Inter Press ServiceWomen & Economy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 19 May 2018 21:14:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

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Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Mothers & Children: Addressing Disappearances through a Gender Perspectivehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective/#respond Wed, 02 May 2018 10:13:51 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155577 Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared in protest march.

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2018 (IPS)

At the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials, Justice Robert Jackson, the Chief Prosecutor, charged the world that submitting the enemy to the judgment of the law is “one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”

Any effort to address missing persons during and after conflict takes this one step forward. It attempts to provide justice after death. However, what constitutes “Reason” must be seen through the lenses of both women and men.

In a fractured and divisive community post-conflict, the nature of “ Reason” is a complex and elusive concept. But how we restore dignity to a disappeared victim and the family and promote “ Reason” and psychological healing is far less contested and helps a broader reconciliation agenda that helps address structural sources of injustice.

The Offices of Missing Persons legislation and institutions set up after conflict can play a particularly important role in reaffirming the right of relatives of those disappeared. However, it is important that we develop new ways of conceiving of accountability mechanisms that provide a more gender sensitive experience of justice.

We need to stretch our moral imagination in order to develop syncretic approaches to transitional justice that are both borrowed from other jurisdictions but deeply rooted in context. A feminist perspective can enrich the construction of the transitional justice field on missing persons. Women’s contributions and experiences and women’s activism must be reflected in framing the initiatives.

In many countries in conflict and post- conflict, the presence of women, from the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina to the Mothers Front in Sri Lanka, women have altered the contours of transition justice. The Offices set up to address the missing must expose the harms to women as women, mother, wife and grandmother- thereby ignoring the specific harms shared by women or the specific economic and social status of women.

Often, gender crimes are seen only in terms of violence against women but there are other forms of atrocity that impact women in unalterable ways such as the disappearances of family members. A Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) Paul-Henri Arni sums up the importance of the committee’s work thus:. “The worst wound of war… the only wound that gets worse with time is when a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, a husband or a wife does not come for dinner and simply vanishes. We humans are not designed to resist such mental torture.”

In Argentina, among the 30,000 people who were disappeared during the “Dirty War” were an estimated 500 pregnant women and young children. Argentina has taken steps passing legislation to regulate the situation of the disappeared and their families. In 1994, Law No. 24.321 defined enforced disappearances and regulated the process for obtaining a judicial declaration of disappearances Law No. 24.411 established the right to pecuniary reparation for families of the disappeared.

Very early on, as disappearances increased and fear permeated the country, a small group of grandmothers banded together. In April 1977, at the peak of the disappearances, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, wore white head scarves embroidered with the names of their missing relatives, and marched to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

The mothers now grown to be grandmothers remain a public presence as they march along with other relatives of the disappeared in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace, to search for their disappeared children who were kidnapped by the military dictatorship.

The mothers and grandmothers or the Las Abuelas lobbied nationally to develop legal precedent to establish the use of DNA in establishing biological identity and pressured the government to support the development of a national genetic database that would allow all relatives of missing children to submit a blood sample for genetic testing. Established in 1989, Argentina’s database continues to be instrumental in the investigation of disappeared children.

The Argentine genetic database set an important precedent and enabled the expansion of genetic tracing as an important tool in accounting for the disappeared and providing a remedy for victims. National and international funding for the database has been budgeted until the year 2050 and has expanded to Guatemala and Peru.

In April 2017, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Marked 40 Years of Searching for the Disappeared. The Mothers are also building a wall with the faces of thousands of disappeared people, to raise awareness of the disappeared during the country’s dictatorship from 1976-1983.

What this shows is that we have to go beyond the tired notions of transitional justice. What is needed is a fuller concept of restorative justice that move away from criminal law formulations of sanctions to reimagining the possibility of restoring a lost social balance through a localization of the international practices and norms of transitional justice.

*Rangita de Silva de Alwis was recently appointed by UN Women and IDLO to the High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice.

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Excerpt:

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

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Women Farmers in Peru Bring Healthy Meals to Local Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 22:50:27 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155498 Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon. “We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because […]

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Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

By Mariela Jara
CHULUCANAS, Peru, Apr 26 2018 (IPS)

Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon.

“We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because in today’s times we have forgotten what it means to eat healthy, nutritious food, and everything is fried or sweets, which is why there is malnutrition and obesity,” one of the women, Rosa Rojas, who has an organic garden in the community of Piedra de Toro, told IPS.

She is one of 25 women farmers trained in agro-ecological techniques by the non-governmental Flora Tristán Centre for Peruvian Women. They are engaged in small-scale agriculture in the valleys and highlands of Morropón, one of the eight provinces in the department of Piura, whose capital is Chulucanas."I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community. With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?" -- Jacqueline Sandoval

The department of Piura was hit between December 2016 and May 2017 by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a complex weather pattern resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

During that period, heavy rains and flooding affected more than one million people, left 230,000 without homes, and destroyed 1,200 hectares of crops, according to the governmental National Information System for Disaster Prevention and Response.

Rojas, 53, remembers those terrible months when many families were torn apart with the departure of parents or older siblings, forced to go abroad to make a living and to support those left behind in their communities.

“Women were left in charge of the homes and the plots of land, worrying about how to put food on the table for our children and grandchildren,” she said.

“We had to eat the beans that we had kept for seed, and supporting each other among all the neighbours, we have recovered little by little to be able to plant again on the land that had been washed clean by the rains,” she said.

Almost a year later, she has replanted her vegetables, including coriander, lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, leeks, tomatoes, yellow peppers and cucumbers, using organic fertiliser that she makes herself.

“My family’s diet is enriched with these healthy and nutritious organic fruits and vegetables. My community is waking up to what is natural food, we are learning the importance of eating vegetables daily, and that is what we are sharing at schools with teachers, mothers, fathers and students,” she said.

Yaqueline Sandoval, 42, a farmer in the community of Algodonal, in the neighbouring municipality of Santa Catalina de Mossa, is also recovering from the ravages of the coastal El Niño.

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women's Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru's northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women’s Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru’s northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

She says she has resumed planting in her organic garden, together with her family, where the star product is the cowpea bean or black-eyed pea, which they call the “bean of hope” as it is ready for eating in a short time.

“Just 40 days after planning we are eating our beans. It is a very generous plant, it feeds us and it is a seed for the future because it adapts to different conditions and is very strong, something vital now we are facing climate change,” Sandoval told IPS.

Changing school habits

This is one of the inputs that the farmers use to create “healthy lunch boxes,” for students to carry their meals to eat in the public primary and secondary schools in the urban centres of the municipalities.

The lunches include meals prepared with local produce, to replace what schoolchildren were buying in the kiosks at their schools, such as cookies, crackers and chocolate, sugary drinks and other industrially processed sweets.

“We make tortillas with our vegetables and beans, we prepare passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) soft drinks, and we accompany it with a banana,” Sandoval said, describing what the children are now carrying in their lunch boxes.

“They are healthy and nutritious fruits of our land, free of chemicals, that nourish and do not damage the children’s health,” she said proudly about the initiative she is carrying out with other mothers of schoolchildren at the local “Horacio Zevallos” school.

This experience began last year with talks in the high school classrooms on the benefits of a healthy diet and the negative effects on their bodies and health of fast food or junk food.

“There was so much interest that this year in the Science, Technology and Environment course they are working in a small garden that they have set up on the premises of the school, where they are planting lettuce, carrots and other vegetables,” she added.

Sandoval, who considers herself an activist and entrepreneur, said agroecology is a tool that has allowed her to improve her relationship with nature, to make better use of the soil, water and seeds, and consequently, to improve her diet and health.

“I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community,” she said. “With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?”

Sandoval’s concern is well-founded.

The governmental Observatory of Nutrition and the Study of Overweight and Obesity indicates that more than 53 percent of Peru’s population has excess body fat and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranks the country as the third in Latin America in terms of overweight and obesity.

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

For its part, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has warned that one in five children under ten is already experiencing this problem due to the combination of factors such as inadequate diets and low levels of physical activity. And in Piura, three out of ten children under five suffer from anemia.

Eating healthy and nutritious food in a region rich in biodiversity could seem normal. But it is still a pending objective due to a lack of public investment in small-scale agriculture, training for rural populations and attention to the problem of water shortages.

In this context, taking advantage of traditional knowledge and using new know-how acquired in training and thanks to technical assistance puts women farmers in a better position to face the permanent challenges of climate change in order to achieve food security.

“Knowing about agroecology helps us use water more efficiently, irrigate our crops without wasting, replace crops that need a lot of irrigation, and choose beans that adapt to droughts. This knowledge is important for our food security,” said Escolástica Juárez.

Juàrez, a 57-year-old farmer, lives in the village of Chapica, in the municipality of Chulucanas, where the temperature reaches 37 degrees Celsius.

She has taken the healthy lunchbox initiative to the local “Colegio de Fátima” school.

“The school principal has called us back to continue with the talks this year,” she told IPS. “My grandson tells me that more of his classmates are eating healthy meals, it’s a matter of persistence, it takes time to bet families to change bad habits but it can be learned.”

She added that she feels grateful for the “bean of hope”, which like other farmers she has learned to cook in different ways, based on knowledge they have shared among themselves.

“We can eat them fresh from the pod, store them to cook later, and select some for seed. Even if there is a shortage of water, we know that it will feed us. We return the plant’s generosity sharing what we know with other neighbours and at the schools,” Juárez said.

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DR Congo’s Mai-Ndombe Forest ‘Savaged’ As Landless Communities Strugglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:10:51 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155317 Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally […]

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The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
INONGO, Democratic Republic of Congo, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally cut from the Mai-Ndombe forest, an area of 10 million hectares, which has some trees measuring between 35 and 45 meters.“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest." --Marine Gauthier

Destined for overseas export

“We witness this kind of spectacle every day, whereby tons and tons of logs and timber find their way to the capital either via the Congo River or by road, where they will eventually be shipped overseas, or just sold to the black market,” environment activist Prosper Ngobila told IPS.

Mbo, the truck driver who brought the load, confirmed: “This stock and others that are already gone to the capital are destined for overseas export. I’m only a transporter, but I understand that the owner of this business is a very powerful man, almost untouchable.”

Thousands of logs cut from trees 20 meters in height are currently lying in the Mai-Ndombe forest waiting to be hauled off, while thousands more have been left there to rot for years, Ngobila added.

“It’s shocking to say the least,” he said.

Rich in natural resources

The forests of Mai-Ndombe (“black water” in Lingala) are rich in rare and precious woods (red wood, black wood, blue wood, tola, kambala, lifake, among others). It is also home to about 7,500 bonobos, an endangered primate and the closest cousin to humans of all species, sharing 98 percent of our genes, according to the WWF.

The forests constitute a vital platform providing livelihoods for some 73,000 indigenous individuals, mostly Batwa (Pygmies), who live here alongside the province’s 1.8 million population, many of whom with no secure land rights.

Recent studies also have revealed that the province – and indeed the forests – boasts significant reserves of diamond, oil, nickel, copper and coal, and vast quantities of uranium lying deep inside the Lake Mai-Ndombe.

Efforts to save the forests

The WWF and many environmental experts, who deplore the gradual destruction and degradation of these forests for their precious wood and for the benefit of agriculture, continue to plead and lobby for their protection.

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change.

In an effort to save these precious forests, the World Bank in 2016 approved DRC’s REDD+ programmes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fight forest’s deforestation and degradation, which it would fund to the tune of 90 million dollars annually.

The projects, which are currently estimated at 20, have since transformed the Mai-Ndombe Province into a testing ground for international climate schemes. And as part of the projects, indigenous and other local people caring for the forests and depending on them for their livelihoods were supposed to be rewarded for their efforts.

Flaws and fiasco

However, Marine Gauthier, a Paris-based expert who authored a report on the sorry state of the Mai-Ndombe forest, seems to have found serious flaws in these ambitious programmes.

The report, released a few days before the International Day of Forests on March 21 by the Rights and Resources’ Initiative (RRI)), cited weak recognition of communities’ land rights, and recommended that key prerequisites should be addressed before any other REDD+ funds are invested.

In the interim, it said, REDD+ investments should be put on hold.

Gauthier, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to stop the funding from doing more damage to the people of the forest, told IPS in the aftermath of the report’s release, “In DRC and more specifically in the Mai-Ndombe, the history of natural resources management has always been done at the expense of local communities.

“Industrial logging concessions have been granted on their traditional lands without their consent and destroyed their environment without any form of compensation, and protected areas have been established on their lands prohibiting them to access to the forest where they hunt, gather, conduct traditional rituals, hence severing them from their livelihood and culture – again, without their consent.”

Struggle for landless peasants

Under the DRC’s 2014 Forest Code, indigenous people and local communities have the legal right to own forest covering an area of up to 50,000 hectares.

Thirteen communities in the territories of Mushie and Bolobo in the Mai-Ndombe province have since asked for formal title of a total of 65,308 hectares of land, reports said, adding that only 300 hectares have been legally recognised for each community – a total of only 3,900 hectares.

Alfred Mputu, a 56-year-old small scale forest farmer who is among the people still waiting for a formal title, told IPS: “I have been working and living in this land for decades, but as long as I don’t have a formal title that gives me the right to own it, I wouldn’t say it belongs to me.

“What if the government decides to sell it to foreign companies or to some rich and powerful people? Where will we go to live?”

The consequences of these communities living in and around these forests with no secured land rights could be dire, according to experts.

Zachary Donnenfeld, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher for African futures and innovation, told IPS: “They could have their land sold out from under them by the government, likely to a private multinational company.

“Even if they are allowed to stay on their land, the environmental degradation caused by this industry could cause a noticeable deterioration in the quality of life for people in the area.”

Pretoria-based Donnenfeld added: “My guess is that the government is more interested in selling these resources to multinationals than it in seeing it benefit the community.

“To be fair, the government could be trying to sort out competing claims among the local groups. There could have been some overlap, for example communities bidding for the best land, and the government could be deciding what’s fair based on historical use or something. That said, my guess is that communities won’t get most of this land – at least in a secured land rights sense.”

Poverty and conflicts

Gauthier pointed out that these situations create poverty and conflicts between project implementers and communities, as well as between communities.

“Instead, when communities get secured land rights and are empowered to manage their lands themselves, studies show that it is the best way to protect the forest and even more efficient than government-managed protected areas.

“REDD+ opens the door to more land-grabbing by external stakeholders appealed by carbon benefits. Local communities’ land rights should be recognised through existing legal possibilities such as local community forest concessions so that they can keep protecting the forest, hence achieving REDD+ objectives.”

Gauthier said if their land rights are not secured, they can get evicted, as has already happened elsewhere in the country, such as South Kivu in the Kahuzi Biega National Park where 6,000 pygmies were expelled.

“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest, when enabling them to live in and protect the forest as they have always done is the best way to keep these forests standing.”

Many observers say situations such as these impact negatively on the most vulnerable – women and children – who are already bearing the brunt of a country torn apart by dictatorship, economic mismanagement, corruption and two decades of armed conflict.

Chouchouna Losale, vice-coordinator of the Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the DRC, told IPS that a humanitarian crisis has ensued in the Mai-Ndombe Province after the savannahs donated to women were ‘given’ to an industrial logging company.

“There are now cases of malnutrition in the area,” Losale said.

The Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development advocates for the recognition of rights and competence of women in general, and aboriginal women in particular, in the Congolese provinces of Mai-Ndombe and Equateur.

“I urge the government to advance the process of land reform in order to provide the country with a clear land policy protecting forest-dependent communities,” Losale said, adding that proper consultation with communities should be done to avoid conflict.

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UN’s Highest Policy-Making Body to Break Male Domination— Momentarilyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily/#respond Tue, 03 Apr 2018 14:14:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155127 The 193-member General Assembly – one of the highest policy-making bodies at the United Nations – will get a much-needed break, come September, when a woman will preside over its 73rd session, only the fourth in the history of the world body. The two who are in the running are: Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, Permanent […]

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The opening of the 72nd session of the General Assembly in September 2017. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 3 2018 (IPS)

The 193-member General Assembly – one of the highest policy-making bodies at the United Nations – will get a much-needed break, come September, when a woman will preside over its 73rd session, only the fourth in the history of the world body.

The two who are in the running are: Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, Permanent Representative of Honduras, and María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador—both from the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) group.

On the basis of geographical rotation, the LAC Group claims the upcoming presidency—an elected high ranking UN position which has been overwhelmingly dominated by men.

The break comes even as the United Nations has continued to vociferously preach gender empowerment to the outside world but failing to practice it in its own political backyard—despite scores of resolutions adopted by member states.

Since 1945, the Assembly has elected only three women as presidents: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).

And that’s three out of 72 Presidents, 69 of whom were men.

The track record of the 15-member Security Council is infinitely worse because it has continued to elect men as UN Secretaries-General, rubber-stamped by the General Assembly, and most recently in October 2016 – despite several outstanding women candidates.

And that’s zero out of nine male UN chiefs: Trygve Lie of Norway, Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden, U. Thant of Burma (now Myanmar), Kurt Waldheim of Austria, Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, Kofi Annan of Ghana, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea and, currently, Antonio Guterres of Portugal.

The two highest ranking political positions at the UN have long been identified as the intellectual birthright of men. And in terms of diplomatic protocol, the President of the General Assembly (PGA) has the status of a head of state in international fora.

Will the election of a fourth woman as the 73rd PGA later this year augur a new era? Or is it just a flash in the pan?

Asked for his response, Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, President of the current 72nd session of the General Assembly, told IPS: “I am committed to fostering greater gender parity throughout the work of the General Assembly. The history of the United Nations is filled with the contributions of strong women who have shaped its evolution since 1945. Yet, as of today, there have only been three women Presidents of the General Assembly”

He said it is important to ensure that women leaders’ voices are heard on all matters in the United Nations and having a woman as the next President of the General Assembly would be a major step in this regard.

“As President of the General Assembly, I have taken tangible steps to ensure that women play a key role in our work,” he noted.

For example, he said, he has appointed gender-balanced teams of Ambassadors to lead almost all General Assembly processes.

“Meanwhile, in my own office, I have seen to it that 70 per cent of the staff are women, and that women and men are represented equally at the managerial level. I believe that making our work at the United Nations more gender-balanced and inclusive will have a positive impact around the world,” he declared.

Barbara Crossette, a former UN Bureau Chief for The New York Times (1994-2010), and who has written extensively on gender empowerment, told IPS both candidates seem to bring some interesting resumes and welcome commitments to the work of the General Assembly—“and Latin American women can be quite fearless, as you know”.

“But I can’t really judge how real all this is. In both cases, however, the presidency would be a prestigious prize for either nation. But that’s not of international importance.”

“Now whether a woman makes a difference per se — or breaks a chain of male domination — is hard to judge in advance”, said Crossette, currently UN correspondent for The Nation, a senior fellow of the Ralph Bunche Institute at the City University of New York, contributing editor at PassBlue.com, and a freelance writer on foreign policy and international affairs

She also pointed out that if one or the other is chosen, what she could accomplish would affect how the member nations (or more important, informed public opinion) would react to the idea that a woman in the presidency is a good thing and should happen more often.

This is also the case with appointments to headquarters staff and high-level jobs, she noted.

Antonia Kirkland, Program Manager, Legal Equality, at the New York based Equality Now, told IPS:”It is completely unacceptable that only three women have been elected president of the UN’s General Assembly in the last 72 years. The UN needs to set a better example and live up to its promise of achieving gender parity throughout the UN system. Bringing women into the highest levels of decision making should be a top priority.”

She said achieving gender equality, development and peace, will never be realized without women’s equal access to positions of decision-making power.

The upcoming election of the President of the General Assembly is a perfect opportunity for member states to implement the commitments they have made to increasing women’s political access she added.

“Member states must also promote women’s leadership within their missions and ministries of foreign affairs so that there is equality at the ambassadorial level”, said Kirkland who represents a civil society organization which, since 1992, has been using the law to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls worldwide.

“We hope promoting women’s and girls’ rights around the world, particularly ending sexual violence and ending impunity for sexual assault and sexual harassment by UN staff members, will be a top priority for the next President of the General Assembly,” she declared.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly last year decided to establish a new process for the selection of the President of the General Assembly.

In its resolution 71/323 entitled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, the Assembly decided to conduct informal interactive dialogues with candidates for the position of President of the General Assembly, thus contributing to “the transparency and inclusivity of the process”, according to the PGA’s website.

Furthermore, the General Assembly has also called upon candidates to present to the Assembly their vision statements.

The new process will be in full respect of the established principle of geographical rotation and the General Assembly resolution 33/138 of 19 December 1978.

Consequently, the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly is to be elected from the Latin American and Caribbean Group.

In line with the new process, the President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly will convene informal interactive dialogues with the candidates in early May 2018.

In accordance with Rule 30 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, the Assembly shall elect a President and twenty-one Vice-Presidents at least three months before the opening of the session over which they are to preside.

The election of the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly will take place on Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Indonesia’s Women Activism– Beyond Suffragehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/indonesias-women-activism-beyond-suffrage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesias-women-activism-beyond-suffrage http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/indonesias-women-activism-beyond-suffrage/#respond Fri, 30 Mar 2018 15:36:41 +0000 Devi Asmarani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155113 Devi Asmarani is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Jakarta-based feminist webmagazine Magdalene.

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President Sukarno with leaders of the Indonesian Women's Congress in June 1950. Credit: topenMuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Devi Asmarani
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Mar 30 2018 (IPS)

More than a century has passed since Putri Mardika, Indonesia’s first ever women’s organization, was established but challenges persist in the efforts to influence national politics to bring progress to all women.

Like many countries with a colonial past, it was not suffrage that first ignited early women activism in what is now Indonesia. Rather it was nationalistic aspiration and basic women’s empowerment issues such as education and women’s rights in marriage that mobilized the movement.

Indeed, Indonesian women’s movement emerged alongside the nationalist movement under the Dutch colonial rule, and remained mostly a part of that movement for the first half of the 20th Century until independence.

Education was seen as crucial in elevating women’s status, so early women’s organizations were mainly involved in activities such as literacy campaigns and courses on domestic sciences or sewing. Some also issued publications that disseminated ideas on women’s emancipation.

The first women’s congress was held on 22 December 1928 and involved 1,000 delegates from 30 women’s organizations across Indonesia and led to the formation of a national women’s federation.

Devi Asmarani. Credit: Berto Werdhatama / Magdalene

The various women’s groups only began to work together to achieve common gender objectives on 22 December 1928, when the first women’s congress was held. Involving 1,000 delegates from 30 women’s organizations, the congress aimed at discussing important gender issues and creating a united voice to represent Indonesian women.

It led to the formation of a national women’s federation that lasted until the three-year occupation by the Japanese from 1942. But on the important issue of polygamy, the federation was split between the secular organizations that wanted to ban it, and Islamic associations that refused to condemn it.

In the end, the women’s groups agreed to set aside the issue and focus on the needs of the nation, a compromise that would continue for many decades to come.

On 17 August 1945, nationalists led by Sukarno, Indonesia’s founding president, declared the independent Republic of Indonesia. It was followed by the struggle in subsequent years to maintain control over the archipelago as the Dutch tried to reclaim its colony.

But the new republic showed a clear democratic and egalitarian stance on gender, proclaiming in the 1945 Constitution that all citizens were equal before the law. This, however, did not always translate to gains for women’s rights in practice.

The proclamation of the 1945 Constitution that all citizens were equal before the law did not always translate to gains for women’s rights in practice

Though women’s organizations flourished in the 1950s, the emphasis on their role to support nation-building and as mothers continued to challenge efforts to assert individual rights. The organizations were highly diverse too, divided into religious, political party-affiliated, wives or professional organizations, making it difficult to become a unified political bloc. In addition, the friction between religious and secular organizations over matters like polygamy continued.

So despite the political rights and political space, post-independence Indonesian women’s movement failed to capture the political agenda. Women were keen to vote, but few were elected. The campaign for a marriage law that would grant women more rights also continued to fail until three decades later—and even then the demand to ban polygamy was not met.

Under the three-decade New Order administration under the country’s second president Suharto in 1966, the women’s movement was subverted as the regime suppressed any vocal political opposition.

At the core of its ideology, the New Order expected women to perform their motherly duty to ensure social stability, implement development plans and reduce the high birth rate. Wives’ organizations thrived, epitomized by the massive Dharma Wanita organization for the wives of civil servants, whose activities were linked to the state-sponsored Family Guidance Movement.

Under the three-decade New Order by President Suharto, women were expected to perform their motherly duty to ensure social stability, implement development plans and reduce the high birth rate.

But by the 1980s, new independent women’s organizations emerged, many with a strong human rights bent. The women’s non-government organizations included: Kalyanamitra, which focused on developing a centre of information and communication for women; the legal rights organization for women LBH APIK; the Annisa Swasti Foundation, which organized women workers; Rifka Annisa, which worked on reproductive health issues; and Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity), which worked to empower and organize women migrant workers. Their work was important amid continued government’s suppression of civil society.

The end of the New Order and Suharto’s resignation in 1998 led to the growth of new women’s organizations. There was more recognition for the importance of gender issues, as seen in the shift in the role of the Ministry for Women’s. Suharto’s fall had been preceded by race riots, during which dozens of ethnic Chinese women became victims.

The tragedy mobilized women’s groups to push for the government’s accountability, leading to the establishment of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan.

Indeed, violence against women became one of the most important fields of work for Indonesian women’s organizations in the post-1998 period, helping unite women in pushing for crucial laws like the 2004 Law on Domestic Violence.

The National Commission on Violence Against Women was established as result of the push for government accountability by women’s groups following the tragedies that surrounded the race riots preceding Suharto’s fall.

Another important legal initiative was the campaign for the 30-per-cent quota for women’s candidates imposed since 2003 on political parties contending legislative elections. This and the introduction of direct regional elections provide more opportunities for women’s representation in politics (link Paywall).

The last two decades of post-New Order democratization has also given women more space to participate in public decision-making processes, to make planning and budgeting more gender-responsive.

But a lot remains to be done. Despite an increasing number of women holding top government positions such as Cabinet minister, supreme justice and governor, politics has remained the domain of men overall. Political parties are still run under a system of highly patriarchal patronage and, in general, they do not show much interest in advancing gender equality.

In addition, the emergence of political Islam, increasing religious conservatism and widespread sharia-based bylaws of the past few years have posed a major setback for women across Indonesia. It has led to increasing efforts to emphasize women’s domestic role, and to limit women’s mobility and regulate sexuality.

More than a century has passed since Putri Mardika, Indonesia’s first-ever women’s organization was established, but similar challenges remain in the efforts to influence national politics to bring progress to all women. Only when united in a massive and organized way—the way they were over the domestic violence legislation—can women’s groups overcome these challenges. ###

This article was first published in the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung blog FES-CONNECT
https://www.fes-connect.org/popular-posts/detail/fighting-the-colony-women-activism-beyond-suffrage/

The post Indonesia’s Women Activism– Beyond Suffrage appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Devi Asmarani is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Jakarta-based feminist webmagazine Magdalene.

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Fashion Paradigm That Does Not Pollute the Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 13:52:29 +0000 Kaya Dorey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155081 Kaya Dorey* is one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth

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By Kaya Dorey
VANCOUVER, Canada, Mar 29 2018 (IPS)

Fashion is meant to be trendy. It’s fast-paced: in one season, out the next. If you want to keep up, you had better update your wardrobe – that top you bought last summer is already outdated. While things may have been built to last a life-time a generation ago, today they don’t even last a year.

But the world is finite, and so are the resources in it. What we wear is every bit as important as what we eat when it comes to environmental sustainability. If we’re serious about preserving our world, we’re going to have to shift our current linear fast-fashion paradigm to a slower more circular one that doesn’t pollute the planet.

When I learnt about fast-fashion and textiles waste, it was the ‘make, consume, scrap it’ attitude that made me think. I realized that most of our clothing is produced in a linear production line where we take from nature, consume and throw away when we are done. But nothing is ever really “away”. Even if it’s natural, nothing biodegrades in a landfill. I had to do something.

Synthetic clothing is petroleum-based – just like plastic. That means it’s part of our global plastic problem, which is clogging our oceans and damaging our ecosystems. More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute.

But sustainability as a concept doesn’t work when you guilt trip people into it. It also doesn’t work when you force it on people. The sustainable choice has to be cool, and undeniably the best option in terms of quality and style – sustainability aside. It also has to be accessible and affordable compared with other options.

As a young person, I thought at first that my voice was a drop in the ocean. How could I possibly make a difference? Yet, the more I studied and the more I learned about the fashion industry, the more I realized: we are the ones who need to change this. Every time we shop, we are making a choice. If we have the right information, we can make more conscious decisions, and bring about real change.

If we work together, we can make a difference. Since I started my sustainable apparel company, I’ve found people who share my passion, values and vision to make apparel that is truly sustainable in terms of materials, dyes and the people making it. I have sourced organic cotton and hemp fabrics, inks that doesn’t have any PVC or heavy metals in them and all my product is made ethically in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

Yet a major hurdle we keep encountering, is that we need bigger players on board to truly make an impact. Big brands have the buying power and the economies of scale to bring down costs associated with truly sustainable apparel. The global fashion industry can still be trendy – we can still change our wardrobes. But when we do, we will do it without killing the planet.

A major shift is needed to turn this thing around, starting with embedding sustainability into school curriculums and design programs. We’re looking at the problem of waste from the wrong angle: at the end of the process. We should be looking at it from the very beginning: before the design process even starts.

Designers – and not just clothing designers – need to design with the end in mind. We need to start innovating, coming up with new ways to eliminate waste from production and taking full responsibility for the products we’re making and what’s left over.

Consumers need to ask more questions and learn about where their clothing is from: what it’s made of; who’s making it? Just as we have started doing with food. If we vote with our dollars, and buy from brands that are more transparent with this kind of information, brands will be forced to improve their supply chains and sustainability practices out of sheer competition to stay in the game.

We also need policy makers to get behind the sustainable agenda. For example, dying processes, and fabrics that contribute to climate change and cause a lot of waste could pay higher taxes. We must create solutions, which pave the way for our societies to change.

Last year, I became one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth – an initiative that has supported me to actively make a difference. You can apply now for 2018, or find other initiatives which champion and support your idea to create real environmental change.

Some days it’s tough. Fighting an environmental cause, especially as a young person and within the fashion industry, means looking for solutions which may not be the most lucrative, or appealing to the mainstream. But by joining other designers, fabric suppliers, manufacturers and other fashion industry players, we’re using our networks, speaking up, and finding solutions.

For our fashion industry to be truly sustainable, we need everyone on board. We need big brands to support sustainable innovation within their companies. We, as consumers, need to seek out more natural and organic fabrics when shopping for new clothing, or buy second hand. And we, as designers, need to design with the end in mind and develop closed-loop and zero waste production lines.

I believe that together we will create change, just like Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If we start small and set big goals, we will make a difference. We can shift this fast-fashion paradigm forever, without sacrificing a trendy wardrobe.

*Kaya Dorey is founder of Novel Supply Co, a conscious apparel company that creates, designs and supplies fashionable products that shift the stigma of sustainability, using minimalistic design, natural fabrics and sustainable inks with a focus on zero waste.

The post Fashion Paradigm That Does Not Pollute the Planet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kaya Dorey* is one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth

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Africa’s Corporate Boardrooms: Where are the Women?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/africas-corporate-boardrooms-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africas-corporate-boardrooms-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/africas-corporate-boardrooms-women/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 06:50:51 +0000 Kwamboka Oyaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155030 Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information.

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A board meeting in progress in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: AMO/ George Philipas

By Kwamboka Oyaro
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 26 2018 (IPS)

When a woman rises to the top rung of the traditionally all-male corporate ladder in Africa, it’s front-page news because women’s progress in business leadership on the continent continues to be achingly slow.

According to a groundbreaking 2015 study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) titled “Where Are the Women?
Inclusive Boardrooms in Africa’s Top-Listed Companies”, in the 307 top African companies, women accounted for only 14% of total board membership. That translates to one woman out of every seven board members. And one-third of the boards have no women at all, adds the report.

Countries with the highest percentage of women board members are Kenya (19.8%), Ghana (17.7%), South Africa (17.4%), Botswana (16.9%) and Zambia (16.9%). Companies that have seated more than a small handful of women include the Kenya-based East African Breweries Limited (EABL) with a board that’s 45.5% women, followed by South Africa’s Impala Platinum Holdings Limited at 38.5% and Woolworths Holdings Limited at 30.8%.

On the downside, the country with the lowest percentage of women on boards is Côte d’Ivoire (5.1%), followed by Morocco (5.9%), Tunisia (7.9%) and Egypt (8.2%). Uganda hangs around the continent’s average of 12.7%, according to the report.

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB’s special envoy on gender, makes an economic and developmental case for more women on company boards. “Women serving on company boards sharpen the continent’s competitive edge and make inclusive growth a reality.”

“Women Matter Africa”, a report by McKinsey & Company, a US-based global management consulting firm, further highlights the financial benefits for companies having women on their boards. “The earnings before interest and taxes margin of those with at least a quarter share of women on their boards was on average 20% higher than the industry average.”

But women are underrepresented on all rungs of the corporate ladder—in non-management as well as middle and senior management positions, notes the McKinsey & Company report, which states that only 5% of professional women make it to top management in companies in Africa.

And even those women who join management may not necessarily wield influence because they usually occupy “staff roles rather than line roles from which promotion to CEOs usually come.”

The AfDB report concurs with McKinsey & Company’s finding that most women in corporate organisations are frozen at the periphery. The method used to appoint board members doesn’t favour women, maintains Fraser-Moleketi. “Board appointments are made through old-boy networks, locking women out,” she says, and the process of choosing a nominee is not always transparent.

Expected to combine work with family duties, women are further limited by patriarchal beliefs that channel them into low-wage careers such as teaching and nursing. The belief among many Africans that a woman’s career should complement—not interfere with—her family responsibilities is a traditional notion of a woman’s role that fails to acknowledge the benefits of gender diversity to society.

Women are “victims of ongoing socio-cultural prejudice,” says Viviane Zunon-Kipre, chair of the board of Société nouvelle d’edition et de presse based in Côte d’Ivoire.

African women can take some small solace in the fact that the continent ranks first in female membership of boards among emerging regions. Africa’s 14.4% is far higher than Asia-Pacific’s 9.8%, Latin America’s 5.6% and the Middle East’s 1%.

Also, more African women are becoming board members in blue-chip companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and financial institutions, and government enterprises are appointing women to their top management, says Wangethi Mwangi, a non-executive board member and former longtime editorial director of the Nation Media Group (NMG). The media company operates in Kenya, Rwanda Tanzania and Uganda.

Although the NMG has only two women among its 13 board members, Mwangi explains that “women head the digital, procurement, human resources, operation and marketing departments, while in editorial we have a female managing editor.” In departments such as procurement, advertising and marketing, women “perform very well,” he says.

EABL is the gold standard for women’s board membership in Africa. But just a decade ago women constituted only 16% of its board, Eric Kiniti, the company’s corporate relations director, points out.

The company’s policy is to take gender into account during the hiring process. “Before hiring at the senior management level, we ask that there must be a female candidate in all our short lists. And if there isn’t, we ask why,” he says.

Each member of EABL executive is individually responsible for tackling gender biases that might exist within the business. “As signatories to the UN Global Compact and the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, we have a set of codes internally to secure diversity in our workplace,” maintains Kiniti.

One of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles requests companies to “establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality.” Companies promoting women to top management positions are therefore in sync with the 2030 global goals. Sustainable Development Goal 10, Reduced Inequalities, specifies that “everyone will have equal opportunities and nobody will be left behind.”

To increase diversity in companies, including on boards, McKinsey & Company recommends four administrative goals: the first is that companies “make gender diversity a top board and CEO priority.”

The second is to “anchor gender diversity strategies in a compelling case,” which means communicating relevant policies to employees. The third is to “confront limiting attitudes toward women in the workplace,” which means focusing on changing perceptions of women’s traditional responsibilities. The fourth is to “implement a fact-based gender diversity strategy,” which involves using metrics and data to understand women’s contributions within a company.

The AfDB agrees with these recommendations, adding that companies should publish gender-aggregated data in their annual reports and that corporate governance codes should impose quotas for women’s representation on boards.

“To kick-start the process of increasing the numbers of women on boards, quotas have been shown to be very effective in many European countries, notably Norway, Finland and more recently France,” says Fraser-Moleketi.

Norway adopted a gender quota policy in 2003, requiring firms operating in the country to increase the percentage of women on their boards to at least 40%, from an average at the time of 7%. The government warned it would deregister companies not complying with the regulation.

At 40.1% currently, Norway has the world’s highest percentage of women on company boards. The global average is 15%.

Unlike in Norway, African countries adopting policies that support women’s leadership in companies are not necessarily enforcing those policies. The Kenyan constitution requires that of the elective or appointive bodies of a company, no more than two-thirds of the members be of the same gender.

Unfortunately, the law is silent on penalties for noncompliance.

South African laws generally promote gender equity in state-owned institutions, but women constitute about 33% in those institutions.

Morocco’s 2011 constitution guarantees gender equality in all appointments, yet only a negligible 0.1% of those in management positions in private companies are women. In 2016, the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum ranked Morocco 139 out of 145 countries in narrowing the gender gap.

A 2015 study by the International Labour Organization found no female CEO in any large company in Morocco.

Irina Bokova, former director general of UNESCO, observes, “A sustainable society and a thriving democracy depend on all of its citizens being included and involved in public debate and decision making at every level.”

Many African companies claim to be equal-opportunity employers. They must now match their words with actions.

The post Africa’s Corporate Boardrooms: Where are the Women? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information.

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The Role of Law Schools in Shaping Global Gender Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/role-law-schools-shaping-global-gender-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=role-law-schools-shaping-global-gender-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/role-law-schools-shaping-global-gender-justice/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 09:25:39 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154802 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

March 8th, 2018, International Women’s Day, saw an extraordinary global mobilization for gender equality. In the last year, global movements for gender equality– from marches to powerful grassroots organizing and viral social media campaigns, such as #MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States and other countries– have galvanized the world’s attention like never before.

Opening of the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women 12 March 2018. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Against the backdrop of historic global efforts for women’s rights and gender equality, the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) began its two-week long deliberations at the UN Headquarters in New York on Monday, March 12.

This is the UN’s largest gathering on gender equality and women’s rights, and the single largest forum for UN Member States, civil society organizations and other international actors to build consensus and commitments on global policy.

At this tipping point in history, do lawyers, law schools and law students have a higher moral role to play in addressing the shameful legacy of gender discrimination in every community and country? Law schools train the next generation of lawyers, leaders and advocates and help inform the laws and policies that shape the lives of women and men in their countries.

Law schools, by virtue of their very mission, must stand up against injustice everywhere. Along with governments, and civil society networks, law schools have a role to play in the profound legal, political and social changes that are unfolding around the world. In the 21st century, gender discrimination in law remains widespread; according to IFC research, 155 of the 173 economies covered have at least one law that challenges women’s economic opportunities.

There are over 900 legal gender differences across 173 economies. In 100 economies, women face gender-based job restrictions. In 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. However, a powerful new movement that transcends borders and boundaries is driving women to connect, mobilize and lead like never before and law schools must join this global effort.

At CSW 62, Penn Law will introduce a joint publication with UNESCO and UNSDG Fund titled Making Laws, Breaking Silence: Case Studies from the Field. In the words of Asma Jahangir, the human rights icon who died earlier in the year, “these timely and powerful essays from the ground alter the way we think of lawmaking for women and are an important contribution to gender equality law reform around the world.”

This publication is one of several collaborations with the United Nations on Goals 5 (Gender Equality) and 16 (Rule of Law) of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Women’s Leadership Project (GWLP), set up as the first phase of the UN Women’s new Family Law database, has created a clearing house of information. In many countries around the world, family law is a locus of gender discrimination and magnifies the unequal status of women in the public sphere.

This is the first mapping of its kind that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional family law to examine the entire legal system of a country to identify the law’s subtle and powerful impact on women’s status in her family.

Penn Law has become a leader among law schools in its partnerships and collaboration with the United Nations and multilaterals, primarily UN Women and the SDG Fund, in advancing research and action on gender equality under law and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Penn Law students who are externing at the UN SDG Fund will cover the CSW proceedings and join a growing group of Penn Law students who have served UN Women and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as externs.

Researchers in the seminar on International Women’s Human Rights continue to present their research to UN Women and the OHCHR on the ways in which Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820 and 2242, some of the crowning achievements of the global women’s movements, are central to the prevention of violent extremism.

On March 1, Penn Law partnered with Perry World House, and the Penn Middle East Center to celebrate International Women’s Day. The keynote conversation with Ambassador Moushira Khattab, the former Minister for Family and Population who wrote the first Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Law in Egypt and Aisha Oyebode, co- convener of the Bring Back our Girl’s Campaign was a profoundly affecting testament to the power of women’s narratives to alter the socio-political realities that disempower women.

Over the last two years, Penn Law’s Global Leaders Forum has convened some of the world’s most celebrated women leaders (these interviews are part of a women’s leadership documentary series), including President Mary Robinson, Asma Jahangir, Navi Pillay, Hina Jilani, Zainab Bangura, Tzipi Livni, Irina Bokova, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Dubravka Simonovic, Ambassador Maria Mejia, Moushira Khattab, Lubna Olayan, Indira Jaising, Hillary Clinton (via video) and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

These women all share one thing in common: they are all glass ceiling breakers, but also continue to break barriers and push boundaries. These acts of resistance, not just in political, economic and social life, but in received orthodoxy, are the alchemy to achieving full and equal rights for all women.

Law schools and other academic institutions around the world have long played a role in transforming laws and policies and have been associated with new political, cultural and economic movements. It is time now for law schools to take the lead in the most important movement of the 21st century- the unfinished movement for equal rights for women.

The post The Role of Law Schools in Shaping Global Gender Justice appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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Women Miners Stake a Claim in Zimbabwehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-miners-stake-claim-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-miners-stake-claim-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-miners-stake-claim-zimbabwe/#respond Thu, 08 Mar 2018 12:31:11 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154700 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Dorcas Makaza-Kanyimo (left), acting director of Women and Law in Southern Africa, participates in a workshop on women in the extractives industry in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

Dorcas Makaza-Kanyimo (left), acting director of Women and Law in Southern Africa, participates in a workshop on women in the extractives industry in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Mar 8 2018 (IPS)

Tapiwa Moyo, 40, religiously leaves her home each day when the first cock crows and joins a throng of women who have taken up artisanal mining in her community.

Moyo spends the better part of her day tramping to and fro, carrying sacks on her back packed with river sand that she sifts through in hope of finding flecks of gold. Working with their limbs in muddy water up to the knees, the women see small-scale mining as a path to improve their livelihoods and bolster scanty family incomes.“As a country, it’s imperative that we have a mining policy that is responsive to women’s needs in the sector." --Dorcas Makaza-Kanyimo

“As an unemployed single mother, I’m left with no choice but to find means to fend for my five children who are of school-going age. I have no one to cover my back, as such I joined other women in artisanal mining for a living,” says Moyo.

Mining in Zimbabwe has been largely a men’s affair, but women are slowly making inroads in the sector. Despite the rudimentary methods still used in artisanal mining, women are now wielding picks and shovels alongside men as they scavenge for valuable minerals.

But Dorcas Makaza-Kanyimo, the acting director for Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), Zimbabwe, says more must be done to pave the way for real gender equality in the sector.

“There is need for reduction of costs of mining claims, provision of suitable loan facilities for women to be able to access capital to start mining thereby enabling them to purchase the needed mechanized equipment for their mining operations,” Makaza-Kanyimo told IPS.

Women comprise 11-15 percent of the estimated 50,000 small-scalers miners in the country. A 2017 report entitled Women’s Economic Empowerment in SSB – Recommendations for the Mining Sector, reveals that though the mining sector remains a key driver to economic growth and transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa, rarely has it delivered benefits in reducing poverty and improving livelihoods for the majority of the population.

“Women in particular have struggled to avail themselves of the benefits and opportunities of large-scale mining operations and often disproportionately suffer from the negative impacts of the industry,” the study says.

Dorcas Makaza-Kanyimo agrees. “The Ministry of Mines should run programs that promote women in mining in terms of allocating machines, and allow women to access these loans with minimum requirements in terms of collateral as women don’t have the collateral required by banks,” she told IPS.

WLSA Zimbabwe provides education and outreach to ensure women in the extractives industry understand the legal framework.

“We have been supporting these women on how one can get a legal mining claim, as we know most women are mining illegally as artisanal miners and operating in an unregulated environment. This makes women vulnerable as a lot of things happen in that environment – women can experience violence, rape, be elbowed out by men and cheated by gold buyers when they try to sell their gold,” says Makaza-Kanyimo.

Currently, Zimbabwe is still governed by the 1961 Mines and Mineral Act, which was enacted during the colonial era. Calls are now mounting to ensure the new mining statutes are more gender responsive.

The country is going through a reform process called the Mines and Mineral Bill, which is now in parliament and will be up for its second reading on March 12. However, groups such as WLSA Zimbabwe say it should explicitly provide for women to get an equal share of mining claims.

“As women miners, we need a friendly environment, particularly revising the costs of owning a mining claim. We are unable to own these mining claims because we don’t have the means – that’s why you find many women in [unregulated] artisanal mining,” says Moyo.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day under the theme “The Time is Now – Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives,” gender-responsive policies for women in the extractives industry could play an important role in their economic empowerment and development.

In Africa, where most countries are endowed with rich mineral resources, women remain largely impoverished and their participation in the extractives sector is marginal. Though no countries have a fully gender-balanced approach, South Africa has been praised as a progressive example – and one Zimbabwe should examine as it creates its own comprehensive policy.

“Issues of gender are very much included in the South Africa mining charter, although they still have their challenges on implementation of certain aspects in terms of their mining law, but they have made great strides in terms of achieving gender equality,” Makaza-Kanyimo added.

The majority of women in engage in small-scale artisanal mining, and WLSA Zimbabwe notes that South Africa’s law provides for mining syndicates and consortiums so groups can buy mining claims together.

As such, women miners like the Mtandazo Women Miners Association in Gwanda, Matebeleland North have recorded some success stories. Sithembile Ndhlovu, the founder, has since bought three mining claims of her own. These women have also been encouraging each other by forming savings and loan groups in order to raise money to buy mining claims.

“I was seeing them (men) managing to drive their own cars and feeding their families. I was going to work every day, but could see that the money was not sustaining me and my family,” says Ndhlovu.

The Mtandazo Women Miners Association is made up of 32 small-scale miners and its members have received training on the fundamentals of mining from the Zimbabwe School of Mines. Women miners are strongly encouraged to register and regularise their mining operations, which enables them to have access to loans and possibly equipment that opens up new opportunities.

“As a country, it’s imperative that we have a mining policy that is responsive to women’s needs in the sector. We should stand in solidarity with women who are organizing against destructive extractivism. Women have realized that they are mostly impacted in the extractive industry,” Makaza-Kanyimo added.

Tapuwa O’bren Nhachi, research coordinator at the Center for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), says the Mines and Minerals Bill needs to recognize artisanal mining as an activity which contributes to the economy.

“We need to decriminalize it so women can operate in a free environment without being harassed,” Nhachi told IPS.

Nhachi added his organization has since trained 27 women artisanal miners who are now operating in syndicates and have their own claims.

The post Women Miners Stake a Claim in Zimbabwe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post Women Miners Stake a Claim in Zimbabwe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-lead-fight-housing-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-lead-fight-housing-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-lead-fight-housing-brazil/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 18:24:35 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154687 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, which this year has as a theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives.”

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Cheila Patricia Souza, who participated in the São João 588 Occupation of an old hotel converted into housing for 80 families, stands in front of a collage of photos of the protagonists of the struggle for a home of their own, in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. As in similar battles, most of the people involved were women. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Cheila Patricia Souza, who participated in the São João 588 Occupation of an old hotel converted into housing for 80 families, stands in front of a collage of photos of the protagonists of the struggle for a home of their own, in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. As in similar battles, most of the people involved were women. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO/SÃO PAULO, Mar 7 2018 (IPS)

“Here we empower women and we do not tolerate domestic violence, which we treat as our own, not as an intra-family, issue,” says Lurdinha Lopes, a leader of the squatting movement in Brazil.

She emphasises the rules of the Charter of Principles governing the Manoel Congo Occupation, through which decent housing was secured for 42 poor families, in the heart of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Other rules encourage children to stay in school and prohibit drugs and alcoholic beverages in the hallways and common areas of the 10-story occupied building, she told IPS at the site. The more than 120 residents include 27 children.

Women make up the immense majority and “about 90 percent of the owners” of the apartments in the building, which was a squat when it was occupied in 2007 by the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM).

“Some of the women were escaping abuse from their ex-partners,” others have gone back to school, said Lopes, ahead of International Women’s Day, on Mar. 8, given the theme this year by UN Women: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”

The squatting movement in Rio de Janeiro is less well-known than the one in São Paulo. They occupy abandoned buildings, arguing that the Brazilian constitution of 1988 stipulates that all property must fulfill a social function.

“Rio de Janeiro has a tradition of squatting, but the occupations are not very visible because they occur outside the city centre,” said Lopes, local coordinator of the MNLM, most of whose activists are women.

The Manoel Congo Occupation, named in honour of the leader of a black slave rebellion in 1838, is a milestone for its success in settling poor families in a key central part of the city. The building is right next to the city council, and just 30 metres from Cinelândia, the popular name of a major public square where the largest political demonstrations are held in the centre of Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a miracle to win a place in the capital’s central corridor,” said Elizete Napoleão, a member of the MNLM’s national leadership and one of the heads of the movement in Rio.

The building originally belonged to the National Social Security Institute (INSS).

The 42 apartments have been renovated and have all the necessary amenities. All that remains is to rebuild the ground floor, which Lopes believes will be ready “in a month or a month and a half.”

 Elizete Napoleão (L) and Lurdinha Lopes, coordinators of the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM), lead the Manoel Congo Occupation, which provided a home for 42 poor families in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS


Elizete Napoleão (L) and Lurdinha Lopes, coordinators of the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM), lead the Manoel Congo Occupation, which provided a home for 42 poor families in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

It is the result of a long battle that included numerous street marches, invasions of the Caixa Econômica Federal – a state bank that is an agent of federal government social policy – and occupations of the INSS offices.

After occupying the property, resisting pressure and eviction orders, and winning ownership for social housing purposes, the movement finally obtained financing to reform the building and adapt it for housing.

In 2007, the political scenario was favourable. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, of the leftist Workers’ Party, was beginning his second consecutive term and two years later he would launch the “My House My Life” programme, a new attempt to reduce the housing deficit in Brazil, currently estimated at six million units.

Finding alternatives in vacant buildings in the centre or central neighborhoods of large cities is the approach taken by the MNLM and similar movements.

“In the port area and the centre of Rio de Janeiro there are two or three hundred unoccupied buildings,” Napoleão told IPS.

In the city centre there is access to services, schools, hospitals, jobs and the best places for working as street vendors, said Lopes.

Meanwhile, neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where the poor are generally forced to move, are controlled by drug traffickers and militias – armed bands led by former police officers who control services and demand monthly “protection” payments by merchants.

Women also lead the struggle for housing in São Paulo

Repopulating the centre helps to revitalise run-down historic districts in the big cities of Brazil, said Antonia Ferreira Nascimento, a coordinator of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) in São Paulo.

Her group occupied the old Columbia Hotel in 2010, on Avenida São João, a key reference point in Brazil’s largest city. Of the 80 families living in the hotel, “70 percent are headed by women,” estimated Ferreira, a married mother of three who has been involved in the struggle for housing for homeless families for 24 years.

“Our goal is not just housing itself, but to denounce the housing deficit, demand public policies, ensure rights, health and education for everyone,” she told IPS during a visit to the building, explaining her organisation’s struggle for urban reform.

The facade of the building occupied by 42 homeless families since 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to low-cost housing, its residents celebrate having escaped from the poor outlying neighbourhoods that are at the mercy of the violence of drug trafficking and vigilante gangs of former or off-duty police. Now they have access to public services, schools and better jobs. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The facade of the building occupied by 42 homeless families since 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to low-cost housing, its residents celebrate having escaped from the poor outlying neighbourhoods that are at the mercy of the violence of drug trafficking and vigilante gangs of former or off-duty police. Now they have access to public services, schools and better jobs. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

She estimates that the centre of São Paulo has 20,000 available housing units that have been empty for years and can thus be expropriated by the public authorities to serve “the social interest” of offering housing to those who need it.

Nazaré Brasil, a painter, promotes cultural life in the new community. Her unit is an example of how to adapt a simple hotel room into a comfortable apartment where she and her elderly mother live.

At her initiative, the squat receives artists and activists who stay for a few weeks to learn about the experience and, eventually, reflect it in art or articles.

A larger-scale and more complicated case is the so-called Mauá Occupation, in a hotel near the Luz railway station, where 237 families lived for 10 years under threat of eviction, until they were finally granted permission to live there in November 2017.

The city government agreed with the former owner to purchase the six-story building which has three U-shaped wings, for the families squatting there. The struggle was headed by Ivanete Araujo, of the Movement for Housing in the Struggle for Justice (MMLJ).

There are dozens of activist groups in São Paulo, a good part of them assembled in the Front for Housing Struggles (FLM), which launched an offensive in October 2017, when 620 homeless families occupied eight buildings in and around São Paulo.

Many of the leaders at the forefront of the movement are women, who are the main victims of the housing deficit and the main interested parties in public sector housing policies.

Felicia Mendes, an activist for 40 years, coordinates the FLM on the south side of São Paulo.

She is currently leading the struggle to obtain land to settle 868 families living in precarious conditions in the so-called Parque do Engenho Occupation, actually a wooden shack camp in Capão Redondo, a neighbourhood of almost 300,000 people at the southern end of the city of São Paulo.

Mendes obtained housing in a previous occupation, of Chácara do Conde, also in the south, but closer to the city centre than Capão Redondo.

“In addition to housing, people need to be offered a livelihood,” said the activist who “ran away from home at age 17,” lived in several Brazilian states, had “the privilege of studying theatre” and lost her husband because of her dedication to the struggle for housing, but remains committed to the cause of the homeless.

The post Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, which this year has as a theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives.”

The post Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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#MeToo & Security Council Resolution 1325http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/metoo-security-resolution-1325/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metoo-security-resolution-1325 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/metoo-security-resolution-1325/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 16:39:09 +0000 Mavic Cabrera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154685 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Mavic Cabrera-Balleza is Chief Executive Officer/International Coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders

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By Mavic Cabrera-Balleza
NEW YORK, Mar 7 2018 (IPS)

I am one of millions of women who posted #MeToo on social media. The call to post was like a flash of light that brought back vivid memories of cat calls, male colleagues making passes, lewd jokes, men rubbing their bodies against mine in packed buses and trains and a man in an act of public sexual self-gratification on the subway.

Posting #MeToo was a cathartic moment. I was able to say publicly that these horrible things happened to me and I’m not going to let them happen again! Like many people, I am looking forward to the new day that Oprah Winfrey described in her Golden Globe speech, “when nobody ever has to say “me too” again.” Let us examine how #MeToo can be made obsolete.

The #MeToo campaign is well-known—–at least in the US and Europe and in some major cities of the world. But what is Security Council resolution 1325? Its full name is United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

The number comes from the order in which international laws are adopted by the UN Security Council, the UN body that is responsible for international peace and security. Resolution 1325 is a ground breaking international law that recognizes that women do not participate in decisions to go to war.

All of us—women and men, girls and boys are affected by war. However, because women and girls are regarded as second class citizens in most societies, they suffer more. Resolution 1325 also says that even though women make up most of war victims, they are not passive victims. They are peacebuilders, decision-makers and change agents.

Resolution 1325 calls on governments to adopt national action plans and create enabling conditions so that women are able to participate in all levels of decision-making. The wonderful thing about Resolution 1325 is that it goes far beyond the US and European capitals and major cities.

With efforts to localize its implementation, grassroots women’s organizations in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal—among many other countries—are using Resolution 1325 to organize and mobilize to participate not only in peace negotiations but also in elections, in re-writing constitutions, in policy-making and implementation, and in humanitarian actions.

The power of #MeToo

#MeToo became phenomenal because of its social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram made it easy, fast and safe to say #MeToo! Many women felt safe to go public and say that they were sexually harassed or assaulted because they were not pressured to provide details of the incidents. They can speak about the details when they are ready.

The stigma attached to sexual violence was not very palpable—for once. There is also safety in numbers. Knowing that millions of other women are speaking out and speaking up against the crime and their perpetrators, #MeToo snowballed because women felt that they are not alone; many women are experiencing the same sexual violence and harassment.

Furthermore, when rich, famous and beautiful women name their rich, famous and influential perpetrators, audiences paid attention. #MeToo allowed the world to realize the magnitude of the problem.

Where #MeToo doesn’t make a difference

Anyone can say #MeToo. But can women from around the world really post? Sadly no. Since it is social media-based, #MeToo is mainly an urban phenomenon.

My work takes me to many war-affected places: Surkit, Nepal; Cauca, Colombia; Apac, Uganda; North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of these places are rural communities where electricity is limited; and often, no internet connectivity. When internet is accessible, the connectivity costs more than the family’s monthly food budget.

Social media is not part of people’s daily lives. It is through person-to-person discussions and dialogues that they tackle their problems, manage their community affairs, and get things done.

In addition, weak or absent legal framework hinders the popularization of #MeToo campaign in many developing countries. A study by UCLA’s WORLD Policy Analysis Center found that 68 countries do not have any workplace-specific prohibitions of sexual harassment. Where they exist, such laws are also limited because they only address work place situations. What about schools, farms, churches, hospitals and market places?

Together 1325 and #MeToo can lead to a truly global movement

Localization of Resolution1325 is an implementation strategy pioneered by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) which enables local population especially grassroots women to work with government authorities in policy-making and implementation.

This strategy can help the #MeToo campaign reach remote rural communities. Building on various efforts to stop the use of rape as a weapon of war, grassroots women’s organizations can gather women in local communities and provide safe spaces to talk about the sexual harassments and sexual assaults they have experienced.

Organized women can also work with influential local leaders to denounce sexual violence and declare that it is not part of their culture. The Localization of Resolution1325 and its supporting resolution 1820 on sexual violence in conflict is already enabling this to happen in Colombia, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

GNWP members in these countries work with indigenous leaders, paramount chiefs and community elders to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence, including traditional practices that violate women and girls’ rights such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.

A localized replication of #MeToo in grassroots communities which I imagine to be similar to village or neighborhood dialogues, will factor in social and cultural identifiers such as caste, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and educational background.

These identifiers make women more vulnerable and give sexual harassment and sexual assault a more complex dimension. A response to the problem including victim support programs and preventive measures should take these identifiers into consideration.

Currently, these identifiers do not play out in the #MeToo campaign. In India for example, sexual harassment cases become more difficult to pursue when the perpetrators are upper caste men. In Colombia, there are reports that LGBT people are specific target of sexual attacks by rebels, militias and private armies.

Replicating #MeToo in local communities can also discourage perverted “solutions” and distorted understanding of sexual abuse. In a number of countries, women who are raped are married off to their perpetrators. This allows a rapist to escape punishment for his crime so long as he marries the victim.

The “marry your rapist laws” are gradually being repealed in several countries. #MeToo can spread the word about this and inspire more women to organize campaigns to abolish them; and replace them with more progressive and comprehensive laws that will protect women and girls’ rights.

Combining the broad outreach of #MeToo and the people-to-people solidarity that the Localization of 1325 guarantees can break the culture of silence on sexual abuse. Families and communities who tell victims to keep quiet because it will bring them dishonour will think twice if they hear it is now more common to support the victim and encourage her to report the crime.

In addition, the combination of #MeToo and Localization of 1325 can refute the warped logic by mostly male politicans in developing countries that “western” women’s clothing, lifestyle and values are the cause of the rapes and other sexual assaults.

Grassroots women activists who have been trained in the Localization of 1325 program have challenged such beliefs espoused by some people in their communities. With their knowledge of policy-making and implementation that was also developed through their participation in the Localization of 1325 program, women activists can work with local authorites towards effecive implementation of laws and policies on sexual and gender-based violence.

What needs to be done? Expand #MeToo, expand #Time’s Up, and allow local communities—especially grassroots women to lead the implementation in order to suit local context. I challenge the proponents and supporters of #MeToo and #Time’s Up, in the United States and Europe—including Ms. Winfrey to use their resources and influence to support local efforts in preventing sexual and gender-based violence in developing countries.

I also call on colleagues in women’s rights organizations in developing countries to understand the realities of women in the United States and Europe and strengthen our solidarity with each other. Sexual and gender-based violence in these regions of the world may have different nuances but patriarchy is our common denominator.

If we do this, we are looking at a truly global movement with #MeToo, #Time’s Up and Resolution 1325 as our shared platforms and instrument. Only then “when nobody ever has to say “me too” again.”

The post #MeToo & Security Council Resolution 1325 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Mavic Cabrera-Balleza is Chief Executive Officer/International Coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders

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Rural Women’s Empowerment — the Road to Gender Equality & Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-womens-empowerment-road-gender-equality-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-womens-empowerment-road-gender-equality-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-womens-empowerment-road-gender-equality-sustainable-development/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:07:25 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154668 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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

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Rural women and girls face the brunt of the feminization of poverty and its inter-generational consequences, the impacts of climate change, desertification, extreme weather events and natural disasters.

Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
NEW DELHI, Mar 7 2018 (IPS)

When we celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD) this year we shine the brightest light on the vast majority of women – especially in developing countries that live and work in rural areas and whose empowerment is about bringing the farthest left behind to the forefront of being the prime beneficiaries and drivers of sustainable development, peace and security, human rights and humanitarian action.

Lakshmi Puri

For are not the rural woman and girl the poorest, most discriminated against in a boy-preferred and girl- averse patriarchal society ? Are not rural areas, where sex selection including through female foeticide and infanticide, led to skewed sex ratios in many countries.

Are they not the ones who bear the biggest burden of care and domestic work and time-poverty as they juggle fetching water and firewood from long distances, cooking and cleaning , child bearing and caring for children and the aged with back breaking work in the farms and fields ?

All this while trying to cope with the deprivation of education and decent work opportunities, deficits in healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), electricity , clean cookstoves, transport, finance and other basic infrastructure and services their urban sisters have a better chance of getting .

Rural women and girls face the brunt of the feminization of poverty and its inter-generational consequences, the impacts of climate change, desertification, extreme weather events and natural disasters. They are also the most vulnerable in conflict situations, as migrants and refugees and in humanitarian crisis. Disability rates are higher among rural women and girls , support systems weak or non existent and they are stigmatized to boot .

The irony is that although they are the primary growers of food crops and processors of food, they mostly get to eat last and the least the nutritious food they need to be healthy and strong.

Rural women and girls face the brunt of the feminization of poverty and its inter-generational consequences, the impacts of climate change, desertification, extreme weather events and natural disasters. They are also the most vulnerable in conflict situations, as migrants and refugees and in humanitarian crisis. Disability rates are higher among rural women and girls , support systems weak or non existent and they are stigmatized to boot .

Indigenous women , ethnic and racial and other minorities , young women and elderly women included – face further marginalization and human rights challenges in most rural settings- what we call multiples forms of compounded discrimination and intersectionalities.

They are the most targeted for all forms of violence in domestic life, workplaces and in public spaces. Rural areas are also fertile grounds for harmful traditions and practices like child marriage and child maternity, female genital mutilation (FGM) and cutting, witch hunting, dowry and bride price, honor killings etc .

Rural women and girls rarely have any consciousness about their human rights especially their right to have control over their bodies, their sexuality and reproductive function or their right to choose who and when they marry or when to have children . These decisions are most often imposed on them to the detriment of their health, economic and social well-being and happiness .

Their voices are often disregarded in governance at all levels and their participation and leadership more an exception than the rule. They have little access to justice and redress of their grievances. Gender equal Laws of the land are controverted by parallel / personal / religious laws / norms and custom to disempower them. They seldom have equal access, ownership and control over land, property and other productive assets like finance entrepreneurship and other skills and capacity building.

That is not to say progress has not been made in many parts of the world including in developing countries. This gives hope that rural women’s empowerment is possible and yields rich dividends for all women and girls as well as for the economy , society and democratic governance, peace and sustainable development for all .

Rural women and girls therefore have to be prioritized if we are to implement fully, effectively and in an accelerated way the Beijing Platform For Action for Women , the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG), and the unprecedented and historic Gender Equality Compact that the international community has adopted, especially in the last 7 years .

Take SDG 5 on achieving Gender Equality and empowering all women and girls and its nine targets . For this: – We need to get all governments at all levels – federal , state and local – in Parliament , executive and judiciary and law enforcement- to ensure SDG 5.1 is implemented.
– That means to ensure that there is no discrimination against rural women and girls in law and practice in any way .
– In fact they should enact special laws , policies and measures , programs and schemes to take affirmative action in all areas .

Equally social norms and customary laws that perpetuate discrimination must be firmly opposed and outlawed and a public movement launched with support from all stakeholders especially a vibrant civil society and citizens engagement.

Similarly all our efforts need to be made to prevent violence and harmful practices against rural women and girls their sexual exploitation and to provide for multisectoral, critical services to them. Perpetrators must be prosecuted and victims and survivors must have access to justice.

Rural women’s participation and leadership in local government is progressing but needs to pushed further as much as in national government so that rural women’s interests and needs get reflected in governance and budgeting. They must participate equally with men in public, political and economic life at all levels.

Equal Land and water rights, inheritance and property rights are especially to be targeted as must technology and ICT along with other aspects and attributes of economic empowerment and autonomy. They must have access to both physical and social infrastructure and essential services. Their access to comprehensive sexuality education along with their male counterparts, to contraceptives and to SRHR services and rights is vital.

Overall progress in sustainable agriculture and rural development will contribute to transformation for gender equality and rural women and girl’s empowerment. Finally never before have I felt so strongly about education of rural girls and women and of their families as one major enabler of a big leap to their empowerment.

On my return to India last month, one of my first engagements was to visit a women’s college in the heart of patriarchal rural Haryana as a chief guest at the convocation. As I spoke there to brilliant young rural women graduates and postgraduates in commerce, business administration, science and arts I could feel their confidence and the audacity of their ambition to forge ahead in life and career as empowered individuals.

As my friend and amazing champion of rural women Shamim joined me in exhorting them poetically to throw away their shackles and soar high they retorted with equal gusto and said “We will. We have got wings now ! “. I also leant that education – primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational must be taken to rural areas. As Shamim said “We have to take the torch to where there is darkness !”

The post Rural Women’s Empowerment — the Road to Gender Equality & Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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

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A Fair Reflection? Women and the Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fair-reflection-women-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fair-reflection-women-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fair-reflection-women-media/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 22:34:35 +0000 Audrey Azoulay http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154664 Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

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

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

By Audrey Azoulay
PARIS, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

Information and communication technologies have the potential to open up new worlds of ideas and the media – television, newspapers, advertising, blogs, social networks, film – is increasingly omnipresent in the lives of many of us. In line with one of the major themes of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, UNESCO is assessing how the media and ICTs shape the lives of women.

In the mass media,women are often relegated to archetypical roles, or to peripheral characters. They are often underrepresented and are more likely to be portrayed as passive victims.

When women in the media are reduced to stereotypes it is deeply damaging psychologically. Films continue to fail the simple “Bechdel Test” to measure gender bias, created by satirist Alison Bechdel, whereby two female characters talk to each other about something other than a man.

In advertising – a good litmus test for public attitudes – cleaning products still tend to be pitched to women whilst ads for banks, cars and other major financial investments are pitched to men.

A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO. Credit: UNESCO/Christelle ALIX

Alas, nearly 40 years on, the words of Margaret Gallagher in her 1979 UNESCO report The Portrayal and Participation of Women in the Media (the first major global report on the subject) still ring true: “The media have been observed to lag behind change in the broader social system. For even if, in many cases, the media cannot realistically be expected to initiate change, they can certainly be expected to reflect it.”

In the news media, some progress has been made. But the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project Report made some alarming conclusions: women still make up less than a quarter of the persons featured in newspapers, television and radio news and only 13% of stories specifically focus on women. Fewer than one in five experts interviewed by the media are women, and not only because they are underrepresented in the respective fields of expertise.

This means that major issues that affect women’s lives do not make it into the global conversation: the pay gap, voice and representation in public spheres, the challenges of balancing family with career, spouse and child abuse, the culture of victim-shaming of survivors of rape and harassment…

Part of the root problem is that women are underrepresented in newsrooms: female reporters are responsible for only one third of all stories. Yet, extrapolating from the Global Media Monitoring 2010 report, female reporters are more likely to challenge stereotypes and ensure gender equality in their coverage.

Women still make up less than a quarter of the persons featured in newspapers, television and radio news and only 13% of stories specifically focus on women. Fewer than one in five experts interviewed by the media are women, and not only because they are underrepresented in the respective fields of expertise.
Through our Gender Sensitive Indicators for Media,UNESCO is leading the way, providing guidance for policy-makers, editors and journalists to avoid falling into the pitfalls of archetypal gender roles and ensuring women’s participation. And since 2000, the UNESCO Women Make the News initiative has encouraged newsrooms to promote content related to women and encourage female journalists.

When women’s voices are heard, it makes a real difference to their lives.

One woman, trained in Tanzania through UNESCO’s Local Radio Programme, described how women reporters mounted pressure on the authorities to arrest an accused rapist. This amplified call for justice could no longer fall on deaf ears.

It is not just mass media, the internet has changed the way we use, contribute to and comment on media. It has the power to remedy asymmetries. Unfortunately, the internet often replicates these problems and has, in fact, thrown up new challenges. For example, only 17% of Wikipedia’s profiles relate to women and their achievements, according to the Wikimedia Foundation.

To redress this balance, this Women’s Day we are running a “editathon” with some 100 volunteers who will create and update pages about dozens of women who have contributed to knowledge in the fields of science, culture and education – the core of UNESCO’s work.

Creating information is not enough if it cannot be used. Across the world too many women still cannot unleash the broader potential of mobile technologies to gain access to information.

A recent Broadband Commission report, co-authored by UNESCO, concluded that there were over 250 million fewer women online than men that year due to a widening gender gap in digital skills, which actually exacerbates existing power imbalances. This is why UNESCO supports women and girls access to ICTs through our flagship Mobile Learning Week, which this year will focus on Skills for a Connected World.

Even for those women with access, the internet has opened up a new arena in which they are subject to sexual harassment, rape and violence threats, and cyberstalking. For example, a 2014 study conducted by the think tank Demos found that on Twitter, female journalists receive nearly three times as much abuse as male journalists.

The subject is, as yet, under-researched but UNESCO is working to address online abuse, particularly aimed at women, through our Media and Information Literacy programme.

Young generations are sometimes described as digital natives – skilled in media and ICTs. This International Women’s Day is our chance to find ways to ensure that all women and girls also have the opportunities to become digital citizens, empowered to access and participate equitably in our global knowledge society.

The post A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

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Ensuring Equality & Inclusion Essential to Weed Out Roots of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/ensuring-equality-inclusion-essential-weed-roots-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ensuring-equality-inclusion-essential-weed-roots-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/ensuring-equality-inclusion-essential-weed-roots-extremism/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 18:07:22 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154659 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is former UN Under-Secretary-General & High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

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This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.
 
 
Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is former UN Under-Secretary-General & High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

In the next seven days two of the biggest events that drive the women’s equality agenda will energize all well-meaning people of the world. The first on 8 March the International Women’s Day will assert renewed energy for women’s activism for peace, rights and development.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

The second will be the commencement of the biggest gathering of activists on women’s issues from all parts of the world converging at the United Nations ending March 23 after its two-week meeting.

That gathering is the 62nd annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Many of the participants at these sessions have direct grassroots connections with their feet on the ground and understand the challenges and obstacles – physical, economic, political, societal, cultural and attitudinal – which women face on a daily basis.

Many of us do not know that the Charter of the United Nations, when signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally-agreed strategies, global legal frameworks, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.

A specific part of the preamble of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) continues to inspire me every time I read it. It says that “… Convinced that the full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields…

Another milestone UN resolution adopted by consensus in 1999 – Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace – accords a place of prominence for “equality between women and men” among its eight action areas.

In another resolution in 2011 on political participation UN General Assembly asserted that “Women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from the political sphere, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to health care and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.”

That global reality is dramatically evidenced in the fact that only one in five Parliamentarians is a woman, and there are nearly 40 countries in which women account for less than ten percent of Parliamentarians. This marginalization of women from the political sphere is unfortunate and unacceptable.

As I always strongly emphasize, empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society and the global condition. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts. When women join politics, they want to do something, when men join politics, they want to be something.

Let me at this point say “Bravo, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres!” for achieving full gender parity in his Senior Management Group, highest policy coordination body of the UN chaired by the Secretary-General with 23 women and 21 men. This is first time it has happened in 72 years of the organisation’s existence.

We need to recognize that women’s equality and their rights are not only women’s issues, those are relevant for humanity as a whole – for all of us. This is most crucial point that needs to be internalized by every one of us. We also find the challenges to women’s rights and their equality not only continue, but those also mutate and reappear, undermining any hard-earned progress.

Progress for women in the last two decades has been unacceptably slow. World leaders have not done nearly enough to act on commitments made in the visionary Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the fourth women‘s conference in 1995 . UN Women very rightly underscored that “The disappointing gap between the norms and implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action points to a collective failure of leadership on progress for women.”

To speed up the pace of progress with regard to women’s equality and empowerment, one very forward-looking initiative should be the five-year old joint proposal made by the President of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly and the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 8 March 2012 for the convening of a Fifth Global Conference on Women by the United Nations in 2015, twenty years after the last women’s summit in Beijing.

I believe that the proposal should be revived, revised and receive the urgent attention of the Member States to agree on a fifth world conference in the coming years. Unfortunately and curiously, that joint proposal was cold-shouldered by those very countries which claim to champion women’s rights and equality. No more foot-dragging please

My own experience particularly during last quarter century has made it clear to me that the participation of women in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building assures that their experiences, priorities, and solutions contribute to longer-term stability and inclusive governance. In their inclusion in peace negotiations, women invariably ensure that peace accords address the validity of gender equality in new constitutional, judicial and electoral structures.

That brings me to the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women and peace and security adopted in October 2000 opening a much-awaited door of opportunity for women as they are the real agents of change in refashioning peace structures ensuring greater sustainability.

The main inspiration behind 1325 is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. We would not have to be worrying about countering extremism if women have equality in decision-making enabling them to take measures which would prevent such extremism. Ensuring equality and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness in international relations is essential to weed out roots of extremism.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s words saying “Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.” It is a reality that politics, more so security, is a man’s world.

Reiterating this assertion, UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his message on the last International Women’s Day said very succinctly that “The truth is that north and south, east and west – and I’m not speaking about any society, culture or country in particular – everywhere, we still have a male-dominated culture.”

At a UN high level event a couple of years ago, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – first woman head of state in the continent of Africa – pointed out that “… some of us have broken the glass ceiling” at the same time regretting that “at the current pace; it will take 81 years to achieve gender equality.”

Patriarchy and misogyny are scourges pulling back the humanity away from our aspiration for a better world to live in freedom, equality and justice.

Gender inequality is an established, proven and undisputed reality – it is all pervasive. It is a real threat to human progress! It is a shame that in the second decade of the 21st century widespread discriminatory norms against women remain deeply rooted. Structural barriers and social and economic inequities hinder gender parity in national governments around the world.

A huge inequality persists in areas of women’s political participation, legal discrimination including land rights and inheritance, business ownership, sexual and reproductive rights. Also, eradication of poverty is the first and foremost concern of women since the majority of the poor in the world are women, and the feminization of poverty is a reality in poor and rich countries alike. The increasing militarism and militarization have made these even worse.

Unless we confront these vicious and obstinate negative forces with all our energy, determination and persistence, our planet will never be a desired abode for one and all. I will emphasize in that connection that none of the 17 SDGs will make headway in any real sense, until we make progress in realizing the objective of women’s equality and empowerment.

Notwithstanding some progress of sorts, we are experiencing around the globe an organized, determined rollback of these gains as well as new attacks on women equality and empowerment – yes, in all parts of the world and in all countries without exception.

As underscored by the architect of feminist foreign policy, Foreign Minster Margot Wallström of Sweden, “No society is immune from backlashes, especially not in relation to gender. There is a continuous need for vigilance and for continuously pushing for women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights.”

Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society and the global condition. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts.

I will emphasize that it is not about women against men, but it is reality that when you have more women in public decision-making, you get policies that benefit women, children and families in general.

While women are often the first victims of armed conflict, they must also and always be recognized as key to the resolution of the conflict. It is my strong belief that unless women are engaged in advancing the culture of peace at equal levels with men, sustainable peace would continue to elude us.

It is now recognized that achieving gender equality requires “transformative change.” In this conceptual reorientation, the politics of gender relations and restructuring of institutions, rather than simply equality in access to resources and options, have become the focus of development architecture. We need to realize that equality is no longer only a technical and statistical perception.

It is also an understanding that the views, values and experiences of women and men are different in many ways and, therefore, it is essential that both male and female views are equally heard and recognized in society as a whole, and, of course, in social, economic and political planning and decision making.

Only then can women and men equally and democratically influence progress in society, which shapes the conditions and prerequisites of their lives. Thus, the equal participation and impact of women in society becomes not only their legitimate right, but also a social and political necessity for achieving more balanced and sustainable peace and development.

Women’s equality and empowerment are not only issues concerning women; those are relevant for humanity as a whole – for all of us. This is most crucial point that needs to be internalized by every one of us. At the same time, we should be watchful against the increasing attempts by governments to undermine the critical and unequivocal role of women’s organizations, feminist activists and women human rights defenders.

Before concluding, let me present four concrete proposals which would enhance UN efficacy in making progress in realizing women’s agenda as a whole.

First, UN Secretary-General needs to get involved more pro-actively in getting the Member-States to prepare their respective National Action Plans (NAPs) for UNSCR 1325. A NAP has the potential of a national level commitment of a country to implement women’s equality agenda. His letter addressed to a Head of State/Government requesting action in that regard and instructing the UN Resident Coordinators at the country level to follow up vigorously will bring results.

Second, CSW should embrace implementation of 1325 and provide support for NAPs. CEDAW has done that through its General Recommendation 30. CSW should recognize the enthusiasm of particularly civil society for 1325 implementation. 1325 is an important part of the United Nations global agenda for change for equality. Segregation of women’s agenda is not acceptable on the basis of UN system’s organizational entities.

Third, Member States need to get engaged in convening the Fifth World Conference on Women

Fourth, UN Women should work closely with SRSG for violence against women, SRSG for violence against children as it involves violence against girls and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

Through my life’s experience and inspiration, I believe intensely that we should never forget that when women – half of world’s seven point two billion people – are marginalized, there is no chance for our world to get distributive development and sustainable peace in the real sense.

I join in Foreign Minister Wallstrom’s assertion on last year’s International Women’s Day that “Feminism is a component of a modern view on global politics, not an idealistic departure from it. It is about smart policy which includes whole populations, uses all potential and leaves no one behind. Change is possible, necessary and long overdue.”

I am proud to be a feminist … all of us need to be. That is how we make our planet a better place to live for all. We should always remember that without peace, development is impossible, and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable.

The post Ensuring Equality & Inclusion Essential to Weed Out Roots of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is former UN Under-Secretary-General & High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

The post Ensuring Equality & Inclusion Essential to Weed Out Roots of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:25:38 +0000 Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154651 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Peter Kagwanja is former Adviser Government of Kenya (2008-2013) and currently the President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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New University graduates in Kenya. Credit: Nation Media

By Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

March 8, 2018 International Women’s Day offers another opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and women’s political rights.

True, the annual event, which has been observed for over 100 years, is about women’s rights. Every woman and girl dreams of a world in which they are able to achieve their full human potential, have a life free of harmful social norms and stereotypes.

But the Day is also about reflecting on the stories of sexual exploitation and abuse from Hollywood to politics to the aid world, which needs a whole culture shift. It’s about ending a culture of patriarchy, misogyny and treating women as second class citizens.

However, progress towards gender parity is regressing. Women’s rights are being “reduced, restricted and reversed”, noted the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres in 2017.

As a clarion call to action and to catalyse change towards a more gender-equal world, “Press for Progress” is a fitting theme for International Women’s Day 2018.

Today, we live in a world where global gender gap is widening again for the first time in a decade; where men’s earnings are rising faster than women’s, making the feat of gender equality a pipedream.

In view of the current rate of regression, the Global Gender Gap Report (2017) of the World Economic Forum concluded that the world might take 217 years to reach the 50-50 gender parity.

Key to reversing this trend is by enhancing the role of women in leadership. Parity with women, practically half of the world’s total talent pool, is the best driving force for economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication. According to the UNDP 2016 Africa Human Development Report, gender inequality costs sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year.

Failure to close the gender gap will mean that achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the world we want by 2030 of ‘leaving no one behind’ will be a mission impossible.

In Kenya, gender equality is needed to ensure successful implementation of the ‘big four pillars’ that President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled last year—including expansion of manufacturing; affordable housing; universal healthcare; and food security.

Kenya has made gains in women political empowerment. The naming of six women the new cabinet and several others to senior positions is a step in the right direction. Notable Kenya’s new female cabinet secretaries hold commanding posts traditionally reserved for males, including the Ministries of Defence, Public Service, Foreign Affairs, Health, Education and Lands.

Further, Kenya’s 2017 election revealed a positive shift in attitudes towards women’s leadership. Women were voted in as Governors in three counties (Kitui, Kirinyaga and Bomet) and three others as Senators (in Uasin Gishu, Nakuru and Isiolo).

Three women—Fatuma Duulo (Isiolo Senator), Naisula Lesuuda (MP for Samburu West) and Sophia Noor (MP for Ijara)—were elected in marginalized areas in Northern Kenya.

However, even as tokenism gives way to meritocracy, Kenya is yet to achieve the level of gender equality in countries like Rwanda, which boasts the highest proportion of women representatives in parliament at 63.8%.

Participation of women in electoral politics is still low. Out of the 10,918 aspirants in 2017, only 1,749 (16 per cent) were female. Those elected are still far below the two-thirds threshold set by the 2010 constitution. Today, only 68 (19%) women are elected to the National Assembly, 18 (27%) to the Senate and 82 (6%) to county assemblies.

Political will is needed to implement Article 81 (b) of the Constitution 2010 that requires the two-thirds gender representation in public offices. Twice Parliament has declined to pass the Bill.

We need to change mind-sets in Kenya and globally to dismantle the architecture of gender inequality as a necessary condition to achieve progress and leave no one behind.

According to the UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms. Amina J Mohammed, “our efforts to leave no one behind will be a test of our common vision, resolve and ingenuity. A whole of government and whole of society approach must become our new norm”.

This requires affirmative action and boldly confronting adverse social norms, practices rooted in patriarchy and misogyny, as well as investing in education of girls, women’s health and political empowerment.

The post Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Peter Kagwanja is former Adviser Government of Kenya (2008-2013) and currently the President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

The post Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Everyone Stands to Gain When More Women take Top Positions in Businesseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/everyone-stands-gain-women-take-top-positions-businesses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=everyone-stands-gain-women-take-top-positions-businesses http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/everyone-stands-gain-women-take-top-positions-businesses/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 14:05:47 +0000 Richard Barathe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154642
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 

Richard Barathe
is Director of UNDP’s Regional Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean

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MEXICO: Women Electrical Workers at Centre of Struggle for Jobs. Credit: IPS

By Richard Barathe
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

Women’s role in the workplace is at the heart the International Women’s Day commemoration. Even though it first celebrated a demonstration by women workers in New York in 1857, it was the killing of nearly 150 young women workers in a sweatshop, engulfed by a massive fire in just 20 minutes, which marked the modern celebration of International Women’s Day, in New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on 25 March 1911.

Over a century later, in spite of the huge progress made, the tragedy still reminds us of the essential role of women in the workplace and the urgent need to protect women’s rights—which are human rights.

A quick glance at the situation of women in the workplace today in Latin America and the Caribbean– the region I cover as the UN Development Programme (UNDP)’s regional hub director– shows that women perform 75 percent of unpaid domestic work, one in three do not generate any income, and 54 percent work in informal contexts, with unstable incomes and little social protection. We are depriving businesses, as well as society as a whole, of their talent and financial contribution to the family economy and that of their communities and countries.

Since women make up half of the population of our region, it would make sense for them to have a similar representation in the different sectors of society. It is not only a matter of rights, but also a smart move, because equal representation generates increased benefits for both men and women, socially and economically.

With this in view, just last week I joined over 500 women and men, including business leaders, government and trade union representatives, from 38 countries in five continents who committed themselves to promote gender equality in the workplace. They joined the Chile Call to Action to boost women’s roles in business, during the 4th Global Forum on Businesses for Gender Equality, a joint initiative by the Government of Chile and UNDP, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and UN Women, which took place 27-28 February in Santiago.

The gathering in Chile highlighted that we have an extraordinary opportunity to promote the role of women in the social, political, and economic spheres. This is essential if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) —a series of global goals that include eradicating poverty in all its forms, promoting equitable growth, and achieving quality education for all— within the next 12 years. The SDGs are strongly interconnected and gender equality plays a crucial role to achieve them all.

Businesses must step up and take concrete actions to make this happen—and there’s no time to lose. Gender equality in the labor force could add up to US$28 trillion to the global economy by 2025, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. Also, companies that are more diverse tend to be more innovative; and innovative companies tend to be more diverse. Both factors are key drivers of growth, a recent Harvard Business Review study found.

Moreover, recent studies reveal that increased participation of women on company boards leads to better financial results, as well as higher levels of corporate philanthropy. Nonetheless, women hold less than 5 percent of CEO positions in S&P 500 companies and less than 20 percent on company boards.

The numbers are not any better for Latin America, where, according to ILO, women represent only 4.2 percent of CEOs among the 1,269 listed companies. Also, almost half of the executive boards in the region are comprised exclusively of men with women making up only 8.5 percent of membership on average.

In both rich and poor countries, women bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work, depriving them of opportunities to earn an income, start their own businesses, and participate in public life; therefore, depriving economies of their talents and contributions.

According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that at the current rate of progress it will take at least another 220 years to close this gender gap and achieve equal participation in the workforce.

We can wait no longer.

To help countries take concrete actions, over the last decade, UNDP has supported partners in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Eurasia to certify public and private companies that meet gender equality objectives.

Through the “Gender Equality Seal” initiative, certified companies commit themselves to eliminating the gender pay gap, increasing the number of women in decision-making positions, improving work-life balance, eradicating sexual harassment in the workplace, and increasing the participation of women in traditionally male industries.

Business leaders from several countries, gathered in Chile last week, detailed how they are already reaping benefits from their drive to boost women’s roles in their companies. For example, in Chile, the state owned copper company Codelco has been promoting, through the Gender Seal initiative, mixed groups of men and women in this traditionally male industry, resulting in increased productivity.

Similarly, the National Bank of Costa Rica increased the representation of women in decision-making positions through a leadership program that allowed 70 women to assume managerial positions. Along the same line, Scotiabank of Canada identified potential employees for a “Talent Pool” offering tutorial programs to improve women’s access to high-level positions.

Even though empowering women and girls is key to achieving sustainable development, International Women’s Day still reminds us that gender bias remains a significant obstacle to global progress. Still today, this prejudice is particularly acute in the workplace.

We have an opportunity at hand. And it must be seized. The cost of not allowing women to contribute in the same way as men is too great, not only for companies, but for society as a whole. Companies, both public and private, can be the main drivers of sustainable growth, playing a key role to reduce inequalities and leave no one behind.

The post Everyone Stands to Gain When More Women take Top Positions in Businesses appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:


This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 

Richard Barathe
is Director of UNDP’s Regional Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean

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#MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dotshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/metoo-in-the-global-workplace-time-to-connect-the-dots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metoo-in-the-global-workplace-time-to-connect-the-dots http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/metoo-in-the-global-workplace-time-to-connect-the-dots/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 10:32:59 +0000 Laila Malik and Inna Michaeli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154644 Laila Malik works with the communications team at the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). Inna Michaeli is
with the Building Just Economies initiative at AWID

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Hondurans protest outside a Tegucigalpa hotel where U.S. and Central American officials were negotiating a regional trade pact. Credit: Paul Jeffrey, Courtesy of Photoshare. #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots

Hondurans protest outside a Tegucigalpa hotel where U.S. and Central American officials were negotiating a regional trade pact. Credit: Paul Jeffrey, Courtesy of Photoshare

By Laila Malik and Inna Michaeli
TORONTO/BERLIN, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

Since its explosion onto the social media landscape at the end of 2017, the #metoo movement has continued to gain global traction. Initially centred on powerful Hollywood women breaking decades of silence about sexual abuse and harassment in the industry, the conversation soon spread across global regions and sectors, from #YoTambien in the Spanish-speaking world to #balancetonporc in French.  From China to أنا_كمان# in Arabic. From national governments to universities to international development, the stories are grim, and their pervasiveness has been jarring.

But for the majority of women and LGBTQI people, these stories are nothing new.

Individual instances of abuse and harassment are locked firmly in place by prevailing working conditions and an absence of labour rights protection. Across the planet, women’s disproportionately high rates of informal employment and complex production chains prevent them from organizing to protect their rights

Because global feminists and human rights advocates have been fighting for a more just world for decades, and have long noted that those individual instances of abuse and harassment are locked firmly in place by prevailing working conditions and an absence of labour rights protection. Across the planet, women’s disproportionately high rates of informal employment and complex production chains prevent them from organizing to protect their rights.

When they do, they are threatened with violence and union-busting attacks – often by the powerful, mostly North-based, transnational corporations who employ them. Data on the global workplace harassment and abuse of trans and non-binary people is less readily available, but many countries around the world continue not to even recognize trans and nonbinary identities and rights, and International Labour Organization (ILO) research reveals that LGBT people face discrimination in “access to employment and throughout the employment cycle, and can result in LGBT workers being bullied, mobbed, and sexually or physically assaulted”. People who do not conform to traditional gender norms face even more discrimination than those who can “pass”.

While talk in corporate and international development circles about the importance of women’s economic empowerment is on the rise, it often stops at individual income generation or improvement of self-esteem. Meanwhile, governments often refuse to take measures to protect precarious and informal workers – the majority of whom are women – out of fear of losing their competitive advantage to labour markets in other countries.

The situation of Cambodian women who work in the beer industry is case in point. In Cambodia, young women are hired by beer companies to sell as much of the brand as possible. They work long hours in bars, restaurants, and beer gardens late into the evenings, and are paid by commission or by a set salary per month. Some have contracts protected under the Cambodian Labour Code, and some are unprotected informal workers.

Cambodian beer promoters have been organizing since 2006 for a living wage, and to introduce protections against sexual harassment and violence, long working hours and toxic working conditions in bars and restaurants. During that time, more workers have gained formal status, allowing them to  benefit from the country’s labour code, and minimum wage standards.

But last year, Cambrew Ltd. – the largest brewery in Cambodia, 50% of whose shares are held by the Carlsberg Group – announced a change in working hours that would force women to leave work two hours later in the evening – despite travel safety and childcare concerns – without consultation with workers.

The company also began offering short-term contracts as a way to discourage beer promoters from joining the union, as well as giving union leaders morning shifts where they cannot make additional wages through overtime or larger sales. Ongoing fear of police brutality and dismissal continue to keep trade union activism and mobilization in check.

In other parts of the world, millions of women work under – and fight – similar conditions, upheld by the same logic. 85% of sweatshop workers are women between 15-25 years old, where stories abound of managers calling women workers into the back of workrooms, trying to touch or grope them and threatening to fire them if they refuse.

Around the world, 1 in every 13 female wage earners is a domestic worker, and only 10% of them are employed in countries that extend them equal protection under national labour laws. About 30% of them work in countries that exclude them from labour laws completely. Basically, the threat and exercise of sexual abuse and harassment of women is the cultural grease that keeps profits flowing efficiently across the globe.

 

Young Bangladeshi women raise their fists at a protest in Shahbagh. Credit: Kajal Hazra/IPS

Young Bangladeshi women raise their fists at a protest in Shahbagh. Credit: Kajal Hazra/IPS

 

Time for binding agreements

But feminists and human rights advocates have been, and continue to mobilize for gender and economic justice. In October 2017, 14 organizations came together to request the integration of a gender approach into a long-awaited international legally binding treaty to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses.

It would include assessments of the impact of business activities on women’s lives, ensuring that women can get justice in courts and creating conditions that are safe, respectful, and enabling for women human rights defenders. It would challenge corporate impunity and legally oblige businesses to uphold international human rights standards all over the world.

At the same time, the International Trade Union Confederation and others have been mobilizing with a campaign for the International Labour Union (ILO) to adopt a comprehensive convention on violence and harassment against men and women in the world of work. This convention is a step in the right direction – towards transforming workplaces to become safer and dignified spaces for people of all gender identities.

On March 8, International Women’s Day,  the intergovernmental working group on the binding treaty will  present its report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva – more than 100 years since women garment workers came out to the streets to demand fair working conditions.

Today, working spaces are often still exclusionary, exploitative and unsafe, particularly for women, trans and non-binary people and global south communities, as well as for queer and racialised people, for differently able-bodied people, and for migrant communities. It is time we responded to that long-standing demand for the human rights of all workers to be respected.

No one international treaty will hold all the solution, but it is a reminder that in order to stop violence against women in the workplace, a structural change is needed in our economic and human rights systems, and the struggle is long underway.

 

The post #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Laila Malik works with the communications team at the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). Inna Michaeli is
with the Building Just Economies initiative at AWID

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger/#respond Sat, 03 Mar 2018 22:51:19 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154610 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Adelaida Marca, an Aymara indigenous woman, has been successful at the Rural World Expo in Santiago selling her sought-after premium oregano, which has a special fragrance, grown on terraces in Socoroma, her village in the highlands of northern Chile. Credit: Indap

Adelaida Marca, an Aymara indigenous woman, has been successful at the Rural World Expo in Santiago selling her sought-after premium oregano, which has a special fragrance, grown on terraces in Socoroma, her village in the highlands of northern Chile. Credit: Indap

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Mar 3 2018 (IPS)

Adelaida Marca, an Aymaran indigenous woman who produces premium oregano in Socoroma, in the foothills of the Andes in the far north of Chile, embodies the recovery of heirloom seeds, and is a representative of a workforce that supports thousands of people and of a future marked by greater gender equality.

“They asked me for oregano that was completely clean, without sticks and very green. I achieved that quality at the altitude where we live, at 3,000 metres above sea level,” the 54-year-old family farmer told IPS.

Proudly, she emphasises that her oregano “is an ancestral legacy: the seeds I inherited from several generations of ancestors.”"If I live off the earth, I can survive. But how do I educate my children and grandchildren? The earth bears fruit, but it does not generate money. If I sell what I get from the land raw, it has no value, but if I cook it, it has added value.” -- Juana Calhuaque

“We grow our crops on terraces. Last year I had one hectare planted, but since oregano is fragile at low temperatures, I lost a third of my crop. The Bolivian winter (rainy season) helps alleviate the water shortages,” she said.

Marca named her oregano Productos Socoroma Marka, and presented it successfully at the Rural World Expo, held in Santiago last October, running out of stock in just two days.

For this year’s International Women’s Day, on March 8, UN Women decided to focus on the theme “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.

UN Women stated that “Rural women and their organisations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.”

Rural women make up more than a quarter of the world’s population and 43 percent of the world’s agricultural labour force, according to UN Women.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, according to 2010 data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), women’s make up between 12 and 25 percent of the economically active population in agriculture, depending on the different areas.

The urgent need to empower rural women

Julio Berdegué, FAO representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “rural and indigenous communities have a crucial role to play in food security, first of all for their own peoples. The persistence of hunger is very high in indigenous populations. In many countries it doubles, triples or quadruples the national averages.”

Anamuri, a model for rural producers

"Our first demand is healthy and clean production and the right of each person to consume healthy food," said Alicia Muñoz, of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri), one of the leading Latin American organisations that defends women farmers.

"If you dig into the peasant and indigenous communities, you see the historical wisdom of highly aware women very knowledgeable about healthy foods for humanity," the well-known activist told IPS.

"The role of Anamuri aims at the incorporation of women in society and in organisations and how the production of these women is channeled today, so that society as a whole learns to distinguish what healthy food means compared to a diet with artificial and genetically modified food," Muñoz explained.

The other important demand that mobilises Anamuri, she said, "is decent work for people, which means well-paid and in healthy conditions, and not surrounded by pesticides and chemicals where people get sick.”

And at the global level, the organisation aims at "local markets for the community... for people to not have to go out to a supermarket, and for the peasants themselves to have their local markets and supply consumers in the communities."

"If in each locality there are gardens and grocery stores, but produced by women, peasants and small farmers, this will change. To this end we are coordinating with other rural organisations to get people to understand that peasant and family agriculture will save the planet," she said.

“if indigenous communities are not central actors, there is no way to solve hunger in those places,” he added at the regional headquarters in Santiago.

“In these communities we have an important issue of gender inequality, and inequality in access to land, access to political power within local communities, and access to participation, and that is a sensitive issue because of the norms and customs of native peoples,” he said.

“The empowerment of indigenous women is part of the agenda in the fight against rural poverty, poverty and hunger in indigenous communities,” he said.

For Juana Calhuaque, from Curarrehue, in the southern Chilean Araucanía region, “the land is good, it provides everything. But the problem is you have to sell it in order to have an income.”

“If I live off the earth, I can survive. But how do I educate my children and grandchildren? The earth bears fruit, but it does not generate money. If I sell what I get from the land raw, it has no value, but if I cook it, it has added value,” Calhuaque, who belongs to Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche, told IPS.

She opened a small shop where she prepares meals using mushrooms, including the widely-sought after digueñes (Cyttaria espinosae), pine nuts and other products native to her land, which she harvests or grows herself.

“I prepare the dishes myself. I just need more people to come and that’s why I want to be interviewed on TV,” she said.

Marca, for her part, used the profits from her oregano venture, backed by the governmental Agricultural Development Institute (Indap), to get involved in rural tourism in Socoroma, in the region of Arica, on the northern tip of this narrow, long South American country with a population of 17.6 million.

Oregano “allowed me to improve my living conditions and fulfill my dream of showing the territory through tourism. In Socoroma I am restoring my grandfather’s house, which must be more than 150 years old, to put it at the service of the city.”

One problem that Marca faces is “the labour shortage, because work in agriculture is very hard.” Another is “transportation, because it’s hard to deliver the orders and I cannot send them by plane.”

Oregano “is one of the few plants that produces twice a year, which allows us to rotate crops,” she explained. The next harvest is in March and April.

The market plays in her favour because “the oregano is reaching its real value because it is a natural product, not genetically modified and without chemicals.”

“I grow it the traditional way, in bulk and harvesting by hand” she said.

“The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures is really big here. This contrast enhances the flavour and aroma of our product. And the natural fertiliser I use makes this product stand out from others. My oregano is very aromatic,” she said.

For UN Women, cases such as those of Calhuaque and Marca “guarantee the food security of their communities and generate resilience to climate change.”

The agency warns, however, that “in practically all development measures, rural women are lagging behind rural men or urban women, as a consequence of deep-rooted gender inequalities and discrimination.”

“Less than 20 percent of the people in the world who own land are women, and although the global wage difference between women and men stands at 23 percent, in rural areas it can reach up to 40 percent,” it stated, to illustrate.

The post Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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A Long Way Still to Achieving Gender Equality: International Women’s Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/inter-press-service-op-ed-marking-international-womens-day-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inter-press-service-op-ed-marking-international-womens-day-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/inter-press-service-op-ed-marking-international-womens-day-2018/#respond Thu, 01 Mar 2018 16:45:54 +0000 Akinwumi A. Adesina http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154549 This article is the first of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank

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Women are the backbone of Africa’s economies. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

Women are the backbone of Africa’s economies. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

By Akinwumi A. Adesina
ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, Mar 1 2018 (IPS)

International Women’s Day is a call to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of women and a reminder that globally, we are a long way from achieving gender equality.

Akinwumi A. Adesina

Today, women in Africa lag behind men politically, socially and economically, even though they make up half of the continent’s population. I have always stated that a bird can only fly with two wings. For too long, an Africa dominated by men is the proverbial one-winged bird. For Africa to soar and flourish, it can only do so with the active and equal participation of women.

There are many encouraging signs of progress. Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for example, did a brilliant job as Africa’s first female elected Head of State, and is to be congratulated for her crucial role in transitioning her country out of conflict, and her exemplary behaviour as she calmly handed power to her successor George Weah, following his victory in the country’s Presidential election in 2017. She deserves all the accolades on winning the Ibrahim Prize for African leadership, the first woman, of course, to do so. As Mo Ibrahim himself said, the award sent a “strong message to all African women and African girls that they could help to change the continent”.

And women are starting to do just that. In politics, the number of women elected to African parliaments has increased substantially. From 2005 to 2015, 85% of African nations increased their female legislative representation. Whether in small steps or great leaps, society will always benefit when there are more females in government or parliament to balance the male-weighted scales of political debate and decision-making.

More than half of economically active women in Africa earn their livelihoods in agriculture, and they account for the majority of small and medium-sized businesses. Yet, they constitute a meagre 15% of land use rights and just 1% of land ownership. They receive only 5% of agriculture extension services and less than 10% of available financial credit.
Women are the backbone of Africa’s economies. They are primary producers and processors of food in Africa’s agriculture and rural economies. More than half of economically active women in Africa earn their livelihoods in agriculture, and they account for the majority of small and medium-sized businesses. Yet, they constitute a meagre 15% of land use rights and just 1% of land ownership. They receive only 5% of agriculture extension services and less than 10% of available financial credit.

This state of affairs cannot and should not continue. For reasons of human rights, justice and equity, as well as financial common sense, the African Development Bank advocates for policies that encourage women to work, set up businesses and participate in market development as consumers, producers and entrepreneurs. Significant economic potential is wasted when women are deprived of such opportunities.

We recently commissioned market research to identify the wasted potential in the women’s market. The findings were astonishing, showing an estimated $42 billion gap between men’s and women’s access to finance across business value chains. The financing gap for women in agriculture alone is $15.6 billion!

If women farmers have the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%, lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger. Closing the gender gap could also help increase food security and improve livelihoods for Africa’s growing population.

Gender equality is a key component of our High 5 strategy, a critical area of focus for the Bank’s operations and policies, and a prerequisite for achieving the Bank’s development objectives. As part of our organizational culture and structure, we are mainstreaming gender in all our operations. We also continue to support reforms for gender equality in member countries across Africa. Significantly, a Gender Marker system is being introduced and gender specialists have been deployed in the Bank’s operating regions.

The African Development Bank is also scaling up the production of country gender profiles, as well as developing an online gender portal to obtain, report and share data on gender indicators. The Bank will also launch the first Africa Gender Index in 2018; the first Africa Gender Scorecard; and host the 2018 Multilateral Development Bank Gender summit.

Our Bank’s investments are focused on supporting women and helping to lift them out of poverty. We have developed the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), which aims to raise $300 million in phase I of the program, and leverage up to $3 billion for financial and nonfinancial services to women in business by 2025. The African Development Bank will also publish AFAWA bank ratings based on the quality of lending to women, and to incentivize good lending practices.

There is a long way to go and still much to do, and change must be a collaborative process that cuts across every sphere of society. Each of these strategic measures will help create parity with men and lift millions of women out of poverty and into wealth.

Ultimately, when women are supported, they deliver. When women win, Africa wins. And that is something to work for and celebrate, not just once a year, but every single day.

The post A Long Way Still to Achieving Gender Equality: International Women’s Day appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is the first of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank

The post A Long Way Still to Achieving Gender Equality: International Women’s Day appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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