Inter Press ServiceWomen & Economy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:39:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Political Commitment Key to Health for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-commitment-key-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Ban Ki-moon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159198 One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs […]

The post Political Commitment Key to Health for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, October 30, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Ban Ki-moon
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.

Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs of the working group was Ambassador Macharia Kamau, who was the Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN.

As the world celebrates UHC Day on 12 December 2018, more and more countries across Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal, are taking up the mantle of health for all and providing strong leadership to make the vision a reality.

Health is a fundamental human right. Good health helps people escape poverty, and provides the basis for long-term economic development.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres has said, “When we invest in health – particularly of women and adolescents – we build more inclusive and resilient societies.”

With 11 million Africans being pushed into extreme poverty each year because of high out-of-pocket expenses on health, there is an urgent need to explore innovative models that provide adequate care alongside financial protection.

One country which could provide a blueprint for others to follow is Kenya, where the president is personally invested in delivering UHC.

I forged a strong connection with President Uhuru Kenyatta over our shared commitment to maternal and child health. In 2015, at the UN General Assembly in our presence, a public-private partnership to improve the health of over 3.5 million women, newborns and children in Kenya was announced. Led by the Government of Kenya, it brought together the UN, the private sector and civil society to leapfrog improvements in maternal and child health.

We found a strong advocate in First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, whose Beyond Zero Campaign ensured the scale-up of proven interventions to improve maternal and child health. The government also moved to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities.

These were important first steps.

Now I am heartened by Kenya’s remarkable political commitment to expand UHC to include every man, women and child. Affordable health care is one of the top priorities of President Kenyatta’s “Big Four” development agenda for his second term in office.

To achieve progress at such a rapid pace, Kenya plans to increase health spending by nearly 20% between 2018 and 2021 and strengthen primary health care. The country has set out to design a model that provides quality health care while ensuring it remains affordable.

Approaches are being tested over one year in four counties – each with its particular health challenges. These pilots aim to identify gaps in delivering UHC before nationwide rollout so that lessons can be learned. The acid test will be how quickly the country can go to scale and ensure no one is left behind.

Big data, technology and innovation will be critical to achieve progress at scale. Eight countries in Africa, including Kenya, have committed to use data to identify priority areas for health systems improvement, track and trend progress over time, and enhance accountability by using a new Primary Health Care Performance Initiative tool.

According to a forthcoming analysis by McKinsey, Kenya will need an investment of US$6 billion over and above government resources and individual subscriptions in the next decade to reach government targets for primary health care.

The Government of Kenya and the UN family in Kenya have come together to form the Kenya Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Partnership Platform, which is bringing together civil society and the private sector to catalyze new models for quality, affordable health care delivery. They are seeking new ways to unlock health care financing, which has been identified by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation as a best practice.

The reforms Kenya is pursuing will have a major impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and help stem poverty. Nearly 1 million Kenyans are being pushed below the poverty line every year as a result of catastrophic out-of-pocket expenses.

With such high-level political commitment, I am confident that Kenya will forge its own way with courage and resolve by ensuring the health and well-being of all its citizens.

Ban Ki-moon is a former UN Secretary General, and former South Korean Foreign Minister. He is the co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. The Centre was founded in 2017 and is co-chaired by Ban Ki-moon and by Heinz Fischer, President of the Republic of Austria from 2004 – 2016.

The post Political Commitment Key to Health for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/feed/ 0
Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Tradehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:16:35 +0000 Jessica Neuwirth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159163 Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

The post Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Trade appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

By Jessica Neuwirth
NEW YORK, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was signed in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Following two devastating world wars the United Nations General Assembly set out a brand new vision of human rights that the world could agree on going forward. It is still the benchmark by which most modern-day human rights organisations live.

Mickey Meji, South African sex trade survivor. Credit: wowwoman.com

The first line of the Declaration states in a clear and compelling way that all human beings are born free and equal. In practice, freedom and equality are the foundation from which every other fundamental human right is derived.

The Universal Declaration also recognizes that nobody should be held in slavery or servitude. This includes the many million women and girls who are caught in the devastating sex trade.

Despite the clarity of this issue in the minds of women’s rights advocates and survivors of prostitution some United Nations agencies – including UNAIDS and UNDP, as well as some high profile human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – have ignored this basic tenet and have instead called for the decriminalization of pimping, brothel-owning and patronizing prostitution.

Over the last twenty years the evidence against decriminalizing all aspects of the sex trade has become much clearer. The Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand removed sanctions on the purchase of sex and either decriminalized or legalized pimping and brothel-keeping.

As a result, Germany has been compared to a “giant teutonic brothel” by The Economist while Amsterdam has been backtracking from its failed experiment to protect prostituted persons.

Meanwhile, the growing evidence on what does work points to the Nordic or Equality model, pioneered by Sweden in 1999 and followed by Iceland, Norway, Canada, Northern Ireland, France and the Republic of Ireland.

Israel and others are also looking at this policy approach. It is no coincidence that many of these countries rank highest in terms of gender equality.

While the groups listed above support the right of men to buy sex, they have inexplicably ignored evidence of the Equality model’s success.

We all support the decriminalization of prostituted persons, but it is hard to justify the decriminalization of those who willfully and systematically exploit them.

The fact that gender and other structural inequalities are at the root of prostitution appears to have also been conveniently ignored. When such respected groups officially condone the purchase of sex and the horrifying human rights violations experienced by women trapped in prostitution they create an inexcusable veil of legitimacy, behind which those forced into the sex trade by poverty become collateral damage for maintaining the “rights” of men to buy sex.

Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, both male-led organizations, have in effect disowned the UDHR as it relates to the modern day subjugation of women.

As the South African sex trade survivor Mickey has said, prostitution is not only the embodiment of sexism and violence against women and girls, it is also a deep reflection of racism, poverty and other inequalities: “it is no coincidence that the majority of individuals in prostitution in South Africa are poor black women.”

Let’s be very clear about it: prostitution preys on the vulnerable – mostly women – and continues to exist because men who freely choose to buy sex want to enact their privilege in a dominant and abusive way. I have not heard any counter-argument from Amnesty or Human Rights Watch that negates this basic concept.

We can never achieve any form of equality in society as long as this extreme abuse of power by one human being over another is legitimized as a “commercial transaction”. These organizations should re-read Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

The post Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Trade appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

The post Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Trade appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/feed/ 0
Promoting Gender Equality On Front Lineshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promoting-gender-equality-front-lines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-gender-equality-front-lines http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promoting-gender-equality-front-lines/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2018 10:17:43 +0000 Jessica Neuwirth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158897 Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with front line women’s groups around the world.

The post Promoting Gender Equality On Front Lines appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Hawa Aden Mohamed and girls at The Galkayo Center, Somalia.

By Jessica Neuwirth
NEW YORK, Nov 27 2018 (IPS)

Last week’s announcement by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) of £50m ($64.3m) to help end female genital mutilation (FGM) is great news. The biggest ever financial commitment by any donor, it could be a game changer for the African-led movement to end this abhorrent subjugation of women.

We have yet to see how exactly the proposal may work, but one of the best parts of the announcement was a pledge to fund women on the front lines. This sets a precedent that I hope other governments will follow.

Funding the front lines is an approach that is often talked about but rarely translated into action. For years, I have seen with my own eyes the importance of the work that happens at the grassroots. The Tasaru Rescue Centre in Kenya has done life-saving work to protect Maasai girls at risk of FGM.

In Nepal, the Forum for Women, Law and Development has changed the law to better protect Nepalese women from cases of rape and acid attacks. In South Africa, Embrace Dignity has helped start a movement of sex trade survivors, fueling the conversation to end sex trafficking on the African continent.

However, despite the growing evidence that locally-led advocacy is more effective and more sustainable, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 8% of the $10 billion given in 2014 to non governmental organizations (NGOs) working on the promotion of gender equality in economically developing countries, actually reached groups that were located in those same countries.

In response to the growing gap between the needs of these national grassroots groups and the allocation of resources to larger international NGOs, I set up Donor Direct Action in 2011 to help level the playing field and get more funding to the women’s groups working on the front lines where it will have the most impact. At least 90% of funds we receive to support these groups are re-granted directly to them.

The women who work on the front lines to end violence and discrimination against women get little attention. They are brave, insightful and effective. Their biggest need is almost always core funding, so our grants are largely unrestricted.

These women should be trusted to invest funding where they know it is likely to be most needed. They determine their own priorities for how best to use the funds. We then help build their public profiles, get their issues highlighted in international media, link them with major donors and political leaders, and provide other forms of strategic support.

On this “Giving Tuesday”, I hope that you will join me in supporting one or more of our partner groups, who are carrying out such critical work. Please also take a moment to share this article on social media or with anyone you think may want to help. If you use Facebook please start a fundraiser. Do anything you can do to help get donations where they are most needed.

Together we are changing the lives of women and girls around the world. It is challenging work but it is moving forward. Let’s keep the momentum going!

The post Promoting Gender Equality On Front Lines appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with front line women’s groups around the world.

The post Promoting Gender Equality On Front Lines appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promoting-gender-equality-front-lines/feed/ 0
Gender Inequality is Stunting Economic Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress/#respond Sun, 25 Nov 2018 08:05:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158840 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

The post Gender Inequality is Stunting Economic Progress appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

UN SG Mr. António Guterres-“women’s rights are being, reduced, restricted and reversed”. The Deputy UN Secretary General (DSG) Ms Amina Mohammed and the UNSG. Credit: UN Photo

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 2018 (IPS)

‘Do not let us off the hook; keep our feet to the fire’. These were the words of the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres when he promised to personally lead the global body towards greater gender equality.

As the world observes the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence today 26 November 2018, an independent United Nations system-wide survey on sexual harassment is taking place around all UN country offices.

It is the first of its kind and it demonstrates the UN’s common resolve to eradicate sexual harassment and ensure a safe and inclusive workplace for all personnel across the UN.

The UN initiative is in lock-step with the theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism – ‘Orange the World; Hear Me Too’. The aim is to raise awareness on violence against women and its impact on a woman’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being.

The now-famous ‘MeToo’ movement brought out from anonymity the shame that many women were forced to live with, fearing that to reveal the various inappropriate remarks and unwelcome advances they had endured would jeopardise their careers.

Statistics indicate that more than one in three women across the world have experienced physical or sexual violence, usually perpetrated by an intimate partner. In a study by Edison Research and Marketplace on sexual harassment, 27% of women and 14% of men reported that they had been harassed at some time at their workplace.

Despite the progressive policy commitments and institutional frameworks on gender equality and women empowerment, implementation remains slow and inconsistent. To date, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa has not secured universal ratification.

While the HeForShe campaign has gained high momentum since its launch in September 2014, a lot still needs to be done to bring men on board towards addressing sexual harassment towards women in public and private spaces.

Such campaigns have brought considerable gains towards raising consciousness and self-assurance for women. Increasingly, they are speaking out against the indignities of work-related sexual advances and intimidation.

It is time for another crescendo to rise as we consider the multiple dimensions of gender violence. This is the cost that countries are paying when women are girls are denied the chance to live to their full social and economic potential.

This is the insidious aspect of gender violence that needs the most urgent restitution.

Consider the aspect of employment: according to a World Bank report released this year, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person.

UNDP in its Africa Human Development Report for 2016 says, “Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year

In education, girls still have catching up to do. While Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders, there remains work to do towards demonstrating to young women that they have a future after their education. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment are women.

Estimates indicate that the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages. In addition, 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. However, while evidence abounds that parity with women is the best driving force for economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication, women’s rights are being “reduced, restricted and reversed”, according to UN Secretary-General Mr. Guterres.

There cannot be any illusions about the enormity of the task ahead. Misogyny is a deep-rooted expression of male entitlement that often excuses sexual harassment and violence, even at times by the victims themselves. For instance, a World Bank Gender Data Portal shows that 76.3 per cent of women in Mali and 92.1 per cent in Guinea believe a man is justified in beating his wife if she goes out without telling him, neglects the children, refuses sex, burns the food or argues with him.

Such attitudes are often rooted far beyond the reach of social media hashtags. Shifts in attitude must begin from the home, before we can expect corporate bodies and national governments to enact gender-sensitive legislation.

The UN in Kenya is taking some concrete steps in this direction, starting with the establishment of a coordination network on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in the Nairobi duty station.

Women shouldn’t have to feel ‘grateful’ for opportunities says the UN DSG Amina Mohammed in a recent BBC interview. So true. Ultimately, countries need to begin breaking structural barriers, not just with gender equality as a lofty ideal but as deliberate strategy for sustainable development.

The post Gender Inequality is Stunting Economic Progress appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

The post Gender Inequality is Stunting Economic Progress appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress/feed/ 0
Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Reporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 12:06:35 +0000 Osprey Orielle Lake and Emily Arasim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158422 Osprey Orielle Lake is the founder and executive director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and co-chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. She is the author of the award-winning book Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature.

 
Emily Arasim has served as WECAN International's media and communications coordinator and project assistant since 2014. She is an avid photojournalist, writer and farmer from New Mexico.

The post Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Report appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo work to reforest the Itombwe region as a part of WECAN/SAFECO program. Credit: Stany Nzabas

By Osprey Orielle Lake and Emily Arasim
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 29 2018 (IPS)

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which arrived thunderously in October, concludes that we have only 12 years remaining to transform our energy systems and ways of living to limit the worst effects of climate change.

The IPCC report stands as the loudest clarion call yet from global climate scientists, stating that we must act immediately to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C temperature rise, beyond which, by even half a degree, ecological and social consequences are catastrophically amplified.

As we look around the proverbial room for answers and solutions in this moment of intensified clarity and urgency, it is imperative that we turn to one of the main untold stories of the climate crisis – the story of women leading climate solutions.

Research including Project Drawdown, United Nations reports and programs, and many other studies, all confirm that one of the most important strategies for a sustainable and thriving future is upholding the rights, and supporting the education and leadership of women.

While women are central to solutions, they also are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of global warming due to unequal gender norms, which marginalize women’s voices, and impact women’s economic opportunities, rights, bodies, education, and political power. From natural disasters, to food system stress, to water pollution – women experience the impacts of climate change first and worst.

Frontline women leaders during at WECAN International event at the UN Climate Talks. Credit: Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Additionally, when women advocate to protect the water, forests, land, seeds, climate, and future generations with which they are so intimately linked – they are increasingly experiencing violence and criminalization, including perverse gender-based violations.

Nevertheless, women fight on, and are at the forefront of some of the most innovative and transformational projects being undertaken around the world.

In Ecuador, Indigenous women lead movements to protect their communities and the Amazon rainforest from oil extraction.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women participating in a Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network program are contributing to the reforestation of the Itombwe region as they restore the ecology of the rainforest community, provide for household uses, and protect the ancient old-growth forests.

In many parts of India, rural women are spearheading efforts to protect agriculture biodiversity, build food security, and steward water, soils, and community health.

Frontline women leaders and allies take action outside of the United Nations in New York following a WECAN event. Credit: Emily Arasim/WECAN International

Across North America, indigenous women are taking action at the forefront of the global movement for fossil fuel divestment – and these are just a few of the countless examples of what women are doing to change the current trajectory of the climate crisis.

In order to provide a window into the plethora of solutions that women are engaged in, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network produced ‘Women Speak: Stories, Case Studies And Solutions From The Frontlines Of Climate Change’, an online research and story-telling database designed to shift the narrative on how we build equitable climate solutions.

‘Women Speak’ allows policy makers, journalists, activists, educators, students, and others, to explore thousands of stories by and about global women leaders working in areas such as forest and biodiversity protection; fossil fuel resistance efforts; ecologic agriculture; renewable energy; climate law and policy; education and grassroots movement building; and much more.

As the database illustrates, women have the social capital to work at the local and global level to create the restorative communities and economies that we need for a just transition with democratized, regenerative renewable energy for all.

However, even with all the studies and examples available, women’s climate leadership continues to be undervalued, underreported, and underfunded.

Given the short timeline for action identified by the IPCC report – we simply cannot afford to keep ignoring the direct connection between women and effective responses to climate change. To act on climate with justice and results means uplifting the voices of women – particularly of grassroots women, Indigenous women, and women of color – who have a long history and knowledge of living close to the land and of resistance efforts, and who are offering countless examples of successful community-led solutions.

If we are to truly address the multiple and interrelated crises we face, we also cannot afford to ignore the link between patriarchy, colonization, capitalism, and the historic and ongoing assault of the Earth and women.

Extractivism and exploitation of both women and the Earth are derived from the same ideology of domination and supremacy – and it is imperative that plans to address climate change take into account the root causes of the crisis.

Now is the time of women rising to protect and defend the Earth. Now is the time to vote women into office. Now is time to hear the voices of women and support their efforts.

Now is the time to act on the scientific and experience-based truth that women’s leadership is key to addressing climate change.

The post Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Report appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Osprey Orielle Lake is the founder and executive director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and co-chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. She is the author of the award-winning book Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature.

 
Emily Arasim has served as WECAN International's media and communications coordinator and project assistant since 2014. She is an avid photojournalist, writer and farmer from New Mexico.

The post Women’s Climate Leadership More Vital Than Ever In Light Of Climate Change Report appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/womens-climate-leadership-vital-ever-light-climate-change-report/feed/ 0
Kenyan Women Turning the Tables on Traditional Banking and Land Ownershiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/kenyan-women-turning-tables-traditional-banking-land-ownership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyan-women-turning-tables-traditional-banking-land-ownership http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/kenyan-women-turning-tables-traditional-banking-land-ownership/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2018 15:58:12 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158133 This article is part of a series of stories to mark World Food Day October 16.

The post Kenyan Women Turning the Tables on Traditional Banking and Land Ownership appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Mary Auma feeding one of the cows she bought with credit from her table banking group. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

It was less than eight months ago that Mary Auma and her three children, from Ahero in Kenya’s Nyanza region, were living in a one-room house in an informal settlement. Ahero is largely agricultural and each day Auma would go and purchase large quantities of milk and resell it – earning only a 10 percent profit.

But in February life for the single mother and her children changed for the better when she raised the USD 1,500 required to purchase an acre of land and two cows. The money did not just buy her assets, but financial security and a sustainable income. And she has moved her kids to a nicer neighbourhood. “Eight years ago, none of us had land to call their own. Today, all 24 of us have been able to acquire land through loans received from the group’s savings." --Irene Tuwei, a member of the Chamgaa table banking group.

This is all because two years ago Ahero joined a table banking group. Table banking is a group saving strategy in which members place their savings, loan repayments and other contributions. They can also borrow funds immediately. Table banking groups are growing in popularity across Africa, and can be found in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. In some places they are called  table banks and in others they are known as village banks.

Auma always wanted to own land so she could become self-sufficient.
“With a piece of land, I could live on it, keep cows, chicken and grow vegetables behind my kitchen. This is what I have always wanted but I had no money to start these projects,” she tells IPS.

When you can’t bank on land, bank on the table

While women can freely own and buy land in Kenya, less than seven percent of them have title deeds, according to the non-governmental organisation Kenya Land Alliance.

“You need collateral to secure a loan from a commercial bank and women generally do not have property. They are therefore unable to access credit to buy land. The concept of table banking is highly attractive to women because they loan each other the capital needed to acquire property,” Francis Kiragu, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, tells IPS.

Auma says that the loans from her table banking group are attractive since the only collateral women need to provide are household assets. “It is rare for members to default on loans as members are mainly neighbours and fellow church [goers] who come together in good faith,” she explains.

As more women take over control of their farmlands, this will not only become their source of food but also income. Having an income is important as it increases their purchasing power. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

Increased access to loans means increased access to land

Farming on lands they do not own has made it difficult for women to make transformative decisions and to contribute to sustainable food security. But as informal banking takes on a new form among rural women in Africa, there is a chance that women will start having increased access to land.

“Women are no longer hoarding pennies to share amongst themselves. We meet once a week and in just one sitting, 24 of us can now contribute up to 5,000 dollars,” Irene Tuwei, a member of the Chamgaa table banking group in Turbo, Rift Valley region, tells IPS.

Tuwei says that unlike in the past, women do not have to wait months to receive their savings. Table banking is an improved version of traditional merry-go-rounds where women would save a little from their household budgets and the lump sum would be handed over to one person at a time. This would sometimes mean that if there were 15 members in a merry-go-round it could take 15 months for each member to have their turn in accessing the funds.

Things have, however, evolved from this to a revolving fund.

“In table banks, not a single coin is banked, which gives us instant loans without providing the kind of security banks ask for,” Tuwei says.

Table banking still guided by rules

One of the most visible table banking movements in Kenya is the Joyful Women Table Banking movement that has 200,000 members in all 47 counties, and which claims to have a revolving fund estimated at 27 million dollars. This is said to be currently in the hands and pockets of women across the country in form of loans.

Tuwei’s Chamgaa group is one of 12,000 under this movement.

“These groups are so successful that we now have banks reaching out to us offering special accounts where we can borrow money at very friendly terms. Before, these banks would never accept our loan applications because we did not have assets to attach while applying for them,” Tuwei tells IPS.

Table banking is guided by rules and regulations designed and agreed upon by members. They include how often to meet, with some groups meeting weekly and others monthly.

The rules also include loan repayment periods and also touch on how members should conduct themselves during meetings. Tuwei says that across table banking groups, small misdemeanours such as being late for a meeting can attract a fine of between USD 2 to USD 5. Loans given to members are also charged interest.

Land and independence to call their own 

“Eight years ago, none of us had land to call their own. Today, all 24 of us have been able to acquire land through loans received from the group’s savings,” Tuwei says of her group.

Tuwei was struck by polio at an early age which affected her legs. So she could not move around freely and required assistance to plough her fields.
Since joining the group, she owns three motorbike taxis, some cows, chickens, pigs and an ox plough. She also has plans to open a petrol station near a busy highway soon.

She now also harvests approximately 80 bags of maize cobs, which translate to about 40 bags of grains once shelled. From this, she makes approximately USD 2,300 every harvest season and puts some of this money into her table banking group to boost her savings.

“At the end of the year we share all the money that has been revolving among us for 12 months based on what each member has contributed, additional money gathered from penalties and interest from loans is shared equally,” says Tuwei.

Women need land to combat world hunger

This year’s World Food Day comes on the heels of alarming reports that after a period of decline, world hunger is now on the rise, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

According to FAO, while rural women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture and contribute significantly to the farm labour force and to day-to-day family subsistence, they have great difficulty in accessing land and credit.

Kiragu is emphatic that while the face of farming is still very much female, it will take more women accessing loans, land and information on better farming practices to end hunger, achieve food security as well as improved nutrition.

“To begin with, the agricultural sector is not receiving sufficient financial support. In Kenya, only four percent of private sector credit is going to the agricultural sector,” Allan Moshi, a land policy expert on sub-Saharan Africa, tells IPS.

Women in Kasungu, a farming district in Central Malawi, select dried tobacco leaves to sell at the market. According to FAO, rural women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture and contribute significantly to the farm labour force. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

Women understand land better

According to FAO, women in forestry, fishing and agriculture receive a paltry seven percent of the total agricultural investment.
Even more worrisome is that while women in Africa contribute 60 to 80 percent of food, only an estimated five percent of women have access to agricultural extension services.

“Women understand land even better than men because they interact with the soil much more closely. We are now seeing more women taking charge of the land and not just as laborers, but also as land owners,” says Charles Kiprop, an agricultural extension officer in Turbo. He says that the number of women who own land as well as those who hire acres of land during the planting season is slowly on the rise.

Kiprop tells IPS that women have also become more proactive in accessing key information on better farming practices. “I have been invited by women’s groups to speak to them on farming practices on many occasions. Women no longer wait and hope that we will pass by their farms, they are now coming to us either as land owners or those who have hired land,” he explains.

The worst is yet to come

Participation of women in harnessing food production cannot be overemphasised, particularly in light of the Global Report on Food Crises 2018, which says that the worst is yet to come. The report was co-sponsored by FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

It predicted that dry weather conditions would aggravate food insecurity in a number of countries, including those in the horn of Africa’s pastoral areas in Somalia, parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.

“The March-May rainy season in Kenya was below average, this has affected food production and spiked food prices,” Kiprop adds.

According to the food security report, in the absence of conflict and displacement, climate change shocks were the main drivers of acute food insecurity in 23 out of the 65 countries and territories analysed in the previous 2017 on food crises. African countries were particularly affected.

The report indicates that at least 10 percent of the population in Ethiopia, 25 percent in Kenya, 27 percent in Malawi and 42 percent in Zimbabwe are food insecure. Other affected African countries include Madagascar, Senegal, Lesotho, Swaziland and Djibouti.

According to the report, “the global prevalence of childhood wasting (low weight for height) is around eight percent, higher than the internationally agreed nutrition target to reduce and maintain childhood wasting to below five percent by 2025.”

Women with an income and purchasing power

Moshi tells IPS that as more women take ownership of farmlands, “this will not only become their source of food but also income. Having an income is important as it increases their purchasing power.”

“Rural women will then be able to buy foods that they do not have therefore ensuring that their households are food secure,” he adds.

He notes that the women will also be able to purchase farm inputs.

Tuwei confirms that having an income has had a direct impact on her capacity to adhere to better farming practices.

“Five years ago, I could not afford to hire an Ox plough and would rely on the goodwill of neighbours who would first plough their lands and then come to my rescue. Many times they would come when it was too late to plough and plant in time,” she explains.

Tuwei further says that she and others in her group can now afford to use quality seeds, unlike before when they relied on seeds saved from previous harvests and those borrowed from neighbours.

“With the right tools, women can overhaul the agricultural sector because they have always been the ones involved in the day to day farm activities,” says Kiragu.

And thanks to the success of her milk business, Auma is ultimately glad that not only can she feed her children, but she can provide for their education and thereby their future also.

“Our table banking group is slightly different because we also contribute 20 dollars each week towards the welfare of our children. If a child needs school fees the mother is given a loan specifically from this part of our saving and at the same time she can take the usual loans from the general contribution so that she can keep her other projects going.”

The post Kenyan Women Turning the Tables on Traditional Banking and Land Ownership appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories to mark World Food Day October 16.

The post Kenyan Women Turning the Tables on Traditional Banking and Land Ownership appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/kenyan-women-turning-tables-traditional-banking-land-ownership/feed/ 1
Latin American Rural Women Call for Recognition and Policieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies/#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 13:39:07 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158128 This article forms part of IPS coverage of International Rural Women's Day, celebrated Oct. 15.

The post Latin American Rural Women Call for Recognition and Policies appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Yolanda Flores, an Aymara indigenous woman, speaks to other women engaged in small-scale agriculture, gathered in her village square in the highlands of Peru's southern Andes. She is convinced that participating in local decision-making spaces is fundamental for rural women to stop being invisible and to gain recognition of their rights. Credit: Courtesy of Yolanda Flores

Yolanda Flores, an Aymara indigenous woman, speaks to other women engaged in small-scale agriculture, gathered in her village square in the highlands of Peru's southern Andes. She is convinced that participating in local decision-making spaces is fundamental for rural women to stop being invisible and to gain recognition of their rights. Credit: Courtesy of Yolanda Flores

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

Rural women in Latin America play a key role with respect to attaining goals such as sustainable development in the countryside, food security and the reduction of hunger in the region. But they remain invisible and vulnerable and require recognition and public policies to overcome this neglect.

There are around 65 million rural women in this region, and they are very diverse in terms of ethnic origin, the kind of land they occupy, and the activities and roles they play. What they have in common though is that governments largely ignore them, as activists pointed out ahead of the International Day of Rural Women, celebrated Oct. 15."They play key roles and produce and work much more than men. In the orchards, in the fields, during planting time, they raise the crops, take care of the farm animals, and disproportionately carry the workload of the house, the children, etc., but they don't see a cent." -- JulioBerdegué

“The state, whether local or national authorities, neglect us,” Yolanda Flores, an Aymara woman, told IPS. “They only think about planting steel and cement. They don’t understand that we live off agriculture and that we women are the most affected because we are in charge of the food and health of our families.”

Flores, who lives in Iniciati, a village of about 400 indigenous peasant families in the department of Puno in Peru’s southern Andes, located more than 3,800 metres above sea level, has always been dedicated to growing food for her family.

On the land she inherited from her parents she grows potatoes, beans and grains like quinoa and barley, which she washes, grinds in a traditional mortar and pestle, and uses to feed her family. The surplus is sold in the community.

“When we garden we talk to the plants, we hug each potato, we tell them what has happened, why they have become loose, why they have worms. And when they grow big we congratulate them, one by one, so our food has a lot of energy when we eat. But people don’t understand our way of life and they forget about small farmers,” she said.

Like Flores, millions of rural women in Latin America face a lack of recognition for their work on the land, as well as the work they do maintaining a household, caring for the family, raising children, or caring for the sick and elderly.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) urges governments in the region to assume a commitment to reverse the historical disadvantages faced by this population group which prevent their access to productive resources, the enjoyment of benefits and the achievement of economic autonomy.

“Depending on the country, between two-thirds and 85 percent of the hours worked by rural women is unpaid work,” Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS.

Women engage in subsistence agriculture at more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the highlands of the southern department of Cuzco, in the Andes of Peru, in the municipality of Cusipata. With the support of nongovernmental organisations, they have built greenhouses that allow them to produce a range of vegetables despite the inclement weather. Credit: Janet Nina/IPS

Women engage in subsistence agriculture at more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the highlands of the southern department of Cuzco, in the Andes of Peru, in the municipality of Cusipata. With the support of nongovernmental organisations, they have built greenhouses that allow them to produce a range of vegetables despite the inclement weather. Credit: Janet Nina/IPS

Berdeguè, who is also deputy director general of FAO, deplored the fact that they do not receive payment for their hard work in agriculture – a workload that is especially heavy in the case of heads of families who run their farms, and during growing season.

Public policies against discrimination

María Elena Rojas, head of the FAO office in Peru, told IPS that if rural women in Latin American countries had access to land tenure, financial services and technical assistance like men, they would increase the yield of their plots by 20 to 30 percent, and agricultural production would improve by 2.5 to 4 percent.


That increase would help reduce hunger by 12 to 15 percent. "This demonstrates the role and contribution of rural women and the need for assertive public policies to achieve it and for them to have opportunities to exercise their rights. None of them should go without schooling, healthy food and quality healthcare. These are rights, and not something impossible to achieve," she said.

“They play key roles and produce and work much more than men,” the official said from FAO’s regional headquarters in Santiago. “In the orchards, in the fields, during planting time, they raise the crops, take care of the farm animals, and disproportionately carry the workload of the house, the children, etc., but they don’t see a cent.”

“We say: we want women to stay in the countryside. But for God’s sake, why would they stay? They work for their fathers, then they work for their husbands or partners. That’s just not right, it’s not right!” exclaimed Berdegué, before stressing the need to stop justifying that rural women go unpaid, because it stands in the way of their economic autonomy.

He explained that not having their own income, or the fact that the income they generate with the fruit of their work is then managed by men, places rural women in a position of less power in their families, their communities, the market and society as a whole.

“Imagine if it was the other way around, that they would tell men: you work, but you will not receive a cent. We would have staged a revolution by now. But we’ve gotten used to the fact that for rural women that’s fine because it’s the home, it’s the family,” Berdegué said.

The FAO regional representative called on countries to become aware of this reality and to fine-tune policies to combat the discrimination.

A global workload greater than that of men, economic insecurity, reduced access to resources such as land, water, seeds, credit, training and technical assistance are some of the common problems faced by rural women in Latin America, whether they are farmers, gatherers or wage-earners, according to the Atlas of Rural Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, published in 2017 by FAO.

But even in these circumstances, they are protagonists of change, as in the growth of rural women’s trade unions in the agro-export sector.

Afro-descendant Adela Torres (white t-shirt, front), secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintraingro) in the banana region of Urabá, in the Colombian department of Antioquia, sits on the floor during a meeting of women members of the union. Credit: Courtesy of Sintrainagro

Afro-descendant Adela Torres (white t-shirt, L-C, front), secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintrainagro) in the banana region of Urabá, in the Colombian department of Antioquia, sits on the floor during a meeting of women members of the union. Credit: Courtesy of Sintrainagro

With the increased sale of non-traditional products to international markets, such as flowers, fruit and vegetables, women have swelled this sector, says another regional study, although often in precarious conditions and with standards that do not ensure decent work.

Trade unions fight exploitative conditions

But trade unions are fighting exploitative labour conditions. A black woman from Colombia, Adela Torres, is an example of this struggle.

Since childhood and following the family tradition, she worked on a banana farm in the municipality of Apartadó, in Urabá, a region that produces bananas for export in the Caribbean department of Antioquia.

Now, the 54-year-old Torres, who has two daughters and two granddaughters, is the secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintrainagro), which groups workers from 268 farms, and works for the insertion of rural women in a sector traditionally dominated by men.

“When women earn and manage their own money, they can improve their quality of life,” she told IPS in a telephone conversation from Apartadó.

Torres believes that women’s participation in banana production should be equitable and that their performance deserves equal recognition.

“We have managed to get each farm to hire at least two more women and among the achievements gained are employment contracts, equal pay, social security and incentives for education and housing for these women,” she explained.

She said rural women face many difficulties, many have not completed primary school, are mothers too early and are heads of households, have no technical training and receive no state support.

In spite of this, they work hard and manage to raise their children and get ahead while contributing to food security.

Making the leap to positions of visibility is also a challenge that Flores has assumed in the Andes highlands of Puno, to fight for their proposals and needs to be heard.

“We have to win space in decision-making and come in as authorities; that is the struggle now, to speak for ourselves. I am determined and I am encouraging other women to take this path,” Flores said.

Faced with the indifference of the authorities, more action and a stronger presence is the philosophy of Flores, as her grandmother taught her, always repeating: “Don’t be lazy and work hard.” “That is the message and I carry it in my mind, but I would like to do it with more support and more rights,” she said.

With reporting by Orlando Milesi in Santiago.

The post Latin American Rural Women Call for Recognition and Policies appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article forms part of IPS coverage of International Rural Women's Day, celebrated Oct. 15.

The post Latin American Rural Women Call for Recognition and Policies appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies/feed/ 0
G20 Women’s Summit Pushes for Rural Women’s Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:52:59 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158026 Rural women play a key role in food production, but face discrimination when it comes to access to land or are subjected to child marriage, the so-called affinity group on gender parity within the G20 concluded during a meeting in the Argentine capital. The situation of rural women was one of the four themes of […]

The post G20 Women’s Summit Pushes for Rural Women’s Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post G20 Women’s Summit Pushes for Rural Women’s Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/feed/ 0
Entrepreneurial about Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurial-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:00:41 +0000 Hong Joo Hahm http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157901 Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The post Entrepreneurial about Gender Equality appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

By Hong Joo Hahm
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific needs more women entrepreneurs. Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality depend on it, as does the inclusive economic growth needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This drives a new initiative by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, generously supported by Global Affairs Canada, focused on improving women entrepreneurs’ access to finance in our region.

Hong Joo Hahm

Establishing a business can be life-changing. Particularly for women in developing countries where it’s a passport to financial independence: a means of breaking out of poverty. More women in employment gives families financial security. It helps guarantee children a good diet, a solid education and reliable healthcare. And because women employ other women and spend more on their families, women entrepreneurs create more inclusive economies and prosperous communities. Potential GDP gains from gender equality in the workplace are enormous, up to 50 percent in parts of South Asia.

But for all this potential, businesswomen face considerable obstacles in Asia and the Pacific. Representation on company boards is lower than in any other region and women CEOs are precious few. Gender bias runs through inheritance, labour and social security laws. Many women work in the informal economy with no social protection and societal prejudice frustrates women’s entrepreneurial potential. Across Asia, women give up to six hours of unpaid care work a day: thwarting educational attainment and career prospects.

For women wanting to start or expand a business, access to finance is key. 70 percent of women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are underserved by financial institutions in developing countries. Women struggle to borrow in a region where land is required as collateral but where very few are landowners. So women-owned enterprises are consistently smaller and concentrated in less profitable sectors.

To overcome these challenges, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is launching a new initiative with generous financial support from Global Affairs Canada. Its goal: to support financing for women entrepreneurs and innovators, improve their access to information and communication technology (ICT), and create a policy environment in which their businesses can flourish. It will give twenty thousand women entrepreneurs greater access to ICT and finance.

ICT and innovative financing lie at the heart of the initiative. We want to support businesswomen mainstream ICT across business operations; to make their financial management more robust and their outlook more responsive to new technologies. We plan to launch “women bonds” for women entrepreneurs, channeling private sector investment from developed markets to support gender equality in the developing world. We will work with impact investment funds to target women-led investments. And encourage financial technology (fintech) solutions through advice on regulatory frameworks, training to help women access fintech services and new credit lines to support innovators.

Deeper gender analysis of the MSME sector will complement these activities. To inform policies which strengthen women’s rights and access to justice; reforms which update inheritance and property regimes; and legislation which stops credit being extended according to gender or marital status. For such a broad challenge, we will bring women entrepreneurs and policy makers together, to build a gender sensitive response across policy areas and governments.

The case for investing in women entrepreneurs is overwhelming. They are true agents of change whose innovation can lift communities, companies and countries. We are committed to improving their prospects, to unleashing women entrepreneurs’ full potential and putting gender equality squarely at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

The post Entrepreneurial about Gender Equality appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The post Entrepreneurial about Gender Equality appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/feed/ 0
It’s Not Complicated: UN Must Clarify Immunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-complicated-un-must-clarify-immunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-complicated-un-must-clarify-immunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-complicated-un-must-clarify-immunity/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 13:20:59 +0000 Paula Donovan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157787 Paula Donovan is Co-Director of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campign

The post It’s Not Complicated: UN Must Clarify Immunity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Secretary-General António Guterres (2nd right) delivers his remarks at the high-level meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Credit: UN Photo-Evan Schneider

By Paula Donovan
NEW YORK, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

The UN’s youngest entity, UN Women, announced last week that a senior official, Ravi Karkara, had been found guilty of sexual transgressions against an unspecified number of men after a 15-month internal investigation. Newsweek reported that “at least” eight made accusations against him. Karkara’s punishment? Dismissal.

Several of his accusers have gone public, describing how Karkara sexually assaulted and harassed them. One accuser, Steve Lee, alleged that Karkara grabbed his genitals in a Montreal hotel room—clearly, a crime. In announcing the firing, the executive director of UN Women said that Karkara “cannot be protected by diplomatic immunity” and UN Women “stands ready to cooperate with any national authority that decides to investigate this matter.”

So: UN Women conducted a lengthy administrative investigation before announcing it was ready to cooperate with law enforcement.

While the UN has rights as an employer, employers’ rights must never take precedence over criminal matters. Shouldn’t the UN, as a matter of policy, inform victims that potential crimes can be reported to and handled immediately by law enforcement?

Shockingly, it does not. The United Nations has no uniform standard when criminal allegations of sexual abuse are lodged against its personnel. Our Code Blue Campaign’s work with victims in recent cases involving accused UN perpetrators—including Luiz Loures of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Diego Palacios of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)—reveals that different parts of the UN deploy different policies and procedures in a thoroughly ad hoc and inconsistent manner. The only consistent feature is a systemic protection of alleged perpetrators at the expense of victims.

The United Nations is, of course, a distinctive institution that must be permitted to operate on the world stage as a fearless arbiter of international norms. Since the world body’s founding, UN officials have enjoyed “immunity”—codified protections from the willful actions of vengeful localities and governments.

Upon learning of alleged sexual violence by one of its non-military personnel, the United Nations can and should quickly make two determinations.

First, could the allegation in any way be construed as an activity the UN official was conducting as part of his official UN duties? According to a 1946 convention on the “privileges and immunities” of the UN, most UN officials—including Ravi Karkara and Diego Palacios—have “functional immunity,” which means they are only immune from legal process for “words and deeds” committed in service of their UN functions. The UN has affirmed the truism that sexual crimes can never be part of UN functions.

Second, is it possible that the alleged crime could have occurred? The UN has a reasonable responsibility to ascertain not if the incident happened, but whether it could have happened. The UN should determine whether the alleged offender, for example, was in the vicinity of the alleged incident.

Once the UN has determined that the alleged act could have occurred and the alleged perpetrator is not protected by UN immunity, the UN must stand aside and let the national authorities of the country where the alleged crime took place do their job. Law enforcement and legal systems must be allowed to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute. Such are the necessary protocols of justice worldwide.

It must be emphasized: This does not currently happen. In sexual abuse cases, the UN routinely misapplies immunity to hinder police investigations of its accused personnel.

Take the case of UNFPA’s Palacios. After a woman named Prashanti Tiwari filed a criminal sexual assault complaint against Palacios in early 2018, the UN asserted immunity. The police investigation stalled while the UN conducted a months-long internal investigation. Because Ms. Tiwari persisted, the police investigation is now resuming, but only haltingly and with continued UN interference.

The UN takes advantage of widespread, and wrongheaded, assumptions about UN immunity, which is imbued with an almost mystical power in the public mind. The notion that a UN official cannot be arrested is so deeply embedded that the Indian government had to ask the UN for official “clarification.” (It received such clarification in writing—from the accused, Diego Palacios, the senior UNFPA official in India—who declared himself immune.)

The UN fosters the misapprehension by shrouding its immunity in mystery. It consistently prevents any external oversight of its actions. It refuses to disclose basic information about cases, asserting “confidentiality” over the public’s and victims’ rights to information.

Our thorough examinations of cases reveal that UN policies and procedures are so deficient—so rife with conflicts of interest—that the 193 governments that govern the bureaucracy must undertake a radical overhaul and pay no more heed to avowals of “zero tolerance” from the Secretary-General.

As a necessary first step, UN Member States must temporarily impanel impartial experts—not employees—to oversee the UN’s responses to claims of sexual exploitation and abuse across all parts of the UN.

It would monitor every step taken in real time, from receipt of each claim, through fact-finding and investigation, to the final outcome. We submit that a “Temporary Independent Oversight Panel,” reporting directly to Member States, could be well placed to gauge the level of the organization’s problems and make expert recommendations on the UN bureaucracy’s policies and procedures.

The UN should not be making headlines for impeding law enforcement investigations of accused sexual predators within its own ranks. It should leave criminal justice where it belongs, in the hands of national authorities, and make headlines instead for solving the grave crises that are rending the planet.

The post It’s Not Complicated: UN Must Clarify Immunity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Paula Donovan is Co-Director of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campign

The post It’s Not Complicated: UN Must Clarify Immunity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-complicated-un-must-clarify-immunity/feed/ 0
Ethiopian Domestic Workers Battle for Survival in Saudi Arabiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:08:47 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157714 Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says. For nearly a decade, she lived and worked […]

The post Ethiopian Domestic Workers Battle for Survival in Saudi Arabia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

African refugees await news of their work and residency visa applicatiosn in Lavinsky Park near the Tel Aviv, Israel. Credit: Zack Baddorf/ZUMA Press / IPS

By Rabiya Jaffery
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says.

For nearly a decade, she lived and worked as an undocumented domestic worker employed by a Saudi family until she was deported in 2017.

“The rules on keeping workers who don’t have their papers are getting stricter and the family I worked for were scared they would have to pay heavy fines,” she explains. “They knew someone who had to pay penalty for keeping undocumented help and I guess they got scared – but didn’t want to pay for my sponsorship either so they sent me back.”

Marjani is now living in Bahir Dar, a city in Ethiopia, and describes her life back home as “hopeless”.

“My children aren’t even close to me anymore – I was just someone who would send them money and speak on the phone every now and then for so long,” she says. “And most of my family has been killed in political protests or are in military camps now – it is all futile.”

Marjani was one of the reportedly 5 million undocumented migrants living in Saudi Arabia – a country with an official population of 33 million.

“For the most part – the authorities had turned a blind eye to them,” says Abdullah Harith, a migrant lawyer working in the Gulf countries. “Every few years there would be a couple of crackdowns and some people would be deported back – but overall for decades, the millions of undocumented migrants – some who have been living in the country for generations at this point – were just overlooked.”

But this leniency have changed radically recently as the Kingdom is now actively seeking to deport them as part of its new economic reforms agenda.

A campaign called “Nation Without Violators” was launched in 2017 that was to “progress to deport foreign workers illegally staying in violation of residence, labor, and border regulations of the Kingdom”.

“A 90-day amnesty began in March 2017 that allowed undocumented migrants to finalize their status and leave the country without any penalties,” says Harith.

The amnesty was extended twice and, according to official statistics, at least 800 violators per day were voluntarily deported during the 9 month period.

By the end of the amnesty period, reportedly 45,000 Ethiopians – including Marjani – had registered with the Saudi government and voluntarily returned home.

The remaining estimated 500,000 Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are continuing to live in fear as security authorities are actively continuing to deport undocumented migrants in the country. Violations can result in deportation, a prison sentence, and fines ranging between SR15,000 ($4,000) and SR100,000 ($26,700).

“There are concerns over the humanitarian impacts of returning hundreds of thousands of people back to endemic poverty and potential harm,” says Ayda Gebre , an aid worker for RATSON – Women, Youth and Children Development Programme, a community development NGO based in Ethiopia. RATSON has been working on assisting Ethiopian migrants settle back in the country.

While the role Ethiopian migrants play in helping the country’s economy is significant – in 2015, Ethiopians abroad sent back nearly $4 billion to the country coping with crippling poverty. And while many Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia come for economic reasons, a significant number arrived after fleeing serious abuses at the hands of their government.

During crackdowns on undocumented migrants in 2013 in Saudi Arabia, over 160,000 Ethiopians were returned. Most of the Ethiopians interviewed by Human Rights Watch who were part of the 2013 Saudi expulsions were detained within a week of their return to Ethiopia.

“Most of them were tortured in detention and had, in fact, originally left because of Ethiopian government human rights violations,” says Gebre.

Ethiopia has long been criticized for its human rights violations including its harsh prison conditions, brutality of security forces, lack of freedom of speech, and forced displacement.
“In many other countries, Ethiopians just might be able to claim asylum and potentially be entitled to international protection,” says Gebre.

“But Saudi Arabia has no refugee law and is not a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention, which means that, should expulsions be carried out, many thousands of Ethiopians could be forcibly returned home to face the persecution they fled.”

The post Ethiopian Domestic Workers Battle for Survival in Saudi Arabia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/feed/ 0
2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 09:11:19 +0000 Joep Roest http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157167 Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

The post 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest. 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh

Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest

By Joep Roest
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

On the face of it, the 2017 Global Findex shows that Bangladesh has made great strides toward financial inclusion since the previous Findex was released in 2014.

In that time, the percentage of adults with financial accounts rose from 31 to 50 percent — a gain almost entirely due to a 20 percent increase in bKash mobile money accounts. As remarkable as these advances are, the data also reveal some challenges Bangladesh faces around financial inclusion.

To start with, Bangladesh has a lot going for it that help explain these overall gains. Its economy has done well over the past decade, with annual growth of 5 to 7 percent.

Roughly 20.5 million Bangladeshis escaped poverty between 1991 and 2010, more than halving the poverty rate from 44.2 to 18.5 percent. The increase in spending power likely fuels the growing demand for financial services.

Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion. Why are women being left behind?

The fact that Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (three times more so than India) also works to its advantage when it comes to financial inclusion.

Banks, mobile network operators and other providers can cover large portions of the country’s 161 million people with relatively little infrastructure.

According to Intermedia, the percentage of the population living within 5 km of an access point jumped from 89 percent in 2013 to 92 percent in 2017, putting Bangladesh far ahead of other countries in South Asia.

This is important because studies show that proximity to an agent greatly increases the likelihood of use of financial services.

Bangladesh also enjoys rapidly improving mobile phone and internet connectivity, which has no doubt fueled the remarkable 20 percent surge in mobile money account ownership. In 2010, just 32 percent of the population subscribed to mobile services.

That number rose to 54 percent in 2017. Over the same period, mobile internet connectivity grew from 26 to 33 percent. Of course, there is still a lot of room for improvement. More than 70 million people still do not subscribe to mobile services at all.

Nevertheless, the growing popularity of cell phones is creating new opportunities for a new class of providers like bKash to reach customers with mobile financial services.

For all of these impressive gains, Findex also points to significant challenges for Bangladesh. A stark gender gap stands out. As my colleague Mayada El-Zoghbi discussed in an earlier post, Bangladesh is among a number of countries like Pakistan, Jordan and Nigeria whose overall advances in financial inclusion have left women behind.

In fact, Bangladesh’s gender gap in financial access grew a whopping 20 percentage points from 2014 to 2017. At 29 percentage points, it is now one of the largest gender gaps in the world.

 

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

 

Overall, Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion.

Why are women being left behind? It has often been noted that cultural norms play a role in Bangladesh, limiting women’s access to accounts and agents. While these constraints certainly play a big role, another related factor is the disparity in access to mobile phones.

According to Intermedia, 76 percent of Bangladeshi men own a phone, but just 47 percent of women can say the same. Since most of the country’s gains in financial inclusion have been driven by mobile financial services, this is a significant constraint for women.

Another challenge in Bangladesh, and a likely reason why overall financial inclusion numbers are not even higher, is the fact that its mobile financial services ecosystem has yet to mature to the point where a stream of innovative offerings entice more people to use digital financial services.

Although 18 mobile financial services providers are active in Bangladesh, bKash claims 80 percent market share. Its main competitor, Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited, has enjoyed moderate success but not enough to make much of an impression on the overall market.

As Findex shows, having such a dominant player in the market is a blessing and a curse. bKash has considerably increased people’s access to financial services. At the same time, the lack of competition has stifled innovation. There are few compelling mobile financial services in Bangladesh beyond person-to-person (P2P) transfers, which are the bread and butter of bKash’s business.

The lack of use cases beyond P2P transfers may be one of the reasons why over-the-counter transactions — in which people use agents’ accounts to transfer money so they don’t have to sign up for their own accounts — comprise 70 percent of total transactions, even though they are officially not permitted. People just don’t see good enough reasons to sign up for their own accounts.

Government policy has played a significant role in both driving these advances in financial inclusion and holding them back. On the one hand, the government’s “Digital Bangladesh” initiative and government-to-person (G2P) digitization programs have increased the number of people with financial accounts.

For example, in just six months, payments provider SureCash and the Ministry of Education enrolled 10 million poor women with accounts, into which they receive stipends. Programs like this can help close the gender gap.

Even more encouraging, the government has been exploring interoperable payments infrastructure that works beyond G2P. There is also momentum to clarify electronic know-your-customer requirements, which would make it easier for providers to use biometric identity verification and extend services to the poor.

On the other hand, mobile financial services regulations have been partly responsible for the lack of competition and innovation in the mobile financial services space. The market is open to banks and bank subsidiaries, but not nonbanks in general.

For instance, mobile network operators have a long-standing interest in directly providing mobile financial services to customers but have not been allowed to do so. As a result, bKash sits atop the market with only lackluster competition from banks.

A key question for the future of financial inclusion in Bangladesh will be to what extent FinTech players will be allowed to capitalize on the country’s generally favorable conditions around connectivity, scale and distribution. Another important question is to what extent international actors will shape the market.

Ant Financial’s recent stake in bKash may shake up the entire space. If their entry into other Asian markets is any indication, they take an active approach to their investments and will inject a much-needed stimulus into Bangladesh’s sleepy digital financial services space.

 

The post 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

The post 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/feed/ 0
The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 01:40:08 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157012 “The sun which used to torment us now blesses us,” said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. “Without solar energy our bakery would be closed, we would […]

The post The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeast appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeast appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/feed/ 0
Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/#respond Sat, 30 Jun 2018 02:20:14 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156475 At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”. “We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what […]

The post Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training in production and rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlands appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/feed/ 0
Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 Enrique Yeves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156293 We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted. We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, […]

The post Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Enrique Yeves
ROME, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

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

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

Enrique Yeves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/feed/ 0
Is there Gender Parity & Reverse Sexual Harassment at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2018 12:52:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156237 Faced with growing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year announced a “zero-tolerance” policy to fight harassment in the world body. But UN Women, which was created in July 2010 and dedicated to gender empowerment, has moved one step further– and appointed an Executive Coordinator and […]

The post Is there Gender Parity & Reverse Sexual Harassment at UN? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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

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

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

Dr. Purna Sen, UN Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpts from the interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The post Is there Gender Parity & Reverse Sexual Harassment at UN? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/feed/ 1
We Have Told G7 Leaders to Make Gender Inequality & Patriarchy Historyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 10:20:06 +0000 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Michael Kaufman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156161 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women &
Michael Kaufman is Co-founder, White Ribbon Campaign and Senior Fellow, Promundo institute

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

]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history/feed/ 1
The Spotlight Initiative: Eliminating Violence & Harmful Practices Against Women & Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 15:58:05 +0000 Natalia Kanem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156089 Natalia Kanem is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Population Fund, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women & Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme

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

]]>

Credit: UN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls/feed/ 0
‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet/#respond Mon, 04 Jun 2018 17:30:58 +0000 Dulcie Leimbach http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156051 Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue*

The post ‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

In one of her last public appearances as president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet visits Lo Prado, a community in Santiago, the capital, on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018. Her advice to women and girls who want to lead an exemplary life in our chaotic times? Don’t try to be perfect.

By Dulcie Leimbach
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 4 2018 (IPS)

Michelle Bachelet ended her second term as president of Chile on March 11, 2018. Her first term, from 2006 to 2010, was marked by an ambitious social and economic agenda advancing women’s rights and better health care. Her cabinet of ministers, for example, was composed of an equal number of men and women, as she vowed to do during her campaign.

During her second presidency, Bachelet, 66, aimed higher in reducing inequalities but met more resistance. Nevertheless, her achievements included free education at the university level, especially for poor students; creating a Ministry of Women and Gender Equality; and decriminalizing abortion.

Her tax-reform measures helped subsidize her social reforms, although some experts contend that higher taxes on the rich and corporations have stifled the economy.

Bachelet’s history of being imprisoned and tortured in Chile is well known. In 1973, her father, Brig. Gen. Alberto Bachelet Martínez, was locked up and tortured after the Sept. 11 coup ousting President Salvador Allende, aided and abetted by the CIA.

Her father died in prison from a heart attack in 1974; soon after, Bachelet and her mother, Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, a famous archeologist, were imprisoned and tortured by the Pinochet regime.

Bachelet and her mother sought and won exile first in Australia and then moved to East Germany, where Bachelet worked on her medical degree, married and had her first child.

She and her family returned to Chile in 1979, where she delved into politics a few years later (and separated from her husband). When she first ran for president, she was a single mother of three children.

That’s not all: besides being a pediatrician, Bachelet is a military specialist, having served as the country’s health minister and then defense minister before winning the presidency in 2006.

Bachelet, who between her presidencies was the first executive director of UN Women, is said to be a shortlisted candidate for the next United Nations high commissioner for human rights, though she would not confirm that status.

In an email interview with Bachelet, who has been traveling since March from Chile to Washington, D.C., to Geneva, India and back to Chile, she answered questions about her immediate post-presidential life, which appears to be just as active — if equally public — as her job running one of South America’s most democratic countries.

When Bachelet left office, she was the last female president standing in the continent.

In the interview, she touches on her new role in the World Health Organization; how her role as the first female defense minister of Chile, from 2002 to 2004, enabled her to garner the respect from that sector that she needed to run the country; how her mother has supported her emotionally throughout her life; what advice Bachelet gives to girls and women in our chaotic times; and whether she prays (she is an agnostic, she answered). — DULCIE LEIMBACH

Q. You’ve just become a private citizen after your recent four-year presidential term ended in mid-March; how does that feel and what is a routine day for you now? Are you based in Santiago, Chile’s capital?

MICHELLE BACHELET: I’ve enjoyed going back to my everyday life! However, I haven’t stayed home resting. I’m based in Santiago, I moved back to my house — I lived in another house during my Presidency — and I’ve also been busy opening up my new foundation, which will serve as a space for dialogue and political reflection, without partisan divisions, and that will take on the challenge of articulating a common project with civil society.

Q: Tell us about your new role as co-chair of the High-Level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and chairman of the board of the World Health Organization’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health? What do women and girls need the most globally, health-wise? And what is your strategy for attaining these needs? Will it require politicking?

BACHELET: I am very excited about [my] new role in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. I’ve been working on this issue since the mid-1990s at a national level, and hopefully, will continue to contribute in an international sphere.

The health inequities that prevail all around the world, particularly among women and girls, are not only unjust, they also threaten the advances we have made in the last decades, and they endanger economic growth and social development.

I believe that each country needs to develop an integrated health program for women and girls, strengthening components of the United Nations’ global strategy [Sustainable Development Goals] in early childhood development; the health and well-being of adolescents; the improvement in quality, equity and dignity in health services; and sexual and reproductive rights as a way to empower women and girls worldwide and without leaving anyone behind.

The global strategy establishes ambitious but achievable goals, and I look forward to discussing with states and stakeholders about the required actions needed to ensure that people realize their right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Q. Do you think it helped in your two presidencies that you had been a defense minister of Chile, that you had the trust of the military, especially since you are a woman?

BACHELET: Yes, of course. My family has always been linked to the military world. My father was a general in Chile’s air force and I studied defense issues, focusing on military strategy and Continental defense.

When I was appointed the first woman to occupy the position of Minister of Defense in Chile and in Latin America, my academic and military background was considered an asset and that led to very good relationships with this institution during my time as Minister and during my Presidency.

Q. How did you navigate barriers to your ambitious social and economic agenda in your second term as president of Chile? What personal trait or support did you rely on to deal with barriers in your way?

BACHELET: Since the return of democracy in 1990, Chile has experienced sustained economic growth at an annual average of 5 percent, and became the first South American country to join the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development]. However, this strong growth has not meant the end of inequality in access to health or education.

That is why, when I returned in 2013 to run for my second term, I was determined to carry out the kind of social, economic and political reforms that I believed were necessary to make people’s lives better. In order to do that, we have risked political capital and I believe it was worth it, because we had the courage to put Chile in motion, and with it, we have seen Chile change.

Q. Your mother, Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, an archeologist, reportedly lives with you; how has her presence helped you as president? Did she keep your spirits up in such a demanding, round-the-clock role?

BACHELET: Although I am very close with my mother, at 91 years old, she continues to be very independent and does not live with me! She is an inspiring, strong, dignified and resilient companion, but also a very affectionate and supportive presence, especially during the harder parts of being president. I am thankful for her companionship me during these past years.

Q. Chile is a predominately Catholic country; do you practice that religion? Do you use your faith to manage your life and the political obstacles? Do you pray?

BACHELET: Chile is a diverse society with different religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic realities. I, however, am agnostic and believe in the diversity of opinions and worldviews, respecting people’s freedom of worship. During my government, we protected religious freedom based on equality and respect.

For example, we supported the Chilean Association of Interreligious Dialogue for Human Development, made up of various organizations, including the plurality of religions found in Chile. We also worked on an interreligious code of ethics for dialogue for democratic coexistence. I am certain that the respectful expression of convictions is good for our country, and enriches us as a society.

Q. It’s relatively easy to advise women and girls to persevere in seeking the life they want — in education, work and as a person — but what is the most important thing for women and girls to remember in trying to lead an exemplary life, especially in our chaotic times?

BACHELET: I get asked this question often and my answer is always the same: don’t try to be a superwoman or a super girl, because it will only bring frustrations. Instead, seek the help of someone you can count on. Be assertive but also learn the art of dialogue, learn to communicate. And, of course you should have a sense of humor!

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from our base in the UN press corps. Founded in 2011, PassBlue is a project of the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs in New York and not tied financially or otherwise to the UN; previously, it was housed at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. PassBlue is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

The post ‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue*

The post ‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet/feed/ 0
Why Milk, Meat & Eggs Can Make a Big Difference to World’s Most Nutritionally Vulnerable Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/milk-meat-eggs-can-make-big-difference-worlds-nutritionally-vulnerable-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=milk-meat-eggs-can-make-big-difference-worlds-nutritionally-vulnerable-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/milk-meat-eggs-can-make-big-difference-worlds-nutritionally-vulnerable-people/#respond Fri, 01 Jun 2018 10:05:59 +0000 Silvia Alonso http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156021 Silvia Alonso is a scientist-epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute

The post Why Milk, Meat & Eggs Can Make a Big Difference to World’s Most Nutritionally Vulnerable People appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

By Silvia Alonso
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jun 1 2018 (IPS)

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the growing demands being made of our planet, more and more of us are making lifestyle choices to reduce our negative environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Understandably, this has led to calls for changes to our diets, including reducing the amount of livestock-derived foods, such as meat, milk and eggs, we consume.

However, a new, extensive review of research published today (JUNE1) has found that these foods can make an important difference to nutritional well-being in the first 1,000 days of life, with life-long benefits, particularly in vulnerable communities in low-income countries.

The report, by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security, highlights the unmet potential for food from livestock origin to contribute to better health and nutrition when included in the diets of pregnant and breast feeding women and their infants in resource-scarce settings.

Despite progress to tackle poor nutrition in children’s early years, undernutrition remains high, with one in four children under five in the world reported to be stunted in 2014, according to UNICEF. Deficiencies in key micronutrients, such as iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc, are also common among children and pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries.

The research demonstrates that modest consumption of livestock-derived food in the first 1,000 days of life, particularly where other good sources of micronutrients and vitamins are scarce, is an important option to improve a child’s prospects for growth, cognition and development.

This is particularly relevant in countries in Africa and South Asia where undernutrition is highest and where consumption of livestock-derived products is commonly reported to be very low among poor families.

Livestock-derived foods are among the richest and most efficient sources of micronutrients, macronutrients and fatty acids needed by humans. For example, although spinach has a lot of iron, a woman would have to eat eight times more spinach than cow’s liver to get the same levels, because it is presented in liver in a more ready-to-use chemical form.

Yet, livestock-derived foods represented just 20 per cent of the total protein supply across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in 2013. In North America and Europe, as much as 60 per cent of the protein supply came from meat, milk and eggs.

Based on our findings, global efforts to reduce the consumption of meat, milk and eggs to try to address environmental concerns should not be applied to pregnant and breastfeeding women and babies under the age of two (within the first 1,000 days of life), especially in regions where other sources of protein and micronutrients are not readily available and where diets lack diversity.

What this means is that we must ensure that movements in the Global North towards plant-based diets in the name of environmental sustainability do not lose sight of the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable groups of the next generation, in particular where poverty in the Global South gives people fewer food choices.

The report also shows that the total amount of livestock-derived food required to meet the nutritional needs of all infants in low-income countries throughout their first 1,000 days is low compared to the levels of current total global consumption of these foods.

A more equitable distribution of these foods is therefore needed and should be encouraged for these vulnerable populations, even if measures are taken to slow livestock production in industrialized countries, where many people are putting their health at risk from overconsuming meat and other energy dense foods.

Among our report’s recommendations is a call to increase the availability and affordability of safe livestock-derived foods in low- and middle-income countries when social and cultural norms permit, as well as to better align nutrition, health, livestock and sustainability policies at national and international levels.

Ultimately, the health and environmental concerns of producing and overconsuming livestock-derived foods, particularly in high-income countries are legitimate, but these should not be a reason to limit nutritional choices for the undernourished in poorer countries.

It would be irresponsible, and unethical, to fail to better utilise existing livestock resources to improve the diets of undernourished children and new mothers.

The post Why Milk, Meat & Eggs Can Make a Big Difference to World’s Most Nutritionally Vulnerable People appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Silvia Alonso is a scientist-epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute

The post Why Milk, Meat & Eggs Can Make a Big Difference to World’s Most Nutritionally Vulnerable People appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/milk-meat-eggs-can-make-big-difference-worlds-nutritionally-vulnerable-people/feed/ 0