion-treated-homicide/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 05:18:04 +0000 Sabin Shrestha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156078 Sabin Shrestha is Executive Director of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), the Kathmandu-based partner of international women's group Donor Direct Action.

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A Nepali family. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Sabin Shrestha
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

Less than thirty years ago the likelihood of a mother dying due to pregnancy or childbirth in Nepal was one of the highest in the world. In 1990 UNICEF estimated that the rate was 901 women or girls out of 100,000 – significantly higher than any of its neighbours.

Since then the country has been somewhat of a global success story in maternal health. By 2015 the rate had been reduced to 215 and it is hoped that it has fallen even further in the last three years.

In the 1990s over half of maternal mortality instances were due to unsafe abortions. Still illegal in most circumstances women often sought backstreet options carried out by untrained personnel. Abortion laws were strictly enforced to the point that pregnant women sometimes feared they would be charged with homicide – even if they miscarried.

I grew up in Kathmandu and have worked on this issue for more than 15 years. I’ve seen how the lives and well-being of Nepalese women and girls were being put at serious risk during a time when they needed support. Thankfully, others were in agreement.

Responding to months of lobbying and coalition-building Nepal’s Parliament passed a bill in 2002 which legalised abortion without exception for 12 weeks. Services to enable women to access reproductive health care were also scaled up in quite a short time frame. Nepal had achieved a minor miracle.

Although a conservative country in many ways the transition was relatively smooth.

But making sustained progress in this landlocked and developing nation, where most people live in a remote or rural area, was not easy. In the past legal abortions were difficult for most women to access and the financial cost in a public hospital was often more than a month’s salary, meaning that some women were either forced to continue with an unintended pregnancy – or avail of an unsafe abortion carried out by somebody without proper medical training.

In the mid 2000s an estimated 4,000 Nepalese women were still dying each year as they were being forced to undergo unsafe abortions.

Coming from a poor household in Western Nepal a young woman called Lakshmi had little hope of being able to pay for an abortion after becoming pregnant. Like many other women her realistic choice was to either get an unsafe abortion or to continue her pregnancy.

She chose the latter, but in 2007, along with our partner the Center for Reproductive Rights and my organisation the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), she brought forward what would turn out to be a landmark case.

Lakshmi maintained that Nepal’s government had failed to enforce its own law on reproductive rights and that safe and legal abortion was extremely difficult to access for most Nepalese women and girls – including herself. She argued that it was not sufficient that abortion was technically legal, but that reproductive health care was a basic constitutional right, which should be affordable and easily accessible.

In May 2009 the Supreme Court of Nepal agreed with her and called on the government to promote the availability of safe and legal abortion in Nepal, to enact a new separate act addressing the issues of women’s reproductive health rights, to ensure personal information of women who get abortions remains confidential and to inform, educate and increase awareness among the general public.

This was a major step forward, but it has only partially come to pass. Abortion services are currently available in 75 district hospitals and also in a limited number of primary health check locations. Since 2016 the Nepalese government has also provided free abortion services through Government Health institutions.

However, only 41% of women of reproductive age know that abortion is legal, it is still seen as a social taboo – and even when they do avail of it it is still treated as homicide in some cases. I know of at least 13 women who are serving prison sentences, including Meera, a young woman from Biratnagar, who is currently serving a seven year sentence for infanticide after she had a miscarriage in 2015.

The government has failed to make it possible for women to be able to afford to pay for abortions, a significant number still do not know that abortion is legal, information on contraception is still not properly communicated, and midwives and other medical personnel have yet to be properly trained on reproductive health and rights.

Out of the 323,100 abortions which took place in Nepal in 2014 only 137,000 were safe and legal. Untrained health workers are still carrying out the majority of abortions here.

Following the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal that killed over 9,000 people up to 90% of birthing centers in the 14 most affected districts were either seriously damaged or destroyed. During this time abortion was next to impossible to access. Three years on not all have been re-built, meaning that the challenges already faced by pregnant women have been exacerbated.
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However, things may finally be about to change for the better. A new bill on reproductive rights has been recently approved in principle by the Office of Prime Minister and Ministers Council, which will respond to the concerns highlighted by our Supreme Court nine years ago and will separate reproductive rights as a distinct legal issue. It will ensure that women have much better access to information on their rights and that a fund is set up for women who cannot access free abortions, carried out by only qualified health personnel.

We are hopeful that the government will formally enact this into law in the coming months, which will also finally make it impossible to convict a woman of homicide if she has an abortion or suffers a miscarriage. This would provide a context for securing the release of those who are still in prison for very unfair reasons and transform the futures of millions of Nepalese women and girls.

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Excerpt:

Sabin Shrestha is Executive Director of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), the Kathmandu-based partner of international women's group Donor Direct Action.

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