Inter Press ServiceWomen & Economy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 11 Dec 2017 13:34:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 Empowering Women Improves Communities, Ensures Success for Generationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 15:31:59 +0000 Becky Heeley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153294 At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects […]

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Credit: IFAD

By Becky Heeley
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects in these countries have ambitious goals for a more egalitarian future. To date these projects have successfully provided women with decision-making opportunities, skill training, and increased autonomy through the development of their own livelihoods.

Morocco’s Country Programme Manager, Naoufel Telahigue, summed up the greatest overall effect best; “Rural women have become a symbol of will.”

With empowerment comes greater individual and collective confidence, influence, and overall happiness which contributes to the vitality of households and communities. There is still much to be achieved, however these projects have yielded numerous positive results worthy of the utmost praise.

Mozambique’s Rural Markets Promotion Programme empowered women to join farmer organizations where they now have equal membership as men. Women have increased their revenue by connecting to markets and even becoming community leaders.

Throughout homes in Mozambique women and men are rewriting embedded household gender roles through the Gender Action Learning System (GALS).

Men are not only warming to the idea of sharing women’s domestic workloads, they are seeing the benefits, Mario Quissico, Gender focal point, PROMER, explained, “It is very exciting hearing men say, we are happy because harmony at home has increased. We are working as a family, we are contributing to activities which we thought were for women.”

Vital to women’s security in Bangladesh, especially after the recent resettlement on the coastal islands, is the Char Development and Settlement Project’s initiative for women and men to own equal amounts of land.

The Deputy Team Leader of the project, Md. Bazlul Karim, clarified that even women without husbands are protected, “50% goes to the woman and 50% to the man. If there is a single woman who is the head of a family she will get 100% of the land.”

In Colombia , Building Rural Entrepreneurial Capacities Programme: Trust and Opportunity or TOP believes that empowering women is absolutely essential to the country’s peace. They are helping poor, vulnerable women who are heads of households by providing training and incentives to create their own incomes. Some have even embraced the male-typical endeavor of raising livestock.

Morocco’s Agricultural Value Chain Development Project in Mountain Zones of AL-Haouz Province have encouraged women to get training in businesses with local products like wool, olives, and apples. Coined the “two-sheep initiative,” women have started their own businesses by acquiring two sheep.

There is also a focus on female-run small businesses in Mauritania where the Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakoro supports women’s micro projects.

Easier access to drinking water has also been a vital part in improving the lives of women and reducing poverty. With fresh water closer, women save as many as five hours each day which they can instead use to earn money.

All of these projects are combating gender inequality and have given women the ability to make decisions and take positions of power in families and communities. These advancements positively influence entire societies.

The Coordinator of Mauritani’s project, Ahmed Ould Amar, emphasized, “We are reaching 281 villages and working with 19,000 households. This is quite huge, so obviously when you are working at this type of scale you have economic, social, and organizational impacts on society.”

Not only have these projects been working tirelessly from the ground up and in turn improving gender equality in society, they are securing it for future generations.

Young people in Colombia are being protected by the project’s encouragement of entrepreneurial women to work with young people and include them in their empowerment.

According to Ahmed Ould Amar, young women are being heard in Mauritania, “We’ve got this diagnosis process at field level that always includes a group of young people and women so we can hear what their problems are.”

A school, which also ingeniously acts as a shelter from cyclones, has been created in Bangladesh and many young girls are being educated for the first time.

In Mozambique women who were previously illiterate are being taught to read. They can perform previously impossible tasks such as understanding forms at the hospital so they can help their children flourish.

While women have begun generating income in Morocco, young girls have been able to remain in school. Some have even gone on to University.

In all five of these countries, women are taking on leadership positions and becoming role models for younger generations. The freshly ingrained demand for gender equality and a belief that the empowerment of women ensures a more stable present and successful future allows for young girls to grow up into vibrant women who improve society.

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South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:36:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153298 “There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.” This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation […]

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Mongolian farmers harvest carrots as part of an FAO South-South Cooperation Programme between China and Mongolia. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

“There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.”

This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation at an event marking the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September, just few weeks ahead of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey (27 to 30 November).

The statement came a few weeks ahead of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his country was revoking its commitment to the September 2016 UN-promoted global pact that aims at guaranteeing the human rights of migrants and refugees worldwide, in what is widely considered as his third blow to multilateralism in less than one year since he took office after US withdrawal from both the Paris Climate Agreement and UNESCO.

Solutions and strategies created in the South are delivering lasting results around the world, said Amina Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, on the occasion of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.

“Nearly every country in the global South is engaged in South-South cooperation,” she added, citing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India’s concessional line of credit to Africa, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Strategic Association Agreement by Mexico and Chile as few examples.

The deputy UN chief, however, also cautioned that progress has been uneven and extreme poverty, deep inequality, unemployment, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks persist, and underscored the potential of South-South cooperation to tackle these challenges.

Not a Substitute for North-South Cooperation

Significantly, Amina Mohammed highlighted that the support of the North is crucial to advance sustainable development.

“South-South cooperation should not be seen as a substitute for North-South cooperation but as complementary, and we invite all countries and organizations to engage in supporting triangular cooperation initiatives,” she said, urging all developed nations to fulfil their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.

A Kenya delegation discuss with Indonesia goverment official about food security in their country. Credit: FAO

She also urged strengthened collaboration to support the increasing momentum of South-South cooperation as the world implements the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Further, noting the importance of the upcoming high-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation to be hosted by Argentina on 20-22 March 2019, she said, “It will enable us to coordinate our South-South efforts, build bridges, cement partnerships, and establish sustainable strategies for scaling up impact together.”

The UN General Assembly decided to observe this Day on 12 September annually, commemorating the adoption in 1978 of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

Key to Overcoming Inequalities

At the opening of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), on 27 November said that as the most vulnerable countries continue to face serious development challenges, South-South cooperation offers “enormous opportunities and potential” to effectively support them in accelerating progress on implementing globally agreed goals.

“These are all countries faced with complex and unique development challenges which lend themselves to exploring how and where we can maximize South-South cooperation and leverage global partnerships to support countries’ efforts toward sustainable and inclusive futures,” said Utoikamanu.

The 2017 Global Expo gathered 800 participants from 120 countries, senior UN officials, government ministers, national development agency directors, and civil society representatives, to share innovative local solutions and push for scaling up concrete initiatives from the global South to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The central promise of the 2030 Agenda is to ‘leave no-one behind,’ and thus is about addressing poverty, reducing inequality and building a sustainable future of shared prosperity,” she explained. “But it is already clear that these noble Goals will be elusive if the 91 countries my Office is a voice for remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

As such, she added, South-South collaboration has led to increasing trade between and with emerging economies, investors, providers of development cooperation and sources of technological innovations and know-how. “This trend is confirmed by trade preferences for [least developed country products], enhanced trade finance opportunities, but also innovative infrastructure finance emerging.”

“The complex and pressing challenges the vulnerable countries experience demand that we further strengthen and leverage South-South cooperation,” said Utoikamanu, adding that South-South cooperation is “not an ‘either-or’ – it is a strategic and complementary means of action for the transfer and dissemination of technologies and innovations. It complements North-South cooperation.”

Science, Technology, Innovation

The Antalya week-long Global South-South Development Expo 2017 focused on a number of key issues, including how to transfer science, technology and innovation among developing countries and, in general, on solutions ‘for the South, by the South.’

The future will be determined by the abilities to leverage science, technology and innovation for sustainable growth, structural transformation and inclusive human and social development, said Utoikamanu. “It is proven that innovative technologies developed in the South often respond in more sustainable ways to the contextual needs of developing countries. Last, but not least, this is a question of cost.”

In all this, the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has a major role to play in boosting science, technology and innovation capacity. “It must facilitate technology transfer and promote the integration of [least developed countries] into the global knowledge-based economy.”

Hosted by the Government of Turkey and coordinated by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Antalya Global South-South Development Expo 2017’ was wrapped up on 30 November under the theme “South-South Cooperation in the Era of Economic, Social and Environmental Transformation: The Road to the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.”

Jorge Chediek, the Director of UNOSSC, said: “Many of the achievements of the expo are not reflected in these very impressive numbers themselves, they are reflected in the partnerships that are being established, in institutional friendships and agreements that are been developed and that will certainly generate results.”


UN Day for South South Cooperation. Credit: United Nations

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Taxi Company Empowers Women on Mumbai’s Bustling Streetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/taxi-company-empowers-women-mumbais-bustling-streets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taxi-company-empowers-women-mumbais-bustling-streets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/taxi-company-empowers-women-mumbais-bustling-streets/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 09:36:32 +0000 Ida Karlsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153148 Jahhavi Kshsarter pulls out on to the Western Express Highway, careful to avoid the swarm of cars, lorries and motorbikes zipping past. She is one of 65 women employed by an all-female taxi company in Mumbai. Viira Cabs is a taxi service run by women for women launched ten years ago in Mumbai, a city […]

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Women: Major Drivers & Beneficiaries of Poverty Eradicationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 13:54:28 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152549 Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

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Lakshmi Puri is Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by the United Nations General Assembly. Under the theme “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies,” this year’s commemoration reminds us of the importance of equality, dignity, solidarity and equal voice in the fight to end poverty everywhere.

Enabling Policy Environments · Equal Participation of Rural Women in Decision-making. Credit: UN Women/Gangajit Singh Chandok

Equally, the fight to end poverty is also a call to arms against gender-based discrimination and violence that has led to an increase in the feminization of poverty in both developed and developing countries, as well as in rural and urban areas. Moreover, gender-based discrimination and violence have also thwarted well intentioned attempts to make poverty history once and for all.

The symbiosis between SDGs on poverty eradication & gender equality

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.

The General Assembly resolution entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, (2030 Agenda) declared that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is one of the greatest global challenges and priorities and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 (SDG 1) vows to eradicate extreme poverty everywhere by 2030, reduce the proportion of women, men and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions by half, provide social protection coverage including social protection floors for the poor. It also sets out the need for everyone to have access, ownership and control over productive resources and essential services.

The trinity of women and girls’ economic empowerment, autonomy and rights must be linked, horizontally and vertically, to the realization of SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls and its nine targets. Sustainably and irreversibly eradicating poverty requires all poverty reduction and development strategies, policies and measures to make SDG 5 their lodestar and to cultivate an enabler and beneficiary symbiosis between SDG1 and 5.

Poverty link with other SDGs and women’s and girls’ empowerment

The 2030 Agenda also recognizes that realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to the progress made across all goals and targets, along with the gender-responsive implementation of the entire Agenda. In turn, the role that each SDG plays in gender-responsive poverty reduction action is of critical importance for the empowerment of women and girls.

Attacking multidimensional poverty of women and girls means addressing the poverty linked gender gaps and deficits in education (SDG 4), in water, sanitation and hygiene (SDG 6), in food security and sustainable agriculture (SDG 2), in sustainable energy (SDG 7), in housing, safe public spaces and transport (SDG 11), and in information and communication technologies (ICT) and other technologies (SDG 5b).

Providing access to comprehensive healthcare services (SDG 3) and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SDG 5.6) is fundamental to both poverty eradication and gender equality and women’s empowerment. Child marriage, maternal mortality, women’s lack of control over their bodies and on childbearing, including through their lack of access to information and contraception, swells the ranks of the poor and that over generations.

Women’s burden of care work and poverty eradication

Poverty eradication is about enabling women to have income security, sustainable livelihoods, access to decent work, and full and productive employment (SDG 8). It is about valuing, reducing, and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work, and the provision of infrastructure and social protection as targeted in SDG 5.4, which otherwise creates and perpetuates time and other types of poverty for women and girls and deprives them of other opportunities.

Care work for the family and the community is essential to human life and to the social and economic foundations of all economies. It enables the “productive” economy to function as it supports the well-being of the workforce, children, older persons and people with disabilities, and subsidizes the monetized economy.

Women’s unpaid work contributes $10 trillion per year globally, or 13 per cent of global GDP, according to the High-level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment. Hence, we need to implement a gender-responsive approach to fashioning a new quality, paid care economy as we tackle the poverty, jobs, economic growth and inequality crisis and nexus.

SDG 5 targets on violence and leadership in decision making

We must prevent and effectively respond to all forms of violence and harmful practices against women and girls in all spaces (SDG 51 and 5.2), and help the more poor and vulnerable among them to escape the dual trap of poverty and sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and trafficking. Their voices, participation and leadership in governance, from the grassroots level to the highest levels in political, public and economic life, as well as in the cultural and social spheres, as accounted for in SDG 5.4, are critical and proven to be effective in poverty reduction.

Challenges to overcome

Despite global economic growth and a reduction in poverty over the last 30 years, evidence indicates that about 2.1 billion people are still living in poverty, with 700 million living in extreme poverty. Even in countries where poverty has been reduced, pervasive inequalities remain between rural and urban areas, between regions, between ethnic groups, and between men and women.

These inequalities and inter-sectionalities are reflected in the struggles of women and girls who face multiple forms of discrimination and disadvantage over and above that of poverty and gender. Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in households and communities. Furthermore, poor women and girls face compounded challenges due to physical and mental disability.

Gender disparities in poverty are also rooted in inequalities in access to economic resources, participation in the formal economy and labour force (only 50 per cent), income disparities including the gender wage gap, and assets and social protection gaps. Women-headed households and their families risk falling into poverty, depleting their assets in response to shocks and engaging in distress sales of labour to meet immediate subsistence needs.

Women’s lower incomes and limited access to other resources such as land, credit, and assets can reduce their bargaining power within a household. As such, women experience a restricted ability to exercise their preferences in the gender division of unpaid/paid labor, the allocation of household income and their ability to exit harmful relationships is also impeded. Thus, promoting women’s economic empowerment can foster a more gender-equitable and gender-responsive pattern of economic development and be a panacea for poverty.

The risk factors of migration, conflict, and natural disasters

As the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants highlights, experiences of multidimensional poverty can influence people’s propensity to migrate, from rural to urban or developing to developed contexts. It can also be a root cause of conflict due to unequal distribution and access to resources. In 2015, the number of international migrants surpassed 244 million, growing at a rate faster than the world’s population.

Women account for at least half the world’s migrants affected by the push factor of poverty and pull factor of a better, gender equal future. Women and girls account for 60 per cent of refugees escaping violence, climate change, natural disasters and the resulting dislocation, violence and poverty.

Macroeconomic policies are important instruments as they can create an enabling environment and help reduce deprivations and conditions of poverty. Public investments in social care infrastructure, for instance, can be a self-sustaining way of creating more productive employment opportunities for women. Investments in basic physical infrastructure and transport services can enhance the productivity of women’s informal enterprises.

Social protection & poverty eradication

Social protection policies play a critical role in reducing poverty and inequality, supporting economic growth and increasing gender equality. The impact of social protection on reducing feminized poverty by increasing women’s household income is well documented.

Many informal workers are women who may interrupt paid employment to take care of children, elderly parents, and sick relatives, thereby compromising their access to social protection and 40 per cent of employed women lack maternity benefits.

Well-designed social protection schemes can narrow gender gaps in poverty rates, enhance women’s access to personal income and provide a lifeline for families. Social protection measures that countries have taken include universal health coverage, non-contributory pensions, maternity and parental leave, basic income security for children and public works programmes.

The way forward to a gender equal, poverty free world

A truly transformative, gender responsive development and poverty eradication agenda can drive change on systemic issues and structural causes of poverty and discrimination, including unequal gender relations, social exclusion and multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization.

In this equitable and people-centered development framework, empowering and fully tapping into the talent and potential of half of humanity that is systematically marginalized from the benefits of development, is critical.

In this context, Governments and stakeholders should ensure a gender perspective is included while undertaking value chain, delivery of public services and social protection impact analyses to inform the design and implementation of poverty eradication policies and programmes.

Also, women’s access to financing and investment opportunities, tools of trade, business development, and training to increase the share of trade and procurement from women’s enterprises, including micro, small and medium, cooperatives and self-help groups in both the public and private sectors, are critical entry points to grant women equal opportunities and allow them to reach their full potential.

Other specific gender-responsive poverty eradication efforts include:
• Increasing women’s access to and control over economic opportunities, resources and services;
• Increasing women’s economic, social and political leadership at all levels, including through women’s organizations and collectives;
• Promoting gender-responsive macroeconomic policies that support the creation of full and productive employment opportunities and decent work for women;
• Expanding fiscal space and generating sufficient resources to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment by increasing public investments in physical and social care infrastructure, including water and sanitation infrastructure and renewable energy sources, as time well as – and energy-saving infrastructure and technology;
• Expanding or reprioritizing public expenditures to provide gender-responsive social protection for women and men throughout the life cycle;
• Ensuring that national laws contain provisions for core labour standards, including minimum wages and secure labour contracts, worker benefits and labour rights for workers in informal employment, and ending workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic background, migration status or disability;
• Adopting laws and regulatory frameworks to reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work for women through measures such as care leave policies, care insurance schemes, flexible workplace practices for work-life balance, decent work hours and cash transfers or child support grants paid to the primary caregiver;
• Adopting measures that recognize, reduce and redistribute the contribution of unpaid care and domestic work to the national economy through the implementation of time-use surveys and the adoption of satellite accounts;
• Protecting the rights to collective bargaining and freedom of association to enable women workers, especially informal workers, to organize and to join unions and workers’ cooperatives;

Overall, poverty eradication would only be possible if women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms are strongly upheld with universality, indivisibility and interconnections of economic, social, cultural and labour rights framing women’s economic empowerment and women’s work in all contexts.

Therefore, advancing women’s economic rights, freedom from violence and harassment, granting equal opportunities for recruitment, retention and promotion in employment and transforming the negative and harmful norms that limit women’s access to and condition of work and income generating opportunities, are crucial to the elimination of poverty.

Mahatma Gandhi spoke about how poverty is the worst form of violence, that it robs human beings of their essential dignity, self-respect and human rights and how it is one of the products of the cruelties and injustices of our social system.

For most of the poor who are women and girls, this violence, cruelty and injustice is both a product of, and reinforces the injustice of gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women and girls. To root out poverty we must root out gender injustice in all its forms. A planet 50/50 by 2030 will also ensure a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful planet without poverty.

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International Day of Rural Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/international-day-rural-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-day-rural-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/international-day-rural-women/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:57:49 +0000 Michel Mordasini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152524
Michel Mordasini, is Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development - IFAD

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Michel Mordasini, is Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development - IFAD

By Michel Mordasini
ROME, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

On this International Day of Rural Women, the world celebrates women and girls in rural areas and the critical role they play in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

Michel Mordasini. Credit: IFAD

To increase the impact of IFAD-supported projects on gender equality and to strengthen women’s empowerment in poor rural areas, our approach is centered on three pillars, which are the strategic objectives of our Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment:

First, we promote economic empowerment to enable rural women and men to have equal opportunities to participate in, and benefit from, profitable economic activities. To do this, we need to ensure that women have equal access to land and other productive resources and inputs, to knowledge, financial services and markets, and to income-generation opportunities.

Second, we enable women and men to have equal voice and influence in rural institutions and organizations. To this end, we support women’s self-organization in women’s groups and their participation in farmer organizations, water user associations, cooperatives and many other rural institutions. We set quotas for women’s representation and train women in leadership.

Third, we strive to promote a more equitable balance in workloads and in the sharing of economic and social benefits between women and men. Infrastructure development, and access to water, energy, roads and transport all contribute to reducing women’s burden of work, thus enabling them to take on economic activities and decision-making roles.

At IFAD, we celebrate the 2017 International Day of Rural Women by honouring the best-performing project in each region that empowers women and addresses gender inequalities. The Gender Award was established to recognize the efforts and achievements of IFAD-supported projects in meeting the strategic objectives of IFAD’s Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. The Award gives visibility to those projects that have successfully reduced rural women’s workload, given them a voice and created opportunities for economic empowerment. While selecting the winning projects, we also evaluate the strategic guidance provided by the project management unit and the achievements of gender focal points. We pay particular attention to innovative and gender transformative approaches that address underlying inequalities.

This year the Gender Awards go to the following projects:

The Char Development and Settlement Project – Phase IV in Bangladesh. The project is improving livelihoods for poor people living on newly accreted coastal islands known locally as chars. It uses a combined approach to development, which includes infrastructure works, forestry, water supplies, provision of health and sanitation, management of land and agriculture, securing women’s and men’s access to land and addressing social norms such as child marriage.

The Agricultural Value Chain Development Project in the Mountain Zones of Al-Haouz Province in Morocco. The project is supporting smallholder farmers and livestock producers, and promoting the development of value chains for olives, apples and lamb. With access to subsidies and credit, women have formed professional teams and associations, and cooperatives for income-generation.

The Building Rural Entrepreneurial Capacities: Trust and Opportunity Programme in Colombia. The programme is helping rural communities to recover from conflict. It is improving living conditions, income and employment for small farmers, indigenous groups, Afro-Latino communities, young people, families who have been forcibly displaced and households headed by women in post-conflict rural areas.

The Rural Markets Promotion Programme in Mozambique. The programme is enabling small-scale farmers to increase their incomes and helping them to market their surpluses. Women are learning to read and write, and benefiting from community-based financial services. The programme has achieved transformative changes, including greater involvement of men in activities related to nutrition.

The Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakorum – Phase II in Mauritania. The project is improving the income and living conditions of poor rural households in M’Bout, Kankossa and Ould-Yengé. With a female gender officer and an actionable gender strategy, the project has invested in information dissemination and sensitization on gender equality and equitable workloads, and the importance of healthcare and sanitation, water supplies and access to markets.

Let me congratulate the winners. IFAD President and staff look forward to welcoming them to Rome on 29-30 November for the award ceremony and a learning event.

The hundreds of thousands of poor households targeted in these five projects have made considerable progress in reducing rural poverty and empowering women. Let us continue to ensure that poor rural communities and individuals – particularly women, indigenous peoples and young people – become part of a rural transformation that drives overall sustainable development and leaves no one behind. IFAD aims to achieve real transformative gender impact. And to do this, we need to address the deep roots of gender inequality – prevailing social norms, entrenched attitudes and behaviours, and social systems.

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Rights of Rural Women Have Seen Uneven Progress in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rights-rural-women-seen-uneven-progress-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rights-rural-women-seen-uneven-progress-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rights-rural-women-seen-uneven-progress-latin-america/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:34:35 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152444 This article is part of IPS coverage on the International Day of Rural Women, celebrated on October 15.

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Bonificia Huamán (2nd- L), carries out a communal task with other women in Llullucha, a Quechua community located 3,553 meters above sea level, where 80 families practice subsistence agriculture, overcoming the challenges of the climate in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Bonificia Huamán (2nd- L), carries out a communal task with other women in Llullucha, a Quechua community located 3,553 meters above sea level, where 80 families practice subsistence agriculture, overcoming the challenges of the climate in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

In a remote village in the Peruvian Andes, Bonificia Huamán managed to overcome adverse weather conditions with a small greenhouse, where she grows vegetables at 3,533 metres above sea level. This has improved her family’s diet, which she is very proud of.

The downside is that Alina, her second-oldest daughter, aged 17, left school before finishing high school to help her with the enormous workload that as head of household she assumes every day on her farm and caring for her family. She supports her three daughters and son, as well as her oldest daughter’s son.

“School costs a lot of money, uniforms, school supplies, I can’t afford it,” Huamán, 47, told IPS sadly during a meeting with her and other women farmers in Llullucha, home to some 80 Quechua families, within the rural municipality of Ocongate, in the southeast department of Cuzco."The countries in the region must acknowledge our existence as rural indigenous women and take measures to ensure that our rights are respected…And in order for that to happen, we must break down the barriers of patriarchy.” – Ketty Marcelo

“This is a reality for rural women in Latin America, in the face of which governments should act with greater emphasis in order to move towards sustainable development, which is a commitment undertaken by the countries of the region,” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in Peru, María Elena Rojas, told IPS.

As October 15, the International Day of Rural Women, nears, access to quality education, productive resources, technical training and participation remain challenges shared by rural Latin American women to close the persistent gaps in gender equality and realize their full potential under equal conditions.

“Rural women, women with rights” is the theme of the regional campaign promoted by FAO on the occasion of this international day established in 2008 by the United Nations, the day before World Food Day.

The initiative, which will run until November, is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and specifically goal number five, which refers to gender equality, although the question of equal opportunities for men and women cuts across the other 16 as well.

It is estimated that in this region of just over 640 million people, 48 percent of the rural population is female, amounting to 60.5 million women.

Of these women, 40 percent live in poverty, a problem that has been aggravated by the effects of climate change on agriculture, which impact on their health, well-being and security, according to FAO studies.

In spite of their work – on their farms and raising children, securing food, and caring for the sick – they receive no pay and lack incomes of their own, the studies point out.

FAO representative in Peru María Elena Rojas sits in her office in Lima, in front of an image of an Andean woman plowing the land and holding a document with a significant title: "Rural women, women with rights". Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

FAO representative in Peru María Elena Rojas stands in her office in Lima, in front of an image of an Andean woman plowing the land, and holding a document with a significant title: “Rural women, women with rights”. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Bolivia, where 1.6 million women live in rural areas, according to the National Institute of Statistics, is one of the Latin American countries which has seen a growing feminisation of agriculture.

“These women produce about half of the food we consume in the country,” said Wilfredo Valle, head of the planning area at the Bolivian non-governmental Training and Service Center for Women’s Integration (Cecasem).

Speaking with IPS from La Paz, he added that despite being pillars of production in the countryside, they do not receive remuneration. And when they do generate an income, they have no say in the family budget, which is still controlled by men. This situation is an obstacle to break the circle of poverty.

Added to this problem is the unequal access of women to land ownership and use. The region’s statistics show that the lands they manage are smaller, of poor productivity, and legally insecure.

The Third National Agricultural Census of Ecuador records that 45.4 percent of farms are headed by women, and 62.8 percent of these are less than two hectares in size.

This inequitable trend in access to and control of productive resources is also evident in Peru, where, according to official figures, rural women are in charge of lands of 1.8 hectares in size on average, while the average size of the farms managed by men is three hectares.

How to make progress along the path of addressing the complex web of discrimination faced by rural women? For Ketty Marcelo, from the Amazonian Asháninka people and president of the National Organisation of Indigenous Andean and Amazonian Women of Peru, they must first be recognised as subjects entitled to rights.

“The countries in the region must acknowledge our existence as rural indigenous women and take measures to ensure that our rights are respected…And in order for that to happen, we must break down the barriers of patriarchy,” said Marcelo, an activist from the community of Pucharini, in Peru’s central rainforest.

Women farmers in the rural town of Tapila Florida, in the Bolivian department of La Paz, sell their freshly harvested produce at a collective storage and trading centre, thanks to support from the Centre for Training and Service for Women’s Integration to develop agroecology. Credit: Courtesy of Cecasem

Women farmers in the rural town of Tapila Florida, in the Bolivian department of La Paz, sell their freshly harvested produce at a collective storage and trading centre, thanks to support from the Centre for Training and Service for Women’s Integration to develop agroecology. Credit: Courtesy of Cecasem

In her view, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the targets included within them for achieving gender equality, is a mandate for the countries, but is also a double challenge for rural women in the region.

“We are invisibilised and a great deal of advocacy will be necessary in order for our problems to come to light; the SDGs are an opportunity to place our agendas into national policies,” she said.

In this vein, Wilfredo Valle underlined three challenges for governments in the context of achieving the SDGs. These are: “improving literacy rates among rural women, because with a higher level of education, there is less discrimination; guaranteeing their access to land and to title deed; and ensuring a life free of violence.”

Latin America and the Caribbean, considered the most unequal region in the world, has the Regional Gender Agenda for 2030, established in 2016 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

It constitutes a roadmap, according to ECLAC, for countries to protect the human rights of women “regardless of their age, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, where they live, their migratory status, ethnicity and race, and their physical and mental capacity.”

It is also in agreement with the SDGs and, through the fulfillment of its 10 core targets, puts gender equality at the center of sustainable development.

Although there is an international normative framework in the region that has given rise to national plans and policies aimed at achieving precisely the SDGs on gender equality, actions to make this human right of rural women a reality are urgently needed, experts agreed.

“The 2030 Agenda gives countries the opportunity to empower girls and women, eradicate illiteracy, secure them title deeds and loans, to develop their potential, rise out of poverty and fully exercise each of their rights,” said FAO’s Rojas.

“We know the gaps exist, but we need public policies to visibilise them,” she said. To that end, “it is necessary to work on statistics with a gender perspective so that state measures really contribute to improving the reality of rural women.”

A mixture of political will and strengthening of institutional capacities that would transform the lives of rural women in the region, such as Bonifica Huamán and her daughter Alina, in Peru’s southern Andes, so that the enjoyment of their rights becomes a daily exercise.

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Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:56:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152201 Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week. Of course, these are not […]

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In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

By Baher Kamal
ROME/NEW DELHI, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week.

Of course, these are not easy challenges. But according to the discussions of a representative group of around 50 legislators and experts from the two most populous continents, parliamentarians – as representatives of the stakeholders themselves – must be the “fourth pillar” to promote the 2030 Agenda, along with government, private enterprises, and civil society."If our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.” --Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population

“It is not just simply a question of adopting particular legislation and budgetary measures,” said Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in his keynote speech.

“Equally vital will be possession of an overarching vision and the conduct of oversight to ensure that the work is being implemented properly. Promoting the global partnerships that have been discussed to date will also be crucial. That is precisely the role that parliamentarians in every country are to fulfill. It is furthermore a role to be fulfilled by parliamentarians both within regions, and between regions.

“Given the law and tax system reforms that will be needed if we are to achieve the SDGs, parliamentarians will have an extremely big role to play,” Mashiko stressed.

Jointly organised by the Japan-based Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) — which is the Secretariat of the JPFP — and the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (IAPPD), the conference approached what has been considered as the key challenge: the linkage between population issues, in particular youth, and the global sustainable development agenda, also known as the SDGs.

Youth

No wonder — while youth in the African continent of 1.2 billion inhabitants face extremely high rates of unemployment, in Asia and the Pacific, nearly 40 million youth – 12 per cent of the youth labour force – were unemployed in 2015. That year, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

However, despite these apparently moderate youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-East Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

This region also faces a big gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And this gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

“Building societies where every person can live with dignity - this is the essential principle of our parliamentarians’ activities,” Mashiko said.

“One of the principles of the SDGs is that ‘no-one is left behind’. From that perspective, ensuring equality of opportunity to young people, despite their differences in birth and wealth, has a definite meaning. So to that end, ensuring education and employment opportunities ought to be treated as priority issues.”

Population Growth

Growing populations across the world are the biggest hurdle in the path of equitable development, said India’s Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, adding that in order to achieve the SDGs, it is of “utmost importance” for all the countries to take care of their populations.

He stressed that there is a need for large-scale awareness on population issues, and that increasing population has created problems around the entire world regarding sustainable development, employment opportunities and health services.

Ena Singh, the India Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that his country, India, has registered a rapid decline in fertility rates since its Independence and that currently the average fertility rate is 2.2 children, with the challenge now to bring down the total fertility rate to 2.1.

For her part, Marie Rose Nguini Effa, MP from Cameroon and President of the Africa Parliamentary Forum on Population Development, emphasised the Forum’s readiness to work with APDA to promote investment in youth, “which is critical to Africa’s development and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.”

The Inter-Linkage

New Delhi’s meeting is the latest of a series of dedicated Parliamentarian conferences focusing on the inter-linkages between population issues and the 2030 Agenda, examining ways in which both developed and developing countries as equal partners serve to be the driving force to address population issues and achieve sustainable development.

According to the meetings of Parliamentarians organisers, the fundamental underlying concept is that addressing population issues is imperative to attain universal health coverage (UHC), turning the youth bulge into a demographic dividend, achieving food security, promoting regional stability, and building economically viable societies where no one is left behind.

Bigger than the Whole African Population

“India is the world’s largest democracy and home to 1.3 billion people, which is bigger than the whole African population. Being a highly diverse country with a multitude of cultures, languages and ethnicities, India now enjoys one of the fastest economic growth rates,” according to the organisers.

The country’s serious investment in young people is the driving force behind such growth; the pool of well-educated, skilled young people is making the country an IT capital, they said, adding that the Indian economy also has a great influence on the African continent, especially East Africa, due to long-standing historical, cultural and commercial connections between them.

“Furthermore, with its longstanding history of democracy, the power and role of the Parliament of India is well-established and fully exercised, and its democratic system has contributed to promoting unity of diversity and national development.”

Given that addressing population issues calls for an approach to help people to make free and informed RH choices, parliamentarians as representatives of the people have a crucial role to play in this regard as well, they conclude.

The Arab, Asian Youth Bulge

Lawmakers from the Asia and Arab region had gathered last July at a meeting in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”.

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population, the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development convened on 18-20 July in the Jordanian capital to analyse these challenges and how to address them.

Since its establishment, APDA has been holding an annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care.

Through exchanges between lawmakers from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

“Japan is embracing its aging society, where individuals in every age group are finding uses for their particular skills and attributes, and is planning to build a vibrant society which makes the maximum use of what its older citizens can offer and helping to achieve sustainable development, which is what humanity should be striving for,” Mashiko concluded.

“This may possibly apply equally everywhere throughout the world. Given their population structure and social systems, the situation in the countries from Africa, the Arab world and Asia represented at this conference will be very, very different. However, the very presence of such differences means that if our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.”

*With inputs by an IPS correspondent in India.

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Improved Fish Processing Brings Dramatic Gains for Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/improved-fish-processing-brings-dramatic-gains-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=improved-fish-processing-brings-dramatic-gains-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/improved-fish-processing-brings-dramatic-gains-women/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 11:38:47 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152034 Fishing is the capture of aquatic organisms in marine, coastal and inland areas. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), marine and inland fisheries, together with aquaculture, provide food, nutrition and a source of income to 820 million people around the world, from harvesting, processing, marketing and distribution. For many, […]

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Salting fish prevents losses and increases profits in the value chain. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Salting fish prevents losses and increases profits in the value chain. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
MONGU, Zambia, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Fishing is the capture of aquatic organisms in marine, coastal and inland areas. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), marine and inland fisheries, together with aquaculture, provide food, nutrition and a source of income to 820 million people around the world, from harvesting, processing, marketing and distribution. For many, it also forms part of their traditional cultural identity.

This is the case for the people of western Zambia, where fishing is not only a major source of income, but also a way of life. However, as FAO highlights in routine studies on the sector globally, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing remain major threats to the sustainability of the fishery industry in this part of Zambia as well.“Men’s attitudes have changed. Most of those we work with now treat us as equal partners." --Joyce Nag’umbili, a long-time fish trader in Senanga district

Here, poor post-harvest handling was identified as a major reason not only for illegal fishing but also over-fishing.

“The majority of people lack knowledge. They believe over-fishing is the best way to make up for the losses that they incur along the value chain,” laments Hadon Sichali, a fish trader in Mongu. “It is a chain, the trader believes breakages during transportation should be recovered by buying more fish at lower prices, forcing fishermen to overfish or even disregard the law to catch more.”

By disregarding the law, Sichali refers to a statutory annual fish ban which runs between December and March to allow fish breeding, but has over the years been a source of conflict between local fishers and government authorities. And the problem has been getting worse in recent years due to reduced catches of fish—an issue attributed to climate change.

But thanks to a Participatory Research project undertaken recently, some of these dynamics are changing, especially pertaining to women, who according to FAO, account for at least 19 percent of people directly engaged in the fisheries primary sector, and a higher percentage in the secondary sector such as processing.

Centered on improving fish post-harvest management and marketing, the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAF) Fund project has seen a dramatic increase in women’s involvement in fishing.

According to the final technical report of the project implemented in Zambia and Malawi, Women who participated in the drama skits, a gender transformative tool, increased their involvement in fishing from 5 percent at the start of the project to 75 percent today.

“I would like to encourage the fisheries actors to utilize these methods since the improved technologies have shown that the losses can be reduced significantly and that the fish processed from these technologies have higher average value than the fish processed from the traditional methods,” said Western Province Permanent Secretary, Mwangala Liomba, during the project’s final results dissemination meeting in June.

“This allows for the fishers, processors and traders to have more money. The interventions require shorter time thereby increasing the time available to women processors…Furthermore the use of drama skits that challenge gender norms have enabled women processors in the floodplain to adopt and equitably benefit from improved processing technologies that reduce fish losses.”

Jointly funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC)  and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR), the three year project, led by scientists from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, the University of Zambia and WorldFish as a partner organization, the project aimed at improving effectiveness, re­duce losses, and promote greater equity in the fish value chain.

Researchers therefore undertook fish value chain analyses to understand post-harvest biomass losses, economic value and nu­trient content changes, and gender norms and power relations.

“In Zambia, the study found that physical fish losses occur at all the three nodes in the value chain and differ significantly between nodes,” says Alexander Shula Kefi, one of the lead researchers in the Project.

According to Kefi, on average, the processors lose the largest volume of fish (7.42 percent) followed by the fish traders (2.9 percent).  The fishers experience the least physical losses at 2 percent although, he says, this is not significantly different from the fish lost at trading node.  The major cause of physical loss was found to be breakages at processing and trading nodes.

Interestingly, “Women processors lost over three times the weight of their fish consignments than men processors, indicating that it is not only the function of processing that leads to losses but that gendered differences exist within the nodes too,” adds Kefi.

In tackling this aspect, the project employed a gender transformative tool using drama skits during implementation, and this led to a 35.7 percent increase in gender attitude scores among men.

And 36-year-old Joyce Nag’umbili, a long-time fish trader in Senanga district, testifies to this improvement. “Men’s attitudes have changed. Most of those we work with now treat us as equal partners,” she says. “Some men have put aside their egos and ask us on certain technologies which they don’t understand better.”

Caring for her two biological children and eight orphans has not been an easy task for Nag’umbili, and she says the CultiAF project offered a lifeline for her hand-to-mouth business, as the introduction of improved post-harvest handling technologies meant reduced losses and increased profit margins.

“At the time the project was introduced, my capital base was just about K 200 (22 dollars), but I now run an over K 8000 (888-dollar) business portfolio. In the last two years, I have managed to buy two plots of land and building materials worth over K 5000 (555 dollars),” she said happily.

Her excitement confirms the project’s findings, whose results show that the improved processing technologies reduce fish losses significantly and consequently improve the income of fisher folk.

According to the findings, cumulatively, the physical losses decline from 38 percent to 19.3 percent by applying the new piloted technologies of improved smoking kilns, salting, use of ice and solar tent drying.  Along the value chain, processors increased their GM from 4.7 percent to 25.26 percent while traders increased to 25.3 percent from 22.8 percent.

On the nutrition component, “Smoked fish using the improved kiln technology had significantly higher protein contents than fish smoked using the traditional method,” says Dr. Nyambe Lisulo Mkandawire of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Zambia (UNZA).

To help meet the global agenda of eradicating hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, and ultimately eliminating poverty, a secondary project was developed.

Dubbed Expanding Business Opportunities for African Youth in Agricultural Value Chains in Southern Africa, the Project aimed at developing tools and support mechanisms for the realization of agri-business opportunities in the fish and maize post-harvest value chains in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to serve as vehicles for commercialisation of research outputs.

Implemented by the Africa Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH), the project awarded and seed-funded 23 winning youth start-ups/community-based groups; trained and mentored over 70 entrepreneurs and developed an electronic trading platform and business toolkits for supporting business development service providers and entrepreneurs.

According to Dr. Jonathan Tambatamba of AEH, the electronic platform has two parts—a mobile application where the fish sellers and buyers (fish traders, fishermen, fish processors, marketeers etc) register and find a market.

“Once they are registered, the seller can announce that they are selling fish i.e. type, form, smoked, fresh or salted; quantity, location, and price, while the buyers can also announce what they need,” explains Tambatamba. “This is an SMS system for now due to the fact that most of the target users just have basic phones.”

The second component, he says, is for mentors and mentees. Under this component, eight businesses have been provided with capacity building support such as training, but the businesses are also being mentored by assigned mentors. There are six mentors who provide advice on business management through the mobile platform.

Joyce Nang’umbili says that apart from benefiting from improved processing technologies, the Wayama Fisheries cooperative she belongs to emerged as a runner-up in the business proposals competition by AEH.

“We have been awarded 4,000 dollars,” she says. “Our plan is to construct solar tent driers which will be put on rent to the fisher folk, thereby generating us income as a cooperative.”

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114 Nations Seek Support to Implement UN’s 2030 Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/114-nations-seek-support-implement-uns-2030-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=114-nations-seek-support-implement-uns-2030-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/114-nations-seek-support-implement-uns-2030-development-agenda/#respond Sat, 09 Sep 2017 07:21:43 +0000 Amina Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152004 Amina J. Mohammed is Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Amina J. Mohammed is Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

By Amina J. Mohammed
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2017 (IPS)

Two years have passed since the world came together to adopt a truly remarkable framework for common progress: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda is transformative and inspiring its own right. That it was agreed at a time of severe political divisions on so many other issues was especially encouraging. Since then there has been very promising momentum around the world.

Amina J. Mohammed

The Sustainable Development Goals have jumped from the General Assembly Hall to communities across the world. They are taking hold among policy-makers and in global public awareness.

We saw this most recently here at the United Nations, when 65 countries — far more than expected and far more than last year — submitted their voluntary national reviews at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The Forum was a welcome opportunity to identify implementation challenges at the country level – and to share solutions, knowledge and best practices. It is clear that Member States are taking vigorous action to implement our SDGs. In many countries, Heads of State and Government are personally leading the charge, incorporating SDGs into national plans and visions, in some cases, incorporating sustainable development principles into legal frameworks too. In line with the interlinkages of the SDGs, we see governments walking the talk in terms of national coordination, resource mobilization and budget allocation, and engaging parliaments and local authorities.

Stakeholders, including business, NGOs, and the scientific community, are also helping to lead the implementation process. At the HLPF, which attracted over 5,000 participants this year, I was pleased to see so many enthusiastic actors. Next year, the list of countries ready to engage in the voluntary review process has already reached its maximum of 44. To me, this is an unmistakable signal of commitment.

The UN Development System, too, has shown its firm commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda, by providing country-level support. To date, 114 governments have requested support from UN Country Teams on SDG implementation. That is the good news. However, our assessment clearly shows that the pace of progress is insufficient to fully meet that ambition. We see, in the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals as we transition to the SDGs, that progress has not been even across regions, between the sexes, and among people of different ages and constituencies.

Inequality remains a significant challenge, both within and among countries. Children and youth, women and girls, indigenous people, older people, rural workers, people with disabilities, migrants and people affected by conflict remain vulnerable, deprived of their rights and opportunities. Every day, they must be empowered if we are to be true to our commitment to leave no one behind. The latest data show that extreme poverty is down to 11 per cent, but this translates to an estimated 767 million people still living with severe deprivation. Although Eastern and South Eastern Asia made significant progress, 42 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa continued to live in extreme poverty. We do need to put emphasis on data to know where those are that are being left behind. Maternal deaths have declined, but we need to double the rate of reduction to meet the target.

This means a concerted effort to invest in universal health care, with a focus on primary health care and secondary referral. The environment continues to bear the brunt of man-made actions, leaving more than 2 billion people to confront water stress and nine out of 10 city dwellers breathing polluted air. And there has been a significant increase in violent conflicts in recent years, despite a decline in homicides and better access to justice for more citizens around the world. So we are challenged.

To eradicate poverty, address climate change and build peaceful, inclusive societies for all by 2030, key stakeholders, including governments, must drive implementation of the SDGs at a much faster rate and at much larger scale. Poverty remains a major challenge. Increasing focus on the poorest, most vulnerable, furthest behind and hardest to reach is critical.

To ensure no-one is left behind, we need to monitor progress through disaggregated data, by building the capacity of national statistic systems and by improving data availability. We must also advance on gender equality. The empowerment of women and girls is an enabler for the whole 2030 Agenda. Currently, gender inequality is deeply entrenched. We see it in the slow progress in women’s representation in political life and in decision-making within our own households.

We see it as well in the violence, most often with impunity, that women and girls face in all societies, which also affect the mental health of women – which is also deserving of greater attention. The systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the whole 2030 Agenda is therefore crucial.

Another critical area is climate change. At this point I would like to express my sincere condolences to those who have recently suffered from environmental disasters, from landslides in West Africa, widespread floods in South Asia and, as I am speaking, from immense destruction and loss of life in the Caribbean region with Hurricane Irma. My heart goes out to them.

On UN Staff Day—September 8 — I also wish to acknowledge all the colleagues working on the ground in the affected regions. Implementation of the Paris Agreement is central to the success of the 2030 Agenda. The UN System supported countries in identifying and declaring their climate targets in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement.

This has carried forward – through multilateral initiatives such as the Nationally Determined Contributions Partnership – with translating targets into action, coordinating support, and providing access to climate finance. The priority now must be to scale this up and accelerate action to achieve country targets.

The Secretary General’s climate summit in 2019 will provide momentum for increased ambition. However, the financing requirements for realizing the SDGs and the Paris Agreement are considerable. They call for transformative solutions. The Addis Agenda provides the financing framework and blueprint for global cooperation. In many SDG priority areas, additional investments are essential. Development banks have significant potential to scale up their contributions to sustainable development financing. We also need countries to meet their commitments on ODA and we need to leverage South-South cooperation.

But public finance alone is not sufficient. We need to work in partnership with the private sector to ensure that all financing becomes sustainable and contributes to the SDGs. A growing number of businesses are considering social and environmental factors in their investment decisions. But here again, we need to go to scale.

The SDGs are also opening new business opportunities. I am proud to say that the UN is supporting efforts by the private sector to better align their internal incentives with long-term investment and with sustainable development indicators. Ultimately, progress will only be achieved through genuine and meaningful partnership. Partnerships at all levels are key to ensure continued momentum and implementation. Let me emphasize here the key role of local governments and mayors.

The UN has a critical role to play in bringing all stakeholders together and supporting countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. But the UN too must change to be an effective, accountable and responsive partner. As I have said before, the 2030 Agenda is a bold agenda for humanity and requires equally bold changes to the UN development system.

The UN development system has a proud history of delivering results and generating ideas and solutions to improve the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable. Yet, the current model of the UN development system is insufficient to match the ambition, of the new agenda.

In June, the Secretary-General put forward 38 concrete ideas and actions to reposition the UN development system to deliver the integrated support needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Combined, these ideas offer a roadmap for change that can significantly enhance the system’s effectiveness, cohesion, leadership and accountability. In the coming month, we will continue to confer with Member States and the UN development system, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with you and your representatives as the process unfolds.

We intend as a system to meet the ambition. The 2030 Agenda is the international community’s best tool for a more prosperous and peaceful world. It is relevant to all countries and all people. And it belongs to everyone. Its success, in turn, will depend on the active engagement of all actors for people, peace, prosperity and a healthy planet.

My simple appeal today to all of you is to stay engaged, help us keep the ambition high, and work with us in this collective endeavour for a better future for all.

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Small Entrepreneurs Emerge as Backbone of Bangladesh’s Rural Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-entrepreneurs-emerge-backbone-bangladeshs-rural-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-entrepreneurs-emerge-backbone-bangladeshs-rural-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-entrepreneurs-emerge-backbone-bangladeshs-rural-economy/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 16:15:54 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151915 She was born in the early 1950’s to an ultra-poor family in Kundihar, a remote village of Banaripara of Barisal division in Bangladesh. She was a beautiful baby and her father named her ‘Shahndah Rani’ which means ‘Queen of Evenings’. But in reality her life was far from that of a queen. Born into acute […]

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Shahndah Rani. Credit: Shahiduzzaman

By Shahiduzzaman
Banaripara (Barisal), Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

She was born in the early 1950’s to an ultra-poor family in Kundihar, a remote village of Banaripara of Barisal division in Bangladesh. She was a beautiful baby and her father named her ‘Shahndah Rani’ which means ‘Queen of Evenings’. But in reality her life was far from that of a queen.

Born into acute poverty, there were days when she went without any food. Rani’s parents could not afford any schooling and gave her away in marriage at age 16 to relieve some of the pressures on them. She was married off to Monoranjan Dhar, who despite being poor himself, cared for Rani.

Soon after she moved in with her husband, Rani started working to produce lime from snail shells in the traditional way, by hand. Lime is one of the ingredients used in the consumption of betel leaf. Many people in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries are dependent on betel leaf or ‘paan’ chewing, which also includes other ingredients such as areca nut and often tobacco. It is chewed for its stimulant effects. Historians claim that betel leaf chewing has been part of South Asian culture for hundreds of years.

Rani’s struggle for survival began at the time of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. She managed to save a capital fund of just 65 dollars, which she used to buy firewood and for collecting snail shells from ponds, marshland and swampland around her village. On the very first day of her business venture, she produced one kilogram of lime, which she was able to sell in a nearby rural market for about one US dollar.

Rani quickly realized that she was on the right track and understood the market value and demand. She’s never looked back.

Her husband Monoranjan proudly says, “Rani is energetic and she can think well. She gives me the courage and confidence to face the challenges of poverty together.”

Shanda Rani and her family with IFAD team members. Credit: Shahiduzzaman


Following four decades of hard work, Shandha Rani is now an icon for rural entrepreneurs in her village and community. Her husband and three adult sons work with her. She has also created jobs for three more people.

Several other women and men are following Rani’s footsteps. Dipali Rani is one of them, who also started producing lime. The local people have renamed the village Lime Para (village).

“It is good. Traders are now directly coming to us to buy our product. It also reduces our worries about marketing the product,” said Manaranjan.

Rani is eager to expand her network and business into neighbouring districts, so she is negotiating with financial institutions for loans to invest. She has successfully set up a small workshop with an electric moulding machine, a fireplace to burn snail shells and storage space. Rani is the proud owner of a motorboat for easy transportation of her product and raw materials. Her family home is now a tin-roofed, brick-walled house with a toilet on her own land. At present she has a running capital of about 10,000 dollars, with the capacity to produce 800 kg lime per day. However, lime from snail shells can’t be produced year-round because of non-availability of the shells, particularly in dry or winter seasons.

“If initiatives are taken to cultivate snail shells, it will be a big push for lime production. It has a potential market in the country. Snail shells without flesh are the key raw material for lime production. Besides, their flesh has huge demand in fish cultivation farms as feed. Such initiatives will also create more job opportunities in rural areas,” said James P. Biswas, Deputy Executive Director of the Bangladesh Development Society (BDS).

Rani’s story is one of the success stories of BDS, an NGO based in Barisal working to support development of rural entrepreneurs with assistance from the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations specialized agency.

Since 2000, BDS has been supporting Rani. She was able to take loans 16 times and each of these loans was repaid on time. The loan amounts vary between 200 and 6,000 dollars.

“The organization has provided loans for various purposes to dozens of families in this sub-district and there has been remarkable progress. In most cases, beneficiaries have overcome poverty while at the same time creating jobs. With such success, BDS in partnership with the IFAD and PKSF is planning to increase the loan amount and help expand areas of activities,” Biswas added.

Benoit Thierry, Country Program Manager in the Asia and the Pacific Division of IFAD, who recently visited the Kundihar village along with PKSF officials, met up with several beneficiaries including Shahndah Rani to assess the impact of IFAD support in this area. Over four decades, the Fund has been providing grants and loans to Bangladesh, with the aim of enabling poor people in vulnerable areas to adapt the pattern of their livelihoods to climate change; help small producers and entrepreneurs benefit from improved value chains and greater market access and economically and socially empower marginalized groups, especially poor rural women.

Currently, the Government of Bangladesh and IFAD are negotiating to undertake another six-year project, starting in 2018, to increase farmer incomes and livelihood resilience through demand-led productivity growth, diversification and marketing in changing climatic conditions.

The proposed 111-million-dollar programme is expected to directly benefit at least 250,000 rural households in eleven districts of the country’s southern divisions of Chittagong and Barisal.

PKSF General Manager Akond Md. Rafiqul Islam said, “For many years, access to credit, cooperation, technical support and technology transfer to the poor were limited. Since its inception in 1990, PKSF has been working exclusively for their development in collaboration with 250 NGOs. In this context IFAD’s continuous assistance makes it easier to address effectively the needs of moderate and ultra-poor people. Now you will find thousands of success and trend setting entrepreneurs like Shahndah Rani all over the country.”

Things are moving and changing fast in Bangladesh. In a very real sense, these small rural entrepreneurs are strengthening the rural economy and creating huge job opportunities, Islam added. At present, PKSF is supporting more than 10 million poor people in the country, 90 percent of them women.

Israt Jahan, the top government official of Banaripara Upazilla, lauded IFAD, PKSF and NGO initiatives.

“Their activities are supplementing the government programmes, particularly in poverty alleviation, strengthening rural economy, empowerment of women and their participation in socio-economic development and cultural activities,” Jahan said.

She added that, “The Bangladesh government has made remarkable progress on poverty alleviation. While connectivity between rural areas and cities are well established, we still need to do more and welcome any support from IFAD and PKSF for programmes undertaken to benefit rural people.”

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Women Slowly Break Barriers in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:54:22 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151717 When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament. When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh […]

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Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament.

When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh are breaking barriers by taking traditionally male jobs – once unthinkable. Take the case of six rural women working in a refueling station in the port city of Narayanganj near the capital Dhaka, a job that entails a degree of personal risk.A 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force - a scenario the government and its development partners are determined to change.

Happy Akhter of Magura, Lippi Akhter of Moulvibazar and Rikta of Patuakhali districts are among the six women employees of the refueling station, set up by Saiful Islam, a former police officer, in 2001.

“It’s important to utilise the potential of everyone, including women. And the well-off section of society should come up to support them,” Islam told the Narayanganj correspondent of UNB, a national news agency.

Lippi Akhter added, “My satisfaction is that I can support my family — two daughters and one son — with what I get from this job. I’m not at all worried about myself but I want my children to be educated.”

Asked about their security as they are dealing with male motorists, Lippi said, “We’re safe here as our owner is an ex-police officer. We appreciate his concern about us. He has also made arrangements for our accommodation.”

Taking such a job, where the women have to deal with transport workers, is a matter of great courage as violence against women is widespread.

In the district where these women are working, a 15-year-old girl was raped a by a group of transport workers in a moving truck on the night of August 2. Police arrested the driver hours after the incident. During a preliminary investigation, he confessed to committing the crime with the other men.

In a press statement, Naripokkho, a women’s rights body, said, “The society is being affected due to the repeated incidents of violence against women and children. We’re aggrieved and concerned in such a situation.

“Some 280 women and children fell victims to rape from January to June this year,” Naripokkho said referring to a report of Ain o Shalish Kendro, a human rights body.  It said 39 more were the victims of attempted rape during the period, while 16 were killed after rape, and five committed suicide after rape.

Citing police data, Naripokkho said 1,914 rape cases were filed and 1,109 rape incidents took place between April and June, indicating 12 rape incidents every day.

As elsewhere in the world, women account for almost half of Bangladesh’s total population. Today, the country’s total population is 1.65 million, including 49.40 per cent women, according to the Bangladesh Election Commission.

However, a 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force. Nepal has the highest female labour participation rate of 80 percent. “The labour market [in Bangladesh] remains divided along gender lines and progress towards gender equality seems to have stalled,” the World Bank said.

According to a 2014 study by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a civil society think tank of Bangladesh, “…the contribution of women to the national income has continued to remain insignificant when compared to men because of the under-representation of their contribution to the national income accounts.”

Worldwide, women account for about one-third of the workforce in the unorganised sector. But the International Labour Organization says in Bangladesh, only 3.25 percent of employed women are working in the public sector and 8.25 percent in the private sector. The remaining 89.5 percent are employed in the informal sector with varying and often unpredictable earning patterns – or as it so often happens, work without any payment at all.

Non-recognition of women’s unpaid activity, the CPD study says, also leads to undervaluation of their economic contribution.

The situation is slowly changing as the government takes on various projects with support from international partners. To give women’s empowerment a boost, particularly in the country’s impoverished north, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh in collaboration with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has launched a project on Climate Resilient Community Development (CRCD) Project with a greater focus on gender parity.

The six-year project will be implemented in six districts, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Rangpur, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, and Jamalpur, which are known as poverty pockets.

The project seeks to achieve at least 33 percent of women in the overall labour market, and 15 percent in construction-related areas with relevant actions like subsidised courses for women, inclusion of informal sectors and incentives to employers to employ females, functional literacy, and skill development training.

The project follows a gender sensitive design, noting that 10 per cent of households in the project areas are headed by women, and most of these households are extremely poor.

As it does always, IFAD is promoting the active participation of ‘Labour Contracting Society (LCS).  Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) is one of them.

CCRIP Project Director A.K.M. Lutfur Rahman said poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women’s empowerment and tree planting are the social aspects of the project apart from its engineering aspects, and women are participating.

The project is expected to contribute to the construction of gender sensitive infrastructure that meets the needs of both women and men. In line with national development policies and IFAD’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, the goal is to empower women and men to ensure equal access to project benefits.

As security concerns prevail due to the growing violence against women, Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Department of Economics of Jahangir Nagar University in Bangladesh stressed the importance of ensuring a gender-friendly working environment in the project areas, in addition to revisiting the wage rate.

Professor Sharmind came up with the suggestions on August 1 last in Dhaka while presenting the findings of a study she conducted with support from LGED and IFAD.

Talking to IPS, MB Akther, Programme Director & Interim Country Director of OXFAM Bangladesh, said women’s empowerment is a continuous process. A woman needs five to six years of multidimensional supports, he said. She also needs help in building market linkages for income-generating activities.

Akther said providing capital resources to women is not the only solution. They should also know how to invest resources for generating income and for that they need trainings, raising knowledge and cooperation to build market linkages.

“ICT, particularly the operation of mobile phones, is also an effective tool for women to search job markets or market prices for a product,” he said, adding that he is aware of the IFAD projects.

Talking about women’s contributions to both the household economy and the national one, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, a public-sector apex development body, told IPS in October last year that women’s contributions come from their participation both in formal and informal sectors, and even those, who work outside home in formal or informal sectors, also take care of household chores.

“If women’s household-level activities and their works in informal sectors are economically evaluated and added to the national income, Bangladesh may already be a middle-income country,” he added.

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Women Build Rural Infrastructure in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:45:13 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151659 Breaking all the social barriers and taboos, poor women in Bangladesh are now engaged in rural development works across the country as labourers. The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh initiated the move in the early 1980s, a time when a section of the so-called local elite and influential people stood in their way […]

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Women laborers engage in a development project in Bangladesh. Credit: LGED

Women laborers engage in a development project in Bangladesh. Credit: LGED

By Shahiduzzaman
DHAKA, Aug 13 2017 (IPS)

Breaking all the social barriers and taboos, poor women in Bangladesh are now engaged in rural development works across the country as labourers.

The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh initiated the move in the early 1980s, a time when a section of the so-called local elite and influential people stood in their way to move forward.

The engineers of LGED walked a long way to make this happen. They brought the working women under a platform named ‘Labour Contracting Society’ or ‘LCS’. Most of the LCS members are poor women from local communities. The LGED in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have been successful in formally shaping the LCS concept.

IFAD as an important development partner of Bangladesh, working with the government for the last four decades and supporting the country in alleviating poverty and strengthening the rural economy.

The participation of women in the LCS for rural development is on the rise and they are replacing formal business contractors who have no accountability once the work is done.

The LGED has laid out eligibility criteria for the LCS members, particularly for the women living within a 2-km radius of the work station to include those who are unemployed, divorced or separated from their husbands, widows, destitute, with physically challenged person/s in their families, those who do not have more than 0.5 acres of land, including the homestead, and who are adults and physically fit to take on construction work. There are also men in LCS but their numbers are insignificant.

These poor women have proven that they can build rural roads and markets, and maintain them in the long run better than the private contractors. They also own their own work as their community asset, which can never be expected from the business contractors.

IFAD is promoting the active participation of LCS members in most of their projects in the country, the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) being one of them. LGED considers CCRIP as a ‘Silver Bullet’ for eradicating rural poverty and unemployment.

CCRIP Project Director AKM Lutfur Rahman said apart from engineering aspects of infrastructure development, they consider its social aspects, too. “So, we call it ‘Social Engineering’, in a broader sense ‘engineering for poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women empowerment and tree plantation and so on’.”

LGED and IFAD are planning to further strengthen the LCS and diversify their effective involvement in the projects. As part of this, both the organisations recently supported a study conducted by Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Economics Department of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, on the LCS.

The study found that the concept of a ‘Labour Contracting Society’ is a proven successful formula for reaching out to the target groups and implementation of their work. Higher quality of work coupled with an increase in daily labour income and skill development form a strong base for further strengthening and expansion of this model.

Earlier this month, Professor Neelormi presented the key findings of the study at an LGED seminar in Dhaka. She put forward a set of recommendations to further improve the LCS. The key recommendations include ensuring gender-friendly working environment in project areas; revising the wage structure in the schedule considering seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; exercising the practice of ‘Force Majeure’ as contractual agreement; ensuring life and injury insurance during road maintenance and market construction works; and ensuring the use of retro-reflective vests.

LGED’s engineers and IFAD staff from its project areas, experts and representatives from other partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP), German KFW, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), and the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP)actively participated in the seminar.

Almost all the participants agreed with the study findings and the recommendations. Professor Sharmind drew attention of the project planners to the review some issues of LCS such as revising the wage structure to consider seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; and harmonisation of the daily wage rate and policy for profit-sharing across projects.

She said, “living in uncertain realities, no overnight change can be expected. Issues need to be challenged from the institution itself. It might not be possible for a local project implementing agency to ensure the safeguard.”

Jona Goswami of BMP said it is encouraging for rural women that job opportunities are created for them. She emphasised safety and security of female LCS members, saying they often become victims of violence, harassment and abuse either in their own houses or in workplaces. “So, the project authorities must ensure a gender-friendly working environment and they should be flexible about their personal issues,” Goswami said.

In an interview, Professor Md Shamsul Hoque of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) commended the initiative, saying, “It has proved through all projects that the LCS approach of constructing minor infrastructure has not only increased the income of the poor women and men but also enhanced their technical and management skills. The concept of LCS can now easily be embraced in the country’s other development programmes as well as other developing nations.”

Akond Md. Rafiqul Islam, General Manager of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, commenting on the income sustainability of LCS members, said LGED can include more partner organisations (POs) of PKSF in the projects.

The POs are helping select the LCS members and provide financial services to them, which is an important tool for the members’ income sustainability, he said. “After receiving training, many LCS members have now turned into micro entrepreneurs and they are doing well.”

PKSF is an apex development organisation for sustainable poverty reduction through employment generation.
Rafiqul Islam suggested building up an effective linkage between LCS and POs for supporting the LCS members’ income-generating activities and building them as sustainable micro-entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Professor Hoque said different ministries and non-governmental organisations are now engaging LCS in different titles in their development activities. Some of them are the Bangladesh Water Development Board, Department of Forest, Department of Disaster Management, Department of Agricultural Extension, Cash for Work Program, World Food Program (WFP), CARE Bangladesh, BRAC and Oxfam International.

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Can the Gender Gap Be Measured in Dollars Only?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/can-gender-gap-measured-dollars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-gender-gap-measured-dollars http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/can-gender-gap-measured-dollars/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 16:13:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151598 Until a decade or so ago, experts and world organisations measured the impact of natural and man-made disasters in terms of human losses. For instance, they would inform about the number –and suffering—of human beings falling victims of extraordinary floods, droughts, heat or cold waves, and armed conflicts. This is not the case anymore. Now […]

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FAO Gender and Climate Change Programme. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Until a decade or so ago, experts and world organisations measured the impact of natural and man-made disasters in terms of human losses. For instance, they would inform about the number –and suffering—of human beings falling victims of extraordinary floods, droughts, heat or cold waves, and armed conflicts. This is not the case anymore.

Now the measurements are made in terms of money, i.e., how much losses in terms of money a disaster can cause to world economy–more specifically to Gross Domestic Product. In other words, human suffering is now being calculated in terms of dollars. This way, the traditional human welfare related question “how are you today?” might gradually become “how much are you worth today?”

This trend to “monetising” instead of “humanising” shockingly applies also to what can be considered as the major social and human drama the world has been facing all along its known history—the gender gap.

True that every now and then reports remind about women representing more than 50 per cent of all human beings; that they are the human “life-givers”; the guardians of family and nature and the engine of social coherence, let alone their essential contribution to feeding the world. Indigenous women, for instance, are the key protectors of world’s biodiversity. See: Indigenous Peoples Lands Guard 80 Per Cent of World’s Biodiversity.

90 Per Cent of Agricultural Workers; 10 Per Cent of Land Holders

Here, the facts speak by themselves: globally, women make up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force.

Young girls and women collecting water from a water spring situated in a cabbage field owned by a local woman farmer and FAO-EU Project beneficiary in Ethiopia. Credit: FAO

In many poor countries, more than 95 per cent of all economically active women work in agriculture. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, women hold 10 per cent of the credit available to smallholder agriculture, they add.

Similarly, female farmers receive only 5 per cent of all agricultural extension services, and only 15 per cent of agricultural extension officers are women.

These facts, which have been cited among others by the United Nations Convention toCombat Desertification (UNCCD), also indicate that closing the gender gap could create 240 million jobs by 2025 and add US 12 trillion dollars to annual global growth (GDP), according to a report by McKinsey and Company.

Other major UN specialised bodies, like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have systematically been highlighting the essential contribution of women.

Rural women and girls are key agents of change to free the world from hunger and extreme poverty, said FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva at a special side-event on gender equality and women’s empowerment on the occasion of the 40th Session of the FAO Conference (Rome, 3-8 July 2017).

“Their role goes beyond agricultural production and extends throughout the food system but, as we all know, rural women continue to face multiple constraints,” he said, noting that they have less access to productive resources and employment opportunities.

Graziano da Silva also stressed that women are more affected by the consequences of conflicts and crises.

“During a drought situation, for example, a greater workload is placed on women. In Africa and Latin America, women can spend many hours a day searching for water in times of drought and then need to walk many kilometres carrying a bucket of water on their head,” he said.

In Ghana, the stability of a woman’s marriage and good relations with male relatives are critical factors in maintaining her land rights. Credit: FAO


In spite of this, women worldwide continue to be victims of flagrant inequalities. See: “It Will Take 170 Years for Women to Be Paid as Men Are

World Conference in China

The need to accelerate women’s empowerment in fighting droughts and desertification will be on the table of the UNCCD’s 13 Conference of the Parties (COP 13), that’s the signatories to the Convention, scheduled to take place in Ordos, China, 6–16 September 2017

The Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat’s note “Gender, Drought, and Sand and Dust Storms,” states that structural inequalities embedded in the social, political, economic and cultural institutions, norms and practices limit women’s agency, undermining effective implementation of the Convention.

“A focused and systematic approach to bridge the gender inequalities linked to women’s land use and management, it adds, can improve the livelihoods of women and girls and their families and the conditions of the ecosystems that supply these needs, and enhance their resilience to drought.”

Their increasing exposure to extreme weather events –drought, unpredictable rainfall–accentuates their vulnerability, and compels them to take ever-greater risks to meet their needs, UNCCD underlines.

Women in Land-Dependent Communities

“Women in land-dependent communities affected by the impacts of land degradation and desertification require special attention in order for them to access the resources they need to provide for their households and make communities resilient and stable.”

According to the Convention, the Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality states that the drivers of land degradation are not gender neutral. It stresses that poverty is both a root cause and a consequence of land degradation, with gender inequality playing a significant role in the process, worsening the impacts on women.

On this, the UNCCD Science Policy Interface recommends integrating gender considerations into implementation of the Convention, including through Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) planning and implementation, decision-making, stakeholder engagement and the preliminary assessments for LDN.

“Evidence shows that gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s full and equal participation and leadership in the economy are vital in achieving sustainable development, and significantly enhance economic growth and productivity.”

Women are not just percentages nor can they be quantified merely in terms of dollars.

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Gender Equality? It’s Still a Man’s Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/gender-equality-still-mans-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-still-mans-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/gender-equality-still-mans-world/#respond Thu, 03 Aug 2017 17:57:38 +0000 Anna Shen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151558 Anna Shen is an international consultant for the United Nations, an entrepreneur, and advisor to startups around the world.

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Gender inequality is the greatest moral and social issue of our time — and the world’s most critical economic challenge.

Globally, women are grossly underrepresented in scientific research and development (R&D). Laboratory-assistant-analyzing. Credit: Bigstock

By Anna Shen
SAN FRANCISCO, California, Aug 3 2017 (IPS)

Gender inequality is the greatest moral and social issue of our time — and the world’s most critical economic challenge. If half of the global population cannot fulfill their human potential, the world’s economic growth will falter.

Gender inequality is the greatest moral & social issue of our time, it’s up to all of us - men and women - to change the rules

Anna Shen

We are being robbed as we speak: if women fully participated in formal economic activity, it would add $12 trillion to the world’s coffers, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Drill down to specific industries – the tech sector – and globally, women face the most profound imbalances. At risk are the immense contributions to innovation that women around the world could make — if simply given the chance.

We are now in what The World Economic Forum calls the “4th Industrial Revolution,” an era built on technology that fuses digital, physical and biological worlds. It is imperative that women contribute to the planet’s sweeping transformation.

Imagine if women participated fully and their intellects, talents, and skills were fully used. Think of the products developed, technologies created, companies funded, and discoveries found. What answers would women find for the world’s most pressing problems?

Keep in mind women’s inventions to date: Marie Curie, winner of two Nobel Prizes, who discovered radioactivity, radium and polonium; Grace Hopper, who designed Harvard’s Mark I computer; and
Ann Tsukamoto, who isolated stem cells, a promising discovery that could lead to a cure for cancer.

Sadly, the numbers speak for themselves.

Globally, women are grossly underrepresented in scientific research and development (R&D). Catalyst, a global nonprofit that works to accelerate women’s workplace inclusion, reports that worldwide, females account for less than 29 percent of those employed in R&D. In America, which prides itself as possessing the worlds’ most advanced tech companies, women hold less than 25 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

When women actually do work in the tech sector, retention is an issue; negative work experiences and a lack of support spur women to depart at alarming rates. Almost one-third of women in science, technology and engineering in the U.S. intend to leave their jobs within a year; it is worse in other parts of the world, as women in Brazil (22 percent) and India (20 percent) plan to quit during the same time period.

If one narrowly looks at the business case for gender, the argument is undeniable. Put simply, women boost the bottom line and add invaluable perspectives. According to a Morgan Stanley report that polled 108 tech firms, companies with a highly gender-diverse workforce grew 5.4 percent more revenue-wise per year.

Board representation matters too. Companies in every sector, not just tech, perform 5 percent better when they have just one woman on the board, according to Credit Suisse, which examined 3,000 companies. The Peterson Institute for International Economics noted that out of 22,000 firms surveyed globally in tech and other, 60 percent had no female board members. Norway, Latvia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria had only 20 percent female representation in board members and senior executives.

In developing countries, gender parity could enable greater self-sufficiency. Consider the recent visit of Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Nigeria and the promise that the company will train 10 million Nigerians in the next five years, ushering them into the digital economy, a lofty goal that would open more Africans to the global marketplace. What if half – five million — of the newly trained tech workers were women?

Dr. Unoma Okorafor, founder of the Nigerian-based foundation Working to Advance African Women (WAAW), is working across eight countries to increase the pipeline of females in tech. She believes that fostering gender parity is critical to poverty alleviation and Africa’s rapid development. “Technology can empower women who are currently working in agriculture or at home. Many entrepreneurs are women, however, they are excluded from the formal system,” she said.

Could a burgeoning tech sector wean these countries off foreign aid? If countries could train workers to think for themselves, Africa could change the narrative from aid to trade. “We could empower Africans to innovate for themselves,” said Okorafor, adding that this is part of the goal of attracting women to careers in STEM.

The problem is in training and retaining women leaders globally, but discrimination exists in the funding mechanism – venture capital (VC) — used to birth companies. In California’s Silicon Valley, where many of the world’s largest tech companies launched – Uber, Airbnb, Google, Facebook – women face obstacles in VC; in fact, women-led companies comprised less than 5 percent of all VC deals in 2016. Only 7 percent of partners at the leading 100 VC firms are women.

This summer’s avalanche of sexual harassment scandals at Uber and several prominent American venture capital firms have made global front-page news.

Unfortunately, for women in other countries, the story is also the same. In late July, the board of Kenyan software company Ushahidi fired Daudi Were, executive director, after an investigation of sexual harassment by a former employee. She published details online, recounting the disturbing impact of his actions. Eleven other women experienced similar incidents.

Access to capital is unmistakably powerful. Trish Costello, founder of Portfolia, a crowdfunding website that aims to create a new class of women investors, said that, “The goal is to design spaces that work for women in terms of investment vehicles. Men say that there are no female VCs and that is why there is a leaky pipeline, but that is not true.”

Ruchira Shukla, regional lead for South Asia for the venture capital arm of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), gave hopeful news: “The number of women entrepreneurs in the tech space is rising. These women will serve as role models,” adding that she is heartened by the women entrepreneurs she is seeing, especially as the IFC invested in a fund for female founders.

Recent discussions to raise women up are encouraging. Is it lip service? Across the tech industry, it is still a man’s world. It’s up to all of us – men and women – to change the rules. Innovation and the world’s future are at stake.

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The Arab Youth Bulge and the Parliamentarianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:26:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151300 More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women. These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and […]

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The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students from Al-Amal Preparatory School for Girls in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, participate in psychosocial support activities. Credit: © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

By IPS World Desk
ROME/AMMAN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women.

These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and alarming growing water scarcity, all worsening as a consequence of climate change.

One of the main consequences is an increasing social unrest like the one that led to so the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Let alone massive migration–now it is estimated that 25 to 35 per cent of Arab youth appear to be determined to migrate. (See: What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?).

What to Do?

More than 100 Arab and Asian legislators are set to focus on these and other related challenges in Amman, Jordan, during the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which is the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), participants have been selected based on their needs for capacity enhancement and priority policy interventions where knowledge-sharing can be most effective.

According to APDA, over the past decades, while the Arab region has shown remarkable socio-economic improvement including education and health, it has faced profound changes and challenges. Among them is the “youth bulge,” which describes the increasing proportion of youth in relative to other age groups.

The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students at the Jalazone Basic School watch a performance by ‘Clowns 4 Care’. Credit: © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Riham Jafary

Such increase, together with overall Arab population pressures, has resulted in an unprecedented youth population growth in the region’s history, it adds.

One of the most challenging issues facing young Arabs are the high-unemployment rates. “The region has one of the highest regional youth unemployment rate seen anywhere in the world,” it warns, adding that in 2009, more than 20 per cent of Arab youth were unable to find a job, which constituted more than half of the total unemployment.

Such high youth unemployment, combined with a demographic youth bulge, provoked the Arab Spring, a civil uprising mainly by Arab youths, and regional instability, according to APDA.

Moreover, despite overall progress in the health sector in many Arab countries over the past years, Arab youth still suffer from inadequate health provision and poor access to health facilities, lack of access to health information and services, especially for reproductive health.

“This is especially true for young women, youth in rural areas, and youth with disabilities and putting many in a vulnerable situation. “

The Youth Bulge

Organised under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs”, the Amman meeting aims at enhancing the roles of parliamentarians in enacting legislation to formulate policies and mobilize budget that takes population issues into account is a driver to promote socio-economic development.

In fact, legislators have a significant part to play in linking demographic dimensions with sustainable development and turning them into advantages to produce socio-economic outcomes.

“For instance, the youth bulge presents not only development challenges but also opportunities, if appropriate policies are adopted to invest in the youth and reap the full potential of them. “

The Amman event will be followed by one in India on mid-September, and another one in the Republic of Korea towards the end of October 2017.

The Asian Population and Development Association has supported activities of parliamentarians tackling population and development issues for 35 years.

This time, in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event is intended to highlight and call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

As well, it will focus on parliamentarians’ important roles and tasks in addressing population issues aligned with the new goals and targets, and related policies and programmes that advance social inclusion and population stability in the region.

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When Women Have Land Rights, the Tide Begins to Turnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:01:08 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150836 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management.  Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

Legal protections for indigenous and rural women to own and manage property are inadequate or missing in 30 low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report from Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

This finding, now quantified, means that much of the recent progress that indigenous and local communities have gained in acquiring legal recognition of their commonly held territory could be built on shaky ground.

“Generally speaking, international legal protections for indigenous and rural women’s tenure rights have yet to be reflected in the national laws that regulate women’s daily interactions with community forests,” Stephanie Keene, Tenure Analyst for the RRI, a global coalition working for forest land and resources rights of indigenous and local communities, told IPS via an email interview.

Together these 30 countries contain three-quarters of the developing world’s forests, which remain critical to mitigate global warming and natural disasters, including droughts and land degradation.

In South Asia, distress migration owing to climate events and particularly droughts is high, as over three-quarters of the population is dependent on agriculture, out of which more than half are subsistence farmers depending on rains for irrigation.

“For many indigenous people, it is the women who are the food producers and who manage their customary lands and forests. Safeguarding their rights will cement the rights of their communities to collectively own the lands and forests they have protected and depended on for generations.” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Indigenous and local communities in the ten analyzed Asian countries provide the most consistent recognition of women’s community-level inheritance rights. However, this regional observation is not seen in India and Nepal, where inadequate laws concerning inheritance and community-level dispute resolution cause women’s forest rights to be particularly vulnerable,” Keene told IPS of the RRI study.

“None of the 5 legal frameworks analyzed in Nepal address community-level inheritance or dispute resolution. Although India’s Forest Rights Act does recognize the inheritability of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ land, the specific rights of women to community-level inheritance and dispute resolution are not explicitly acknowledged. Inheritance in India may be regulated by civil, religious or personal laws, some of which fail to explicitly guarantee equal inheritance rights for wives and daughters,” Keene added.

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Pointing out challenges behind the huge gaps in women’s land rights under international laws and rights recognized by South Asian governments, Madhu Sarin, who was involved in drafting of India’s Forest Rights Act and now pushes for its implementation, told IPS, “Where governments have ratified international conventions, they do in principle agree to make national laws compatible with them. However, there remains a huge gap between such commitments and their translation into practice. Firstly, most governments don’t have mechanisms or binding requirements in place for ensuring such compatibility.”

“Further, the intended beneficiaries of gender-just laws remain unorganised and unaware about them,” she added.

Women’s land rights, recurring droughts and creeping desertification

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one way to address droughts that cause more deaths and displaces more people than any other natural disaster, and to halt desertification – the silent, invisible crisis that threatens one-third of global land area – is to bring about pressing legal reforms to establish gender parity in farm and forest land ownership and  its management.

“Poor rural women in developing countries are critical to the survival of their families. Fertile land is their lifeline. But the number of people negatively affected by land degradation is growing rapidly. Crop failures, water scarcity and the migration of traditional crops are damaging rural livelihoods. Action to halt the loss of more fertile land must focus on households. At this level, land use is based on the roles assigned to men and women. This is where the tide can begin to turn,” says Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, in its 2017 study.

Closing the gender gap in agriculture alone would increase yields on women’s farms by 20 to 30 percent and total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, the study quotes the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as saying.

An Indian tribal woman holds up her land tenure document secure in the knowledge that now she can plan long term for her two sons. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

An Indian tribal woman holds up her land tenure document secure in the knowledge that now she can plan long term for her two sons. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Why the gender gap must close in farm and forest rights

The reality on the ground is, however, not even close to approaching this gender parity so essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 5 which connect directly with land rights.

Climate change is ushering in new population dynamics. As men’s out-migration from indigenous and local communities continues to rise due to fall in land productivity, population growth and increasing outside opportunities for wage-labor, more women are left behind as de facto land managers, assuming even greater responsibilities in communities and households.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow. The percentage of female-led households is increasing in half of the world’s 15 largest countries by population, including India and Pakistan.

Although there is no updated data on the growth of women-led households, the policy research group International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in its 2014 study found that from 2000 to 2010, slightly less than half of the world’s urban population growth could be ascribed to migration. The contribution of migration is considerably higher in Asia, it found, where urbanisation is almost 60 percent and is expected to continue growing, although at a declining rate.”

“Unless women have equal standing in all laws governing indigenous lands, their communities stand on fragile ground,” cautioned Tauli-Corpuz.

Without legal protections for women, community lands are vulnerable to theft and exploitation that threatens the world’s tropical forests that form a critical bulwark against climate change, as well as efforts to eradicate poverty among rural communities.

With the increasing onslaught of large industries on community lands worldwide, tenure rights of women are fundamental to their continued cultural identity and natural resource governance, according to the RRI study.

“When women’s rights to access, use, and control community forests and resources are insecure, and especially when women’s right to meaningfully participate in community-level governance decisions is not respected, their ability to fulfill substantial economic and cultural responsibilities are compromised, causing entire families and communities to suffer,” said Keene.

Moreover, several studies have established that women are differently and disproportionately affected by community-level shocks such as climate change, natural disasters, conflict and large-scale land acquisitions, further underscoring  the fortification of women’s land rights an urgent priority.

With growing feminization of farming as men out-migrate, and the rise in women’s education, gender-inequitable tenure practices cannot be sustained over time, the RRI study concludes. But achieving gender equity in land rights will call for tremendous political will and societal change, particularly in patriarchal South Asia, researchers said.

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What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:11:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150818 With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future […]

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Women and girls in the garment industry are often subject to forced overtime and low wages, and on domestic workers because of the unprotected nature of their work. Credit: ILO / A. Khemka

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future for them?.

Not an easy question, especially if you consider that the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region faces a bulk of huge challenges: from fast growing population to increasing food insecurity; from armed conflicts (Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq) to climate driven instability and massive displacement and migration.

Let alone the widening gender gap—in fact only 13.5 per cent of female youth are economically active, compared to around 50 per cent per cent of male youth.

All the above occurs amidst record high unemployment rates, reaching and average of 30 per cent in the whole region, with peaks of up to 55 per cent in the case of war-torn Yemen.

This challenge is aggravated by the fact that young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as over four times in the Arab states.

Asian Youth
In Asia and the Pacific, youth appear not to be much better off. There, in 2015, nearly 40 million youth –12 per cent of the youth labour force– were unemployed. Although this was less than the global youth unemployment rate of 13 per cent, it varied by sub-region.

In 2015, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

Here, despite relatively low youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-Eastern Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

This region faces as well a huge gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And the gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

Experts from national regional and international organisations have worked hard on finding solutions. One of them, the International Labour Organization, UNESCO, UN Population Fund, World Bank, among others, emphasise the need for education, which will determine the livelihoods of 700 million people in the these two regions and drive growth and development for generations to come.

They also coincide in warning that while significant policy developments have focused on these challenges, including school-to-work transitions and skill mismatches, further coordinated efforts are needed to address obstacles to productive employment and decent work for all youth and thereby help to properly unleash their potential.

Asian and Arab Parliamentarians to Meet
In addition to international experts, analysts and organisations, parliamentarians as direct, elected representatives of people, are set to meet next month in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), this Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development, will on 18-20 July discuss in the Jordanian capital, the above challenges and ways how to face them.

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

The Amman meeting will be hosted by the Jordanian Senate, the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), with the support of the Japan Trust Fund (JTF); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The Jordanian capital’s meeting will be followed by a two specific ones: Africa-Asia in New Delhi at mid of September, and an event on ageing, scheduled to take place in Korea end of October.

Annual Parliamentarian Meetings
Since its establishment, APDA has been holding the annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care. Through exchange between parliamentarians from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

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Solar Tents Improve Nutrition in Highlands Villages in Boliviahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/solar-tents-improve-nutrition-in-highlands-villages-in-bolivia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-tents-improve-nutrition-in-highlands-villages-in-bolivia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/solar-tents-improve-nutrition-in-highlands-villages-in-bolivia/#comments Wed, 07 Jun 2017 01:22:56 +0000 Franz Chavez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150784 In this remote highlands valley community in central Bolivia, a group of Quechua indigenous women have learned how to combat the intense frosts and the shortage of water in solar tents, and to use what they grow to prepare nutritious new meals for their families. In Phuyuwasi, in the central department of Cochabamba, in a […]

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The young Jhaneth Rojas shows radishes planted in a greenhouse-type family garden or solar tent in the village of Phuyuwasi in a highland valley in the central Bolivian department of Cochabamba. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

The young Jhaneth Rojas shows radishes planted in a greenhouse-type family garden or solar tent in the village of Phuyuwasi in a highland valley in the central Bolivian department of Cochabamba. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Franz Chávez
PHUYUWASI, Bolivia, Jun 7 2017 (IPS)

In this remote highlands valley community in central Bolivia, a group of Quechua indigenous women have learned how to combat the intense frosts and the shortage of water in solar tents, and to use what they grow to prepare nutritious new meals for their families.

In Phuyuwasi, in the central department of Cochabamba, in a landscape dominated by vegetation resistant to low temperatures, Maribel Vallejos told IPS how the project involving family gardens in greenhouses has changed her life and those of other women in the community.

“I used to buy vegetables for 100 Bolivian pesos (about 12 dollars), but now I save that money,” said Vallejos, the only participant in the project who speaks Spanish as well as their mother tongue, Quechua.

This village ino Pocona, one of the 46 municipalities of the department of Cochabamba, is benefiting from a programme run by the Ministry of Rural and Land Development, with the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other U.N. agencies.

After two years of skills training, “there is no more (child) malnutrition. We used to not eat well, now we eat clean and we know what we are eating. We are stronger eating these vegetables,” said Vallejos.

Although the surrounding fields are green, with oats and potatoes growing in the fertile soil, it is not easy to produce crops in these Andean region valleys as temperatures can drop abruptly to four degrees Celsius at night before soaring to 28 degrees, the project coordinator in Cochabamba, agronomist Remmy Crespo, explained to IPS.

Experts from several disciplines arrived at the municipalities of Pocona and the neighbouring Pojo, where the local population lives in scattered villages and hamlets, to provide integral support ranging from food production, transformation or commercialisation to consumption, said Abdón Vásquez, the programme’s national coordinator.

When the extension workers arrived in 2015, the local diet consisted mainly of rice, eggs and occasionally chicken. Today the daily intake of the members of the families involved in the project has increased by about 800 calories in proteins, vitamins and minerals provided by the vegetables they grow, said Crespo.

Two carp freshly netted from one of the family ponds dug with the support of FAO in Conda Baja, in the municipality of Pocona. The introduction of fish farming and vegetables in the production and food intake of rural communities in highlands valleys in Bolivia has changed the lives of local people. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Two carp freshly netted from one of the family ponds dug with the support of FAO in Conda Baja, in the municipality of Pocona. The introduction of fish farming and vegetables in the production and food intake of rural communities in highlands valleys in Bolivia has changed the lives of local people. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Jhaneth Rojas, a young farmer from Phuyuwasi, described to IPS how much her family’s dietary habits changed, as she pulled red radishes from the dirt and showed them to us with a smile.

Local farmers did not used to grow radishes, beets, cucumbers, squash, green beans, broccoli or spinach, but today “my father is interested in expanding the solar tent so that his children grow strong” with the production and intake of vegetables, said Rojas.

The project began in this village of 102 families in February 2016 with six tents, and today the community grows vegetables in 28 solar greenhouse tents.

Communities in Pocona, with a combined total population of 14,000 people, asked for technical support and supervision to build another 36 greenhouse tents, which protect the crops in a temperature-controlled environment.

In the village of Conda Baja, Elvira Salazar shows us her small garden, with lush green lettuce, green beans and beets she grows to feed her family.

Close to her garden, several fish farming ponds appear to be empty, but on closer look, carp (Cyprinus carpio) fry can be seen swimming in the one-metre-deep water diverted from the mountain slopes.

 A farmer from Phuyuwasi examines a green tomato in her greenhouse garden, with Remmy Crespo, FAO coordinator in Bolivia’s central department of Cochabamba.  Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS


A farmer from Phuyuwasi examines a green tomato in her greenhouse garden, with Remmy Crespo, FAO coordinator in Bolivia’s central department of Cochabamba. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

The fish have also been incorporated into the diet of the village’s 99 families, said Luis Alberto Morales, who together with his wife Zulma Miranda enjoy the taste of the fish.

Every 100 grams of carp provide 120 protein-rich calories, as well as vitamins A, B2, B6, B12 and E, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Harvesting the fish is a festive event. The fish farmers invested around 150 dollars in each 10 X 10 metre pond, and received intensive training sessions in fertilisation of fish, raising fish fry, water oxygenation, water quality control and feeding.

A total of 224 families from the municipalities of Pocona and Pojo (which has a population of over 10,000), have ponds populated with fish brought from the southern department of Santa Cruz.

In addition to fish, FAO added the production and consumption of the meat of guinea pigs, an Andean rodent smaller than a rabbit, which produce an average of 30 offspring per female annually.

Daly García told IPS that the nutritional quality of guinea pig meat motivated her to build breeding pens.

On her two-hectare family farm near Pojo, the seat of the municipality, 200 km from the city of Cochabamba, she now breeds guinea pigs using the fodder and alfalfa that she herself grows. She also produces apples, peaches and other fruit.

Clemencia Zapata, from Villa Esperanza, proudly holds up the leaves of two cabbages just picked from her small farm 3,000 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Andes, which she plants using organic bio-inputs provided by FAO and the municipality, to replace agrochemicals. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Clemencia Zapata, from Villa Esperanza, proudly holds up the leaves of two cabbages just picked from her small farm 3,000 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Andes, which she plants using organic bio-inputs provided by FAO and the municipality, to replace agrochemicals. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Farther from Pojo, at 3,300 metres above sea level, on the slopes of the mountains surrounding the village of Villa Esperanza, Clemencia Zapata tends her 1.5-hectare plot. Every morning she climbs a path to her land, where lettuce, cabbage and maize grow in neat rows.

The crops, growing under the bright sun of the Andes highlands, need assistance to combat pests, Zapata explained to IPS. FAO agronomist Miguel Vargas brought containers with “bio inputs” which replace agrochemicals.

Bio inputs have the technical support of FAO, the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) and the Andes Agrecol organisation, in addition to the Pojo city government.

The products have been widely welcomed by the 150 people who have used them to replace agrochemicals, which they blame for health ailments such as eyesight problems and damage to the nervous system.

The project sells the bio inputs to farmers, at cost price, using the income to expand the production and benefits to other producers.

The last link in the project’s chain is the Healthy Products Processing Plant, inaugurated on Apr. 21 and headed by the Pojo Association of Producers of Nutritious Food. Like the solar tents, the facilities and brand have a female face.

Teacher Cinthya Orellana and producer Zaida Orellana direct the activities, under strict quality and hygiene control. The food must be boiled for 20 minutes and served hot, they recommend.

A nutritious soup of corn, vegetables and jerky or dried meat, or vegetables combined with fava beans, are among the dishes offered at local trade fairs.

“Men are not interested, that’s why all the partners are women,” said Orellana, a young woman who left the textile workshops of Argentina and Brazil to return to her land to look after her husband and children and work in the industrial processing of food products in Pojo.

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Women Small-Holder Farmers, Key Drivers for Sustainable Productionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/women-small-holder-farmers-key-drivers-for-sustainable-production/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-small-holder-farmers-key-drivers-for-sustainable-production http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/women-small-holder-farmers-key-drivers-for-sustainable-production/#comments Mon, 05 Jun 2017 12:09:14 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150742 The shouts can be heard from a distance as one approaches Domboshawa, 30 kilometres northeast of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. Tokupai madomasi! Tokupai mbambaira! Do you want tomatoes or sweet potatoes? Mune marii? How much do you have? Scores of women and children carrying bundles of vegetables, sacks of sweet potatoes and containers full of […]

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Through the Productive Assets Creation Programme (PAC), WFP in Zimbabwe supported 95,000 people in 2016 through the rehabilitation or creation of community assets, such as water harvesting systems. Photo courtesy of WFP.

Through the Productive Assets Creation Programme (PAC), WFP in Zimbabwe supported 95,000 people in 2016 through the rehabilitation or creation of community assets, such as water harvesting systems. Photo courtesy of WFP.

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Jun 5 2017 (IPS)

The shouts can be heard from a distance as one approaches Domboshawa, 30 kilometres northeast of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

Tokupai madomasi! Tokupai mbambaira! Do you want tomatoes or sweet potatoes? Mune marii? How much do you have? Scores of women and children carrying bundles of vegetables, sacks of sweet potatoes and containers full of farming produce shout above the din of moving vehicles, trying to sell their produce for a meagre profit."Households and communities have been engaged to promote non–oppressive practices, recognising the importance of role sharing.” --Ali Said Yesuf, FAO Chief Technical Advisor

Tsitsi Machingauta, 32, has a two-hectare farm in the area. She decries the numerous problems faced by smallholder farmers, which range from produce rotting in the fields due to the heavy downpours the country experienced this year, to a poor road network that restricts their access to markets.

“Even when supermarket chains come to buy our produce, they pay very little because we do not have the bargaining power. Because of the poor returns, we struggle to make a living, let alone to send our children to school,” Machingauta told IPS.

Machingauta, who is the founder and director of Women’s Farming Syndicate, an organization that supports women smallholder farmers in Domboshaw), explains how the lack of skills to make use of technology and limited time for training for women – compounded by climate change – has worsened the plight of women in the area.

According to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development (MWAGCD), in Zimbabwe, women make up 70 percent of the rural population and 86 percent of women are involved in farming. Of the smallholder farmers who benefited from the government’s land reform program, only 18 percent are female; for commercial land, women constitute just 12 percent.

A study by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (2016) on Women Agribusiness Entrepreneurs revealed that fewer women smallholder farmers meet the banking sector’s stringent borrowing requirements, and women are more likely to operate informally.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report on Small Holders and Family Farmers, if women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent, lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger.

Ali Said Yesuf, FAO Chief Technical Advisor, told IPS that in an effort to address these challenges, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) funded 72 million dollars to implement the Livelihood and Food Security Program (LFSP) to increase agricultural productivity and incomes, improve food and nutrition security, and reduce poverty in rural Zimbabwe.

“LFSP will actively address the specific constraints that smallholder farmers, particularly women, face in raising the productivity of their farms and participating in markets,” says Yesuf. The project covers eight districts in Zimbabwe.

The interventions take into account time constraints, which are as a result of women’s numerous domestic responsibilities. The LFSP promotes labour-saving technologies such as mechanised conservation agriculture, mechanised groundnut shellers, mechanised water abstraction technologies and more efficient wood stoves.

Yesuf said extension services and trainings have been carried out close to homes to avoid disruptions of women’s routines.

“Value chains such as poultry – broilers and indigenous chickens – and groundnuts that are perceived to be dominated by women are also given preference.  This allows women to have some control over incomes that are derived,” Yesuf told IPS.

He said the LFSP would also ensure the following:

  • Women’s participation in decision-making, i.e. membership on committees such as Rural District Councils (RDCs), Internal Savings And Lending (ISALs), commodity associations, lead farmers
  • Household decision-making by working with women and men to integrate gender relations within the household
  • Increasing women’s knowledge about markets

The LFSP has employed the Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) approach which provides safe spaces for communities to integrate decision-making and power relations.

“Through this, households and communities have been engaged to promote non–oppressive practices, recognising the importance of role sharing,” Yesuf told IPS.

As women are known for good saving practices, the LFSP has enhanced and built on such initiatives through the Internal Savings and Lending (ISALs) through training and capacity development and introduction of income-generating activities.

Women in the Midlands Province have transformed their lives through the Extension and Training for Rural Agriculture (EXTRA) project, a three-year project under LFSP. Vavariro ISALs in the Midlands Province is one such group whose members’ lives have been transformed.

“We started by contributing small amounts of money – as little as three dollars per person,” said Virginia Gomana, a Vavariro group member.

“Now we have ventured into big projects that we never thought we could do, such as goat rearing and market gardening, and this has enabled us to own our own homes. Vavariro has also become a platform where we are able exchange ideas, strengthen our skills,” she said.

Yesuf said that financial institutions have also been tapped to better support the needs of these women.

“Women are accessing loans from Micro-Finance Institutions (MFI) through the group methodology where there is group collateral and guarantorship,” he said.

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An Untold Economic Success Story in Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 21:17:30 +0000 Pierre Krahenbuhl http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150473 Pierre Krähenbühl is Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

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Hanan, UNRWA microfinance recipient, Jaramana camp, Damascus, Syria © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Wasim al Masri

By Pierre Pierre Krähenbühl
AMMAN, Jordan, May 18 2017 (IPS)

Hidden almost literally under the rubble of the civil war in Syria is an economic success story that is rarely told. Hanan Odah is a thirty-year-old Palestine refugee living in Jaramana refugee camp in Damascus. She supports her multiply displaced family of three from a thriving micro-enterprise venture. Her husband was killed in the conflict, but she refused to submit to despair and dependency on her parents.

Hanan founded a stationery and perfume business, which she runs from the family house that was badly damaged and which she rebuilt. Young, innovative and courageous, she is living proof that as large businesses have collapsed, small scale enterprises can survive and even thrive in the markets opening up at the grassroots.

As senior leaders and key business figures gather at the World Economic Forum in Jordan this week a thought should be spared for Hanan who lives the ideals they champion. Her work should resonate at their meeting which seeks to “stimulate entrepreneurship” and map out a path to an “inclusive economic transformation”.

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

In July 2014, violence engulfed Hanan’s home and business. She fled in fear of her life and after two years of living hand to mouth with her family moved back into her house which had been damaged and completely looted. Hanan immediately set to work rebuilding and obtained her first loan from UNRWA in 2016. That added to Hanan’s working capital; she expanded her product base increasing income and is now looking to take her business to another level of expansion and brand recognition.

According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, de-industrialization has inflicted USD 254.7 billion in economic damage on Syria. In 2015 alone GDP loss was USD 163.3 billion. As a result of the economic collapse, more than 85 per cent of Syrians were living in poverty by the end of 2015, with more than 69 per cent of the population barely surviving in extreme poverty. Nearly three million jobs have been lost and unemployment is now over fifty per cent.

With recent donor funding, in particular USD 1 million from the European Union, we have expanded our micro finance outreach. Always searching for new openings, we have been actively mapping new locations of internally displaced people to reach the Palestine refugees we serve and to deliver loan products where market opportunities open up. Al Huseniya near Damascus is a good illustration.

The town’s inhabitants fled when armed groups seized it but in the second half of 2015 people began to return after insurgents were driven out. With the improved security situation and the return of Palestine refugees UNRWA dispatched two micro finance specialists to Al Huseniya.

Within a year, dozens of business plans were vetted, market risks were assessed and one hundred loans were issued, helping to secure a better standard of living for returning refugees; enabling them to generate income, repair and furnish their homes, lifting themselves and their families out of the poverty trap and away from aid dependency.

Across Syria, UNRWA’s Micro Finance Department disbursed a staggering 9,520 loans in 2016, worth nearly two million dollars. We can build on this track record and expand with the support of donors and partners.

I pay tribute to UNRWA staff who have achieved this against the odds. During the Syria conflict, the majority of UNRWA’s microfinance offices have been damaged. Moreover, the war has significantly affected our microfinance staff and their families. Prior to the conflict we had 130 staff in six offices across the country. The majority were from the now devastated Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, where our largest microfinance office had been situated.

Over half of our microfinance staff have fled the country and a third have been displaced. Against the odds, we seek to retain staff as circumstances allow and have reassigned personnel to new branches as opportunities have been found.

Our loans have also developed flexibly in response to the evolving conflict. There are currently five products that respond to the deepening emergency situations in Syria and help Palestine refugees re-build their houses and maintain stable incomes for themselves and extended families; no small achievement as war rages relentlessly in the country.

UNRWA’s micro finance work is a rare but significant example of hope in the country. As leaders at the World Economic Forum strive to shape innovative, flexible, and inclusive responses to the most traumatic conflict of our age, I hope they might find Hanan’s story revealing, instructive and perhaps even inspiring. She is an extraordinary young woman who in the face of untold adversity is bravely transforming her community from within, one business plan at a time, which is what the World Economic Forum, at its best, is striving to achieve.

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