Inter Press ServiceWomen & Economy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:10:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Bangladesh’s Garment Industry Boom Leaving Workers Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/bangladeshs-garment-industry-boom-leaving-workers-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladeshs-garment-industry-boom-leaving-workers-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/bangladeshs-garment-industry-boom-leaving-workers-behind/#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 15:08:37 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154234 Although Bangladesh has made remarkable recent strides like building green factories and meeting stringent safety standards, garment workers here are still paid one of the lowest minimum wages in the world. While the fashion industry thrives in the West, the workers who form the backbone of the 28-billion-dollar annual garment industry in Bangladesh struggle to […]

The post Bangladesh’s Garment Industry Boom Leaving Workers Behind appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Workers protest for higher wages. Photo Courtesy of the Bangladesh Apparels Workers Federation

Workers protest for higher wages. Photo Courtesy of the Bangladesh Apparels Workers Federation

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Feb 9 2018 (IPS)

Although Bangladesh has made remarkable recent strides like building green factories and meeting stringent safety standards, garment workers here are still paid one of the lowest minimum wages in the world.

While the fashion industry thrives in the West, the workers who form the backbone of the 28-billion-dollar annual garment industry in Bangladesh struggle to survive on wages barely above the poverty line.According to Oxfam, a top fashion industry CEO earned in four days the lifetime pay of a factory worker.

Meanwhile, annual export earnings in Bangladesh from the industry grew from about 9.3 billion dollars in 2007 to 28.6 billion in 2016.

Encouraged by the growth, Bangladesh has set a target of exporting 50 billion dollars’ worth of apparel annually by 2021, yet the vision mentions no plans to improve workers’ living conditions.

Out of Bangladesh’s 166 million people, 31 percent live below the national poverty line of two dollars per day. The current minimum wage for a factory worker is 5,300 Taka (about 64 dollars), up from 3,000 Taka in 2013.

As the world’s second largest ready-made garments producer, Bangladesh attracts top labels and companies like Pierre Cardin, Hugo Boss, Wal-Mart, GAP and Levi Strauss, mostly from North America, Europe and very recently Australia, seeking cheap labour.

After the tragic Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, which took 1,134 lives, top buyers gradually increased investment in infrastructure to as much as 400 million dollars in the 2015-16 fiscal year alone to ensure safer working conditions. However, local industry owners have failed to make corresponding improvements to their workers’ quality of life, 85 percent of whom are women.

Research by the international aid group Oxfam shows that only two percent of the price of an item of clothing sold in Australia, for example, goes to pay the factory workers who made it.

The picture is even worse when it comes to living, food, transport, healthcare and education for the 4.5 million workers employed in about 4,600 vibrant factories. The Oxfam report revealed grim poverty conditions and calculated that a top fashion industry CEO earned in four days the lifetime pay of a factory worker.

There are a number of issues at play, including lack of unity among the 16 trade unions, political pressure by the industry owners, loopholes in the national labour laws and misunderstanding about practical living wages and theoretical minimum wages.

Nazma Aktar, President of the Sommilito Garment Sramik Federation fighting for women’s rights in the garment industry for over three decades, told IPS, “Most buyers have a business perspective on the ready-made garments industry here in Bangladesh. Their interests are widely on exploiting cheap labour.

“The wages should be fixed on the basis of human rights and not negotiate with what the entrepreneurs can offer. Wages are not part of a business, which is why globally it has set obligatory fees like covering cost of basics – living, food, healthcare, education and transport.”

A garment worker in Bangladesh. Photo Courtesy of the Bangladesh Apparels Workers Federation

A garment worker in Bangladesh. Photo Courtesy of the Bangladesh Apparels Workers Federation

The garment  workers’ organisations are demanding Taka 16,000 (about 192 dollars) as the minimum monthly wage, citing rising costs of living. In January, the government formed a panel to initiate what it says will be a permanent wage board and promised to issue recommendations in six months. The unions also plan to seek pay grades depending on the category of worker.

Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Project Director, RMG Study Project and Research Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told IPS, “The disturbing low wages still paid to the RMG (Ready-Made Garments) industry workers is largely due to lack of clear definition of wages in the labour laws. As a result, it is very difficult to negotiate raise in wages for the workers.”

Moazzem, who also led a team of researchers in conducting a detailed study titled New Dynamics in Bangladesh’s Apparels Enterprises: Perspectives on Restructuring, Up-gradation and Compliance Assurance, says, “There are nine indicators of wages as defined in the labour law. Unfortunately, except two, the rest are not made public. So it seems that the laws are themselves very complex and misleading on how to define what is low and what is high income. In such a situation we suggest following International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) set definition of wages.”

Dr Nazneen Ahmed, a senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told IPS, “Wages in Bangladesh are still the lowest of major garment manufacturing countries. A large proportion of the RMG products of Bangladesh still can be categorized as low-end products and so the brands continue seeking low-cost labour, though they are unskilled.”

Ahmed, who carried out a detailed study on improving wages and working conditions in the Bangladeshi garment sector, explained that while a higher wage for workers is desirable, they would lead to gradual loss of the RMG market in the days of global competition. A sudden increase in wages would also trigger other industries to seek wage hikes.

“I suggest a separate pay scale for the RMG sector workers which would have a separate wage board to suggest the increases. But most effective would be to have a regular system of yearly wage increases according to rate of inflation. At the same time, we should also look at increasing production of the factory units by enhancing the skills of the workers who will be paid higher wages.

“Therefore I refer to as having a technology advancement plan. If the ‘skilled’ workers are capacitated through regular skill development training programmes, the entrepreneurs would then be able to make more profit and so in such situation I believe the industry owners would not hesitate to pay a higher salary.”

Towhidur Rahman, General Secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, Bangladesh Chapter (IBC), told IPS, “The minimum wages fixed for any worker at entry level is absolutely unacceptable. I don’t blame the [industry] owners for this. I rather hold the union leaders responsible for their lack of unity and one voice for this situation. The demand for minimum wages should be realistic for survival of any human being.”

Rahman says, “Sadly, today we have 16 RMG workers’ organizations that have separate voices and ideologies. For such reason the entrepreneurs take advantages of lack of understanding among the workers representatives.”

Rahman explains that they proposed Tk 16,000 as minimum wage to the newly formed wage board based on a number of surveys which suggest that a worker requires a minimum of Tk 19,000 for food, shelter, transport, healthcare and other basic needs.

“I believe this is very practical and fair proposal as it is merited with evidence on a minimum living standard,” says Rahman.

Dr Zahid Hussain, a lead economist in the South Asia Finance and Poverty group of the World Bank, told IPS, “Most people naturally focus on wages as a cost of production for business.  The significance of wages as a cost is one component of what economists call ‘real unit labour cost”’. This is the cost of employing a person in terms of the value of the goods and services a business would produce. It depends on two things. The first is the real wage – the purchasing power of the worker’s pay packet, which brings into play prices of goods and services.

“The second is the productivity of the worker – how much the worker produces over a given time,” he explained. “The real cost of employing a person over time depends on how these two things change. If productivity is growing, then the real wage can grow without an increase in the real cost of labor for business. But productivity also depends on investment. Changes in technology that allow for greater productivity are often embodied in the new plant and equipment that firms invest in.

“What governs investment? A simple answer points to the expected rate of return on the investment relative to the cost of capital. So the bottom line is the following:  just increasing minimum wage without addressing the constraints on investment and its financing will most likely kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.  The whole issue of ensuring a better quality of life for the workers needs to be approached holistically such that productivity increases in tandem with wages.”

Siddiqur Rahman, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told IPS that the industry has been offering minimum wages to factory workers considering inflation and efficiency of the workers.

“We do not do any injustice to any of our workers,” Rahman insisted.

The post Bangladesh’s Garment Industry Boom Leaving Workers Behind appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/bangladeshs-garment-industry-boom-leaving-workers-behind/feed/ 0
Gender Empowerment: What Will You Do in 2018 to make a Change?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gender-empowerment-will-2018-make-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-empowerment-will-2018-make-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gender-empowerment-will-2018-make-change/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 14:39:18 +0000 Abigail Ruane http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154117 Abigail Ruane, is Director, Women, Peace and Security Programme at Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

The post Gender Empowerment: What Will You Do in 2018 to make a Change? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Some of the participants of the 2018 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. Credit: Marina Kumskova

By Abigail Ruane
NEW YORK, Feb 1 2018 (IPS)

In the last year, a women’s rights tidal wave flooded the world: over 4 million people marched in the first “Women’s March” in January 2017, and over a million marched a year later, from Washington DC to New York, from Sydney to Osaka, and from Rome to Nairobi.

Over 2 million people from 85 countries shared #MeToo stories of sexual violence on social media (#BalanceTonPorc #YoTambien #QuellaVoltaChe وأنا_كمان#); and powerful men across the tech, business, politics and media industries stepped down in the face of allegations.

Peace and conflict issues have not been immune from this women’s rights surge: Sweden and Canada have led the way with “feminist foreign policies” that included strengthened support for women peace civil society leaders.

Under Sweden’s guidance, the Security Council has made some normative progress: The percentage of the Security Council presidential statements referencing Women, Peace and Security (WPS) issues have increased from 69% in 2016 to 100% in 2017.

Women civil society took on a more prominent role in the Security Council on country-specific situations, with nine civil society speakers briefing the Council on the situations in Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and others. This made gendered conflict analysis more available for political decision-makers at the highest levels.

Despite this tidal wave, the dinosaur of patriarchy continues to fight for life. The US restricted $8.8 billion of foreign aid connected to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in 2017, while pushing to increase military funding by multiple times that amount. Independent civil society voices, despite a rhetorical recognition as critical leaders on disarmament, environment and security, are slowly being choked through a lack of funding and a plethora of paperwork, with their lives often endangered.

Meanwhile, the women’s rights agenda is undermined by a check-the-box approach: initiatives on gender parity are moving ahead, but holistic action on gender equality are scrapped – just look at the proposed cut to gender advisers in peacekeeping missions, or efforts to “mainstream” rather than prioritise WPS.

As Martin Luther King once stated, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”.

Around the world, women peace leaders are building alliances from the personal to the international to call for action to address the root causes of violence: they are demanding the prevention of arms transfers that promote gendered violence and calling for reconstruction that repairs gendered injustices and upholds women’s economic social and cultural rights.

This year, women peace leaders will continue their historical legacy to create a world of feminist peace based on demilitarisation, meaningful participation and gender justice for all people.

In Colombia, women will continue to demand the implementation of peace agreement commitments for zero tolerance on sexual and gender-based violence. In Nigeria, women will continue addressing gendered early warning signals with local authorities.

In Libya, women will continue to push for a civil society consultative mechanism for all activities, including conflict resolution, peacebuilding and counterterrorism efforts.

As the 2018 women’s march slogan recognised, “we are the leaders we have been waiting for”.

2017 pulled back the veil and mobilised conversations about women’s participation and security. 2018 is an opportunity to take concrete action that makes a difference.

What will you do in 2018 to make a change?

The post Gender Empowerment: What Will You Do in 2018 to make a Change? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Abigail Ruane, is Director, Women, Peace and Security Programme at Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

The post Gender Empowerment: What Will You Do in 2018 to make a Change? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gender-empowerment-will-2018-make-change/feed/ 1
Women on the Front Lines of Halting Deforestationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/women-front-lines-halting-deforestation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-front-lines-halting-deforestation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/women-front-lines-halting-deforestation/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 23:41:49 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154051 In Zimbabwe, the bulk of rural communities and urban poor still get their energy supplies from the forests, leading to deforestation and land degradation. The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) 2016 review on forest policies in the country found that fuel wood accounted for over 60 percent of the total energy supply, whilst 96 percent […]

The post Women on the Front Lines of Halting Deforestation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Judith Ncube, the chairperson of the Vusanani Cooperative in Plumtree, Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga

By Sally Nyakanyanga
PLUMTREE, Zimbabwe, Jan 29 2018 (IPS)

In Zimbabwe, the bulk of rural communities and urban poor still get their energy supplies from the forests, leading to deforestation and land degradation.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) 2016 review on forest policies in the country found that fuel wood accounted for over 60 percent of the total energy supply, whilst 96 percent of rural communities rely on wood for cooking and heating.

At the same time, livelihoods are shaped by the availability of forest resources, especially in rural areas.

In Mlomwe village, Plumtree, Judith Ncube (54), along with nine other women, derives her livelihood from the marula tree through processing the nuts into oil, butter and skin care ingredients or cosmetic products.

Plumtree is in ecological region 5 in Zimbabwe, one of the areas at risk of desertification if the situation is not curbed. It is among the country’s drylands, receiving little rainfall and experiencing periodic drought.

But members of the Vusanani women’s group now support their families while in turn helping to protect the forests.

“Our livelihoods as women in this community have improved greatly, and we no longer depend on our husbands for our daily survival,” says Ncube, who is the chairperson of the cooperative.

Women are at the forefront of conserving forestry as their husbands have long gone to South Africa seeking greener pastures. Zimbabwe’s high unemployment rate forced many to flee the country, leaving women with the double burden of meeting the daily needs of their families. Some husbands don’t return, whilst some return after a year or two. Currently, most people are pinning their hopes on the new administration led by President Emerson Mnangagwa, who has promised to revive the economy following the ouster of Robert Mugabe.

Ncube and her team formed Vusanani Cooperative in 2010 through support from various development partners. They now have processing equipment to grind marula nuts into different products.

The Vusanani Cooperative, which process 40 litres of oil every week, buys the raw marula nuts from the Mlomwe community. They buy the kernels at a dollar a cup, with 20 cups producing a litre of oil. They then sell a litre of marula oil for 26 dollars, with marula butter going for a dollar.

The Marula tree is found in hot, dry land areas, an excellent source of supplementary nutrition and provides income for rural people living in this region.

Former Practical Action Officer Reckson Mutengarufu, who is based in the area, said people in the community used to cut down the marula tree to make stools, pestle and pestle stick for use in their homes.

“Things have improved now as villagers can only cut down the marula tree after consulting the village head. We have since trained people on sustainable forest management and the benefits of planting trees in their homes and fields,” Mutengarufu said.

Some members have undergone a capacity building training in South Africa through the Forest Forces project sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Practical Action, an international development charity.

Margaret Ndhlovu (57), a founding member of the group and mother of ten children, managed to travel to South Africa to undergo training under the program. This enabled her to meet and interact with South African farmers in the marula processing trade.

“This was an experience of a lifetime, as I learnt during the trip in South Africa how other female farmers are processing marula fruit into various end products such bicarbonate of soda, okra or marula beer,” Ndhlovu told IPS.

The Sustainable Development Goal 15 provides for combating of desertification, reverse of land degradation and biodiversity loss.

Agricultural expansion and tobacco curing, inadequate land use planning, infrastructural development and human settlements in both urban and rural areas, uncontrolled veld fires, illegal gold panning, elephant damage and climate change have all been cited as major factors that impede sustainable forestry management.

According to the United Nations, about 12 million hectares of land are lost globally to desertification every year, with land degradation posing a significant threat to food security.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, has helped the country’s Environmental Management Agency (EMA) work with various stakeholders to address the situation especially in dry regions. EMA is a government body that oversees environmental issues in the country.

David Phiri, the FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, told IPS how FAO is implementing other projects such as beekeeping and extraction of oil from trees including the baobab.

“FAO is promoting sustainable harvesting and value addition of non-timber forest products and use of appropriate post-harvest technologies which include metallic silos, improved granaries and hermetically sealed bags so as to minimize losses,” Phiri said.

For the women of Vusanani Cooperative, they have long-term plans. By 2020, they want to expand their small marula processing business into a large manufacturing plant. They have since registered a company to enable them to operate as a formal business entity.

The post Women on the Front Lines of Halting Deforestation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/women-front-lines-halting-deforestation/feed/ 0
For Millions of Indian Women, Marriage Means Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/millions-indian-women-marriage-means-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=millions-indian-women-marriage-means-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/millions-indian-women-marriage-means-migration/#respond Sun, 28 Jan 2018 13:00:23 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154031 Rekha Rajagopalan, a 26-year-old schoolteacher, migrated to the Indian capital city of New Delhi from southern Chennai in 2015 after her marriage. The reason was simple. Rekha’s husband and his family were based in Delhi, so like millions of other married Indian women, she left her maternal home to relocate to a new city with […]

The post For Millions of Indian Women, Marriage Means Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A woman at her desk in an IT office in New Delhi. During the last decade, 69 percent Indian women moved out of their place of residence after marriage - either to shift to their husband's place or to move elsewhere with them. Comparatively, only 2.3 percent of women relocated for work or employment and 1 percent for education. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A woman at her desk in an IT office in New Delhi. During the last decade, 69 percent Indian women moved out of their place of residence after marriage - either to shift to their husband's place or to move elsewhere with them. Comparatively, only 2.3 percent of women relocated for work or employment and 1 percent for education. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jan 28 2018 (IPS)

Rekha Rajagopalan, a 26-year-old schoolteacher, migrated to the Indian capital city of New Delhi from southern Chennai in 2015 after her marriage. The reason was simple. Rekha’s husband and his family were based in Delhi, so like millions of other married Indian women, she left her maternal home to relocate to a new city with her new family.

But problems began soon after. Used to Chennai’s hot and balmy weather, Rekha hated Delhi’s severe cold in winter. The stress played on her mind; her periods became erratic. She also missed her younger sister and confidant Sumathi and her mother’s food.Marriage migration is by far the largest form of migration in India and is close to universal for women in rural areas.

“It was a big cultural shock for me to shift to Delhi,” Rekha told IPS. “I love my husband, but it’s tough to cope with the pressure of living in a city so far away from my parental home. The cuisine, the language, the weather, everything seems so alien. It’s almost like living on a different planet.”

Nor is Rekha alone. As per the last census in 2011, over 217. 9 million Indian women had to migrate from their natal homes across the country due to marriage. These numbers reflect a significant surge from the year 2001 when 154 million of them shifted to a new city or town post marriage. In contrast, the corresponding numbers for men are staggeringly lower — 7.4 million and six million for those same years respectively.

Women’s migration across India is driven primarily by marriage, as pointed out by IndiaSpend, a public interest journalism website. In absolute numbers, a whopping 97 percent of Indians migrating for marriage were women in Census 2011, a marginal drop from 98.6 percent in Census 2001.

In fact surveys point out that women — whose place of residence is dictated by their marriage — form the single-largest category of migrants in the country. During the last decade, 69 percent Indian women moved out of their place of residence after marriage – either to shift to their husband’s place or to move elsewhere with them. Comparatively, only 2.3 percent women relocated for work or employment and 1 percent for education. Employment and education overall constituted 10 percent and 2 percent of migration movement respectively.

Unfortunately, despite the colossal number of women who have had to migrate because of marriage, the implications of female migration have not been sufficiently studied.

“The lack of attention to marriage migration means that very little is known about its extent, geographical distribution, how it has changed over time, and its relationship with age, distance, caste, household consumption, and geography,” says Scott L. Fulford in a 2015 research paper titled “Marriage migration in India: Vast, Varied, and Misunderstood”.

Fulford writes that marriage migration is by far the largest form of migration in India and is close to universal for women in rural areas. It also varies substantially across India, and little appears to have changed over the decades. But rather than an independent phenomenon, this type of migration is part of a “larger puzzle of low workforce participation, education, and bargaining power of women in India.”

“Although there are significant regional differences, most of India practices some form of patrilocal village exogamy in which women are married outside of their natal village, joining their husband’s family in his village or town. Across India three quarters of women older than 21 have left their place of birth, almost all on marriage,” writes the author.

Experts opine that apart from testing a woman’s capability to overcome daunting challenges in a new environment, marriage migration also triggers a sense of being uprooted and displaced from usual habituated places and established homes to new locations, which requires considerable reorientation and adjustment.

Demographer K. Laxmi Narayan from the University of Hyderabad, who has tracked the levels of rural-urban migration in India, says in the essay “India’s urban migration crisis” that the reason for marriage migration across India is mostly cultural and social. “In north India, women are not supposed to marry a man from the same village. So invariably marriage means migration,” he says.

However, as traditionally feared, marriage migration doesn’t necessarily result in women falling off the workforce map. Many of the women who migrate for marriage do join the labour force, says a January 2017 housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry report on migration. Migration for work usually results in relief from poverty even if it means a rough life in India’s cities, IndiaSpend reported on June 13, 2016. A migrant from Maharashtra’s drought-stricken Marathwada region, for example, triples her income temporarily after moving to Mumbai, according to the report.

Women’s gainful employment, however, doesn’t discount the fact that displacement extracts its own pound of flesh. According to Kavita Krishnan, social activist and secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, the condition of women who migrate for marriage is analogous to migrant labourers.

“Such women feel vulnerable and socially isolated as they are not native to the place they shift to. They are often exploited by the husband and his family, not allowed to contact their natal families and their mobility is restricted. Domestic violence or abuse isn’t uncommon in this demographic either,” she says.

What emboldens the perpetrators of such abuse is the fact that the victim’s proximity to her family has been eliminated. Krishnan explains that the rampant cultural phenomenon of “bride purchase” — when women are bought from other regions to marry men in places where women are scarce (due to a skewed sex ration) — only makes the situation worse.

“These women are brought in from remote corners of the country and are mostly illiterate. With their near and dear ones living far away, their situation in an alien land is especially precarious.”

Ranjana Kumari, chairperson of the Centre for Social Research, a New Delhi-based think tank, believes  that an out-of-whack sex ratio in India exacerbates the problem of women’s marriage migration.

“In states like Haryana, which have one of the world’s worst sex ratios (914 girls to 1,000 boys), brides are forcibly brought in from other states, which leads to their cultural isolation and maladjustment. We’ve seen cases of illiterate women in Bundelkhand (Madhya Pradesh) being sold to men in other states for as little as 500 dollars,” she says. “This practice comes under the phenomenon of forced migration and is prevalent across many states.”

Such women, adds the activist, are also more likely to stay in abusive marriages as compared to those who live near natal homes and feel empowered to walk out due to emotional and monetary support extended by friends and natal families.

“If the women seek a divorce, which is rare, the prospect of courts taking several years to settle a case breaks them. Often these women cannot afford the several rounds of litigation involved and are dependent on others for sustenance. So she ends up compromising and living with her abusive families, especially if there are children involved.”

Where does the solution lie? Experts agree that due to lack of detailed studies on the subject, and not enough debates and discussions in public forums on it, no policies are in place to fix specific problems arising out of marriage migration.

“Normal divorce rules apply in such cases,” says Abha Rastogi, a senior High Court lawyer. “But often there are nuances involved which get overlooked due to lack of data and research on the subject. We need to address this lacuna promptly.”

The post For Millions of Indian Women, Marriage Means Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/millions-indian-women-marriage-means-migration/feed/ 0
Breaking Barriers in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/breaking-barriers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-barriers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/breaking-barriers-bangladesh/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 11:52:52 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153998 It’s nearing 4:30 p.m. on a foggy day, but there seems to be no great hurry amongst the workers to wind up their day in a factory producing high-end designer bags. Located in the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) of Nilphamari, a northern district 40 kilometers from the divisional headquarters of Rangpur in Bangladesh, the area […]

The post Breaking Barriers in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Workers at the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) of Nilphamari, Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

Workers at the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) of Nilphamari, Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam Sarker
NILPHAMARI, Bangladesh, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

It’s nearing 4:30 p.m. on a foggy day, but there seems to be no great hurry amongst the workers to wind up their day in a factory producing high-end designer bags. Located in the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) of Nilphamari, a northern district 40 kilometers from the divisional headquarters of Rangpur in Bangladesh, the area is known for creating job opportunities for the local population.

The female and male workers all seem fully engrossed in what they are doing and the atmosphere in the factory is a clear contrast to the noisy hubbub of trucks, buses, three wheelers and motorcycles outside.

While the country’s garment industry is widely known internationally, the tragic deadly collapse of Rana Plaza a few years ago, which left over a thousand workers dead, remains etched in many people’s minds both at home and abroad.

Less known is that the sector has opened up new income opportunities for Bangladeshi women. They have made enormous strides in the past decade, demonstrating how with even a small opportunity to gain skills, they can improve their own lives and those of their families.

The production of thousands of designer bags that end up in the collections of affluent women worldwide and on catwalks internationally is taking place in some countries of the South, and Bangladesh is a prime producer. Several high-end brands are produced in one of many factories in the Nilphamari area that this IPS correspondent visited.

One factory has 4,000 employees, of whom 70 are expatriates appointed by the foreign proprietors who are Hong Kong-based. Over 30,000 people are employed in such factories in the Nilphamari area, and 61 percent are women.

A colourful spectacle unfolds each morning when almost 20 percent of the female employees ride bikes to work in the factories. This is considered quite a big change in a society where women were once relegated to work within their households.

Amena Khatun, 35, who works for a leather factory, told IPS, “I was once unemployed. Now at least 2,000 women from my village of Balapara and two of its adjoining villages located some 10 to 15 km to the north of the EPZ are employed in 10 companies here.

“Twenty years back, women in the villages had no job opportunities and were were hardly allowed to go outside their homes, let alone ride bikes,” she added.
Afrina Begum, 32, a worker at a factory producing wigs and hair products, told IPS that even though the custom of dowry is still prevalent in the villages in Nilphamari, her husband had not demanded a dowry from her parents. Her husband had learned beforehand that she had an income every month as she was employed at a factory. Afrina added that women’s employment in the EPZ has played a major role in changing the outlook of men in a male-dominated society.

The EPZ, defined as a territorial or economic enclave in which goods may be imported and manufactured and then exported without any duties and minimal oversight by customs officials, has factories producing a variety of products for export, including bags, wigs and toys with imported raw materials from China.

The average wage for each worker in the factory producing designer bags is Taka 5600 per month (about 75 dollars) for both men and women. When asked, a couple of women workers said that their income has helped improve the quality of life of their families.

Sahara Khatun, 26, said her husband left for Malaysia to work on a construction site. She lived with her parents and decided to ask them to help to look after her five-year-old daughter while she took on a job in the factory. Sahara said she has acquired skills and is now aware that only high-quality products have a market abroad. Most importantly, she is earning her own money and has a sense of independence and confidence.

The factory has modern equipment with a design and technical centre. Young men and women work side by a side – a major breakthrough for conservative Bangladeshi society.

One of the managers, Pijush Bandhopadhya, explained that all workers have know-how of each stage of production. There are close to 80 steps to be followed and implemented before a bag is ready. The leather, processed beforehand, comes from Italy and the cutting, glueing, and binding of the final product is handled by the factory workers under the supervision of a few expatriate experts.

While the minimum age for employment in the factory is 18, a local government official conceded that many girls lie about their real age to qualify for a job. This has led to underage girls meeting a male coworker and ending up marrying. While child marriage is discouraged by the government, there are no mechanisms in place to prevent it.

The EPZ, popularly known as Uttara (northern), was initiated in 2001 by the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA), an official organ of Bangladesh Government to increase employment opportunities in northern Bangladesh.

Pijush said the unemployment rate was previously high in Nilphamari district. Many people, mostly women, used to migrate to the capital city, Dhaka, or to other southern districts of the country in search of work in the garment sector. But now with the EPZ investment in the district, migration to the capital has fallen significantly.

“This is only because jobs are now available in Uttara EPZ,” said Dewan Kamal Ahmed, the chair of Nilphamari municipality.

Khaleda Akter, 37, of Kazirhat village adjoining Uttara EPZ in Nilphamari district, once worked in the Tazreen Fashion factory in Ashulia on the outskirts of Dhaka. She escaped a disastrous fire in November 2012 that erupted in the factory, as she had gone to visit her native village a week before. After the Ashulia fire incident, she did not want to go back and began looking for a job in the Uttara EPZ.

“Luckily I got a job in Section Seven International Ltd. (Bangladesh) and since then I have been working here. Now I earn about Taka 10,000 (128.20 dollars) a month,” Khaleda said.

“At least 5 percent of the female workers of Uttara EPZ used to work in different garment factories in Dhaka,” said Kazi Mostafizar Rahman, chair of Shangalshi Union Parishad (Union Council). “They are permanent residents of Nilphamari area. Since they had job opportunities nearby their house, they quit Dhaka and availed of the job opportunity close to home.”

An official of the Uttara EPZ who asked to remain anonymous told IPS that garment workers held a demonstration in 2010 to press their demands for implementation of new pay scale. But the protests only lasted a day because the government negotiated and met their demands.

Since then, the EPZ has been calm. Shahid Latif (fictitious name) added that “while the wages compared to richer countries are not good enough, it is the beginning of women’s economic empowerment. Women are benefitting from EPZ and learning skills which with time will help them to claim higher pay.”

To remain a competitive supplier, production costs are low and most entrepreneurs, especially after the disastrous fire in the garment sector of 2012, are more conscious of the working conditions in factories, which have improved quite a lot, thanks also to regulations brought in by the government, stated Latif.

The post Breaking Barriers in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/breaking-barriers-bangladesh/feed/ 0
The Data Revolution Should Not Leave Women and Girls Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/data-revolution-not-leave-women-girls-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=data-revolution-not-leave-women-girls-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/data-revolution-not-leave-women-girls-behind/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 16:20:56 +0000 Jemimah Njuki http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153800 Jemimah Njuki is an expert on agriculture, food security, and women’s empowerment and works as a senior program specialist with IDRC. She is an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

The post The Data Revolution Should Not Leave Women and Girls Behind appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Most African farmers are women. Credit: IPS

By Jemimah Njuki
OTTAWA, Canada, Jan 9 2018 (IPS)

If there is one political principle that has been constant throughout the history of human civilization it is the fact that land is power. This is something that is particularly true, and often painfully so, for women who farm in Africa.

Though women in Africa are far more likely to farm than men, they are also much less likely to have secure rights to the land where they cultivate crops and they typically hold smaller plots of inferior quality.

As a researcher who studies the role of gender in agriculture, I want to do my part to address this injustice, because when women have stronger rights to land, their crop yields increase and they have higher incomes and more bargaining power within the household. Research has shown that stronger land rights leads to other benefits such as better child nutrition and improved educational attainment for girls.

But as I delve deeper in to the issue, I frequently encounter another political constant, which is the fact that information is power. And one manifestation of the chronic neglect of women in agriculture is the lack of data that would help illuminate and address their plight.

For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched the Goal Keepers Initiative, which is making a concerted effort to track progress toward achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Examining the first ever report on the program launched just a few weeks ago, the first thing I did was scroll down to the section on Goal 5, “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls.” When examining the indicators related to gender, which include tracking the percentage of women who have secure land rights, I kept encountering the phrase, “Insufficient data” in big, bold red capital letters!

Without data, it is impossible to track progress or identify policies and interventions that are achieving gender equality. In order to develop solutions—whether around land rights or the many other challenges women and girls face–we need data that highlights current problems and assesses their impact.

A good example of how sex-specific data fosters progress is in financial inclusion. Sex-specific data gives us information about who is accessing which kind of products, which channels they use and what the gaps are. Being aware of these gaps is essential to overcome them, and this is impossible without data sets for both men and women. In Rwanda, use of sex-specific data has led to the targeting of groups who are excluded from the financial system, raising the financial inclusion index rise from 20 percent in 2008 to 42 percent in 2012.

A report by Data2X, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation, indicates that although close to 80 percent of countries globally regularly produce sex-specific statistics on mortality, labor force participation, and education and training, less than one-third of countries separate statistics by sex on informal employment, entrepreneurship (ownership and management of a firm or business) and unpaid work, or collect data about violence against women. This leads to an incomplete picture of women’s and men’s lives and the gaps that persist between them, which constrains the development of policies and programs to address these gaps.

A key challenge to collecting these data sets is investment. We need financial investments to collect data on the situation of women and girls at different levels –local, national and international. A study carried out by the UN Statistics Division in collaboration with the UN regional commissions in 2012, showed that out of 126 responding countries only 13 percent had a separate budget allocated to specific gender statistics, 47 percent relied on ad-hoc or project funds and the remaining 39 percent had no funds at all.

In 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invested US $80M to improve the collection of sex specific data. In Uganda, the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study is collaborating with the United Nations Evidence and Data for Gender Equality initiative and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to collect and analyze asset ownership by different members of households.

It would help to know for example what assets women own so as to develop programs and policies that benefit both men and women and that close persistent gender gaps. At Canada’s International Development Research Centre, we are supporting sex-specific reporting and registration of vital and civil events—including births and deaths to help track progress on such indicators as women’s reproductive health and child mortality.

Globally, there is still no available data on how many women own customary land. One challenge is that the rules, norms, and customs which determine the distribution of land and resources are embedded in various institutions in society—family, kinship, community, markets, and states. For example, when I was visiting Mali in 2012, I attended a village’s community meeting where I witnessed the village chief grant a local women’s group a local deed so they could farm together and raise their incomes. But there was no formal document or record.

Without this data, when land is privatized or formalized, women often lose control of customary land. For example in post-independence Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, during the land registration and formalization experience, lack of data and consideration of women in customary land rights led to the documentation of land in the name of the head of the household only, often a man. This gave the man authority to use, sell, and control the land, with women losing the customary access and rights that they had previously enjoyed.

International agencies and governments must commit to investing in collecting more data on women and girls. Closing this gender data gap is not only useful for tracking progress of where we are with the SDGs, but it can also point to what interventions are working, and what needs to be done to accelerate progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

What gets measured matters, and what matters gets measured. Women and girls matter.

The post The Data Revolution Should Not Leave Women and Girls Behind appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jemimah Njuki is an expert on agriculture, food security, and women’s empowerment and works as a senior program specialist with IDRC. She is an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

The post The Data Revolution Should Not Leave Women and Girls Behind appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/data-revolution-not-leave-women-girls-behind/feed/ 0
Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:01:09 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153753 Last year was an annus horribilis for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute. The father of two had suffered two straight harvest losses and was […]

The post Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
PERIYAKULAM/ADIGAMA, Jan 5 2018 (IPS)

Last year was an annus horribilis for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute.

The father of two had suffered two straight harvest losses and was over 1,300 dollars in the red when he decided to move out of his village and look for work in nearby towns.

“What am I to do? There is no work in our village, all the fields have dried up, everyone is moving out looking for work,” Gunathileka told IPS.

He was left to work in construction sites and tobacco fields for a daily wage of about five dollars. When jobs became scarcer, his wife joined the search for casual work. The couple, who have been supporting their family off casual work for the last four months, is unsure whether they will ever return to farming despite the drought easing.

Gunathileka is not alone. Disasters, manmade and natural, are increasingly forcing agriculture-based income earners, especially small farmers, out of their villages and into cities looking for work.

In the village of Adigama, in the same district, government officials suspect that between 150 and 200 villagers, mainly youth, have left looking for work in the last two years. Sisira Kumara, the main government administrative officer in the village, said that the migration has been prompted by harvest losses.

“There was no substantial rain between October of 2016 and November 2017. Three harvests have been lost. Unlike in the past, now you cannot rely on rain patterns which in turn makes agriculture a very risky affair,” he said.

“In Sri Lanka, poverty, unemployment, lack of livelihood options and recurring climate shocks impact the food security of many families, resulting in migration to find secure livelihoods,” the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said last year in a joint communiqué with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate World Food Day.

Women, particularly single breadwinners, have been left vulnerable in Sri Lanka’s poverty-stricken former northern war zone. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women, particularly single breadwinners, have been left vulnerable in Sri Lanka’s poverty-stricken former northern war zone. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Climate shocks have been severe in Sri Lanka in the past few years. In 2017, a drought affected over two million people and floods impacted an additional 500,000. The vital paddy harvest was the lowest in over a decade, falling 40 percent compared to the year before. The UN has termed the 2017 drought as the worst in 40 years..

According to M.W, Weerakoon, additional secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, paddy farmers have to work throughout the year just to stay above the poverty line. He estimates that a paddy farmer needs to cultivate 2.6 acres without a break just to make the 116 dollars (Rs 17,760) needed monthly for a family of four to remain above the poverty line.

“That is not possible with the unpredictable rains, so farmers are moving out,” he said. Around 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 21million are internal migrants, according to government statistics, and experts like Weerakoon say that this movement is heightened by climate shocks.

Staying in their native villages and continuing to farm pushes victims further into a debt trap. Last August, when the drought was at its peak, a WFP survey found that the family debt of those surveyed had risen by 50 percent compared to a year back. And as formal lenders like banks shy away from lending to them, these farmers tend to seek the help of informal lenders.

Human-made disasters are also pushing the poor out of their homes to seek jobs elsewhere. In Sri Lanka’s North and East, ravaged by a deadly civil war till 2009, high poverty rates are forcing vulnerable segments of society like war widows to seek work elsewhere.

In the Northern Province where the war was at its worst, female unemployment rates are almost twice the national rate of 7 percent, at 13.8 percent. There is no data available for single female-headed households of which there are at least 58,000 out of the provincial total of 250,000.

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar, a 52-year-old war widow from the North, spent three harrowing months in Oman after being duped by job agents. Credit: Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar family

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar, a 52-year-old war widow from the North, spent three harrowing months in Oman after being duped by job agents. Credit: Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar family

Last year, the Association for Friendship and Love (AFRIEL), a civic group based in the province, located 15 women stuck in Muscat, Oman, after being sent there by job agents. At least four were from the war zone and none had been paid for months and were being moved around the Omani capital daily working in odd jobs.

Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar a 54-year-old war widow who was part of the group, said that they were being sent for casual work by the job agents to recoup costs. “All of us could not work in the households due to various issues, so for three months we kept doing odd jobs, so that the agents made their money,” she said. The group was finally brought back to Sri Lanka after the government intervened.

AFRIEL head Ravidra de Silva told IPS that women like Nesemalhar were among the most vulnerable due to almost zero chances of jobs in their villages. “So they will take any chance that is offered to them. What we need are long-haul policies that target vulnerable communities.”

Unfortunately, there have been few such interventions since the war’s conclusion.

The IOM office in Colombo said that climate-driven migration was fueled by complex and diverse set of drivers and required multi-dimensional risk assessments and interventions.

Government official Weerakoon said that one of the main ambitions of the government in 2018 was to increase the planted extent of paddy and other crops. The government also plans to introduce measures to increase value addition among farmers who remain by and large bulk suppliers of raw produce.

The post Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/disasters-bring-upheaval-sri-lankas-rural-economy/feed/ 0
Rise of Teenage Pregnancy Deters Development Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rise-teenage-pregnancy-deters-development-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rise-teenage-pregnancy-deters-development-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rise-teenage-pregnancy-deters-development-goals/#respond Tue, 19 Dec 2017 20:02:45 +0000 Lorenzo Jmenez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153624 Lorenzo Jiménez de Luis, is UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Dominican Republic

The post Rise of Teenage Pregnancy Deters Development Goals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Teenage pregnancy: 2 out of 10 women between the ages of 15 and 19 in the Dominican Republic have been pregnant or have been mothers

Teenage mom with her baby. Credit: IPS

By Lorenzo Jiménez de Luis
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Dec 19 2017 (IPS)

A few years ago, someone shared a video with me that deeply impacted me. It was called “The Girl Effect”. In three minutes, the video demonstrates the fate of millions of girls and teenagers around the world.

Years later, when I arrived in the Dominican Republic and studied its challenges in terms of human development, I remembered that video and concluded that if the Dominican Republic does not resolve the problem of teenage pregnancy, despite its high sustained economic growth, its important social transformation and its modernization, it will never reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

A few days ago, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched its 2017 National Human Development Report for Dominican Republic devoted to this topic. This report is complemented in turn by another report presented by UNICEF and the World Bank in August and also by the report presented in November by the National Statistics Office (ONE in Spanish) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The three documents make up a global and coherent product of a sinister reality. Two out of 10 women between the ages of 15 and 19 in the Dominican Republic have been pregnant or have been mothers; representing 15.9% of the country’s population. Surely it will be a higher percentage given that pregnancies begin to occur as early as twelve years of age.

The causes of this sinister reality, briefly described, are multiple; but its consequences are clear: low or very low quality of life, poor welfare, recurrent poverty, exclusion.

The link between poverty and child and teenage pregnancy is clear, and the UNDP National Human Development Report shows that the mentioned link is to be found in the opportunity cost that teenage pregnancy represents for the human development of these young women. That is, the opportunities that they lose as a consequence of those early pregnancies or maternities.

This reality, I insist sinister indeed, worsens when considered that it has an equally quantifiable impact on the young pregnant woman, on the family environment of the pregnant girl or teenager and of course also on the child, the product of that pregnancy.

We are talking about half of the population of the country. The good news, however, is that the spooky effects of teen pregnancy are not necessarily irreversible.

The trend could be reversed if a new architecture of policies that affect and integrate prevention is urgently introduced, as well as the mitigation of the effects of pregnancy through care and protection policies. Policies that ensure greater opportunities.

A new architecture with a multidimensional character, that reaches the local level (territorial approach) and is implemented over time.

If the above is adopted and introduced soon, the possibilities of complying with the commitments acquired by the State can be fulfilled. If it is not the case; I am afraid that we will be talking about a country with a half future. The one of the privileged half of the population.

 

The post Rise of Teenage Pregnancy Deters Development Goals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lorenzo Jiménez de Luis, is UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Dominican Republic

The post Rise of Teenage Pregnancy Deters Development Goals appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rise-teenage-pregnancy-deters-development-goals/feed/ 0
Production Diversity, Diet Diversity and Nutrition in Sub -Saharan Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/production-diversity-diet-diversity-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=production-diversity-diet-diversity-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/production-diversity-diet-diversity-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Tue, 19 Dec 2017 14:13:20 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153622 Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Insitute, University of Manchester, England; & Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

The post Production Diversity, Diet Diversity and Nutrition in Sub -Saharan Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Insitute, University of Manchester, England; & Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

By Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur
NEW DELHI, Dec 19 2017 (IPS)

Lack of diet diversity is viewed as the major cause of micronutrient malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa. Imbalanced diets resulting from consumption of mainly high carbohydrate based-diets also contribute to productivity losses and reduced educational attainment and income. Consequently, micronutrient malnutrition is currently the most critical for food and nutritional security problem as most diets are often deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. In Tanzania, for example, most rural and urban households consume mainly staples as their main food, which are high in carbohydrates, but low in micronutrients and vitamins. Staple food items increase energy availability but do not improve nutritional outcomes if not consumed together with micro-nutrient rich foods.

Raghav Gaiha

A positive relationship between farm production diversity and diet diversity is plausible, because much of what smallholder farmers produce is consumed at home. However, this is more plausible for a subsistence economy than one in which market transactions are prominent. Instead of producing everything at home, households can buy food diversity in the market when they earn sufficient income. Farm diversification may contribute to income growth and stability. Besides, as the majority of smallholder households in developing countries also have off-farm income sources, the link between production diversity and diet diversity is further undermined. Finally, when relying on markets, nutrition effects in farm households will also depend on how well the markets function and who decides how farm and off-farm incomes will be allocated to food. It is well-known that income in the hands of women frequently results in more nourishing food-especially for children.

A recent study analyzed the relationship between production and consumption diversity in smallholder farm households in four developing countries: Indonesia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Malawi (Sibhatu et al. 2014). These four countries were selected mainly because of availability of recent household data. The results are classified under (i) association between production and diet diversity, (ii) role of market access, and (iii) role of selling and buying food. Farm production diversity is positively associated with diet diversity, but the effect is relatively small. In the pooled sample (of all four countries), producing one additional crop or livestock species leads to a 0.9% increase in the number of food groups consumed This effect, however, varies across the countries in question. In Kenya and Ethiopia, the estimates are very small and not (statistically) significant. In these two countries, average production diversity is quite high; further increasing farm diversity would hardly contribute to higher diet diversity. One indicator of market access is the geographic distance from the farm household to the closest market where food can be sold or bought. The estimated effects are negative, implying that households in remoter regions have lower dietary diversity. Better market access through reduced distances could therefore contribute to higher diet diversity. Reducing market distance by 10 km has the same effect on diet diversity as increasing farm production diversity by one additional crop or livestock species.

Shantanu Mathur

A more pertinent question is whether this also leads to more healthy diets. Depending on the type of food outlets available in a particular context, buying food may be associated with rather unhealthy diet diversification, for instance, through increased consumption of fats, sweets, or sugary beverages. This is examined by using alternative diet diversity scores, including only more healthy food groups. The finding that better market access tends to increase diet diversity also holds with this alternative measure. However, it is not self-evident that this measure is appropriate for two reasons: (i) one is the failure to distinguish between processed and unprocessed, say, vegetables (eg French fries and boiled potato) with vastly different nutritional implications; and (ii) at best, diet diversity (restricted or unrestricted) is an approximation to nutrients’ intake as there are substitutions both within and between food groups in response to income and price changes (a case in point is different grades of rice).

Another approach is to take into account what households sell and buy. This information is only available for Ethiopia and Malawi. If a household sells at least parts of its farm produce, it has a positive and significant effect on diet diversity. It is also much larger than the effect of production diversity. This comparison suggests that facilitating the commercialization of smallholder farms may be a better strategy to improve nutrition than promoting more diversified subsistence production. Furthermore, the negative and significant interaction effect confirms that market participation reduces the role of production diversity in dietary quality.

Better market access in terms of shorter distance and more off-farm income opportunities increase the level of purchased food diversity. If off-farm income opportunities are greater in rural areas with short distances to market, the market access effect can’t be disentangled from the income effect. The interaction between level of farm income and participation in off-farm activities is often complex as small farmers tend to work as labourers in the latter while relatively affluent dominate as owners in more remunerative enterprises. The two important inferences are: (i) increasing on-farm diversity among smallholders is not always the most effective way to improve diet diversity and should not be considered a goal in itself; and (ii) in many situations, facilitating market access through improved infrastructure and other policies to reduce transaction costs and price distortions seems to be more promising than promoting further production diversification. One major caveat, however, remains. Even the alternative measure of diet diversity/quality is merely a crude approximation to nutrition (Gaiha et al. 2014).

In brief, market access through buying/selling food is more closely associated with diet diversity than production diversity. Diet diversity, however, is a weak proxy for nutrition. Indeed, there is no shortcut to empirical validation of the link between diet diversity and nutritional outcomes-especially consumption of micronutrients.

The post Production Diversity, Diet Diversity and Nutrition in Sub -Saharan Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Insitute, University of Manchester, England; & Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

The post Production Diversity, Diet Diversity and Nutrition in Sub -Saharan Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/production-diversity-diet-diversity-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/feed/ 0
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 […]

The post Empowering Women Improves Communities, Ensures Success for Generations appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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.

The post Empowering Women Improves Communities, Ensures Success for Generations appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/feed/ 0
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 […]

The post South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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

The post South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/feed/ 0
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 […]

The post Taxi Company Empowers Women on Mumbai’s Bustling Streets appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Taxi Company Empowers Women on Mumbai’s Bustling Streets appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/taxi-company-empowers-women-mumbais-bustling-streets/feed/ 0
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

The post Women: Major Drivers & Beneficiaries of Poverty Eradication appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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.

The post Women: Major Drivers & Beneficiaries of Poverty Eradication appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post Women: Major Drivers & Beneficiaries of Poverty Eradication appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-major-drivers-beneficiaries-poverty-eradication/feed/ 0
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

The post International Day of Rural Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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.

The post International Day of Rural Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:


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

The post International Day of Rural Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/international-day-rural-women/feed/ 0
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.

The post Rights of Rural Women Have Seen Uneven Progress in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
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.

The post Rights of Rural Women Have Seen Uneven Progress in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of IPS coverage on the International Day of Rural Women, celebrated on October 15.

The post Rights of Rural Women Have Seen Uneven Progress in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/rights-rural-women-seen-uneven-progress-latin-america/feed/ 0
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 […]

The post Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
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.

The post Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/feed/ 0
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, […]

The post Improved Fish Processing Brings Dramatic Gains for Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
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.”

The post Improved Fish Processing Brings Dramatic Gains for Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/improved-fish-processing-brings-dramatic-gains-women/feed/ 0
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

The post 114 Nations Seek Support to Implement UN’s 2030 Development Agenda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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.

The post 114 Nations Seek Support to Implement UN’s 2030 Development Agenda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post 114 Nations Seek Support to Implement UN’s 2030 Development Agenda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/114-nations-seek-support-implement-uns-2030-development-agenda/feed/ 0
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 […]

The post Small Entrepreneurs Emerge as Backbone of Bangladesh’s Rural Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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.”

The post Small Entrepreneurs Emerge as Backbone of Bangladesh’s Rural Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-entrepreneurs-emerge-backbone-bangladeshs-rural-economy/feed/ 0
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 […]

The post Women Slowly Break Barriers in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
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.

The post Women Slowly Break Barriers in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/feed/ 0