Inter Press Service » Women & Economy http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 02 May 2016 16:59:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 World Farmers’ Organisation Meeting Eyes New Markets, Fresh Investmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/world-farmers-organisation-meeting-eyes-new-markets-fresh-investment/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:52:52 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144903 Bags of maize at the Food Reserve Agency Depot in Kasiya, Pemba district, Southern Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Bags of maize at the Food Reserve Agency Depot in Kasiya, Pemba district, Southern Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

‘No Farmer, No Food’ is an old slogan that the Zambia National Farmers’ Union still uses. Some people consider it a cliché, but it could be regaining its place in history as agriculture is increasingly seen as the answer to a wide range of the world’s critical needs such as nutrition, sustainable jobs and income for the rural poor.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), agricultural investment is one of the most important and effective strategies for economic growth and poverty reduction in rural areas where the majority of the world’s poor live. Available data indicates that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating in other sectors.

Armed with this evidence, the world’s development trajectory is focusing on how the sector can boost the fight against hunger and extreme poverty—two of the major obstacles to achieving sustainable development. And the upcoming 6th World Farmers’ Organisation General Assembly slated for May 4-7 in Zambia is set to be dominated by, among other things, agricultural investment and market linkages."We should use the gathering to solicit for ideas and investments to improve the agricultural value chain as government sets agriculture as the mainstay of the economy." -- WFO President Evelyn Nguleka

Under the theme ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the conference is poised to deliberate on ways to encourage farmer-centered partnerships and investments aimed at improving the economic environment and livelihood of this group of producers, most of whom live in rural areas.

FAO estimates that an additional investment of 83 billion dollars will be needed annually to close the gap between what low- and middle-income countries have invested each year over the last decade and what is needed by 2050.

But for developing countries like Zambia, where would this kind of investment come from?

Evelyn Nguleka, president of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU), believes hosting this year’s event is an opportunity for Zambia to market itself as a preferred agricultural investment destination.

“We have the land, water, human resource and good climate which supports the growing of all kinds of agricultural produce,” Dr. Nguleka told IPS. She added that the hosting of the WFO General Assembly comes at a crucial time for Zambia, which has suffered one of the worst droughts induced by the El Nino weather phenomenon sweeping across Southern Africa.

“It is a critical point in our agricultural development that we should use the gathering to solicit for ideas and investments to improve the agricultural value chain as government sets agriculture as the mainstay of the economy,” said the ZNFU president, who is also the current World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) president.

Highlighting the challenge of market access and poor mechanisation, Nguleka is hopeful that Zambia would use the platform to learn from countries that have mechanised and are now reaping the benefits.

“As you are aware, majority producers are smallholders most of whom are women. Women are not only farmers but also home managers, and to balance these two duties requires some basic mechanisation to reduce time spent in the fields,” she said, highlighting the importance of women to agricultural development.

But for Green Living Movement, a member of the Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation, the conference should ensure that the voice of smallholder farmers – usually marginalised at such big events – is heard loud and clear.

“We welcome the theme, which is timely. But we say no to one-sided partnerships that seemingly favour the bigger corporations while the smallholder farmers lose out,” said Emmanuel Mutamba, director of Green Living Movement and Chairman of the Alliance for Agroecology and Biodiversity Conservation.

Mutamba said WFO should guard against selfish corporate interests whose agenda is largely driven by profit. “Climate change is here to stay. We call upon our representatives at this conference to seriously consider the plight of smallholders who produce 75 percent of the country’s food requirements and are at the frontlines of climate change effects. Sustainable technologies must be sought for their continued productivity, or else whatever partnerships emerge would not make sense without production,” Mutamba told IPS, highlighting the importance of tackling climate change.

And in adding value to the win-win approach being advocated for, the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAF) Project on reducing post-harvest losses of fish in Western Zambia could be a perfect example.

After introducing fishers to efficient post-harvest handling technologies, the project has moved to fund business ideas meant to up-scale workable technologies whose findings are a result of joint efforts between fishers and researchers through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach.

Dubbed Expanding Business Opportunities for African Youth in Agricultural Value Chains in Southern Africa, the CultiAF supplementary project is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Jonathan Tambatamba, director of Programmes at the ATDF Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH), a private company contracted by IDRC to implement the commercialisation project, said, “The project seeks to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach of using communities for commercial interests, after which they are dumped without a sustainability plan.”

Apart from entrepreneurship training, three novel and creative business ideas would be picked and supported with a 5,000-dollar grant each, addressing some of the noted challenges in the (CultiAF) PAR process – financial sustainability and poor market access.

And for 35-year-old fish trader Joyce Inonge Nang’umbili, the idea of having access to reliable markets built around the local business value chain could be close to a miracle. “For some of us who have taken up salting as the best option for fish processing, we desire proper market access of salted fish which is not widely known by most consumers in Zambia,” she said.

As WFO representatives gather in Livingstone, many hope they will be drawn not only to farmer centered policies that address market linkages, but also responsible agricultural investments, with serious implications for the fight against climate change threatening the very existence of humanity and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as espoused in the UN 2030 agenda.

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Unsung Heroes of Rural Resiliencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:13:43 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144771 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/unsung-heroes-of-rural-resilience/feed/ 1 HIV Time Bomb Ticks Onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 06:48:39 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144746 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/hiv-time-bomb-ticks-on/feed/ 0 Champions of Hygienehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/champions-of-hygiene/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=champions-of-hygiene http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/champions-of-hygiene/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 05:43:21 +0000 Moraa Obiria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144709 Hildah Kwamboka shows how the innovative water spitting jerrican works. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

Hildah Kwamboka shows how the innovative water spitting jerrican works. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

By Moraa Obiria
NAKURU, Kenya, Apr 20 2016 (IPS)

Lydia Abuya, a tenant living in the Kaptembwa informal settlement west of Nakuru town, leaves one of the six on-plot toilets. She returns with a pail of water to splash away the waste.

This kind of a toilet, in this densely populated low income area, is now saving hundreds of residents from the spread of diarrhoea and cholera, very common with presence of a pit latrine which was earlier available for her use. Let alone the suffocating odour, overflowing faeces and fear of children playing in the filth.

But this pour flush toilet, as it is called, has given Abuya and 15 other tenants in the plot a new meaning to their lifestyle.

Soon as she finishes pouring the water, she heads to a five-liter jerrican hung outside the wall of the toilets, pulls off a stick covering a hole made on the lower side of the container and lets out water to wash her hands.

“This is our sink. Nowadays, it is our routine to wash our hands once we leave the toilet. Earlier we ran away because of the strong smell that made you hold your breath while inside the toilet,” she told IPS while shying away from the camera.

Her landlady Hildah Kwamboka who has lived in the area since 1990 does a daily inspection of the facilities to ensure their cleanliness. She says the improved toilets have brought forth a change in her compound. “A lot has changed since they (tenants) started using these new facilities late last year. You cannot see any faeces anywhere in this compound. The pit latrines were unclean which encouraged some to soil the open spaces within the compound, “says Kwamboka who is now a hygiene champion.

In the East African nation, county governments are now responsible for provision of sanitation services formerly administered by local authorities. This follows transfer of functions under devolved governance enacted in 2010 Constitution.

According to Nakuru county public health regulations, pit latrines are not permitted in the urban set up. However, they make up 63 per cent of sanitation facilities in Kaptembwa and its neighbouring informal settlement — Rhonda. Pour flush toilets connected to septic tanks or sewer lines are allowed but in these areas pit latrines put up with planks and mud is a common sight that is slowly fading away.

Worse still is the fact that more than 10 households equivalent to users exceeding 40 people share one latrine as indicated in Practical Action’s 2012 baseline findings. This is against the UN habitat recommendations of one toilet for 20 people or four households.

While Kwamboka has made a leap in bringing her tenants closer to achieving the sixth sustainable development goal on accessing and enjoying better sanitation services, her efforts are as a result of a partnership between Practical Action,Umande Trust and Nakuru county’s department of health.

She is a beneficiary of a Comic Relief-funded project themed ‘realising the right to total sanitation’ which the partners implemented in Kaptembwa and Rhonda — highly dense low income settlements — where approximately 140,000 people live.

The project utilised an innovative approach — community led total sanitation — which involves mobilising communities to identify their sanitation problems and address them using own local resources.

With the project, the partners sought to eradicate all urban forms of open defecation, promote better solid waste management activities and proper hygiene behavior.

Achieving these involved educating the locals on maintaining a clean environment and observing high hygienic standards. Also, facilitating landlords to construct improved toilets and provide innovative hand washing solutions such as the water spitting jerrican hang on the wall of Kwamboka’s toilets.

“We introduced a loan facility in which we linked landlords to K-Rep bank from which they borrowed loans at 7.5 per cent interest. And at the end of the project 17 of them had borrowed a sum of up to Sh 4.8 million (US $ 47,300) constructing 43 new improved sanitation units,” said Patrick Mwanzia, the senior project officer for Practical Action’s urban water sanitation and hygiene and waste programme.

Mwanzia, however, says they entered into a memorandum of understanding with the lending institution to continue offering land owners tailor-made loans to specifically meet costs of constructing or upgrading sanitation facilities.

Between March 2012 and January 2015, the partners sensitised more than 135,000 people who have now become agents of change for the provision of sanitation services and adherence to high hygienic standards.

“There was a positive reception from the communities which resulted to construction of 2,204 sanitation facilities with 58,260 people within the plots directly benefitting,” said Mwanzia.

According to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, only 15 per cent of the 9,126 villages in Kenya had been targeted to eradicate open defecation by 2014.This means thousands of rural and urban residents live with exposure to open space faecal disposal.

“I can now stand outside with a plate of food and eat peacefully. There is no stench or disturbance of flies. Life is more comfortable and bearable, “notes Hesbon Nyambare, a beneficiary of the project.

He is in charge of 35 rental houses and his house is adjacent to six newly built pour flush toilets which cost him Sh 100,000 (US$985). He completed the construction in mid-2015.

While deputy Nakuru county public health officer, Daniel Mwangi, acknowledges the existing gaps in observing recommendable levels of sanitation in the informal settlements, he says enlightening locals on sanitation and hygiene is key since it unlocks their power to engage in proper sanitary activities.

“We have seen tremendous changes following the implementation of the project. Defecation in areas where it was so rampant has declined significantly,” he observes.

He adds that: “There is a challenge of landlords ignoring rules and regulations but we are committed to keeping them within the laws. The law has to be enforced”.

Even so, the locals reversing their habits remain a concern that the county government hopes to address through the hygiene champions trained under the project.

(End)

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Innovations Boost Income for Women Rice Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 04:46:52 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144658 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/feed/ 0 Land Tenure Still a Challenge for Women in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/land-tenure-still-a-challenge-for-women-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-tenure-still-a-challenge-for-women-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/land-tenure-still-a-challenge-for-women-in-latin-america/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 17:51:58 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144608 Blanca Molina holds up organic peas picked in one of the four greenhouses she built with her own hands on her small family farm in Villa Simpson, in the Aysén region in the Patagonian wilderness in southern Chile. Credit: Marianela Jarroud /IPS

Blanca Molina holds up organic peas picked in one of the four greenhouses she built with her own hands on her small family farm in Villa Simpson, in the Aysén region in the Patagonian wilderness in southern Chile. Credit: Marianela Jarroud /IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Rural women in Latin America continue to face serious obstacles to land tenure, which leave them vulnerable, despite their growing importance in food production and food security.

“Women are the most vulnerable group of people with respect to the question of land tenure,” Soledad Parada, a gender adviser in the regional office of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the Chilean capital, told IPS.

She added that “in general, the activities carried out to improve the land tenure situation have failed to take women into account.”

As a result, “women have access to land through inheritance or because they were granted it by an agrarian reform programme, but they are always at a disadvantage,” she said.

Like in other developing regions, family agriculture is the main supplier of food in Latin America, and women produce roughly half of what the region’s 600 million people eat.

An estimated 58 million women live in the countryside in this region. But “the immense majority of land, in the case of individual farmers, is in the hands of men,” said Parada.

“Only between eight and 30 percent of land is in the hands of women,” she said, which means that only this proportion of women “are farmers in the economic sense.”

The country with the largest percentage of land owned by women is Chile (30 percent), closely followed by Panama, Ecuador and Haiti. At the other extreme is Belize (eight percent), with just slightly larger proportions in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Argentina.

Another FAO study, conducted in only a handful of countries in the region in 2012, reported that women accounted for 32 percent of owners of land in Mexico, 27 percent in Paraguay, 20 percent in Nicaragua and 14 percent in Honduras.

Furthermore, women tend to have smaller farms with lower quality soil, and have less access to credit, technical assistance and training.

“Of people who work in technical assistance, 98 percent do not even think of visiting women,” land tenure expert Sergio Gómez, a FAO consultant, told IPS.

Moreover, he said, “All formal procedures require the man’s signature, otherwise the visit doesn’t count, because the property is in his name.”

The gender gap in land ownership is historically linked to factors such as male preference in inheritance, male privilege in marriage, and male bias in state land redistribution programmes and in peasant and indigenous communities.

To this is added the gender bias in the land market.

Aura Canache, in front of one of her sheep enclosures on her small farm, less than one hectare in size, located 130 km from Caracas, in the Barlovento farming region in the coastal area of northern Venezuela. She has had difficulty accessing credit to help run her farm. Credit: Estrella Gutiérrez/IPS

Aura Canache, in front of one of her sheep enclosures on her small farm, less than one hectare in size, located 130 km from Caracas, in the Barlovento farming region in the coastal area of northern Venezuela. She has had difficulty accessing credit to help run her farm. Credit: Estrella Gutiérrez/IPS

Because of all of these handicaps, women “have been explicitly left out” of land ownership, Parada said.

There are other inequalities as well. In Mexico, for example, women in rural areas work 89 hours a week on average, compared to just 58 hours for men. A similar gap can be found throughout the region.

Nevertheless, nearly 40 percent of rural women have no incomes of their own, while only 14 percent of men are in that situation.

Some progress has been made in recent years, as the region has experienced a significant increase in the proportion of farms in the hands of women. Parada said that in the last few decades, many countries in the region, such as Nicaragua, reformed their laws to ensure more equal access to land for women.

“In other countries advances have been seen in terms of legislation, such as setting a condition that in the case of a married couple, both members are in charge of the land, and the authorisation of either one is needed to carry out any transaction,” Parada said.

But much more still needs to be done, largely because the effective right to land not only depends on legislation, but also on the social recognition of this right – and inequality still persists in this respect.

“All of this has tremendous consequences,” Parada said.

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar pick improved beans grown on her three-hectare farm in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar pick improved beans grown on her three-hectare farm in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

“The fact that land is mainly in the names of men, especially in the case of family farms and small-scale agriculture, represents an enormous barrier for women to access other kinds of benefits,” she said.

Alicia Muñoz, the head of the Chilean National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri), told IPS that achieving the right to land “has been one of our longest and biggest struggles.”

“We are fighting for women’s work to be recognised, because it is women who are the leaders in the countryside, in small-scale family agriculture. Access to land tenure has always been a demand of peasant women,” she said.

Muñoz said it is a “cultural issue” faced by countries in the region which so far has no solution.

Despite all of the efforts to close the gender gap in different countries of Latin America, “in agriculture, the men speak for the women,” he said.

Against this backdrop, gender equality is one of the main “implementation principles” of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, approved in 2012 by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to facilitate dialogue and negotiations.

The guidelines adopted by the intergovernmental CFS, which is described as the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together to ensure food security and nutrition for all, say states must ensure that women and girls have equal tenure rights and access to land, independently of their marital status.

The document also urges states to “consider the particular obstacles faced by women and girls with regard to tenure rights and take measures to ensure that legal and policy frameworks provide adequate protection for women and that laws that recognize women’s tenure rights are enforced and implemented.”

The CFS stresses the need to guarantee women’s participation in all decision-making processes, as well as equal access to land, water and other natural resources.

But in order to achieve this, the presence of women in negotiations must be fomented “by the authorities or by whoever agrees to implement the guidelines. And the FAO has a role to play in this,” Parada said.

Muñoz agreed, saying that “both governments and the FAO have to promote women’s participation, otherwise everything will stay the same.”

“We love land and nature, we are very reliable and responsible,” the Chilean activist said. “It is women who know about family farming, who carry the farms on their shoulders. It’s time we were recognised.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Female Engineers Defy the Oddshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/female-engineers-defy-the-odds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=female-engineers-defy-the-odds http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/female-engineers-defy-the-odds/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 05:19:36 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144592 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/female-engineers-defy-the-odds/feed/ 0 Women Benefit From Simple Economic Ventureshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/women-benefit-from-simple-economic-ventures/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-benefit-from-simple-economic-ventures http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/women-benefit-from-simple-economic-ventures/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2016 06:16:14 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144431 Irene Tuwei holding a certificate of recognition for being a top saver, she is a role of model of what simple and well-thought out economic interventions can do. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Irene Tuwei holding a certificate of recognition for being a top saver, she is a role of model of what simple and well-thought out economic interventions can do. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
GAZA, Mozambique, Apr 1 2016 (IPS)

Angelina Chiziane starts her day by getting her husband ready for work in a small village in the southern province of Gaza, Mozambique, some 216 kilometers away from the capital, Maputo.

She then makes the three kilometer journey to a nearby stream to fetch water and firewood and by the time she gets back home, her two children will be up and ready to be fed.

Chiziane then straps the youngest on her back and leaves with them to the farm where she will spend most of her day. At only 17 years old, this is her life and she will know no better.

Statistics show that nearly 50 per cent of Mozambican women between the ages of 20 and 24 years old get married before the age of 18, with 14 per cent of them, just like Chiziane, getting married before their 15th birthday.

These damning statistics by the Mozambican women’s organisation Forum Mulher [Women’s Forum] paint an accurate picture of the plight of a significant number of women and girls in this southern African nation.

Consequently, the Forum aggressively pushes for a female empowerment agenda, which has included calls for protection of women, promoting gender parity in education, encouraging society to embrace women in government while also raising awareness on women’s rights.

Nzira Deus who works at Forum Mulher says that “training on leadership and political participation of women is the key. Women in power can significantly improve the situation of women in Mozambique.”

In March this year, Forum Mulher presented the results of a study on the situation of women in Mozambique for the period 2005-2015 which confirmed that though Mozambique is a fast-growing economy, the same cannot be said of gender equality.

While the number of women in political leadership has steadily increased, the same cannot be said of the representation of women in other sectors of the economy.

Mozambican female ministers have increased from 15 per cent in 2003 to 28.5 per cent in 2014. The number of parliamentary seats held by women has also increased from 29 per cent in 1997 to 39 per cent in 2014.

Though gender experts such as Forum Mulher’s Karina Loferte Dulobo emphasise that women are twice as likely to invest in health and education, they are still largely peasant farmers and also — as is the case across Africa — account for 60 to 80 per cent of agricultural labourers.

As a result, women are affected more disproportionally by the extreme poverty which is still severe and widespread where a majority of Mozambican rural population live on less than US$1.25 a day.

Deus particularly decries the high prevalence of child marriages despite the “negative impact it has at a personal, social and economic level. Fighting this practice is a priority for us. If girls drop out of school to get married, they will remain poor and their children will have no better lives than their parents.”

Socio-economic experts such as Kenya’s Dan Mwangangi emphasise that tackling extreme poverty in Mozambique and in Africa indeed must go hand in hand with addressing the glaring gender inequality.

“Such studies on gender inequality are vital because they clearly show the magnitude of the problem and can be used as basis to establish various sustainable interventions to improve the situation of women,” Mwangangi explains.

“We have a huge number of women in Mozambique who have been denied an education, as a result, women remain underrepresented in main decision-making processes, be they political, economic or social and the majority of women [60 percent] are still illiterate,” he expounds.

He however told IPS that just because they are not educated does not mean that they are a lost cause.

Mwangangi gives the example of Kenya where simple economic empowerment ventures targeting rural poor women such as the Joyful Women Organisation (JOYWO) have completely transformed the lives of thousands of households across this East African nation.

JOYW0, which has so far directly benefitted over 200,000, is a Kenyan registered non-governmental organisation formed to empower Kenyan women economically and enhance house-hold food security among them through supporting their involvement in livelihood projects.

Operation in about 33 of the country’s 47 counties, JOYWO has mobilised over 150,000 women to participate in economic activities in excess of US$10 million under their revolutionary table banking concept which is now in its sixth year.

Members form small groups of between 15 and 35 members contributing money based on the group’s constitution, the money is then literally placed on the table and is immediately available to be borrowed as loan.

“The money is never banked revolving amongst the members, we all record the transactions in each meeting,” says Irene Tuwei, a member of the Chamgaa [which means the one who loves home in her Kalenjin native language] table banking group.

Members are free to pursue projects of their choice and most of them are involved in agriculture and livestock “we use what we have. Being in rural areas means that our money comes from our land,” she says.

Tuwei is a reformed alcoholic and a polio survivor who, like many, have found success in simple economic ventures.

“Women can achieve great things with very little money, what they need is direction and support. My initial contribution was US$2 only in an entire month. I have about US$1,000 in savings after only four years,” she says.

Her primary aim in JOYWO was to buy a plot and a cow “I wanted a place I could call home,” she says.

Tuwei is now the proud owner of a car which helps her move around, three motorbikes, cows, chicken and pigs.

Mwangangi says that Tuwei’s is only one of the many success stories that can be witnesses through simple but well thought out interventions.

Even as women continue to push for more seats at various decision-making processes, there is a great need for Africa to focus on both the rural and urban poor women and design simple but effective strategies to help alleviate the challenges they face, he says.

(End)

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Benefits of Backpack Biogashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/benefits-of-backpack-biogas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=benefits-of-backpack-biogas http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/benefits-of-backpack-biogas/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 05:34:07 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144420 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/benefits-of-backpack-biogas/feed/ 2 Are Indigenous Women Key to Sustainable Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/are-indigenous-women-key-to-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=are-indigenous-women-key-to-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/are-indigenous-women-key-to-sustainable-development/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 23:06:48 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144285 By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 21 2016 (IPS)

“We, indigenous women want to be considered as part of the solution for sustainable development, because we have capabilities and knowledge, ” said Tarcila Rivera, a Quechua journalist and activist for the rights of indigenous people in Peru, at a press conference on the Empowerment of Indigenous Women.

Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of the Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ) and a member of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, addresses a press conference on indigenous women’s rights, March 2015. Photo: UN Media/ Mark Garten

Tarcila Rivera Zea, President of the Centre for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ) and a member of the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, addresses a press conference on indigenous women’s rights, March 2015. Photo: UN Media/ Mark Garten

Rivera, like many other women who are fighting for the rights of indigenous people in parts of Central and Latin America, Northern Europe, Canada, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Africa, is attending the 60th annual sessions of the inter-governmental body, UN Commission of the Status of Women (CSW60), which concludes March 24.

As a functional commission of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the CSW is meeting with representatives of Member States, U.N. agencies, international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society to discuss the status of women’s political, economic and social advancement and the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Opening the 60th CSW session, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who during his nine years in office has appointed over 150 women as Assistant Secretaries-General or Under-Secretaries-General — urged country leaders to take action to end gender inequality.

“In countries where children have “disappeared”, grandmothers stood up to demand justice. In areas ravaged by AIDS, HIV-positive mothers replaced stigma with hope. In homophobic societies, lesbian victims of rape survived and organized […] As long as one woman’s human rights are violated, our struggle is not over.”

In line with this year’s CSW theme —Women’s Empowerment and Its Link to Sustainable Development and the U.N. 2030 Agenda– indigenous women are demanding governments in their countries to recognise them as a driving force in achieving economic and social development.

In Kenya, it is mostly women who play a key role in supporting families despite growing up in a patriarchal society, explained Valerie Kasaiyian – an indigenous Maasai woman, lawyer and educator for girl’s reproductive rights.

There are indigenous women groups, such as those from Samburu, who for the past 20 years have provided alone for their entire community by building houses and schools. They also established self-sustaining economic activities by selling livestock or traditional jewels in order to get their families out of poverty, continued Kasaiyian.

Women from Marsabit, in the northern part of Kenya, developed sustainable farms, where they grew tomatoes and other crops in greenhouses, and then sold them to the community, without reliance on their male counterparts.

“Sustainable development is about preserving resources and the land for future generations. Indigenous communities, who for centuries have lived in isolation, have found their own system to work the land and to preserve it. It is in our ancestral culture and identity,” Kasaiyian told IPS.

“Yet we assist to a systematic ethnocide of our indigenous culture by the government […] where young indigenous women are meant to be homogenised and integrated into the mainstream culture,” she added.

Since the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, along with the U.N. Resolution 1325, on the importance of women in peace negotiations and peace-building, and the 2007 U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, there have been several important steps to highlight the voices of indigenous women in the international arena. But at a slow pace.

Indigenous women and girls- who are not to be confused with rural women – have their own identity, defined by their own specific language, education, traditional knowledge and socio-economic values, remarked Rivera, who is the founder of the Center for Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ) .

However, they are mostly excluded by government policies, as they are not fully treated with human dignity, said the Peruvian activist.

“Many programs look at us as subject of assistance. But we don’t want to depend on these kind of food programs. We are trying to be considered as subject of change, and development from within, (through) our capacity,” she said.

Despite the lack of thorough national statistics, indigenous women suffer from high levels of discrimination, sexual and domestic violence, extreme poverty, trafficking, lacking in access to land rights and education and poor maternal and infant healthcare.

Myrna Cunningham Kain, member from Nicaragua of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, briefs journalists on highlights of the twelfth session of the Forum on Indigenous Issues, taking place in New York from 20 to 31 May, 2013.Photo: UN Media/Evan Schneider

Myrna Cunningham Kain, member from Nicaragua of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, briefs journalists on highlights of the twelfth session of the Forum on Indigenous Issues, taking place in New York from 20 to 31 May, 2013.Photo: UN Media/Evan Schneider

Myrna Cunningham, an indigenous Mixteca woman from the Waspam community in Nicaragua, told IPS about the problem of data disaggregation in certain countries, where indigenous people are not counted or excluded from certain indicators.

“When talking about statistics” – said Cunningham, who is President of the Center for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples (CADPI), and former chair of the U.N. Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues – “self-identification, should be the main indicator, which can be used complementarily to other types of info-gathering questions. Also, government statistics should use more culturally sensitive indicators, which will help to define public policies and implement them.”

With the adoption of the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, the U.N. set a framework that will foster the partnership between members states and indigenous communities, through dialogue, proposals and projects, in order to further implement the Declaration and recognise and protect indigenous women, Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told IPS.

Kasaiyian said: “We will strongly push for a U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Women specifically, so that women can prosecute in case of violation of their rights in international tribunals.

Indigenous women must bridge the gap between academics, professionals and activists, by establishing their own jurisprudence and theories of law regarding the eradication of violence against women and to empower future generations.”

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Reaping the Gender Dividendhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/reaping-the-gender-dividend/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reaping-the-gender-dividend http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/reaping-the-gender-dividend/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 11:07:09 +0000 N Chandra Mohan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144267 By N Chandra Mohan
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Mar 21 2016 (IPS)

For the first time, an all-female flight crew recently operated a Royal Brunei Airlines jet from Brunei to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Such a feat certainly appears noteworthy in a country where gender segregation is pervasive. When women are still not permitted to drive a car; where there are separate entrances for men and women in banks, is there a possibility of an all-female crew operating a Saudi Airlines plane from Jeddah to Brunei? Not immediately, as there are disturbing signs that the limited gains on the gender front might face reversals.

N Chandra Mohan

N Chandra Mohan

To be sure, official Saudi attitudes to female pilots are not that rigid as is the case with women driving passenger cars. A couple of years ago, a Saudi woman, Hanadi al-Hindi, became the first to be licensed to fly and she has been followed by others. This was largely because of pressure from a billionaire who wanted her to pilot his small and wide-bodied luxury planes. But the numbers of female pilots are still too small to envision an all-female flight deck crew operating the national flagship carrier. Reform to ease the rigours of gender discrimination is still twisting in the wind.

Paradoxically, Saudi women occupy only 13 per cent of job positions in the private and public sector despite accounting for 51 per cent of graduates according to the central department of statistics and information. More and more women are getting educated both at home and abroad but their participation in the labour market is limited. Only 2 per cent of lawyers in the country are women. Women vote and participate in elections. But only 18 per cent of them in the age group 15-59 years are either employed or looking for work. Their rate of joblessness among women is high at 33 per cent.

How does one interpret these dismal numbers? A conservative view is that women are not used to working and have got used to stay at home. Another is that the 33 per cent number reflects a desire on their part to search for work. An unemployed person is not only out of work but is also actively searching for it. The high rate of unemployment thus reflects a situation where job openings are much less than the demand for work. The bogey that they prefer to stay at home is not quite true as more and more women are getting out of the house to take up or seek employment.

According to an article by Elizabeth Dickinson in Foreign Policy, two-income families have become the norm in Saudi Arabia. As many as 1.3 million out of 1.9 million women in the workforce are married. The latest numbers also indicate that the number of female employees rose by 48 per cent since 2010. These trends are very much in line with economic development and urbanisation. The growing number of nuclear families with both the husband and wife working to support a middle-class standard of living has been observed elsewhere in the developing world.

Interestingly, the current juncture of low oil prices offers the best prospect for Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries in West Asia to reap a gender dividend. Oil prices have fallen off the cliff from over $114 per barrel in June 2014 to $40 per barrel. They are expected to stay low in the near future as well, which seriously strains the finances of the Saudi government. With back-to-back double digit budgetary deficits – the gap between dwindling revenues from selling cheaper and cheaper oil and rising expenditures, the decks are being cleared for swingeing cuts in subsidies and reform.

So long as crude prices remain low, Saudi Arabia’s royal family must look to a future beyond oil. Following Thomas Friedman’s first law of petropolitics, there is an inverse relation between oil prices and economic freedom and reform. Reformists like Muhammad bin Salman, deputy crown prince and defence minister are now talking about diversifying into mining, subsidy reforms, expanding religious tourism, leveraging unutilised assets, among other ideas. Foreign investments are being attracted. The big global banks are opening branches in the royal kingdom.

More jobs in the private sector are bound to be created. Unlike in the past when expatriate labour would take them up, the preference now is for using educated Saudi youth. Employing more Saudi women could be part of this emerging scenario. But this is not a done deal as the Saudi government is desperately trying to control the supply of oil to ensure that prices head up from $40 a barrel to a more comfortable range of $60 to $80 a barrel. Leading oil producers thus are contemplating a freeze in output when meet in Doha on April 17. Rising and high oil prices weaken the hand of reformers.

There are signs that this is already happening with the return of more conservative elements. The limited gains in on the gender front in Saudi Arabia thus are tenuous when compared to the situation in other Gulf economies like Bahrain. Even in Iran, the situation is much better. UAE recently appointed women as state ministers for happiness, and tolerance and a 22 year-old to head youth affairs. In contrast, the only female deputy education minister in the Saudi government lost her job last year. An all-female Saudi fight deck crew might have to wait for some more time!

(End)

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Tribute to a Slain Environment Activisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tribute-to-a-slain-environment-activist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tribute-to-a-slain-environment-activist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tribute-to-a-slain-environment-activist/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 07:20:11 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144181 Berta Cáceres on the banks of the Gualcarque River, in the Rio Blanco region in western Honduras that she fought so hard to protect. Photo Credit: Goldman Environment Prize

Berta Cáceres on the banks of the Gualcarque River, in the Rio Blanco region in western Honduras that she fought so hard to protect. Photo Credit: Goldman Environment Prize

By Amantha Perera
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Mar 15 2016 (IPS)

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, was in her early 20s when she co-founded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Cophin), a group that campaigned for the rights of indigenous communities in the Central American nation.

Influenced by a mother, who took in fleeing El Salvadorian refugees, Cáceres was fully committed to her cause. She told friends and colleagues that her struggle was against ‘deadly powers’ that put profit before the rights of her people. In the last two decades, she saw colleagues being threatened, attacked and killed, but her work only got bigger.

Twenty three years after she formed Cophin, Cáceres paid the ultimate prize. She was gunned down in her home after assassins had stormed it around 1 am on March 3.

Before her death, Cáceres had received dead threats and had in fact moved house for safety. Recently, she had been in the forefront of protests against one of the biggest hydropower projects in Central America. The envisioned four dam Agua Zarca project on the Gualcarque river was being built by a local Honduran firm DESA but initially had the backing of China’s Sinohydro and the World Bank’s private sector financier International Finance Cooperation (IFC).

Both pulled out following the protests and Cáceres and others had been publicly calling for other backers like the Dutch Development Bank, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and Germany’s Siemens and Voith to follow Sinohydro and IFC.

Her work won worldwide recognition. “With her people she made the World Bank withdraw from Honduras. It is precisely because of this struggle of Cophin led by her and for more then 20 years of resistance to new colonial powers that she won the Emma Goldman Prize in 2015,” Tatiana Cordero, executive director, Latin America at Urgent Action Fund, an international organisation that works for women’s rights, told IPS.

Such global accolades only strengthened Cáceres’ resolve to campaign more vigorously against the dam project, but they obviously need to give her more protection. Less than two weeks before her assassination she led a massive march in Rio Blanco that ended in a confrontation with government security personnel and employees from DESA.

“She was a global voice for the rights of indigenous people to water, food, land and life. She bravely challenged those in positions of power to do what was right — instead of what would result in the most profit,” said Terry Odendahl, President and CEO, Global Greengrants that has funded over 3,000 grants in over 145 countries to the tune of over $45 million said.

The brazen murder of a high-profile activist sent shockwaves through the global environmental rights community. UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said she was horrified at the murder. Tauli-Corpuz had met Cáceres during a visit in November 2015 and had been personally appraised on the threats.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the international community should work together to bring such wanton violence faced by indigenous activists to a stop: “It is time for the nations of the world to bring perpetrators to justice and to protect indigenous rights activists peacefully protesting the theft of their lands and resources.”

That grass roots environmental activists are under threat across the globe has been known for awhile now. Global Witness found that in 2014, 116 environmental activists were murdered, almost double the number of journalists killed in the same period. Over 40 per cent of the victims were from indigenous communities while three quarters of them were from Central or South America. Between 2002 and 2013, at least 903 citizens engaged in environmental protection work were killed world over.

“The case of Cáceres is emblematic of the systematic targeting of environmental defenders in Honduras. Since 2013, three of her colleagues have been killed for resisting the Agua Zarca hydro-dam on the Gualcarque River, which threatens to cut off a vital water source for hundreds of indigenous Lenca people,” Global Witness said soon after the murder. The organisation also found that such attacks do not get much attention in the international press.

Activists say that the international community needs to understand the real dangers faced by the likes of Cáceres and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators. “There is a difference between realising the danger and holding the people and systems accountable. This assassination took place because of the Honduran government’s inability to ensure indigenous people and women can carry out their legitimate work without fear.” Odendahl said.

Aleta Baun, an Indonesian activist from the western half of Timor, who has been campaigning on behalf of her Mollo people can relate easily to the Cáceres predicament. Baun, who also won the Goldman Environmental Award in 2013, has survived at least two assassination attempts.

“You feel completely alone when such attacks happen,” she said of an attack in when she was waylaid by 30 men. She said that there has been no serious pressure brought on by local governments and international players to curb such attacks.

Suryamani Bhagat an activist with Save the Forests of Jharkhand Movement in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand also shares these sentiments. “I work with a lot of women, so I feel safer,” she said.

But once they are alone, that protective shield shatters and leads to deadly consequences.

(End)

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Clean Clothes – Fashion Free of Slave Labour in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/clean-clothes-fashion-free-of-slave-labour-in-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=clean-clothes-fashion-free-of-slave-labour-in-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/clean-clothes-fashion-free-of-slave-labour-in-argentina/#comments Thu, 10 Mar 2016 22:45:46 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144149 Fidel Daza and Susana Chiura (behind) in the 20 de Diciembre Cooperative in Buenos Aires, where the two Bolivian immigrants work after being freed from slave labour in garment industry sweatshops. The cooperative forms part of the Clean Clothes network fighting for decent working conditions, which already includes 20 brand names in Argentina. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Fidel Daza and Susana Chiura (behind) in the 20 de Diciembre Cooperative in Buenos Aires, where the two Bolivian immigrants work after being freed from slave labour in garment industry sweatshops. The cooperative forms part of the Clean Clothes network fighting for decent working conditions, which already includes 20 brand names in Argentina. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Mar 10 2016 (IPS)

In Argentina, there are now 20 brand names that guarantee that their garments are produced by workers in decent working conditions, thanks to the Clean Clothes network, aimed at eradicating slave labour in the garment industry, which illegally employs some 30,000 people in sweatshops around the country.

The members of the 20 de Diciembre Cooperative stop for lunch, and leave work on time after a seven-hour workday, to go and pick up their children at school.

These rights are supposedly guaranteed by local laws. But they are not respected in around 3,000 sweatshops in Greater Buenos Aires, which account for 80 percent of the local garment industry’s output, according to statistics from the La Alameda Foundation, which was behind the creation of the cooperative.“We started to receive a lot of phone calls from people who were indignant about what had happened, and concerned because we denounced many brand names of clothing for using sweatshops, and people asked us: so what are we supposed to wear?” -- Tamara Rosenberg

“They only gave us one plate of food, which we had to share with our kids. And the food wasn’t good,” Susana Chiura, a member of the cooperative who came to Argentina from Bolivia seven years ago, told IPS.

Like many other South American immigrants in Argentina, many of whom are from Bolivia, Chiura was brought in by the owner of a textile workshop, who in this case was from Peru.

“He promised me a good job, and housing,” she said. “But when we got here we found it wasn’t true. They didn’t let us out; we could only go out on Saturday afternoon. Even if we just wanted to go to the supermarket, he would take us there and bring us back to the house.”

She shared a tiny room with poor ventilation with her oldest son. She earned five times less than the minimum wage required by law, working from 6:00 in the morning to midnight. And the cost of the trip from Bolivia, meals and lodging were docked from her pay.

Another Bolivian member of the cooperative, Fidel Daza, said: “I worked from 7:00 to 21:00, with just one half-hour break. There were entire families working even longer hours, because they needed the money to be able to eat.”

“Now I have more time to play with my kids. Before, they’d be sleeping when I left in the morning and they’d already be asleep when I got home,” he told IPS.

According to La Alameda, workers like Chiura or Daza are the last link in a chain that starts out with large, medium and small clothing companies which, due to omission, complicity or ignorance, use sweatshops to manufacture the garments they sell.

Verónica Virasoro, the owner of Vero Vira, a women’s clothing store, said “I wanted to see the workshop, but I was told they probably wouldn’t let me in. That smelled fishy to me: when there’s a locked door, something is being hidden behind it.”

Her firm is one of the cooperative’s clients and forms part of the Clean Clothes network, which also groups garment factories and consumers.

She said many designers turn to sweatshops to cut costs or because they don’t really understand what’s going on.

“Besides, they are not all clandestine sweatshops that use slave labour,” she said. “There are also family workshops that have a dynamic of charging less, but to do that they work extremely long hours, and sleep in the factory. And they’re not aware that accidents can be caused by bad installations.”

This Buenos Aires sweatshop was destroyed in April 2015 by a fire that claimed the lives of two Bolivian boys who were living there. The Clean Clothes network emerged in response to the indignation caused by the tragedy in this country, where 30,000 people work in sweatshops. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

This Buenos Aires sweatshop was destroyed in April 2015 by a fire that claimed the lives of two Bolivian boys who were living there. The Clean Clothes network emerged in response to the indignation caused by the tragedy in this country, where 30,000 people work in sweatshops. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The Ropa Limpia or Clean Clothes network emerged in 2015, with a successful fashion show held to demonstrate that it is possible to produce clothing without slave and child labour.

On Apr. 27, 2015, two Bolivian children died in a sweatshop fire.

“We started to receive a lot of phone calls from people who were indignant about what had happened, and concerned because we denounced many brand names of clothing for using sweatshops, and people asked us: so what are we supposed to wear?” said Tamara Rosenberg, the head of the cooperative.

“That’s when the idea came up to suggest to our customers that it is possible to produce in decent working conditions…it’s not the same thing to show that there’s a cooperative as to show that there are a number of designers who respect people’s rights, and charge appropriate prices.”

The very same clothing produced in sweatshops, which is sold at low prices in the city’s street markets, is sometimes sold by famous brand names at a higher mark-up.

The Argentine network was inspired by the global Clean Clothes Campaign, whose aim is to improve working conditions in the global garment and sportswear industries.

“The idea is to approach the sweatshops to raise awareness about the risks of not having their installations in proper working order, or of having children in the workshop, because the dust in the air hurts their respiratory system,” said Virasoro.

The members of the network also give advice to designers “who want to do things in a responsible manner,” she said.

“It’s not easy because they’re scared they’ll be reported,” she added. “The problem is that even though it’s not a clandestine workshop or a sweatshop using slave labour, they might not pay all their taxes, or their installations might not all be in order.”

Daza said: “You know you’re being mistreated, but the owner of the workshop tells you, ‘look, if you go, we have 10 others who want to work’. Since it’s hard to find a job, you bow your head and keep working.”

Others are worried about reporting the situation because the police themselves often “tell the owner, who fires (the whistle-blower),” he said.

Laura Méndez, who owns the Clara A brand name, decided to produce her accessories in the cooperative, after seeing “how they all worked crowded into a place with no exit” in a footwear factory, as well as other irregularities.

“The most important thing for me is to show clients that clothing can be produced in an ethical manner,” she told IPS. “I want the products to have a social impact.”

The 20 de Diciembre Cooperative employs 12 workers.

“In a sweatshop, people work 16 hours and earn 5,000 or 6,000 pesos (312 to 375 dollars) a month,” said Rosenberg. Here, most of the members of the cooperative work seven hours, earning 7,000 to 8,000 pesos a month (437 to 500 dollars), which is even higher than the wage agreed on with the industry.”

María Reina’s story is dramatic, like those of many of her fellow workers. Six years ago, when she was travelling from Bolivia to Argentina, where she had been hired to work in a garment workshop, the bus rolled and in the accident her boyfriend and brother-in-law were killed, and she lost a leg.

“When I got out of the hospital they took me to the workshop,” she told IPS. “I was in a wheelchair and they told me I had to work. I said I couldn’t, that I had to heal, that I was ordered to rest. They didn’t understand, and finally they threw me out on the street.”

She is now undergoing rehabilitation. And she has learned that South American immigrants like her have labour rights, and have the right to an identity card and to free healthcare and education.

“La Alameda has long been denouncing these practices by the sweatshops, which are also linked to other criminal activity,” said Rosenberg.

“We’re even talking about organised crime because many of the brand names that outsource work to sweatshops have ties to other crimes like money laundering, drug trafficking, car smuggling, or ‘narco-brothels’,” she said.

The challenge is to pass laws that guarantee inspections of the garment industry and the legal registration of private workshops.

“One of our working groups is focused on finding workshops that, while they might not have the best conditions for production, they at least offer good conditions or are interested in improving them,” she said. “We don’t want them to close down; what we want is to offer them options, such as joining together, in an adequate space.”

One alternative is the Polo Textil Barracas, which employs former sweatshop workers and uses machinery that in many cases had been confiscated.

But they dream about going further. For example, creating a label that identifies the origin of the clothing, and a slave labour-free system of sales – to guarantee, in Rosenberg’s words, that the clothes we use “aren’t stained with blood.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Increasing Women’s Access to Skills and Jobshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/increasing-womens-access-to-skills-and-jobs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=increasing-womens-access-to-skills-and-jobs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/increasing-womens-access-to-skills-and-jobs/#comments Thu, 10 Mar 2016 15:17:32 +0000 Srinivas Reddy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144146 With training, nothing is too ‘technical’ for women. Photo: Courtesy

With training, nothing is too ‘technical’ for women. Photo: Courtesy

By Srinivas Reddy
Mar 10 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

“My daughter and I were a burden on my parents,” says 20-year-old Moushumi Akter Mou from Mirpur.

Married off at the age of 14, Mou could not complete her schooling. After her daughter was born, her husband remarried, leaving her feeling vulnerable and hopeless. “I felt that if I had a job, my life might be worthwhile.”

These words are unfortunately common among young women in Bangladesh who, for no fault of their own, are often made to feel worthless and are unable to earn a living for themselves, thus denying them economic and social independence.

Around the world, women face challenges in joining the labour force. In Bangladesh, this is especially a challenge due to the double burden of patriarchy and poverty. One symptom of this problem is the low female participation rate in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector, particularly in formal institutions. Women’s participation in TVET in Bangladesh ranges from 9 to 13 percent in public institutions and 33 percent in private institutions. Only around one in five instructors in technical institutes is a woman.

Underprivileged Children’s Education Programme (UCEP) Bangladesh, a leading vocational training institute, conducted a study recently to identify barriers preventing young women from accessing technical vocational training. The study identified multiple obstacles. Of the girls surveyed, 25 percent highlighted the lack of family support as the biggest barrier, followed by 21 percent who identified society’s lack of acceptance. Also cited were concerns about safety at the workplace, insecurity travelling to and from work and the distance from training centres to home. Once enrolled, some girls dropped out. Of these, early marriage was the most common reason, accounting for more than half of the dropouts. Others cited health and family reasons. The study respondents were from urban locations. In rural locations, the factors may be even stronger.

Over the past decade the Government of Bangladesh has demonstrated a strong commitment to bringing women into the labour force. In March 2012, a National Skills Development Policy (NSDP) for Bangladesh, the development of which was supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), was approved. This policy recognises the low participation rates of women in skills development, and states that special efforts are necessary to correct this gender imbalance, particularly in the formal training system. It also proposes several measures such as promoting women’s inclusion in “non-traditional” courses for better employment opportunities; social marketing and awareness raising; separate washrooms for women; and recruitment of female instructors wherever possible.

Subsequently, a National Strategy for Promoting Gender Equality has been formulated with ILO support. This has the explicit aim of increasing female participation in TVET through a comprehensive and holistic mix of social, economic, institutional and systemic transformational measures.

A strategic framework and objectives have been outlined with a clear set of priorities and targets. Objectives include increasing female enrolment by at least 25 percent, transforming mind sets and attitudes to eliminate negative perception towards “non-traditional skills” for women and establishing a gender responsive environment with appropriate support systems. ILO is working with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to ensure integration of the gender strategy in their annual plan, budget, and monitoring system and training institutions.

In addition to supporting the Government of Bangladesh in promoting gender equality in the skills system and TVET institutions, ILO’s skills programme which in recent years has been funded by Canada and the European Union, is supporting hundreds of women like Mou in non-traditional occupations. These include carpentry, furniture making, hospitality (e.g. baker, chef, etc.) and food processing. Pilot initiatives in male dominated occupations and sectors help demonstrate ways in which the skills system can be made more gender equal.

As a result of the systemic changes taking place, Mou took up the challenge to learn a non-traditional trade in high demand. She is now a qualified refrigeration and air conditioning technician after having accessed training at UCEP Mirpur Technical School.

“My family members and others encouraged me to go for it. I took those remarks seriously and came to the refrigeration and AC technician trade to make a difference,” she says.

In order to increase girls’ participation in technical and vocational training programmes, efforts need to involve families, society, training providers, employers and government. Ambitious policies and action plans that succeed in transforming gender norms and relationships in society are required to bring about gender equality in the workplace, to create opportunities for more women like Mou.

The writer is Country Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Bangladesh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Enriching Education in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/enriching-education-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=enriching-education-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/enriching-education-in-bangladesh/#comments Thu, 10 Mar 2016 05:57:53 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144137 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/enriching-education-in-bangladesh/feed/ 1 Are We “Celebrating” Women Again?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/are-we-celebrating-women-again/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=are-we-celebrating-women-again http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/are-we-celebrating-women-again/#comments Tue, 08 Mar 2016 08:02:55 +0000 Catherine Bertini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144108 Catherine Bertini, currently Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and a distinguished fellow at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, was a former Executive Director of United Nations World Food Programme (1992-2002). Throughout her life, Ms. Bertini has put advancement of women and decreasing hunger at the core of her agenda. She is a World Food Prize Laureate and has been accorded with numerous awards, commendations and honorary degrees.]]>

Catherine Bertini, currently Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and a distinguished fellow at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, was a former Executive Director of United Nations World Food Programme (1992-2002). Throughout her life, Ms. Bertini has put advancement of women and decreasing hunger at the core of her agenda. She is a World Food Prize Laureate and has been accorded with numerous awards, commendations and honorary degrees.

By Catherine Bertini
Syracuse, NY, USA, Mar 8 2016 (IPS)

It is time to “celebrate” International Women’s Day (IWD) again. Celebrating women sounds like a positive, upbeat action. We can note women’s increasing roles in government, in business, and as leaders of civil society. We can also describe how women are the backbone of every community and virtually every family.

Catherine Bertini

Catherine Bertini

What we can’t do is celebrate the facts that women are still less literate than men, and that girls are not yet in school, especially secondary school, in the same numbers as boys. We cannot celebrate that women often cannot own or inherit property, nor qualify for loans. We can’t yet highlight that women are excluded from many careers and almost forced into others. And we surely can’t be happy in the huge wage gap between women and men.

We cringe when thinking of violence perpetrated against women and girls, including those kidnapped in Nigeria who are still not yet home.

Perhaps then, we can use the occasion of IWD to highlight a few important facts:

• Educated girls earn more income, have fewer and healthier children, are more productive farmers, have healthier families, and send their own children to school.
• Women are ten times more likely to use their income to support the nutritional wellness of their families than are men.
• Women carry out at least two full time jobs each day – one to earn money or grow food, another to feed and care for their families.
• Women pay back loans at far higher rates than most men.
• GDPs of countries rise when more women are educated.
With these types of outcomes and import, why is it that the world does not invest directly in women and girls?

Policy makers and funders inside and outside of government, still don’t appreciate that there are gender differences that must be considered in order to maximize possibilities for poverty reduction.

For instance, women’s voices are seldom heard on what they truly need and want. Men are, more often than not, community spokespeople, and expressing the needs of women are not necessarily on their priority lists. Yet women and girls have different needs and concerns.

Men as spokespeople may ask for schools to be built, but not necessarily with adequate latrines for teenage girls. They may ask for hoes for farmers, but not the shorter hoes that many women prefer to utilize while they are carrying babies on their backs. They may hire extension workers – other men – to give agricultural advice to farmers, but in how many rural communities will women (often the majority of the farmers) take advice from a man not related to her? And men may not put a high priority on bringing perpetrators of gender based violence to justice.

So for IWY this year, rather than celebrate, let’s “commit” – commit to thinking through gender roles every time we consider a new policy or new or renewed funding. We should commit to listening to women and girls on what they need and commit to do our part to build our work around their needs. And if we are to hear women’s voices, the international community needs to include more women on our own staffs and teams.

There can be no more excuses for inaction. “There are no qualified women.” “Girls don’t really want to go to school.” “It is more important to send boys to school.” “Women are happy working at home.” And my favorite: “Our policies are gender neutral.”

Let’s throw the excuses in the dust bin of history and commit to listening to women and girls and to supporting programs they want and need. Then some year in the near future, on International Women’s Day, we can truly celebrate women and their major impact on ending poverty throughout the world.

(End)

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