Inter Press ServiceWomen & Economy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:26:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 When Women Have Land Rights, the Tide Begins to Turnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:01:08 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150836 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s land rights, recurring droughts and creeping desertification

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

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

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

Why the gender gap must close in farm and forest rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Jun 5 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said the LFSP would also ensure the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Very Survival of Africa’s Indigenous Peoples ‘Seriously Threatened’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-very-survival-of-africas-indigenous-peoples-seriously-threatened/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 06:19:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150257 The cultures and very survival of indigenous peoples in Africa are seriously threatened. They are ignored, neglected and fall victims of land grabbing and land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other forms of business operations. These are some of the key findings of a major report “The Indigenous World 2017,” on the state […]

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The Indigenous World 2017. Credit: IWGIA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 3 2017 (IPS)

The cultures and very survival of indigenous peoples in Africa are seriously threatened. They are ignored, neglected and fall victims of land grabbing and land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other forms of business operations.

These are some of the key findings of a major report “The Indigenous World 2017,” on the state of indigenous peoples worldwide, issued on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The report, launched on 25 April by the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGI) during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meeting (24 April—5 May), emphasises that in spite of progress, there are still major challenges facing indigenous peoples in Africa.

Africa is home to an estimated 50 million indigenous peoples, that’s around 13 per cent of the total of 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide. They live in all regions of Africa, with large concentrations in North Africa where the Amazigh people live. In West Africa, there are large pastoralist populations in countries like Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon etc.

There are also large concentrations of indigenous peoples in East Africa with big pastoralist populations in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Hunter-gatherers are found in many countries in central and Southern Africa, though they are smaller in numbers than the pastoralist groups.

In several African states, explains IWGIA, “indigenous peoples are yet to be recognised as such.” Arguments of all Africans being indigenous or that the concept “indigenous peoples” is divisive and unconstitutional are persistently expressed in political statements and continue to shape policies of a number of African countries.

Large-scale dispossessions of indigenous peoples’ lands remain a significant challenge in several African states, says the report, adding that the global drive for raw materials, agro-business and building major infrastructure projects are pushing indigenous peoples to their last boundaries.

A recent African Commission’s report on extractive industries and indigenous peoples reveals the negative impact several mining, agro business and logging projects are having on indigenous peoples’ land rights and access to natural resources, according to IWGIA.

In several cases, tensions with indigenous peoples have led to open conflicts, including loss of lives. In this regard, the African Commission has sent urgent appeals to a number of African governments on serious human rights violations affecting indigenous peoples.

Forced Evictions, Human Eights Violations

Marianne Wiben Jensen

Marianne Wiben Jensen

Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’ senior advisor on Africa and Land Rights, told IPS that Africa’s indigenous peoples are victims of land grabbing and other forms of land dispossession caused by extractive industries, agribusiness and other business operations.

“This leads to forced evictions and other forms of serious human rights violations,“ she said, adding that indigenous peoples in Africa are “marginalised economically and politically and are only to a very limited extent participating in decision-making processes.”

“So they have very limited possibilities of voicing their perspectives and priorities and influencing their own futures,” Wiben Jensen warned, explaining that they typically live in marginalised and remote areas with very limited and bad social infrastructure.

The issue of extractive industries is once again a recurrent and overarching theme in the Indigenous world. Numerous examples show that both states and industries are repeatedly ignoring the key principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Mega infrastructure projects, investments in extractive industries and large-scale agriculture are increasingly posing a threat to the everyday life of indigenous peoples and their ability to maintain their land, livelihood and culture.

At the same time, Wiben Jensen added, indigenous peoples in Africa have proven to be very resilient, and despite the many problems they face and the lack of support they receive from their governments, they are still there and manage to survive in often very harsh environments based on their unique indigenous knowledge of the nature and the natural resources.

“All this is happening amidst an alarming rate of violence and discrimination of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders around the world.”

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes - they want to be heard and respected. Credit: IWGIA

In the Ngorongoro district of Tanzania, indigenous women are getting organised. They don’t want to be kept out of decision-making processes – they want to be heard and respected. Credit: IWGIA

Violence against Indigenous Women, Girls

Wiben Jensen also warned that violence against indigenous women and girls continues to feature several indigenous communities in Africa, including harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early or forced marriage and inaccessibility of good standards on reproductive rights.

Overall, one could put African states into three categories as far as the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights is concerned.

First, some African states that have fully endorsed the concept “indigenous peoples in Africa” and have moved on to adopt legal or policy frameworks aimed at addressing the concerned communities’ particular human rights situation. “These states are still small in number but their potential impact is immense.”

Second, some African states recognise and are willing to redress the historical injustices and marginalisation suffered by certain sections of their national populations that self-identify as indigenous peoples, “but remain uncomfortable with the term “indigenous peoples” and therefore prefer using alternative concepts in their laws or policies.”

Third, there are African states that continue to contest the existence of indigenous peoples in the continent or the relevance of the concept in Africa. There are numerous reasons for this denial, including a misunderstanding of what the concept “indigenous peoples in Africa” means.

The Forgotten Peoples, Reported

The Indigenous World 2017 is IWGIA’s 30th report on the status of indigenous peoples and comes in a special edition on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide and a comprehensive overview of the main global trends and developments affecting indigenous peoples during 2016. It contains 59 detailed country reports and 12 articles on defining global processes in a total of 651 pages.

It also highlights that despite some encouraging national achievements, the country reports in this year’s edition continue to illustrate the great pressures facing indigenous communities at the local level.

Over 70 experts, indigenous activists and scholars have contributed to the Indigenous World 2017, which has been published with support from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Danida, Denmark’s development cooperation.

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Long Way to Go for Indigenous Rights Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:11:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150139 Despite progress, many gaps remain in international indigenous rights protection, said representatives during an annual UN meeting. More than 1000 indigenous representatives from around the world have gathered at the UN for the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). This year’s meeting focuses on the UN Declaration on the Rights […]

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Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Despite progress, many gaps remain in international indigenous rights protection, said representatives during an annual UN meeting.

More than 1000 indigenous representatives from around the world have gathered at the UN for the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). This year’s meeting focuses on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which was adopted 10 years ago by the General Assembly.

“On the day of the adoption of the declaration, there was a major change in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples,” said this year’s UNFPII Chairperson Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine during the opening ceremony.

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Willie Littlechild echoed similar comments, stating that indigenous communities had no voice in the international arena until the 1980s when discussions first began on creating a special instrument to protect indigenous peoples worldwide.

Alongside the Declaration, the UN now has four mechanisms focused on indigenous communities, including UNPFII and a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Coming from no voice to four mechanisms at the UN, I think that is a significant accomplishment,” Littlechild stated.

The 2030 Agenda for Development, adopted in 2015 by the international community, also directly involves and references indigenous issues unlike its predecessor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

However, many challenges remain in implementing and enforcing UNDRIP.

Littlechild expressed concern to IPS over the lack of implementation mechanisms in Canada, stating: “[Justin Trudeau] was the first Prime Minister to even look at the UN declaration…but the task is now in the follow-up.”

After formally adopting UNDRIP in 2016, many have said that Prime Minister Trudeau has violated the document by approving several controversial pipelines without full consent from indigenous communities whose lands would be impacted. One such pipeline is the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline which received support from 40 out of 139 First Nations living along the planned route.

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Article 19 of UNDRIP highlights the importance of such consent, stating: “States are required to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.”

The right to lands, territories, and resources is also among the most important provisions of the Declaration.

Both Aboubakrine and Littlechild highlighted the importance of inclusive discussions and decision-making at the international and state levels to ensure the protection of indigenous rights.

“Some of the traditional knowledge of elders is critical to making sure there’s safe development if that is what is agreed to or to protect the environment,” Littlechild told IPS.

Aboubakrine stressed the need for UN agencies to communicate and coordinate in order to effectively and meaningfully enforce UNDRIP.

“It’s moving along, but I’m just concerned we are not moving along with it,” Littlechild concluded.

Indigenous communities around the world face disproportionately high rates of poverty, poor health, and discrimination. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), indigenous people constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but make up approximately 15 percent of the world’s poorest.

The 16th Session of UNFPII aims to address challenges and highlight progress in indigenous rights at the UN headquarters from 24 April to 5 May.

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Indigenous Peoples – Best Allies or Worst Enemies?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:23:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150134 It all happened on the very same day—4 April. That day, indigenous peoples were simultaneously characterised as fundamental allies in the world’s war on hunger and poverty, while being declared as collective victims of a “tsunami” of imprisonments in Australia. See what happened. Australia must reduce the “astounding” rates of imprisonment for indigenous peoples and […]

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Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

It all happened on the very same day—4 April. That day, indigenous peoples were simultaneously characterised as fundamental allies in the world’s war on hunger and poverty, while being declared as collective victims of a “tsunami” of imprisonments in Australia. See what happened.

Australia must reduce the “astounding” rates of imprisonment for indigenous peoples and step up the fight against racism, on 4 April warned Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.“Traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management” – Graziano da Silva

“It is alarming that, while the country has adopted numerous policies to address the socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal peoples and those from the Torres Strait Islands, it has failed to respect their rights to self-determination and to full and effective participation in society,” she added at the end of an official visit to Australia.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the Australian government policies have failed to deliver on targets in the areas of “health, education and employment and have led to a growing number of people being jailed, and have resulted in an increasing number of children being removed from their homes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Astounding Figures

“High rates of incarceration were described to me as a “tsunami” affecting indigenous peoples. It is a major human rights concern. The figures are simply astounding. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up only 3 per cent of the total population, they constitute 27 per cent of the prison population, and much more in some prisons,” she stressed.

“I visited Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, Queensland, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children constitute 95 per cent of the children detained. Many have been going from out-of-home care into detention,” Tauli-Corpuz said, adding that aboriginal children are seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in contact with the child protection system or to be subject to abuse or neglect.

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

“… I urge Australia to increase the age of criminal responsibility. Children should be detained only as a last resort… These children are essentially being punished for being poor and in most cases, prison will only aggravate the cycle of violence, poverty and crime. I found meeting young children, some only 12 years old, in detention the most disturbing element of my visit.”

The UN expert expressed criticism of the government programme known as the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which was initiated in 2014 and involved a large budget cut in funding for support programmes. “The implementation of the strategy has been bureaucratic, rigid and has wasted considerable resources on administration.”

Tauli-Corpuz called on the government to forge a new relationship with the national representative body for indigenous peoples, the National Congress of Australia’s First People, and restore their funding.

She also expressed concern that the government would not meet targets to close the gap in areas such as “life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment,” and called for a comprehensive approach including specific targets for the “reduction of detention rates, child removal and violence against women.”

Fundamental Allies

That very same day–4 April, the head of the United Nations body specialised in the areas of food and agriculture, was welcoming in Rome a group of indigenous youth representatives from the indigenous peoples’ seven socio-cultural regions of the world.

In his address to the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus meeting in the Italian capital (5-7 April), Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that indigenous peoples are “fundamental allies” in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty “because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.”

Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

In a world in which climate change brings new challenges and uncertainties, we cannot eliminate hunger without the participation of youth, said da Silva, noting that “they must participate in these issues that will affect their children and their children’s children. Let’s work together and do it right now.”

The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity for countries, indigenous organisations and the United Nations to work together to make an impact starting now through to 2030, he added, while reminding that since the creation of its Indigenous Peoples team in 2014, FAO is strengthening its work with indigenous organisations based on a double approach:

“On the one hand, we consider indigenous peoples as fundamental allies in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.

“On the other hand, “we are aware that the lack of recognition of their rights in the management of natural resources and the marginalization they suffer places them in a vulnerable position. I speak above all of your ancestral rights to land tenure.”

Traditional Indigenous Knowledge

Da Silva referred to the indigenous food systems, noting that traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management.

Working with indigenous women’s leadership schools, he added, has enabled fellow indigenous women to gain access to training on rights, food security and other areas of interest such as the use of local seeds, voluntary guidelines on land tenure, guides on artisanal fisheries, etc.

The Rome meeting of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus coincided with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

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How Feminists Have Catapulted Women to National Leadership Roleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/how-feminists-have-catapulted-women-to-national-leadership-roles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-feminists-have-catapulted-women-to-national-leadership-roles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/how-feminists-have-catapulted-women-to-national-leadership-roles/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:51:10 +0000 Torild Skard http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150119 Hillary Clinton did not make it to the top, but Theresa May, the British prime minister, and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, did. Since Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first female prime minister, in Sri Lanka in 1960, one-hundred women have been heads of state or government around the world. How did they get to […]

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Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, campaigning in Valparaíso, June 2013. The author writes that Bachelet has promoted “women-friendly” policies, but not all female leaders do so.

By Torild Skard
NEW YORK, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

Hillary Clinton did not make it to the top, but Theresa May, the British prime minister, and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, did. Since Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first female prime minister, in Sri Lanka in 1960, one-hundred women have been heads of state or government around the world.

How did they get to power and did they make a difference? And how much did feminist activists influence the promotion of female leaders? Plenty and decisively.

The nations of the world reaffirmed faith in the equal rights of women and men when the United Nations was created in 1945, though all the existing states were male dominated and 97 percent of the representatives at the San Francisco conference were men.

My analysis of the conference shows that women from Latin America, headed by Bertha Lutz from Brazil, lobbied successfully for women’s rights, despite opposition from, among others, the sole US female representative, Virginia Gildersleeve, the dean of Barnard College.

Since then, the UN and member states have repeatedly demanded women’s equal participation in power structures, but progress has been slow. When it comes to everyday realities, men in power often seek to maintain their prerogatives, and the higher the position they hold, the greater the resistance to including women.

Torild Skard, the author of “Women in Politics.”

Torild Skard, the author of “Women in Politics.”

In 2017, only 23 percent of members of Parliament are women; 18 percent of government ministers are women; and 5 percent of national leaders are women, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

When I studied the life course of 73 female presidents and prime ministers in 53 countries from 1960 to 2010, in my book, “Women of Politics,” it was evident that national leadership for women was no simple matter.

In all regions, except North Africa and the Middle East, women rose to power but not often, and it happened in about twice as many industrialized nations as in developing countries. To succeed, most of the female top leaders had extraordinary qualifications, including extensive education and professional careers.

In addition, the political systems provided opportunities. The great majority of women rose to power in established or emerging democracies. But if a certain democracy was necessary for women’s political participation, that was not enough.

Worldwide, political institutions were male dominated and women were neither mobilized nor welcomed if there was no pressure from feminist movements to do so. Many women who climbed to power benefited from activists requiring more women in leading positions.

In practice, women used three paths to become national leaders. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi of India, Isabel Perón of Argentina and others in Asia and Latin America took over the political position of a deceased father or husband.

A few, such as Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland and Ertha Pascal-Trouillot of Haiti, came in as outsiders relative to their personal background. But most of the women rose in the ranks of the political parties, gaining a degree of conditional support from male colleagues.

The political parties are crucial actors in democratic systems, representing a link between people and power. But often they represent an obstacle and do not provide support for women. Studies of parties are, unfortunately, rare. It is notable that globally, women hold only 10 percent of leadership positions in political parties.

Top female leaders are usually surrounded by men. At the same time, female politicians are often expected to promote the interests of women. Whatever they do, female leaders are criticized. So what did they do?

I studied to what extent female leaders followed up the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), which has 189 states parties, of which the United States is a signatory but has not ratified it. Here is what I learned:

• Some women, albeit a few, conformed to male-dominated politics and neglected or weakened women’s positions. Such examples were Tansu Ciller of Turkey, Golda Meir of Israel and Margaret Thatcher of Britain.
• About half of the women played a compromising role, trying to look after the interests of both men and women. These included, among others, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Cristina Fernández Kirchner of Argentina, Mary McAleese of Ireland and Merkel and Gandhi.
• Finally, about a third of the women openly opposed male policies and promoted women-friendly measures, such as recruiting women to high positions, ensuring their reproductive rights and establishing special institutions for women. These include Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Helen Clark of New Zealand, Ruth Dreifuss of Switzerland, Tarja Halonen of Finland, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Lidia Gueiler Tejada of Bolivia.

Although most female heads of state and government did not call themselves a “feminist,” they all contributed to strengthening women as political actors by accepting a top position. Thereby, they broke prevailing patterns and, in most cases, showed that women could handle the tasks. In addition, the great majority — some more and some less — made efforts to support women in particular. So, it usually made a difference with a woman at the top instead of a man.

The approaches of top female leaders to winning gains for women was important, but to carry out substantial women-friendly policies they needed support. An active feminist movement pressuring the relevant levers was essential. And the political system had to work democratically, so feminist voters could have an impact on who was elected to political office and which policies were pursued to promote gender equality.

(Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Sri Lanka’s Small Tea Farmers Turn Sustainable Land Managershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sri-lankas-small-tea-farmers-turn-sustainable-land-managers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sri-lankas-small-tea-farmers-turn-sustainable-land-managers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/sri-lankas-small-tea-farmers-turn-sustainable-land-managers/#comments Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:00:01 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149681 As the mercury rises higher, Kamakandalagi Leelavathi delves deeper into the lush green mass of the tea bushes. The past few afternoons there have been thunderstorms. So the 55-year-old tea picker in Uda Houpe tea garden of Sri Lanka’s Hatton region is rushing to complete her day’s task before the rain comes: harvesting 22 kgs […]

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Small tea farmer Kamakandalagi Leelavathi harvests leaves in the Uda Haupe tea estate in Kahawatte, Sri Lanka. She is one of hundreds of farmers who are shunning herbicides and other chemicals. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Small tea farmer Kamakandalagi Leelavathi harvests leaves in the Uda Haupe tea estate in Kahawatte, Sri Lanka. She is one of hundreds of farmers who are shunning herbicides and other chemicals. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
RATNAPURA, Sri Lanka, Mar 28 2017 (IPS)

As the mercury rises higher, Kamakandalagi Leelavathi delves deeper into the lush green mass of the tea bushes. The past few afternoons there have been thunderstorms. So the 55-year-old tea picker in Uda Houpe tea garden of Sri Lanka’s Hatton region is rushing to complete her day’s task before the rain comes: harvesting 22 kgs of tea leaves.

“The rain is very unpredictible. Now there are downpours but it has been very dry the past few months,” says the daily wager who owns a one-acre marginal farm.

Yet at the Uda Houpe tea garden, the situation is much better, says Daurkarlagi Taranga, Leelavathi’s daughter and fellow tea farmer. “We have not been affected as badly as others. Here, the bushes are still full (of leaves) and the ground is moist thanks to the techniques we use,” she says.

These techniques are assorted green actions taken by small tea planters to manage their farmland in an eco-friendly way, explains Alluth Wattage Saman, manager of the Uda Houpe estate. The most important of these actions is minimising use of synthetic weed killer (herbicide), widely viewed as the main reason behind the degrading health of soil and tea plants in the region.

A tea picker in the Bearwell tea estate of Sri Lanka, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A tea picker in the Bearwell tea estate of Sri Lanka, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Climate threat to a lucrative sector

The tea sector of Sri Lanka is 153 years old and remain the largest industry today, providing employment to 2.5 million people. According to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board, the industry counts for 62 percent of all agricultural exports and brings home 1.6 billion dollars in foreign currency each year. Contributing to this huge business is a 400,000-strong small tea farmer community.

However, the lucrative tea economy of the island nation has been witnessing growing environmental challenges – the biggest of them being severe land degradation.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), there is high rate of land degradation across the tea growing region in Sri Lanka. The biggest reason is that farmers here have used synthetic weed killer on the plantations for several decades.

They also paid little attention to protecting the water sources and biodiversity around the plantations. This has gradually affected the health of the soil, decreasing its fertility level, making it more acidic and also causing soil erosion.

While the degradation has affected the entire industry, the livelihoods and food security of the small tea growers are particularly threatened, says Lalith Kumar, project manager at the Tea Small Holding Development Authority (TSHDA) in Ratnapura, a region that produces over 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s tea.

Harvesters in Sri Lanka’s Bearwell tea estate, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Harvesters in Sri Lanka’s Bearwell tea estate, which has adopted sustainable land management along its supply chain. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Greening the Small Farms

The TSHDA is a government agency working with small tea growers in the country. According to Kumar, there are 150 small tea farms (less than 10 acres of land) in the Ratnapura region alone which provide livelihood to about 100,000 farmers. Climate change has worsened the situation with recurring droughts, erratic rainfall, and increasing soil erosion and acidification.

As a result, tea bushes are withering and moisture from the topsoil is evaporating, leaving the soil hardened and plant roots weak and damaged.

To help the tea farmers deal with this, TSHDA is currently working with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on a project to minimise herbicide use in the small tea farms and reverse the processes of degradation by sustainably managing the land.

According to a document by Global Environment Facility (GEF), the funder of the 2.9 million project, the goal is to “improve farm management practices, so that existing production land becomes more productive and forests, rivers, streams and other biologically important land situated on or adjacent to tea production areas are protected from negative impacts.”

A major step taken by the TSHDA is to train the farmers to manage their land in a sustainable way with minimum or no herbicides.

“We have started to train small farm managers in sustainable land management techniques that are simple, yet effective,” Kumar said. A lot of weeds grow around the tea bush, but only some of them are harmful.

“We train them in identifying the weeds and removing the harmful ones either by uprooting or cutting them at the roots. The weeds are then used as a bed of mulch, applied in between the two rows of tea plants. This helps retain the moisture on the land,“ he explained.

Training the Community

Saman, the manager of the Uda Haupe, is one of the 300 small tea growers who have been trained by TSHDA so far. It was an informal, hands-on training, reveals Saman, which included a day-long visit to a progressive and sustainably managed farm – the Hapugastenne tea estate.

There Saman saw small farmers like him managing their land without any synthetic weed killer or pesticides. He also learned to use organic manure, protect the water sources like natural springs within the plantation, as well the shedy trees, so birds and other animals can also survive. Finally, he learnt that the yield of the farm had increased almost by 60 percent since they adopted those techniques.

The visit, says the tea planter, helped him realize “small steps can bring bring big changes in a farm”.

The result has been encouraging: “I earlier spent 35,000 on herbicide every year, now I am saving that amount. My overall profit has gone up to 75,000 rupees,” says Saman, who has shared the newfound knowledge with his workers.

Some Unplugged Gaps

Saman and other small tea farmers in the area like Leelavathi sell their harvest to Kahawatte Plantation, a tea estate owned by corporate tea giant Dilmah. Early this month, the plantation received a Rainforest Alliance certificcation which recognizes that the estate maintains sustainability standards all along its supply chain, including the farms from where it buys the tea. This has already boosted the price of the estate’s produce, but suppliers like Saman are not aware of either the certification or its economic benefits such as higher market value.

“Nobody has told us about this,” Saman says.

Others want the government to help them with monetary incentives to better deal with climatic challenges.

At present, TSHDA offers a 50 percent subsidy to farmers who want to do a replantation on their farm – a complex and costly process that involves complete uprooting of all the tea plants, re-preparing the soil and replanting the saplings.

This is done when the yield in the farm drops dramatically due to either age (normally 30 years) or severe degradation of the land that cripples productivity. However, there are no other subsidies or incentives provided to the farmers right now for adopting sustainable land management – a policy that small tea growers like Leelavathi would like to see change.

“Since the use of the mulch, I began to save 700 rupees every month on herbicide and my total income rose to 15,000. But because of the growing droughts, I have to use most of it on fertilizer. If the government gives a subsidy, it will be very helpful. Or else I may have to migrate to another estate to earn more,” she says.

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New Approach Needed for Peace in Afghanistanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-approach-needed-for-peace-in-afghanistan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-approach-needed-for-peace-in-afghanistan http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/new-approach-needed-for-peace-in-afghanistan/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:41:07 +0000 Jessica Neuwirth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149570 Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organisation which partners with front-line women's groups around the world.

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Afghan women. Credit: IPS

By Jessica Neuwirth
NEW YORK, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

When the United States went to war in Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban’s despicable treatment of women was cited by First Lady Laura Bush as one of the main reasons for going to war. Yet, since that regime fell 15 years ago, the Afghan government has neither included women in the peacebuilding process, nor has it stemmed the endemic rate of violence against them.

2016 was the bloodiest year since the year of the US invasion. While the Taliban has lost power, it continues to operate and other terrorist groups including Daesh have gotten bigger. Afghan women continue to endure “parallel justice” for supposedly “immoral activities”.

Rape, acid attacks, cutting of body parts, stoning, sexual assault, domestic battery, killings and sex trafficking are becoming more common – a situation which Donor Direct Action’s front-line partner, the Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children (HAWCA), deals with on a daily basis.

Afghanistan, the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman educates only 15% of its girls. 60% are married off by age 16. Fatwas have been issued for girls not to attend school and even the small handful of women who managed to enter politics has been targeted. Assassination attempts have been made on women in public service. Political leaders, directors of women’s affairs and police chiefs have been killed in recent years.

The fallacy of liberating women as part of the war cry has turned out to be yet another illegitimate reason for this seemingly never-ending conflict. Afghan women are now dealing with not only an epidemic of violence inside their homes – but also in society in general. The prolonged war has exacerbated this. Overall deaths and injuries of women in conflict have increased over 400% from 285 in 2009 to 1,218 last year.

There was a road less travelled, which may have ensured a different outcome, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Five weeks after 9/11, Jan Goodwin and I wrote an opinion editorial for the New York Times on how the Taliban’s repression of women in Afghanistan was a political tool for achieving and consolidating power (i.e. much more political than violence which they needed to be liberated from).

We concluded the piece with a warning that “any political process that moves forward without the representation and participation of women will undermine any chances that the principles of democracy and human rights will take hold in Afghanistan. It will be the first clue that little has changed.”

Sadly, women were left out of almost all political participation and little has changed. Their calls for disarmament were ignored, and the efforts of brave women such as Malalai Joya to prevent warlords from taking power were unsuccessful. She was instead removed from her governmental position. This exclusion of women has taken place despite the UN passing Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 and much research including that from the International Peace Institute, which showed that when women were included in peace-building, there was a 35% increase in the probability of it lasting for more than 15 years.

In 2001, we had hoped that the international community would listen to the voices of Afghan women, but the failure to do so and the dire situation of Afghanistan today shows that few lessons have been learned. Discussions on including women in decision-making related to ending conflict and ensuring peace have not been acted upon. Transitional governments supported by the UN were almost entirely male in Afghanistan. And a decade later, exactly the same mistake was made in Libya.

Both countries are now in a virtually impossible positions of political stalemate. In Libya, on the day of elections, a brilliant constitutional lawyer and political activist Salwa Bugaighis was murdered – her political platform was simply to build peace. The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP), which she co-founded, carries on her work, with major obstacles to overcome. More recently still, while pledges were made to ensure that women in Syria were part of the peace-building process, a secondary “advisory” role has been given to them instead.

Meaningfully including women in rebuilding peace in war-torn countries seems like an obvious solution to all of this. Enabling women to be part of processes which secure their future and those of their families and the societies they live in is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the most effective thing to do politically and economically.

As long as the same failed approach is used over and over again, but different results are expected, it is unlikely that we will see any lasting peace in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, or anywhere else, anytime soon. In the meanwhile, women will continue to lose their lives for daring to follow a path of political leadership, or even of personal freedom.

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Discrimination Compounds Global Inequality: UN Reporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/discrimination-compounds-global-inequality-un-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=discrimination-compounds-global-inequality-un-report http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/discrimination-compounds-global-inequality-un-report/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 04:34:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149536 Despite 25 years of impressive global development, many people are not benefiting from progress due to persistent discrimination, according to a UN report released Tuesday. The 2017 Human Development Report found that overall human development has improved significantly across all regions of the world since 1990. Yet despite these general improvements, poverty and inequality have […]

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UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 22 2017 (IPS)

Despite 25 years of impressive global development, many people are not benefiting from progress due to persistent discrimination, according to a UN report released Tuesday.

The 2017 Human Development Report found that overall human development has improved significantly across all regions of the world since 1990. Yet despite these general improvements, poverty and inequality have persisted.

“The world has come a long way in rolling back extreme poverty, in improving access to education, health and sanitation, and in expanding possibilities for women and girls,” said UN Development Program Administrator Helen Clark at the report’s launch. “But those gains are a prelude to the next, possibly tougher challenge, to ensure the benefits of global progress reach everyone.”

The report described how poverty and exclusion have remained, even in developed countries, where over 300 million people – including more than one-third of all children – live in relative poverty.

“We place too much attention on national averages, which often mask enormous variations in people’s lives,” -- Selim Jahan

The reasons for poverty and exclusion are often related to discrimination based on race, gender or migration status, the report found. Some of those most likely to live in poverty include indigenous people and people with disabilities. Meanwhile, more than 250 million people worldwide face discrimination solely on the basis of caste or another similar inherited lower status within society.

“By eliminating deep, persistent, discriminatory social norms and laws, and addressing the unequal access to political participation, which have hindered progress for so many, poverty can be eradicated and a peaceful, just, and sustainable development can be achieved for all,” Helen Clark said.

The largest group to be discriminated against globally is women and girls. Women are still poorer and earn less than men in every country globally and in 18 countries, women need their husband’s approval to work, the report found. Women now make up slightly less than half of the world’s population due to discrimination before and at birth through sex-selective abortion and infanticide.

“We place too much attention on national averages, which often mask enormous variations in people’s lives,” said Selim Jahan. “In order to advance, we need to examine more closely not just what has been achieved, but also who has been excluded and why.”

Other examples in this years report include the indigenous Parakanã, Asurini and Parkatêjê peoples of Brazil who were among more than 25,000 people forced to relocated due to the construction of the Tucuruí Dam in Brazil.

“Poor resettlement planning split up communities and forced them to relocate several times,” the report found.

Norway, Australia and Switzerland again topped the annual report as the world’s three most developed countries. Those countries with the lowest levels of human development were mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific. Syria was ranked at 149 of 188 countries, a sharp fall from 107 in 2009 before the Syrian conflict began.

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Women’s Pay Gap “Biggest Robbery in History”: UN Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/womens-pay-gap-biggest-robbery-in-history-un-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-pay-gap-biggest-robbery-in-history-un-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/womens-pay-gap-biggest-robbery-in-history-un-women/#comments Tue, 14 Mar 2017 22:43:20 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149413 A new UN initiative launched on Monday night calls the women’s pay gap, which sees women paid 23 percent less than men globally: “the biggest robbery in history.” During the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, UN Women and the International Labor Organisation (ILO) launched the high-profile Equal Pay Platform […]

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women with actress Patricia Arquette. Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2017 (IPS)

A new UN initiative launched on Monday night calls the women’s pay gap, which sees women paid 23 percent less than men globally: “the biggest robbery in history.”

During the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, UN Women and the International Labor Organisation (ILO) launched the high-profile Equal Pay Platform of Champions to raise awareness on the persistent gender wage gap.

The coalition consists of celebrities and activists including award-winning documentary filmmaker Kamala Lopez, Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach, President of the Garment and Allied Workers Union Anannya Bhattacharjee, and actress Patricia Arquette.

“There has been a normalization for centuries of a bias against women, an acceptance that we are less than…there is no woman that [the wage gap] does not affect,” Lopez said as she moderated the launch.

UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka echoed similar sentiments, stating that such bias has led women’s work in a range of sectors to be undervalued.

“What does a woman in Wall Street have in common with a woman who has a shop in Brazil? Or in a cane farm in South Africa? Or in a sweatshop in Bangladesh? Chances are that they are all not paid equally by their different employers,“ said Mlambo-Ngcuka to delegates in the filled General Assembly Hall.

Globally, the gender pay gap is at approximately 23 percent as women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

The figure is even higher in some regions and among certain communities. In the U.S., African American women earn only 60 cents, Native American women 59 cents and Hispanic women 55 cents for every $1 that white men earn. In Turkey, women earn up to 75 percent less than their male counterparts.

“What does a woman in Wall Street have in common with a woman who has a shop in Brazil? Or in a cane farm in South Africa? Or in a sweatshop in Bangladesh? Chances are that they are all not paid equally by their different employers,“ -- Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Retired U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach shared her story and reasons for joining the Platform of Champions, stating: “I have two gold medals, I won a World Cup with my country…but I actually have to worry about paying my bills now.”

Before the enactment of Title IX, which guarantees that no person in the U.S. can be discriminated on the basis of sex in education receiving federal funds, opportunities for women in sports were extremely limited as women received only two percent of academic athletic budgets. It has since increased to 40 percent due to the law, but its existence is now threatened by the new administration.

“I want to make sure that the world that I leave is better than the world that I found,” Wambach said in reference to raising her stepdaughter.

Garment and Allied Workers Union’s President Anannya Bhattacharjee shed light on the plight of garment workers around the world, including those in Asia who are responsible for the production of over 60 percent of the world’s garments.

Bangladesh alone, which is the world’s second largest textile industry, earns more than $25 billion a year from exports and employs over 4 million workers, the majority of whom are women.

“The workers of this industry who are mainly women cannot access their basic human rights…industries that are dominated by women tend to be lower paid, which means that millions of women and generations of families live in poverty,” said Bhattacharjee.

In December, protests erupted in the South Asian nation as garment workers took to the streets to demand a monthly minimum wage increase from 67 dollars to 187 dollars. The call was dismissed, more than 1500 workers were fired, and over 40 arrested.

Bhattacharjee highlighted the need for a living wage, and to recognize the additional unpaid labor that women often take up to care for their families.

ILO estimates that it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap at the current rate while the World Economic Forum warned that it could take 170 years for women and men to be paid the same for equal work due to reversed progress over the last few years.

Governments also joined in the call to action, including the Government of Iceland who recently became the first country to require equal pay for all.

“We had laws banning pay discrimination since 1961 in Iceland. Still, even though we are leading in equality, we still have a gender pay gap of around 7 percent. And that’s absolutely intolerable,” said Iceland’s Social Affairs and Equality Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson.

The country says it wants to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.

Mlambo-Ngcuka noted the need for a comprehensive response to the complex wage inequality issue including by providing education to promote a shift in societal norms and sharing best practices from around the world to push for laws similar to those of Iceland.

“We can no longer afford to stand by and allow these deeply entrenched discriminations to persist…Every one of us can be a champion for women and girls. There are no superpowers necessary,” Lopez said.

CSW is the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights. The Equal Pay Platform of Champions is a part of the broader UN Women-ILO led Global Equal Pay Coalition that helps create concrete targets and laws to reduce the gender pay gap by 2030 at the global, regional and national levels.

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Women’s Progress Uneven, Facing Backlash – UN Rights Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/womens-progress-uneven-facing-backlash-un-rights-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-progress-uneven-facing-backlash-un-rights-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/womens-progress-uneven-facing-backlash-un-rights-chief/#comments Wed, 08 Mar 2017 16:20:07 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149327 “The women’s movement has brought about tremendous change but we must also recognise that progress has been slow and extremely uneven and that it also brought its own challenges,” warned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Marking International Women’s Day on March 8, Zeid said that in too many countries, […]

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

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Mar 8 2017 (IPS)

“The women’s movement has brought about tremendous change but we must also recognise that progress has been slow and extremely uneven and that it also brought its own challenges,” warned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Marking International Women’s Day on March 8, Zeid said that in too many countries, we are now seeing a backlash against women’s rights, a backlash that hurts us all. “We need to be alert – the advances of the last few decades are fragile and should nowhere be taken for granted.“

The United Nations Human Rights Office on March 7 launched a joint report with the African Union and UN Women detailing the progress and challenges to women’s struggle for human rights in Africa, while the UN rights chief warned that the women’s movement around the world is facing a backlash that hurts both men and women.

Zeid added that it is “extremely troubling” to see recent roll-back of fundamental legislation in many parts of the world.

“Such roll-backs are “underpinned by the renewed obsession with controlling and limiting women’s decisions over their bodies and lives, and by views that a woman’s role should be essentially restricted to reproduction and the family.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

While such pushbacks are carried out in the name of tradition, Zeid noted that they are often a response to segments of society calling for change. Among examples he gave, he pointed to recent legislation in Bangladesh, Burundi and the Russian Federation, which weakens women’s rights to fight against child marriage, marital rape and domestic violence, respectively.

He noted also the “fierce resistance” in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to political and civil society efforts to open up access to sexual and reproductive rights.

“With the world’s young population concentrated in developing nations, retrogressive measures denying women and girls access to sexual and reproductive health services will have a devastating effect,” Zeid said, noting more maternal deaths, more unintended pregnancies, fewer girls finishing school and the economic impact of failing to fully include women in the workforce.

“In short, a generation without choices and a collective failure to deliver on the promises of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he added, referring to the internationally agreed action plan for eradicating poverty while assisting all people and maintain the health of the planet. “The women’s movement around the world is facing a backlash that hurts both men and women.” – UN Human Rights Chief

Meanwhile, Zeid praised women’s movements in countries such as Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia, where women and men took to the streets to demand change, but warned that “it is time to come together to protect the important gains of the past and maintain a positive momentum.”

Women as Active Agents of Change

In Africa, women continue to be denied full enjoyment of their rights in every country, according to a new report released on Mach 7 entitled Women’s Rights in Africa. Statistics show that some African countries have no legal protection for women against domestic violence, and they are forced to undergo female genital mutilation, and to marry while still children.

According to the report, however, in Africa – as around the globe – when women exercise their rights to access to education, skills, and jobs, there is a surge in prosperity, positive health outcomes, and greater freedom and well-being, not only of women but of the whole society.

“Human rights are not a utopian fairy-tale -they are a recipe for sound institutions, more sustainable development and greater peace,” Zeid wrote in the foreword to the report.

“When all women are empowered to make their own choices and share resources, opportunities and decisions as equal partners, every society in Africa will be transformed.”

Among its recommendations, the report calls on African governments to encourage women’s full and productive employment, to recognize the importance of unpaid care and domestic work, and to ensure women can access and control their own economic and financial resources.

The report stresses that women should not be seen only as victims but, for example, as active agents in formal and informal peace building processes. (Read the Full Report).

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

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Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-in-the-changing-world-of-work-planet-50-50-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-in-the-changing-world-of-work-planet-50-50-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-in-the-changing-world-of-work-planet-50-50-by-2030/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 21:42:31 +0000 Zebib Kavuma 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149310 Zebib Kavuma is UN Women Kenya Country Director

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A lady mechanic student poses with male classmates during a practical session at the Lodwar Vocational Training Centre in Turkana County, Kenya. With empowerment, more women are making the decision to take up jobs and careers previously believed to be preserves of men. Photo courtesy of UN RCO Kenya.

A lady mechanic student poses with male classmates during a practical session at the Lodwar Vocational Training Centre in Turkana County, Kenya. With empowerment, more women are making the decision to take up jobs and careers previously believed to be preserves of men. Photo courtesy of UN RCO Kenya.

By Zebib Kavuma
NAIROBI, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

This year as the world commemorates International Women’s Day it is a time for all of us to celebrate and reflect on the progress made on Women’s rights globally. But more importantly, a day to call for an end to gender inequality in all its forms especially in the work spaces. Appropriately themed “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” the commemoration comes against a backdrop of a world that is undergoing major changes with significant implications for women.

Africa has more women in executive committees, CEO, and board roles than the average worldwide. Yet women are still under-represented at every level of the corporate ladder – non-management and middle and senior management – and fall in number the higher they climb.
On the one hand, we have globalization and the rapid technological and digital revolution and the opportunities they bring. On the other hand, are the growing informality of labor, the growth of corporate influence, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts—all of which have an impact on women’s economic options and their interaction with the world of work. But within this dynamic environment we must do everything possible to provide decent work for all women, ensure that women are treated fairly in law, ensure equal pay for women, teach everyone that any job is a women’s job and organize the women to ask for their rights.

In 2015, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, placing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achievement of these goals rests upon unlocking the full potential of women in the world of work.

On this International Women’s Day, UN Women calls upon all actors to Step It Up for Gender Equality towards a Planet 50-50 by 2030. Through the Step It Up for Gender Equality towards a Planet 50-50 by 2030 initiative, we envisage a world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030. Step It Up asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap through laws and policies to national action plans and adequate investment. So far, several African countries including Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Malawi, South Sudan, South Africa, Mozambique, have committed to ending discrimination against women by 2030 and have announced concrete and measurable actions to kick-start rapid change in their countries.

In addition to governments, Step It Up also works with key stakeholders to commit to Step It Up for gender equality and the empowerment of women. With the support of the partners, the initiative focuses on gender equality and women’s rights issues on two fronts – in their reporting, disrupting stereotypes and biases; and in increasing the number of women in the media, including in leadership and decision-making functions.

By 2030 we want to see a world where women in the workplace receive equal pay for equal work relative to their male counterparts and are not hampered in pursuing their economic option by unpaid care and domestic work.

A woman transporting a stack of reeds in rural Kenya. Women’s unpaid care and domestic work is yet to be recognized as labour in many parts of the developing world. Photo courtesy of UNDP Kenya.

A woman transporting a stack of reeds in rural Kenya. Women’s unpaid care and domestic work is yet to be recognized as labour in many parts of the developing world. Photo courtesy of UNDP Kenya.

Measures that are key to ensuring women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work must include bridging the gender pay gap, which stands at 24% globally; recognizing women’s unpaid care and domestic work and addressing the disproportionate burden of care work on women; as well as addressing the low representation of women in leadership, entrepreneurship; access to social protection; and ensuring gender-responsive economic policies for job creation, poverty reduction and sustainable, inclusive growth.

Additionally, policies must cater for the overwhelming majority of women in the informal economy by providing them with job safety and protection from harm. We must also promote women’s access to innovative technologies and practices, decent work and climate-resilient jobs as well as protect them from violence in the work place.

Kenya’s women and youth make a significant economic contribution, mainly in agriculture and informal business sector. Women make up nearly half of all micro and small enterprises. The recent affirmative action procurement legislation for women, youth and persons living with disabilities has created excellent opportunities for women to participate in the public procurement market.

Interestingly, in the private sector, Africa has more women in executive committees, CEO, and board roles than the average worldwide. Yet women are still under-represented at every level of the corporate ladder – non-management and middle and senior management – and fall in number the higher they climb. Only 5%of women make it to the top as reported by Africa Women Matter McKinsey Report 2016.

Actions including creating programmes to eradicate violence against women and girls, encouraging women’s participation in decision-making, investing in national action plans or policies for gender equality, creating public education campaigns to promote gender equality, and many more are essential. Empowering women and girls is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Everyone has a role to play by making gender equality a lived reality by 2030.

 

 

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Time to Champion Women’s Empowerment: Implementation of SDGs in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/time-to-champion-womens-empowerment-implementation-of-sdgs-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-to-champion-womens-empowerment-implementation-of-sdgs-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/time-to-champion-womens-empowerment-implementation-of-sdgs-in-bangladesh/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 07:13:41 +0000 Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149293 Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad is Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, an apex development institution established by the Government of Bangladesh

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Credit: PKSF

By Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

The year 2015 was highly significant in relation to global convergence on ways forward towards achieving sustainable development at local, national, regional, and global levels.

Global leaders reached four groundbreaking agreements that year, the first of which was the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the first major agreement crucially important in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.

Then in July came the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, which has dealt with how finances can be mobilised for global sustainable development. In September, the world leaders adopted the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ with 17 goals, known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

The other momentous development was the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December that year. Not that everyone will agree with the contents of these agreements and certainly there are deficits in each in relation to what needs to be achieved, but these documents provide a strong basis to moving forward.

Of these, the SDG 2030-Agenda essentially integrates the core objectives of the other three agreements along with other relevant issues, and focuses on the inclusion of everyone in the development process, with particular emphasis on gender equality (Goal-5) that men and women must be equally endowed with opportunities and facilities. This is a key Goal that catalyses actions to carve out an appropriate forward movement of society, overcoming gender discriminations and other hurdles.

Despite the fact that women’s empowerment takes the centre stage of sustainable development, they face discrimination in different aspects of their lives, one of which is wage discrimination.

Credit: PKSF

Credit: PKSF


Even in the United States, women working full time in 2015 typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent. The same can be found in Bangladesh where women get 21.1 percent less hourly wages than men, according to a recent study by the International Labour Organisation.

Bangladesh has come a long way in empowering women and closing the gender gap. Women are joining and making their mark in all branches of the development and society including education, health services, administration, banks, entrepreneurship, military and law enforcement forces, and politics.

In terms of political empowerment, Bangladesh not only leads the region but also beats many developed countries in the world. The Global Gender Gap Report 2016 published by the World Economic Forum testifies to the significant progress women have achieved in Bangladesh.

The Report that covers 144 countries ranks Bangladesh 72nd with an overall score of 0.698 (1 means parity), well above the average global score. The country leads the South Asian region in all four indicators – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Bangladesh’s closest performer in the region is India, lagging 15 spots behind.

What is notable is the progress made in Bangladesh in reducing gender gap over the past one decade. Ranked 91st among 114 countries, Bangladesh jumped 19 spots ahead in just 10 years, even though 30 more countries were included in the exercise this time.

This noteworthy progress, along with the very significant socio-economic advancement achieved by the country in recent years, has been possible mainly because of a conducive policy environment provided by the government, and the indomitable spirits of the people of this country to move ahead against all odds and achieve changes for the better. It is also to be recognised that facilitating support at the local spaces has been provided by many civil society and non-government entities.

Credit: PKSF

Credit: PKSF


The Constitution of Bangladesh clearly states that “the State Shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity and participation of women in all spheres of national life” and “women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of public life”. The country also has the National Women Development Policy 2011 and a set of laws to prevent violence and discrimination against women and to ensure empowerment of women, and their equal rights and opportunities.

In conformity with the constitutional dictates as well as the policy and legal obligations and the political will to ensure women’s legitimate progress, the Sheikh Hasina-led government introduced the Gender Budget in the 2009-10 fiscal year. Seven fiscal years later, the Gender Budget now has jumped almost 3.5 times. This amount is allocated directly to promote women’s progress in relation to various issues faced by them. But, the issue of improvement of women’s status also features directly or indirectly in various other programmes.

Despite the advancements women in Bangladesh have made, they still are paid less than men for equal work, as mentioned above, and are facing violence both inside and outside their homes. A 2015 study of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics shows that 80.2 percent women in Bangladesh suffer domestic violence at some point of their lives.

Girl students account for over 50 percent of the number of students at primary and secondary levels, but their proportion at the tertiary level is now around 40 percent. Though more women are joining the mainstream workforces in the government and corporate sectors, their presence in the top echelons is not yet very encouraging. Harassment of women and girl students in their workplaces and educational institutions respectively, and child marriage, remain major challenges.

The Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), which is a government-established foundation, has been trying to empower women in terms of human capability as well as economic and social opportunities. It currently offers financial and non-financial services to over 10 million households or about 45 million people throughout the country.

An intensive and integrated multidimensional poverty eradication and beyond-poverty sustainable development action programme is being implemented in 150 unions (the lowest administrative unit) across the country, covering around 4.5 million people, half of whom are women.

Previously, women were often used as conduits for borrowing money from microfinance institutions. But, now the PKSF ensures that women play important roles in the management of financial and non-financial services they avail from the PKSF-POs (Partner Organisations of the PKSF, NGOs through which the PKSF implements its action programmes) under strict PKSF supervision and monitoring. These women are thus getting increasingly empowered in their families and in society.

The PKSF also focuses on education of girls and campaigns against and actions within its capacity to reduce child marriage, harassment of girls and women, and violence against women, and also for the recognition of women’s household chores as economic activities.

Since empowerment of women is at the heart of the SDGs, it is of paramount importance that Bangladesh makes bolder moves to end all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girl children. ‘Be Bold For Change’ thus seems to be an appropriate slogan that has been picked for the International Women’s Day 2017, a day the world observes on March 8th every year.

On this occasion, Bangladesh must renew its pledge to step up efforts to make this country a better place for women, take bolder stances to effectively address the persistant bias, inequality, and violence faced by women, and forge women’s advancement, celebrate their achievements, and champion women’s education.

I firmly believe that men and women in Bangladesh together will lead the country towards sustainable development in a balanced manner with no one left behind, where everyone will live in human dignity, overcoming all odds.

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

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Why a Feminist Foreign Policy Is Needed More than Everhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/why-a-feminist-foreign-policy-is-needed-more-than-ever/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-a-feminist-foreign-policy-is-needed-more-than-ever http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/why-a-feminist-foreign-policy-is-needed-more-than-ever/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 06:06:23 +0000 Margot Wallstrom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149289 Margot Wallström, is Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden

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Margot Wallström

By Margot Wallström
STOCKHOLM, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

Lately, the world has tended to present itself in increasingly darker shades. In many places, democracy is questioned, women’s rights are threatened, and the multilateral system that has taken decades to build is undermined.

No society is immune from backlashes, especially not in relation to gender. There is a continuous need for vigilance and for continuously pushing for women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights.

That is why I – when I assumed office as Foreign Minister over two years ago – announced that Sweden would pursue a feminist foreign policy. Today, this policy is more needed than ever.

The world is torn by conflicts that are perhaps more complex and more difficult to solve than ever before. Almost half of all conflicts reoccur within five years. Over 1.5 billion people live in fragile states and conflict zones.

In order to respond to these global challenges, we need to connect the dots and see what drives peace. We need to change our policies from reactive to proactive, focusing on preventing rather than responding. And prevention can never be successful without the full picture of how certain situations affect men, women, boys and girls differently. Applying gender analysis, strengthening the collection of gender disaggregated data, improving accountability and bringing women into peace negotiations and peacebuilding will be key in moving forward.

Feminism is a component of a modern view on global politics, not an idealistic departure from it. It is about smart policy which includes whole populations, uses all potential and leaves no one behind. Change is possible, necessary and long overdue
Studies show that conflict analyses that include gender aspects and women’s experiences are more efficient. Rise in sexual and gender based violence can for example be an early indicator of conflict. We also need to take into account the studies that show a correlation between gender equal societies and peace.

Gender equality is a fundamental matter of human rights, democracy and social justice. But overwhelming evidence shows that it is also a precondition for sustainable growth, welfare, peace and security. Increasing gender equality has positive effects on food security, extremism, health, education and numerous other key global concerns.

With Sweden’s feminist foreign policy, we bring all our foreign policy tools into play for gender equality and apply a systematic gender perspective in everything we do. It is an analytical tool for making informed decisions.

The feminist foreign policy is an agenda for change which aims to increase the rights, representation and resources of all women and girls, based on the reality where they live.

Representation is at the core of the policy, since it is such a powerful vehicle for both the enjoyment of rights and access to resources. Whether it regards foreign or domestic policy, whether in Sweden or any other place in the world, we see that women are still under-represented in influential positions in all areas of society. Non-representative decision-making is more likely to yield discriminatory and suboptimal outcomes. Put women at the table from the start and you will notice that more issues and perspectives are brought to light.

Despite facing discouraging times for world politics, it is important to remember that change is possible. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy makes a tangible difference. Every day, embassies, agencies and departments implement context- and knowledge-based policy around the world. And more countries are realising that gender equality simply makes sense.

To mention some examples of how we work, Sweden has provided extensive support for the involvement of women in the Colombian peace process, ensuring that significant perspectives were lifted in the peace agreement. We have also established a Swedish network of women peace mediators, co-established a Nordic equivalent and reached out to other countries and regions to encourage them to form their own networks.

Together with the ICC and partner countries, we counter impunity for sexual and gender based violence in conflicts. We also make sure that humanitarian actors only receive funding if their work is based on gender disaggregated data. Governmental guidelines have been given to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, contributing to making gender equality the main objective in an increasing amount of Sida’s specific sector issues.

These are just some examples of how our feminist foreign policy translates into practice, making a difference for women and girls around the world.

Feminism is a component of a modern view on global politics, not an idealistic departure from it. It is about smart policy which includes whole populations, uses all potential and leaves no one behind. Change is possible, necessary and long overdue.

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

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Engineer Magan Kawar (wearing pink), who left school after third grade, teaches a class of international students in solar technology. Kawar has trained 900 women from over 20 countries. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Engineer Magan Kawar (wearing pink), who left school after third grade, teaches a class of international students in solar technology. Kawar has trained 900 women from over 20 countries. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
TILONIA, India, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

On a summer morning in 2008, Magan Kawar decided to leave her village for a job. The very next day, her parents-in-law excommunicated her.

“They were very angry,” says the 52-year-old mother of two from Bhawani Khera village of Rajasthan’s Ajmer, a district 400 kms west of New Delhi."The world over, the lives of women are the same – there are too many challenges, but together, we can help each other rewrite our stories.” --Magan Kawar

“Women never stepped out of the home alone. To go outside of the village and work in an office alongside men was a disgrace. My parents-in-law said I had brought upon them that disgrace.”

But even as angry relatives and shocked neighbors watched in utter dismay, Kawar traveled to Tilonia, a village an hour away. Here, along with her husband, she became a technician at a rural innovation centre. As the world shut its doors behind her, her husband assured her: “Everything would be alright one day.”

Eight years later, Kawar who never studied beyond the third grade, is one of India’s top renewable energy experts. She is a lead instructor at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, a unique innovation and training centre where rural women from across India and the world are trained in solar technologies.

A college for barefoot engineers

The Barefoot College of Tilonia was established four decades ago by Bunker Roy, a visionary educationist and environmentalist who envisoned a place where women with little or no formal education could learn livelihood skills and play a leadership role in their communities.

The skills taught here are many, including sewing, welding and carpentry, among others, but the flagship programme of the college is a six-month biannual course in solar technology.

The course accepts women of 35 years and older, mostly from economically or socially underprivileged communities living in areas that have no electricity. There are two separate learning centres for Indian and international trainees who are called ‘Solar Mamas.’

Each of the Solar Mamas is selected by her own community and sent to the college by their respective governments where they are provided a fellowship by the government of India. It covers their cost of their stay at the college campus, including food and accommodation.

Currently, there are 30 Solar Mamas from 13 countries of Asia and Africa, including India, Myanmar, Syria, Mali, Sierra Leone and Botswana. The latest group is slated to graduate on Mar. 15 – the day they will receive 700 dollars as a stipend for the six months they spent here. For many, this is also an amount they can use as seed money to start a business in their home country.

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make the circuit for a solar lantern. Oraon, who is not able to read or write, will soon become a Solar Mama - a barefoot solar engineer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make the circuit for a solar lantern. Oraon, who is not able to read or write, will soon become a Solar Mama – a barefoot solar engineer. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Learning through sign language

On the final Sunday of February, a group of local youths graduated from the Barefoot College after learning some livelihood skills. At their graduation ceremony, each of the students was presented with a solar lantern – made by the women solar technicians of the college.

The circuit of the lantern is complex, with dozens of minuscule electronic chips assembled on a 4-inch long plate. To teach this complex technology to the trainees when neither teacher nor student speak English or share a common language may seem extremely daunting to others, but the barefoot instructors have their own innovative methodology.

Explains Magan Kawar, “We first make a list of the most important parts and equipment and begin by making each trainee learn by heart the names. That is essential. After that, we communicate by pointing at a part, signs and actions. For example, I will take a circuit plate, point at a part and say, ‘press’. Or, I will then take a cable from the power testing machine, touch this to the plate, show it to the trainees and say, ’power testing’. They follow suit.”

There are no certificates awarded to the graduates, but then, this college is not a place that upholds formal educational norms. Instead, it practices a “very, very simple” method that champions imparting education that “truly empowers,” says Bunker Roy, who is also the director of the college.

“Imagine a woman who never traveled out of her village. Can’t read or write. Takes a flight and travels for 19 hours…comes to a strange country, strange food, strange language and in six months, she becomes a solar engineer using sign language. She knows more about solar engineering than a college graduate. What can be more exhilarating than this?” asks Roy.

Women from local villages in India with solar lanterns made by Solar Mamas of the Barefoot College in Tilonia. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Women from local villages in India with solar lanterns made by Solar Mamas of the Barefoot College in Tilonia. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Honing climate leadership skills

Elizabeth Halauafu, 42, is from Tonga, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean which considered is the third most vulnerable country on earth to rising sea levels from climate change. Despite its high vulnerability, however, the country has been slow in adopting climate adaptation measures, including renewable energy.

But as Tonga finally wakes up to play a stronger role in climate action, Bayes could become one of the pioneers in rural solar technology thanks to her training at the Barefoot College.

“I have already learned about solar installations. I can build a circuit, assemble and repair solar lights. Once I return to Tonga, I will be happy to join a job that will allow me to use my skills. I and my husband may also start a solar venture,” says Bayes, before recalling that when she returns home, the season of oceanic storms will begin when electricity will be scarce.

A place to share, forget and rise above

Solar Mamas Hala Naseef and and Azhar Sarhan are from Damascus. The government may try to show Damascus as an oasis in an otherwise war-torn Syria, but the ground realities are different: there are frequent power outrage and everyone lives in fear of a total collapse of the grid. Solar technology is not very popular, but could soon become the only source of power if the war does not end soon, says the duo.

It has been a long journey from Damascus to the Barefoot College for both Sarhan and Naseef, but both are quick to point out that the past five months, despite daunting odds, have been a very enriching experience.

“I miss home and the food…but to see other women who have come from difficult places, we forget our own struggle,“ says Naseef.

Lila Devi Gujjar, who teaches alongside Magan Kawar, says that most of their trainees come from conflict zones and carry a ‘burden of pain.”

“Many of them are survivors of abuse, violence and are broken in spirit. But here they find a way to forget their past and get new hope to rebuild their lives,” says Gujjar.

Kawar shares the story of Chantal, one of her recent trainees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was raped several times in her home country. “It was her first escape from the violence. She first cried for days, then just immersed herself in learning. Somehow, she found our informal learning environment very soothing.

“And we also realized that the world over, the lives of women are the same – there are too many challenges, but together, we can help each other rewrite our stories,” says Kawar, who wrote her own story a few years ago by sending her two children to universities and inviting her parents-in-law to visit the Barefoot College.

“They came, saw me teaching and my mother-in-law said, ‘But it is just women educating each other!’ That day, she welcomed me back into the family,” says the barefoot engineer with a smile.

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16-Hour Days for Zimbabwe’s Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/16-hour-days-for-zimbabwes-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=16-hour-days-for-zimbabwes-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/16-hour-days-for-zimbabwes-women/#comments Tue, 07 Mar 2017 02:00:20 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149257 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year's International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Constance Huku, 29, of the rural town of Masvingo in southeastern Zimbabwe, carries a pile of wood on her head. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

Constance Huku, 29, of the rural town of Masvingo in southeastern Zimbabwe, carries a pile of wood on her head. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Mar 7 2017 (IPS)

As the cock crows, Tambudzai Zimbudzana, 32, is suddenly awakened from sleep. She quickly folds her blankets and strides outside her three-room, sheet iron-roofed house in rural Masvingo.

Picking up a few logs of firewood from a huge pile, Zimbudzana sets a fire to boil water and prepare food for her husband to bathe and eat before cycling to work.“Men should take the lead to lessen the care burden of women as this has a positive effect on the whole household, community and country at large.” --Kelvin Hazangwi

“Shorai! Shorai! Shorai!” Zimbudzana calls her 14 year-old daughter who is fast asleep to assist her with other duties.

“My day begins at 4 am, cooking, setting a fire, fetching water and spending the rest of the day in the field or garden depending on the season. My day often ends at ten in the evening as I have to ensure all household work is done, including attending to the demands of my six children, before I put my body to rest,” Zimbudzana told IPS.

She said she rarely attends community activities because of time and work that demands her presence.

Many women and girls carry the heavy, unequal and seemingly natural burden of care work, which is rarely appreciated, not financially beneficial and deeply rooted in culture.

“In recent years, significant evidence and research findings demonstrate that investments in addressing unpaid care burden– by governments, civil society and employers – improve wellbeing, women’s enjoyment of their rights, economic development and reduce inequality,” says Anna Giolitto, Oxfam Programs Manager on Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care) program.

Since 2014, Oxfam in Zimbabwe has been working to strengthen women’s economic rights by building data on unpaid care, innovate on interventions and influence policy and practice to address care as part of women’s empowerment.

Oxfam has carried out programmes in three districts since 2014 and developed two tools to assess unpaid household work and care of people in the communities: The Rapid Care Analysis and Household Care Survey.

“The key aim is to reduce the time or labour required for daily housework and caring for people, and thus increase women’s participation, empowerment, leadership and representation in both the public and private spheres,” Giolitto told IPS.

Results of the survey showed that women do 3–6 times more hours of care work than men.

Charity Ncube, 30, of the rural town of Masvingo in southeastern Zimbabwe, carries her child and a 20-litre container of water. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

Charity Ncube, 30, of the rural town of Masvingo in southeastern Zimbabwe, carries her child and a 20-litre container of water. Credit: Sally Nyakanyanga/IPS

On Mar. 8, countries around the world will come together to commemorate International Women’s Day, under the theme “Women in the Changing World of Work”.

According to UN Women, the world of work is evolving, with significant implications for women. There is globalization, technological and digital revolutions and opportunities for women.

However, the growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies, and environmental impacts have a negative effect on the well-being of many women in Zimbabwe and the world. As such, they must be addressed in the context of women’s economic empowerment.

Women in the informal economy in Zimbabwe grapple with a hostile economic environment, security and customs officials on a daily basis.

Lorraine Sibanda, President of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA), says, “Our goods are confiscated at border posts due to the limited amount of goods one is allowed to bring into the country. We end up paying more money to transporters in order to get reasonable stock across the border.”

Sibanda added that the transporters’ charges are not consistent and one may pay several times for the same goods.  Further, they have to carry heavy loads of goods over a long period of time, which can have health implications for these women involved with cross-border trading.

“Little or lack of knowledge of customs and exercise procedures such as declaration of goods also contributes traders falling prey to predatory transporters, immigration personnel and other elements who prowl the border post for a living,” Sibanda told IPS.

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Office (ZimStats) has noted that 84 percent of the country’s working class are in the informal sector, with 11 percent in formal employment. Further, ZCIEA told IPS that 65 percent of its members are women.

Though Oxfam does not work with women cross-border traders in Zimbabwe, it has used the “four R’s” approach for change.

  • Recognize care work at policy, community and household level, make it visible and value it. Change the idea that it’s just natural activity of women, it’s work.
  • Reduce care work through using time labour saving technologies and services;
  • Redistribute responsibility for care more equitably – from women to men, and from families to the State/employers.
  • Represent carers in decision making.

“Women will be able to do more when there are men sharing the responsibility at home as well as playing a key role in decisions at their households,” Giolitto said.

Kelvin Hazangwi from Padare (Men’s Forum on Gender) also emphasized the need to share unpaid care work.

“Men should take the lead to lessen the care burden of women as this has a positive effect on the whole household, community and country at large,” says Hazangwi.

Padare is a men’s forum advocating for gender equality in Zimbabwe.

ZCIEA believes the informal sector is the future, thus gender-inclusive economic policies, formalization of informal trading, decent infrastructure, provision of social protection, healthcare services, recognition of informal traders as key economic players will result in sustainable, inclusive growth.

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Be Bold for Change–Empower Women, Empower Humanityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/be-bold-for-change-empower-women-empower-humanity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=be-bold-for-change-empower-women-empower-humanity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/be-bold-for-change-empower-women-empower-humanity/#comments Mon, 06 Mar 2017 09:30:52 +0000 Robert Watkins http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149272 Robert Watkins, is United Nations Resident Coordinator for Bangladesh

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Robert Watkins, is United Nations Resident Coordinator for Bangladesh

By Robert Watkins
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Mar 6 2017 (IPS)

The world of work is changing for women across the globe and Bangladesh is no exception. Factors such as globalization, advancement in technology, and the digital revolution have ushered in new ways for women to enter into work. The theme for the International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2017, focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” under which gender parity in the workforce is the critical prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Robert Watkins

Robert Watkins

A McKinsey Global Institute report in 2015 found that $28 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 if women, who make up half of the word’s work-age population, were to achieve their economic potential. Gender parity at work is a global economic challenge but efforts at a national level can make a significant difference. While there is a general consensus regarding the urgent need to increase women’s participation in the workforce and acknowledge their contributions to the global economy, we are still far from creating an economy that allows all women to realize their potential free from discrimination or threat of violence and sexual harassment.

Bangladesh has made great strides in improving the lives of women and girls. In the last decade, poverty has been slashed by half; nearly 90 percent of girl children are enrolled in schools; child mortality has reduced by 60 percent. Moreover, Bangladesh’s commitment to the global 2030 roadmap and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has placed gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of its gender-responsive agenda. The Government’s Vision 2021 as well as the Seventh Five-Year Plan prioritizes this agenda and we must applaud their bold leadership in pursuing progress, persistently and creatively, for inclusive economic growth. However, challenges such as poor working conditions, rising incidences of gender-based violence, rapid and unchecked urbanization, limited access to basic social services, and climate change continue to disrupt the progress made towards women’s economic empowerment.

In Bangladesh, the ready-made garment sector remains one of the most important drivers of women’s ability to engage in paid work. Earlier studies have shown that women make up approximately 80 percent of their workforce, but more recent trends suggest that female participation may actually be less than 60 percent. The 2016 National Labor Survey results should shed important light on the overall status of women in the economy. The survey results, upon release, will hopefully initiate a widespread debate around the necessary gender-responsive action required to increase the participation of women across all sectors.

In spite of encouraging signs of improvement in the formal economy, women continue to face enormous challenges in building sustainable and empowering livelihoods. Women migrant workers from Bangladesh – over 169,000 in the last three years alone, as per the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – are commonly subjected to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and exploitation due to inadequate standards for accountability and vigilance, legal channels and compact focusing on their rights, voice, and leadership. Similarly, in the RMG sector women earn, on average, 45 percent less than their male counterparts and usually do not have the knowledge, skills or opportunities to grow their incomes or savings. In addition, the constant threat of gender-based violence both at home and at work creates barriers that prevent women garment workers from influencing or changing working conditions for the better.

One of the key measures to ensuring women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work is bridging the persistent gender pay gap. According to one estimate, this gap for women in waged labor in Bangladesh stands at 48 percent –almost double of the global 24 percent average. Closing this gap will require national-level policies and regulations, complimented by financial incentives, capability building, advocacy and awareness. We must also recognize women’s unpaid contributions to the ‘invisible’ economy in the form of care and domestic work, as well as address the gender gap in leadership and entrepreneurship. National policies must address the overwhelming majority of women in the informal economy, promote access to innovative technologies and practices, introduce climate-resilient jobs, and create safe working environments for women.

Working alongside the Government and other partners invested in economic growth — the private sector, civil society organizations, and media — the United Nations is committed to improving and increasing women’s representation and access to decent work. We are committed to enabling and facilitating access to services that level the playing field and increase the odds for women to fully and meaningfully enter, stay, and grow in their workplace.

In a world where women’s prospects are blighted by regressive norms and attitudes, both men and women have to take a stand for meaningful change. If we are to reach Planet 50-50 by 2030, we have to collectively devise accelerators and implement both short and long-term measures that are viable and effective. The private sector, in partnership with government and non-governmental organization, can do a lot more to improve working conditions for women. There is ample evidence from around the world that companies stand to benefit both directly and indirectly by introducing measures that value and promote gender parity.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we call upon all actors to step forward and work towards achieving Planet 50-50 by 2030. Let’s commit publicly through platforms like the UN Women’s He for She campaign (visit heforshe.org) to set ambitious yet achievable gender goals over the next five years. The Government of Bangladesh’s Seventh Five-Year plan coincides with the first phase of the UN’s SDGs and the timing couldn’t be any better to collectively drive inclusive economic progress, emboldened by bold thinking and courageous leadership.

Join the movement, Be Bold For Change.

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

The post Be Bold for Change–Empower Women, Empower Humanity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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