Inter Press ServiceWomen in Politics – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Zimbabwe’s Long Road to Gender Parityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity/#respond Tue, 29 May 2018 12:12:18 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155965 Zimbabwe goes to the polls in July for the first general election since the departure of Robert Mugabe, and the jockeying over who will represent the country’s major political parties is in full throttle. Primary elections are internal processes by political parties to allow aspiring candidates to contest among themselves with the eventual winner being […]

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Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, May 29 2018 (IPS)

Zimbabwe goes to the polls in July for the first general election since the departure of Robert Mugabe, and the jockeying over who will represent the country’s major political parties is in full throttle.

Primary elections are internal processes by political parties to allow aspiring candidates to contest among themselves with the eventual winner being the one who will represent the party at national elections.“It’s evident that the political space, despite constitutional provisions, is overall not conducive for women and intra-party violence against women is very high." --Glanis Changarirere

As soon as the political parties announced the primaries in April this year, thousands of candidates submitted their names, with sitting parliamentarians also having to contest in what the ruling party Zanu PF said was a sign of democracy.

However, from the lists that were released by Zanu PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the roster was dominated by men, with women largely staying away.

This at a time when there is a huge global drive towards realising the United Nations-driven Planet 50-50 by 2030 gender equality campaign in public office positions by year 2020.

One female Zanu PF legislator, hoping to retain her parliamentary seat, complained last month that she was being intimidated by aspiring male candidates, reporting that the men were going around telling prospective voters not to vote for a woman.

She eventually lost the election to a male candidate.

It was one of many troubling reports concerning women aspiring for public office, with political parties accused of failing to address these concerns.

Glanis Changachirere, Team Leader at the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD), which lobbies for women’s participation in political processes, says women seeking public office are still marginalised by political parties and discouraged from participating because of widespread political violence.

“It is worrisome that as we enter the second term of the Constitutional provision for gender parity, women’s political representation is under threat,” Changachire told IPS.

“Leads from Zanu PF primary elections are indicating a regression in women’s representation. Women only constitute 8 percent of that party’s parliamentary and senatorial candidates. There are examples in some provinces where there was not a single woman elected in the primaries,” she said.

The ruling Zanu PF announced the final list of parliamentary candidates on May 3, revealing that the preliminary results where dominated by men with women who were seeking re-election failing to make the cut.

Some of the losers, who again were dominated by men, contested the results in 10 constituencies, citing among other things political violence against their supporters, forcing the party to call for a re-run.

“It’s evident that the political space, despite constitutional provisions, is overall not conducive for women and intra-party violence against women is very high,” Changarirere said.

Perhaps highlighting the extent of the odds stacked against women, Oppah Muchinguri, Zanu PF’s first ever female national chairperson, who was elevated to the post last year and sought to retain her parliamentary seat, was one of the heavy casualties in the primary elections.

Under the Zimbabwe constitution adopted in 2013, 60 uncontested seats are reserved for women in the legislature in what is termed proportional representation where political parties nominate female candidates based on the number of seats the party won in the general elections.

In the 2008 elections, only 34 women made it to the 210-member parliament, and a decade later political parties are still struggling to make up the numbers that meet their commitment to global standards.

In 2013, the number grew to 86 elected female legislators, an increase of 39 percent, according to UN Women statistics.

According to Morgan Komichi, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) national chairperson, the party has set aside 50 percent of parliamentary seats for women, but from the number of women who have expressed interest in actually contesting the primaries, Zimbabwe’s main opposition could well be lagging behind in realising its own gender balance benchmarks.

“The patriarchal and primitive thinking of women playing second fiddle roles — for example, women are expected to sing and ululate and provide care work roles in political parties — are still entrenched. No deliberate mechanisms [exist] to ensure proportional presentation of women in key leadership positions and government line-up,” Changachirere said.

However, the political opposition MDC national spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo told IPS that the MDC had ratified the Women’s Charter as set out by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development targeting 50 percent women’s representation in decision making and already has provisions to allocate gender in the party, but it was up to the women to take up the mantel.

“There is a belief that women should be handed political office. They should go out there and work for it. There are constitutional provisions to meet these standards, my question is who lobbies who to get those numbers,” Khumalo told IPS.

One-time deputy prime minister and former MDC vice president Thokozani Khuphe, who was expelled from the party in March, has since formed her own splinter political party, accusing rivals of denying her the constitutional right to lead the country’s largest  opposition political party.

Khuphe accused her rivals of sexism, saying it was clear they did not want a women to lead, vowing that a woman is also constitutionally empowered to lead Zimbabwe.

Former Deputy President Joice Mujuru, also expelled from Zanu PF, and once considered by some as former President Robert Mugabe’s successor, now leads the National People’s Party (NPP), with smaller parties led by women such as Lucia Matibenga’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and rallying behind Mujuru as the sole female presidential candidate for the July national elections.

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

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Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared in protest march.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, the law is silent on penalties for noncompliance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

By Audrey Azoulay
PARIS, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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New University graduates in Kenya. Credit: Nation Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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

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Women Peace Laureates Condemn Inaction on Rohingya “Genocide”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-peace-laureates-condemn-inaction-rohingya-genocide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-peace-laureates-condemn-inaction-rohingya-genocide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-peace-laureates-condemn-inaction-rohingya-genocide/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:37:46 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154587 Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman met with more than 100 women refugees in camps in the coastal Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh this week, as well as travelling to the “no man’s land” where thousands of Rohingya have been stranded between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Shirin Ebadi […]

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Rohingya people alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

Rohingya people alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman met with more than 100 women refugees in camps in the coastal Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh this week, as well as travelling to the “no man’s land” where thousands of Rohingya have been stranded between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Shirin Ebadi of Iran spoke to IPS correspondent Naimul Haq in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

Maguire is a co-founder of Peace People, a movement committed to building a just and peaceful society in Northern Ireland. She and Betty Williams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976. She is well known for her work with victims of conflict around the world.

Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, former judge and human rights activist and founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran. Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women’s, children’s, and refugee rights.

From left to right (center), Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire. IPS correspondent Naimul Haq stands behind Ms. Maguire. Credit: IPS

From left to right (center), Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire. IPS correspondent Naimul Haq stands behind Ms. Maguire. Credit: IPS

Following are excerpts from the exclusive interviews.

IPS: You have called for trials of the Myanmar leaders in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing alleged genocide. How do you intend to seek justice when the world seems to be so divided over the Rohingya issue?

Mairead Maguire: “The leaders in Myanmar have committed genocide and we have all the witnesses for that. We heard women [speak of] being tortured, raped and their homes being burnt.”

Maguire related the story of a woman who was raped repeatedly and left for dead.

“The unconscious woman was later picked up by an elderly woman who took her to safety. That story of that woman being raped can be multiplied many times and you can well imagine the situation. So obviously we can understand that this is a policy of the Myanmar government to terrorize and expel the Rohingya people. They don’t even recognize them as their citizens. So the international community must take steps to do something. And we must take the Myanmar government to the ICC.

“A lot of people are working on this, like international lawyers, and we will continue until this is fulfilled. The second thing that we want to do is that Aung San Suu Kyi is our sister laureate. We believe that as long as she remains silent about what the Myanmar government is doing she is complacent with the genocide. But we want to go and see Aung San Suu Kyi and we want to ask her to break her silence.”

Maguire explained that she and her colleagues wish to speak to envoys of as many countries as possible.

“We would continue to pursue this dialogue with the ambassadors and leaders of the governments. We would also contact the United Nations and the European Parliament until this is taken to the international court.

IPS: What is your opinion on the voices of the global community, especially the influential leaders, remaining silent to a large extent on the Rohingya issue?

“I think many governments have interests in Myanmar, especially economic. In Rakhine state there are lot of resources like diamonds and costly stones. It’s all about money and oil. China also has interests in Maynmar because of these reasons. Unfortunately, many governments put profits before people. It should be other way around – governments should be responsible for taking care of their people. But they don’t want to say anything on human rights and justice because of political interests. However, we have to say as leaders, as Nobel Laureates, people are important, every person is important and it is wrong because of economic and political ties to allow people to be destroyed like this. We have to speak out and move the world’s conscience.

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

IPS: Do you believe that the United Nations has played its due role?

“No, the UN has not done enough. Human beings have a right to life, right to security and the governments must defend those rights of their people. And we have seen what the Myanmar government has done. I was there as part of a Nobel delegation 18 years ago on the Thai border with Myanmar and witnessed Karen people living in refugee camps who had to flee Burma. I had met many women then who were raped and carrying children of Burmese soldiers. So what we have seen in Cox’s Bazar [Rohingyas] the situation is not new. The Burmese military has been doing this for a long, long time.”

IPS: How can media coverage help bring justice to the victims?

“Women told us their stories of children being beaten, women being raped and their husbands being killed and houses burnt, which were absolutely horrific. The surviving women wanted us to tell their stories to the world so that their sufferings are known and they can then seek justice. They can have their national identity and go back to where they belong. So IPS can tell the real stories because when people hear these stories they cannot ignore them. We need the media like you. Because people don’t believe. It is diabolical what the Burmese soldiers have done to the Rohingya people, thinking nobody will know – but when you bring the truth to the light of day they cannot continue like this.”

Asked about the role of Bangladesh in welcoming the Rohingya refugees, she said, “It’s a wonderful example to other countries who have refugees on their borders. You have opened doors for a million or more and Europe is closing their doors. It is indeed a contrasting situation. When we went to the camps I was so astonished to see how well-organised they were. It’s wonderful to see how the government and the NGOs were working together.”

IPS: How can Myanmar be brought before the ICC?

Shirin Ebadi: Unfortunately, Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute [convention] for the ICC. So the only way this can happen is for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to decide to send the case of Myanmar to the ICC as they did in the case of Sudan.

What has happened to the Rohingya people is indeed a crime of genocide. In fact, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union has all acknowledged that it is genocide. That is why I am very much hopeful that the UNSC will debate this case but my only concern is China as a member of the UNSC may use its right to veto because of its economic interests in Myanmar.”

Ebadi also called on the wealthy Muslim countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, to do more for the Muslim-minority Rohingya.

“They are not giving any assistance, or they are giving very little. They prefer to spend their money on buying weapons which they use for killing people. So, my message to them is come and see the plight of the fellow Muslims and how they are being treated and my message is also to the Islamic countries – shame on you for not helping.”

What message would you give to your fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi? And do you also hold her responsible for the situation?

“I am indeed very sorry Aung San Suu Kyi, a person whom I had campaigned for on many occasions when she was under house arrest to secure her release, has now become complacent in the crime against the Rohingyas. My message to Aung San Suu Kyi is you have to break your silence now. You have to stop the genocide otherwise you would be held responsible and you must answer for your crimes at the international criminal court.”

The Nobel Women’s Initiative, in partnership with the local Bangladeshi women’s organization, Naripokkho, hosted the delegation of the Nobel Laureates to Bangladesh to witness and highlight the situation of the Rohingya refugees and the violence against Rohingya women.

Tawakkol Karman was known as “The Mother of the Revolution” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition of her work in nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work in Yemen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Akinwumi A. Adesina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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“Banging on the Door” – Women Fight for a Voice and Space in Civil Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/banging-door-women-fight-voice-space-civil-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=banging-door-women-fight-voice-space-civil-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/banging-door-women-fight-voice-space-civil-society/#respond Sat, 09 Dec 2017 14:51:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153427 The space for civil society organizations is shrinking around the world, with particular impacts on women activists and human rights defenders who face additional barriers due to their gender or sexual orientation. Civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists from around the world convened in Fiji over the last week to tackle some of the world’s […]

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Women activists demanding a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

Women activists demanding a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 9 2017 (IPS)

The space for civil society organizations is shrinking around the world, with particular impacts on women activists and human rights defenders who face additional barriers due to their gender or sexual orientation.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists from around the world convened in Fiji over the last week to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.Two years before she was murdered, indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Caceres said that it was her gender as much as her work that threatened her life.

Participants attended workshops and donned shirts saying “activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet” and “we will never give up on our beautiful planet.”

Among the challenges discussed is the rise in populism which has lead to restrictions in rights to expression and public assembly and thus actions taken by CSOs.

According to civil society alliance CIVICUS, only 2 of every 100 people live in a country with decent protections for civil society.

From Venezuela to Russia, state actors have put significant pressure on CSOs, preventing them from accessing foreign funding and registrations due to their role in defending human rights.

“When there is little or no support from government, the activist is in danger of discrimination and abuse by police and other authorities,” Pacific Women Advisory Board member Savina Nongebatu told IPS.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) have been increasingly subject to intimidation, harassment, and are at times killed for the work they do around the world.

Last year was the deadliest year ever recorded for HRDs with almost 300 killed across 25 countries, 49 percent of whom were defending land, indigenous, and environmental rights.

In addition to threats they face for their work, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are frequently targeted because of their gender or sexual orientation, experiencing attacks that are traditionally perpetrated against women including rape, defamation campaigns, and acid attacks.

In August 2016, Turkish activist Hande Kader was brutally raped and murdered for her outspoken work in lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender (LBGT) rights.

Human rights later Bertha de Leon was subject to a sexualized smear campaign as photos circulated suggesting she had a sexual relationship with a judge who ruled favorably in a case in which she was involved in El Salvador.

Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori who has been an outspoken critic of police violence towards her community was attacked with a chemical substance in February 2016.

Two years before she was murdered, indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Caceres said that it was her gender as much as her work that threatened her life.

“We are women who are reclaiming our right to the sovereignty of our bodies and thoughts and political beliefs, to our cultural and spiritual rights—of course the aggression is much greater,” she said.

Analysts have found that the trend of closing civic space and restrictons to civil society often go hand in hand with the intensification of a fundamentalist discouse on national identity and traditional patricarchal values.

Such threats and actions work to silence WHRDs, limiting their resources and capacity to do work in already restricted civic spaces.

“When we have defenders with limited resources and capacity, the possibility of not being heard or consulted is high,” Nongebatu said.

“The ability to work and build partnerships rests squarely on the few women activists who may have learnt to work smarter from lessons learnt in their journey,” she added.

Such threats and restrictions do not stay isolated within borders, but are often brought over to international fora like the UN.

During International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Fiji, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former UN Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark noted UN’s continuous struggle to include civil society voices, reminding participants that the UN Charter begins with the words “We the peoples.”

“It doesn’t say we the countries or we the member states,” she said, adding that barriers to civil society participation often comes from member states.

“Not all member states like civil society very much…you just have to keep banging on the door and force it to respond,” Clark said.

LGBT rights have been particularly long contested at the UN. In 2016, Russia with the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) banned 11 LGBT organizations from attending a UN High-Level meeting on Ending AIDS.

And it was only recently that women were formally recognized for their role in climate action during the UN Climate Change Conference in Germany, kickstarting a process to integrate gender equality and human rights into climate action.

Nongebatu also told IPS of the “North and South divide” where larger civil society organizations take up more resources and space and urged for them to ensure that all women who work in human rights are consulted.

She also called on the UN to be inclusive of those in the Pacific Islands who often are unable to make the long journey to New York.

Despite the numerous challenges, Nongebatu remained motivated and asked women activists to stay determined.

“Intersection of all issues is inevitable!…The work we do is never done! Don’t give up! We need to keep fighting!”


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

 

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Lawmakers Impose Gender Parity in Argentina’s Congress, By Surprisehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/lawmakers-impose-gender-parity-argentinas-congress-surprise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lawmakers-impose-gender-parity-argentinas-congress-surprise http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/lawmakers-impose-gender-parity-argentinas-congress-surprise/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 01:24:15 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153274 It was an unexpected move by a group of women in the lower house of the Argentine Congress. At one o’clock in the morning, during a long parliamentary session, they demanded the approval of a stalled bill for gender parity in political representation. There was resistance and arguments, but an hour later, the initiative became […]

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A group of women legislators in Argentina’s lower house, who in the early hours of the morning led a surprise vote that resulted in the approval of the law on gender parity in Argentina’s political representation, celebrate their achievement at the end of the historic session. Credit: Chamber of Deputies of Argentina

A group of women legislators in Argentina’s lower house, who in the early hours of the morning led a surprise vote that resulted in the approval of the law on gender parity in Argentina’s political representation, celebrate their achievement at the end of the historic session. Credit: Chamber of Deputies of Argentina

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 1 2017 (IPS)

It was an unexpected move by a group of women in the lower house of the Argentine Congress. At one o’clock in the morning, during a long parliamentary session, they demanded the approval of a stalled bill for gender parity in political representation. There was resistance and arguments, but an hour later, the initiative became law by a large majority.

With votes from all the parties, a historic step was taken for Argentine politics: as of the next legislative elections, in 2019, all the lists of candidates for Congress must necessarily alternate male and female candidates, to ensure equal participation in both houses.

The law also stipulates that women have to make up half of the lists of candidates for national positions of the political parties, although in this case it does not require an alternation of women and men."This is the result of many years of efforts for politics to incorporate the voice and presence of women when it comes to making decisions that impact society as a whole." -- Deputy Victoria Donda

The surprise move in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 23 by female lawmakers revived a stalled bill that was already approved by the Senate 13 months ago, and by a committee in October, but was not scheduled for debate in the lower house this year.

When the session finally ended at almost four o’clock in the morning, the speaker of the lower house, Emilio Monzó of the ruling Cambiemos alliance, asked the euphoric women legislators who had taken part in the mission to take a group photo. And many others joined the picture to demonstrate their support.

“It was an intelligent strategy that cut across party affiliation to revive an issue that kept being put off. Once there was agreement to vote, almost everyone did so in favour of the measure. With what arguments could a lawmaker publicly justify voting against it?” asked Natalia Gherardi, executive director of the Latin American Team for Justice and Gender (ELA).

ELA is one of the many civil society organisations that have been demanding the approval of a gender parity law for more than 10 years, a period of time in which dozens of bills were presented.

Gherardi told IPS that this law “represents a new paradigm of parity democracy, which should not be limited to the legislative branch. Politics must reflect the diversity of society.”

Another stride forward in Latin America

In Latin America, Ecuador has been a path-breaker, after giving constitutional status to gender parity in elective posts in 2008.

Legislators who supported the new law at four o'clock in the morning on Nov. 23, 2017 took a group photo when the historic session in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies ended, after passing a law that imposes gender parity in political representation. Credit: Chamber of Deputies of Argentina

Legislators who supported the new law at four o’clock in the morning on Nov. 23, 2017 took a group photo when the historic session in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies ended, after passing a law that imposes gender parity in political representation. Credit: Chamber of Deputies of Argentina

A report on parity democracy in the region, by the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), within the Organisation of American States (OAS), concluded that the region is the most advanced in the world with respect to laws that protect women’s political participation.

Argentina is the fifth country to regulate parity in parliamentary representation, after Ecuador, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Mexico.

But in total there are 15 countries in Latin America that have legislated on gender parity or have established quotas ranging from 20 to 50 per cent in elective posts.

However, these laws have not always been applied effectively, according to a document from the project “Atenea: Mechanism for the Acceleration of the Political Participation of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean” developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women and International Idea, aimed at promoting political parity in Latin America.

Argentina is a pioneer in the region, having passed the first female quota law, in 1991, which set a mandatory floor of 30 percent of women on the lists of candidates, “in proportions likely to lead to election.”

However, the report ”Political Parity in Argentina. Advances and Challenges “, presented this year by the Atenea project points out that, although the quota law favoured women’s access to politics, over the years the set quota of 30 percent became “a difficult ceiling to break through.”

Alejandra García, a gender associate at UNDP Argentina, told IPS that women’s political representation in the country “had been stagnant. That is why this new legislative step forward is very positive.”

García maintains that the quota laws “are affirmative action laws and have a temporary nature, while this new law is conceptually different, since it seeks to guarantee parity representation in a definitive way “.

The issue of gender parity in parliaments entered Argentine politics at the beginning of this century, when the regional legislatures of three of the country’s 23 provinces passed gender parity laws: Santiago del Estero, Córdoba and Río Negro.

The matter was revived last year, when four other provinces passed laws (Buenos Aires, Chubut, Salta and Neuquén), while at the national level the Senate approved the bill on gender parity.

It was on Oct. 19, 2016 when the issue of political parity had major repercussions, coinciding with massive marches of women throughout the country against sexist violence, under the slogan “Not one [woman] less”, in response to several femicides or gender-based murders.

However, at the same time, the lower house was discussing an electoral reform bill promoted by the government of President Mauricio Macri, which among other issues included changing the voting system from paper ballot to electronic, but did not include any changes regarding gender issues.

The parity bill now is only waiting to be signed into law by the executive branch, which is taken for granted after it was approved with 57 votes in favour and only two against in the Senate, and 165 positive votes, four negative and two abstentions in the Chamber of Deputies.

“This is the result of many years of efforts for politics to incorporate the voice and presence of women when it comes to making decisions that impact society as a whole,” said Deputy Victoria Donda.

This member of the progressive Free of the South Movement was the one who interrupted the programmed course of the session on the night of Nov. 22, to demand a vote on the gender parity bill, without the need for debate or speeches, which generated a discussion but was quickly accepted.

“The overwhelming vote in favour reflected the progress of the demands for equal rights,” added 40-year-old Donda, who is somewhat of a symbol of Argentine democracy.

This is because she is the daughter of disappeared parents, and was born in the Navy Mechanics School (ESMA), the most infamous of the torture centres run by Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

Donda was stolen at birth by the family of a member of the security forces and regained her true identity in 2003.

Still pending in Argentina with respect to gender parity in politics are the executive and judicial branches.

In 2016, there were just 13.6 percent women in ministerial positions, according to data from Atenea.
At the level of municipal governments, there is only official data from the eastern province of Buenos Aires, the largest and most populous, where only 2.9 percent of mayors are women.

The proportion rises to 31.7 percent in city councils, where the 30 percent quota established by national legislation is applied.

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Historic Resolution on Women & Peacekeeping Remains Mostly Unimplementedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/historic-resolution-women-peacekeeping-remains-mostly-unimplemented/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=historic-resolution-women-peacekeeping-remains-mostly-unimplemented http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/historic-resolution-women-peacekeeping-remains-mostly-unimplemented/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 08:24:02 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152792 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is internationally recognized as the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 when he was President of the Security Council in March 2000

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Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is internationally recognized as the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 when he was President of the Security Council in March 2000

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

At the 26 October launch of GNWP’s (Global Network of Women Peacebuilders) manual “No Money, No NAP” on dedicated budgetary allocation to fund the implementation of the 1325 National Action Plans, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka characterized UNSCR 1325 as the most unimplemented resolution of the UN Security Council.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN

Representing the UN Secretary-General, his Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribiero Viotti said at the Security Council Open Debate on Women and Peace and Security on 27 October that “…seventeen years since the passage of resolution 1325, our own implementation remains too often ad hoc. While there is a clear recognition of the relationship between gender equality, women’s participation and stability and resilience, too little is being done to operationalize this understanding.”

I agree with both of them in a big way particularly bearing in mind that adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture.

We need to understand that 1325 by itself envisages a broad-based conceptual transformation of the existing international policies and practices that make women insecure and deny their equality of participation, basically as a result of the Security Council’s support of the existing militarized inter-state security arrangements.

I am referring to the concept of security based on current strategic power structures rather than on human security which highlights the security of the people. That change itself remains very distant.

Here I would mention enthusiastically a dedicated woman, Peace and Security Program which was launched last week at New York’s prestigious Columbia University. Led by 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate dynamic Leymah Gbowee, this Program has identified all the key areas which need special attention, particularly emphasizing the human security dimension and grassroots level experiences in WPS agenda. I wish her and the Program all success!

Apart from that I find there four areas where greater progress was possible during last 17 years:
One, in real terms, National Action Plan (NAP) is the engine that would speed up the implementation of 1325. It should be also underscored that all countries are obligated as per decisions of the Security Council to prepare the NAP whether they are in a so-called conflict situation or not. So far, only 68 out of 193 UN Member States have prepared their plans – what a dismal record after 17 years.

Leymah Gbowee launches WPS Program at the Columbia University, as its Executive Director

There are no better ways to get country level commitment to implement 1325 other than the NAPs. I believe very strongly that only NAPs can hold the governments accountable. There needs to be an increased and pro-active engagement of the UN secretariat leadership to get a meaningfully bigger number of NAPs.

Two, I would say that special attention should be given to building awareness and sensitivity as well as training of the senior officials within the UN system as a whole with regard to 1325. That will create a foundational culture of recognizing women’s equality of participation as essential.

Three, another missing element is a greater, regular, genuine and participatory involvement of civil society in implementing 1325 both at national and global levels. We should not forget that when civil society is marginalized, there is little chance for 1325 to get implemented in the real sense.

Four, what role the Secretary-General should play? I believe there is a need for his genuinely active, dedicated engagement in using the moral authority of the United Nations and the high office he occupies for the effective implementation of 1325. Would it not have a strong, positive impact on countries for the implementation of 1325 if their leaders received a formal communication from the S-G suggesting a date for submission of respective NAPs?

Implementation of 1325 should be seriously taken up in the SG’s UN system-wide coordination mechanism – at the next CEB meeting. DPI needs to have an information and awareness raising strategy for 1325 – mainstreamed in its work – not as an event and anniversary oriented publicity.

UN Resident Coordinators who represent the SG and the whole UN system at the country level and UN country teams should assist all national level actors in preparation and implementation of national action plans.

In short, through implementation of 1325, we want complete and real, practical, functional, operational equality between women and men to end the cycle of all forms of extremism which continue to sabotage humanity’s quest for sustainable peace and development.

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Excerpt:

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is internationally recognized as the initiator of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 when he was President of the Security Council in March 2000

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Despite Odds, Women Gain Stature in African Politicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/despite-odds-women-gain-stature-african-politics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-odds-women-gain-stature-african-politics http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/despite-odds-women-gain-stature-african-politics/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 12:47:43 +0000 Kwamboka Oyaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152510 Once in a while, Africa produces talented women politicians who, despite the odds, overcome the obstacles that impede their success in the political arena. Some of the African women who have shattered the glass ceiling include Liberia’s outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda; Mauritius’s president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim; and former interim […]

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Launch of the African Women Leaders Network in New York. Credit: UN Photos

By Kwamboka Oyaro
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

Once in a while, Africa produces talented women politicians who, despite the odds, overcome the obstacles that impede their success in the political arena.

Some of the African women who have shattered the glass ceiling include Liberia’s outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda; Mauritius’s president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim; and former interim president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza.

For most African women, however, the political terrain is too rough to navigate. Few make the journey, perceiving that their male colleagues would try to undermine them. In their effort to take up leadership positions, qualified African women can expect to confront gender-based attacks, including being labelled “prostitutes” or “concubines”. Sometimes they are sexually harassed, and they often contend with men seeking sexual favours as preconditions for support.

Propositions from senior male office holders as a precondition for entry into the field are unacceptable, says former Nigerian senator Uche Lilian Ekwunife. She adds that this is a tactic men have used for years to discourage women from entering the political fray.

Ms. Ekwunife recollects her 2011 re-election campaign for Nigeria’s House of Representatives, when her opponent superimposed her head on a naked body and sent the picture to YouTube “just to demean my person.” Luckily, that childish slur backfired, and Ms. Ekwunife easily won the election to the legislative body.

Four years later, when she sought election to the senate in 2015, her experience was less pleasant. Although she was re-elected to become one of six women out of the 109 senators in Nigeria’s upper law-making body, her political journey was short.

The courts nullified her election after she had been in the senate only six months. She believes that her election’s nullification was politically motivated, even though there was the issue of her switching political parties at the last minute.

Ms. Ekwunife’s experience is not unique among women political hopefuls in Africa. For example, just two days after activist Diane Shima Rwigara declared her intention to run for the presidency in Rwanda’s general election in August this year, social media was awash with purported nude pictures of her. Her candidacy was disqualified by election officials.

In neighbouring Uganda, a member of the opposition Zainab Fatuma Naigaga and some male colleagues were arrested on their way to a political rally in October 2015. But it was only Ms. Naigaga who was stripped naked by abusive police officers, while the men were left alone.

In Kenya, MP Millie Odhiambo Mabona was analysing the country’s Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Parliament when a commotion on the floor degenerated into a free-for-all brawl.

Ms. Mabona says she was assaulted by two pro-government MPs. “That day I was in a dress and these men kept pulling it up while I pulled it down. They went ahead and tore my panties,” Ms. Mabona told Africa Renewal in an interview.

One of the accused male MPs was quoted in the local dailies, saying, “I slapped her because she wanted to assault the deputy speaker. That was great disrespect.” The MPs later passed the bill on security laws.

Women facing sexual harassment must call the men’s bluff, says Ms. Mabona. “If they threaten me with exposing my sexual encounters, I tell them I would also expose those that I went out with.” Ms. Ekwunife, taking a different tack, says “women need to focus and ignore these distractions.”

Besides issues relating to their bodies and their private lives, African female politicians, most of the time, begin their career in politics later in life, and start from a position of disadvantage of having to balance family and work. They also tend to have less money than their male counterparts to spend on campaign expenses.

Shauna Shames of New Jersey’s Rutgers University-Camden, writing about “Barriers and solutions to increasing women’s political power,” notes that “when money dominates politics, women lose out. With women having persistently lower incomes for many reasons, they are far less likely than men to be in the social and business networks that pour money into political campaigns.”

Major political parties rarely nominate women for elected positions during primaries because of the belief that women stand a slim chance of winning against men. In Kenya, for example, all the leading parties nominated men as presidential candidates for the August 2017 elections.

Sometimes a political party will attempt to curry favour by nominating women, yet will not fully back the female politicians to win elections, explains Ms. Ekwunife.

Women candidates are more vulnerable than their male counterparts to electoral violence, including physical attacks on the candidates themselves, their families or supporters, from the campaigns to election time, says Ms. Mabona.

The Kenyan government pledged to enhance security for women aspirants in the lead-up to the August 2017 general election. The cabinet secretary for interior security, the late Joseph Nkaissery, in June announced the government’s intention to protect women candidates, but also told them to be “tough,” without explaining what he meant, leaving pundits to infer a tacit approval for women to be violent.

Ms. Mabona herself witnessed raw violence early this year during her political party’s fiery primaries in her Mbita Constituency in western Kenya. Her bodyguard was killed and her house was burned down.

Will the ground be level anytime soon for women politicians in Africa? Dismas Mokua, a political analyst with Trintari International, a Nairobi-based public relations firm, says women in Africa have made some impact in politics but could do better. Most societies are patriarchal and don’t expect women to take up leadership positions, explains Mr. Mokua.

“Running for a public office requires resources. A lot of women candidates may not have the requisite finances,” says Mr. Mokua. Against all odds, the time is now for Africa’s visionary female politicians to join politics and change the narrative.

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

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Malala Yousafzai Becomes UN’s Youngest Messenger of Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/malala-yousafzai-becomes-uns-youngest-messenger-of-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malala-yousafzai-becomes-uns-youngest-messenger-of-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/malala-yousafzai-becomes-uns-youngest-messenger-of-peace/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 20:51:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149896 Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai has become the youngest UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on girls’ education. During a designation ceremony, UN Secretary-General António Guterres selected and honoured Yousafzai as the organisation’s Messenger of Peace. “You are the symbol of one of the most important causes of the world…and that is education […]

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Malala Yousafszai with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2017 (IPS)

Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai has become the youngest UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on girls’ education.

During a designation ceremony, UN Secretary-General António Guterres selected and honoured Yousafzai as the organisation’s Messenger of Peace.

“You are the symbol of one of the most important causes of the world…and that is education for all,” said Guterres.

“Admiring your courageous defense of the rights of all people including women and girls to education and equality [and] honoring the fact that you have shown, even in the face of grave danger, the unwavering commitment to peace…it takes great pride and pleasure in proclaiming Malala Yousafzai a United Nations Messenger of Peace,” he continued.
"I think people should look at me and all of the other 1.6 billion Muslims who are living in peace and believe in peace rather than looking at a few terrorists…they are not us,” -- Malala Yousafzai

Yousafzai, 19, became a symbol for the fight for girls’ education after being shot in Pakistan’s Swat valley in 2012 for opposing Taliban restrictions on female education. She has since become a global human rights leader, becoming the the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founding the Malala Fund to raise awareness of the millions of girls without access to formal education.

“I stood here on this stage almost three and a half years ago…and I told the world that education is a basic human right of every girl…I stand here again today and say the same thing: education is the right of every child and especially for girls, this right should not be neglected,” Yousafzai said upon accepting the role.

Over 130 million girls are out of school today. Girls often lack access to education because they have to work, care for younger siblings, or are married early. Many also face violence, posing additional barriers for school attendance.

Beyond issues of education, Yousafzai has also been an outspoken advocate on issues of conflict and refugees.

On the escalation of violence in Syria, she stated: “To the children under siege in Aleppo, I pray that you will get out safely. I pray that you will grow up strong, go to school and see peace in your country some day. But prayers are not enough. We must act. The international community must do everything they can to end to this inhumane war.”

Most recently, Yousafzai condemned the U.S. executive order banning people from several Muslim-majority countries, writing that she is “heartbroken” and asking President Donald Trump to not turn his back on families fleeing violence and war.

“I’m a Muslim and I’m proud to be a Muslim… I think people should look at me and all of the other 1.6 billion Muslims who are living in peace and believe in peace rather than looking at a few terrorists…they are not us,” she said during the designation ceremony.

Both Yousafzai and Guterres noted the challenges that refugee families face in camps.

Worldwide, approximately 50 percent of refugee children have access to primary education. The gap widens as children grow older with 22 percent having access to secondary education and less than 1 percent with access to universities. In Lebanon alone, only half of Syrian refugee children can go to school.

“This shows how little the international community is doing to educate refugee children,” said Guterres.

“It is our responsibility, especially in the richest countries, to express our solidarity to all those who unfortunately cannot provide to their children the education they have the right to receive,” he continude.

The Malala Fund helps fund schools around the world, including education programs in the Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan.

Messengers of Peace are distinguished individuals, carefully selected from various fields by the Secretary-General, to help raise awareness on the work of the UN. Others Messengers of Peace include U.S. actor Leonardo Di Caprio, Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho and U.S. singer Stevie Wonder.

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Women and Tribal Leaders Call for “Balanced” Libyan Peace Processhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-and-tribal-leaders-call-for-balanced-libyan-peace-process/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-and-tribal-leaders-call-for-balanced-libyan-peace-process http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/women-and-tribal-leaders-call-for-balanced-libyan-peace-process/#comments Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:42:42 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149611 A delegation of Libyan tribal leaders and women leaders has called on the UN to take a balanced approach to the Libyan peace process. The delegation from the National Movement for Libya (NML) met with UN officials and U.S. government representatives while visiting New York and Washington D.C. to discuss the UN-led peace process in […]

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"Women attend a workshop on advantages of reconciliation and peace-making in Sabha City." Credit: MAFO

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

A delegation of Libyan tribal leaders and women leaders has called on the UN to take a balanced approach to the Libyan peace process.

The delegation from the National Movement for Libya (NML) met with UN officials and U.S. government representatives while visiting New York and Washington D.C. to discuss the UN-led peace process in Libya.

“We don’t have a state, we don’t really have a government to control everything. The whole institution has collapsed after 2011,” said Libya Institute for Advanced Studies’ Head of the Mediation Department Ali Masoud to IPS.

“The only thing to help people find a solution and help peace-building is the tribal leaders or community leaders,” he continued.

Despite a UN-brokered peace deal known as the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in 2015, which established the internationally-backed unity government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, armed factions have continued to battle for control over the oil-rich nation.

Most recently, pro-unity government armed forces expanded their control in the capital of Tripoli, fighting rival militias including groups allied with former Prime Minister Khalifa Ghweli.

Ghweli was ousted from power when al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) took office and has refused to recognize the new administration, instead forming his own Government of National Salvation (GNS).

Khalifa Haftar, who leads troops for a third rival government in the Eastern region of the country, also opposes the UN-backed GNA but has focused on battling Islamist militias including the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia and Islamic State (ISIS). His Libyan National Army (LNA) recently recaptured major oil ports from militias.

The NML was formed to address the country’s complex conflicts and engage in reconciliation efforts. However, community leaders have been left out of the peace process.

“[The UN] has carried on with the political track with politicians who are really not representative of the Libyan people,” Masoud told IPS.

"Women attend a workshop on advantages of reconciliation and peace-making in Sabha City."  Credit: MAFO

“Women attend a workshop on advantages of reconciliation and peace-making in Sabha City.” Credit: MAFO

“They failed to start the tribal track which is really very important to engage tribes in Libya where they feel they own this political agreement and own the [dialogue] process,” he continued, adding that the dialogues stopped inviting tribal leaders as they were hosted outside of Libya.

Another NML representative Nour Elayoun Mohamed Abdul Ati Alobeidi highlighted the role that women have played in mediation, pointing to a case in the southern Libyan town of Ubari where Tuareg and Tebu tribes have clashed.

“In that war, men tried to mediate to stop the fire, but it was only when women decided to build a mobile tent in the middle of the shooting—only then the war stopped immediately because of those brave women who initiated this even though it was risky but they weren’t scared because they wanted the war to stop,” she told IPS.

Alobeidi said that tent was established to bring together the two sides to have a dialogue.

“This led both sides of women to understand that their pain is the same. And those women, the same women who were against each other, helped in bringing peace back to the Ubari area,” she continued.

Masoud and Alobeidi called on the inclusion of community leaders to create a National Charter that represents and ensures the rights of all Libyans.

“There is no national charter, no constitution, no surveys to understand what Libyan people demand, what they would like exactly, and what kind of a system they hope to have after this era of dictatorship,” Masoud told IPS.

They believe that creating a National Charter is essential before holding elections in order to help unite Libyans.

They also called on the international community to support inclusive tribal and political tracks that focus on building institutions rather than on one person or politician.

“All these tracks should feed each other, and when a national agreement is reached, then we will shrink the power of these politicians–they will have no space for violence, only the vision of Libyans that they should rely on,” Masoud told IPS.

The NML consists of tribal groups that both supported and opposed Gaddafi during the 2011 revolution. The delegation of tribal and women leaders was sponsored by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies, with the support of Finn Church Aid.

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“The Struggle Continues” for Human Right to Peace and Inclusion of Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women/#respond Thu, 16 Mar 2017 20:07:50 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149456 UN officials and activists gathered to discuss the essential relationships between sustainable peace and gender equality during a two week-long UN meeting, begining March 13. At a side event of the 61st session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), panelists shed light on the important role that women play in peace and […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

UN officials and activists gathered to discuss the essential relationships between sustainable peace and gender equality during a two week-long UN meeting, begining March 13.

At a side event of the 61st session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), panelists shed light on the important role that women play in peace and development.

“Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible,” said Former Under-Secretary General and High Representative of the UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury.

Despite this, panelists noted that societies have long ignored women’s contributions.

According to an Oxfam report, women carry out up to 10 times more unpaid care work than men. This work is worth approximately $10 trillion per year, which is more than the gross domestic products (GDPs) of India, Japan and Brazil combined.

Research has also shown that almost 60 million unpaid workers are filling in the gaps caused by inadequate health services, majority of whom are women who have had to give up employment or education to carry out this role.

Chowdhury added that there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world if women had the same access to resources as men.

Panelists were particularly concerned with the lack of formal recognition of the human right to peace and the inclusion of women in this goal.

Canadian activist Douglas Roche explained the ‘human right to peace’ arose to address new “interconnected” challenges that the current human rights framework, which is based on a relationship between the State and the individual, is unable to do, including increased militarism by both State and non-State entities.

During the panel discussion, UN Independent Expert in the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order Alfred-Maurice de Zayas stated that the human right to peace also allows for the realization of the right to self-determination which is a “crucial conflict prevention strategy.”

After decades of struggling to gain consensus, the General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Right to Peace in December. Though it was a significant accomplishment achieved largely due to a civil society initiative, many have expressed their disappointment in the document.

“The new declaration is falling far short of the expectation of civil society, many governments,” Chowdhury told IPS.

Among concerns about the declaration is its lack of reference to women which is only mentioned once in the 6 page document.

President of Hague Appeal for Peace and long time peace activist Cora Weiss criicised the document’s language, which calls for women’s “maximum participation.”

“It’s a slippery word,” she told participants, stressing the importance of “equal” inclusion of women to achieve peace.

Weiss was a national leader of the Women Strike for Peace, which organised the largest national women’s protest of the 20th century and contributed to the end of nuclear testing in the 1960s. She was also helped lead the anti-Vietnam war movement, including organising one of the largest anti-war demonstrations in 1969.

“There is no limit to the relationship between women and peace,” Weiss said.

Chowdhury, who led the initiative on Resolution 1325 calling for the increase in women’s representation in conflict management and resolution, echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Women at the peace table is a very important element at the UN and at the Security Council to take into account. Unless they value the 50 percent of humanity positively contributing to securing peace and security, it will move nowhere.”

Despite the unanimous UN adoption of Resolution 1325, little has been done to enforce and implement it. No woman has ever been the chief or lead mediator in an UN-led peace negotiation.

Panelists also criticised the absence of language around disarmament in the Declaration.

“How are you going to make peace in a world that is awash with weapons?” Weiss asked.

According the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist and are owned by just nine countries. The Arms Control Association (ACA) estimates a higher inventory of 15,500, 90 percent of which belong to Russia and the United States. Almost 2000 of these warheads are on high alert and are ready to launch within minutes, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found.

More general military spending also continues to dwarf resources provided to development activities including education.

In 2014, global military spending was approximately 1.8 trillion dollars while 26 billion dollars was provided to achieve education for all by the end of 2015.

Zayas highlighted the need to redirect resources used for war to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address other pressing socioeconomic and environmental challenges.

Chowdhury also told participants that a resolution on peace cannot and should not be adopted by vote.

“Peace is the ultimate goal of the UN,” he said.

The Declaration was approved with 131 vote for, 34 against, and with 19 abstentions, reflecting a lack of consensus on the subject.

Though he expressed fear that progress towards gender equality may be rolled back due to a reversal in trends, Chowdhury said the struggle will continue until the human right to peace is recognized and implemented.

CSW is the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights, bringing together civil society, academia, and governments. This year’s theme is women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

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Travel Restrictions Cast Shadow on UN Women’s Meeting: Rights Groupshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 04:27:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149442 Increasing travel restrictions have prevented delegates from attending this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to several women’s rights groups. The travel constraints go beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban on refugees and Muslim-majority countries, which was again blocked by a Federal Judge on Wednesday. Although the Executive Order […]

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A view of the General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Stats of Women (CSW). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

Increasing travel restrictions have prevented delegates from attending this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to several women’s rights groups.

The travel constraints go beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban on refugees and Muslim-majority countries, which was again blocked by a Federal Judge on Wednesday.

Although the Executive Order has not been re-enacted, women’s rights groups perceive that organising internationally is becoming more difficult. They report that some potential delegates were surprised that they were unable to obtain U.S. visas for the UN meeting; others were worried about increasingly strict treatment at U.S. airports; while others were prevented from travelling by their home countries.

The annual Commission on the Status of Women is usually one of the most vibrant and diverse meetings at UN headquarters in New York with hundreds of government ministers and thousands of delegates attending from around the world.

Sanam Amin from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) told IPS that two members of the group’s delegation from from Bangladesh and Nepal, countries that “are not listed in the first or second version of (Trump’s travel) ban,” were unable to obtain visas.

“Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials,” said Amin.

Amin also said that she had “been in contact with UN Women in Bangladesh, in Bangkok (ESCAP) and in New York over the visa refusal issue,” for weeks before the meeting, trying to find a solution.

“Those who were refused were expected by us to speak or participate in our side events and meetings with partner organisations and official delegations.” The APWLD, is an NGO which has accreditation with the UN Economic and Social Chamber.

Others unable to attend the event include a youth activist from El Salvador who on Wednesday participated in a side-event she had been meant to speak at, via video. Meanwhile women’s rights activists Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman from Egypt were unable to attend because the Egyptian government has prevented them from leaving the country

"Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials," -- Sanam Amin.

Representatives from civil society having difficulties obtaining visas to travel to attend UN meetings in the United States pre-dates the current Trump-Republican Administration. The U.S. Department of State advised IPS that it could not comment on individual visa cases. However while there are many potential reasons why visas may be refused, several groups perceive travel becoming more difficult in 2017.

“It’s incredibly ominous to have women’s rights activists feel like the revised executive order and overall hate rhetoric from the Trump administration makes them feel unsafe coming to this CSW and that is what we have heard,” Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International told IPS.

“We’ve heard women’s rights activists say that they worried about how they would be treated at U.S. borders and airports. We heard LGBTI activists who were coming to this meeting also worry about their own safety.”

Both Stern and Amin expressed concern about the implications and meanings of the travel ban, even though the courts have continued to keep it on hold, because even the revised ban, specifically restricts travel for nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

“The ban text even cites violence against women – in section one – in the six countries as reason to ‘not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred’,” said Amin.

“In fact, it (would restrict) civil society from those very countries from participating in events such as CSW. Instead, their governments are emboldened to take more regressive positions on women’s human rights, and the U.S., with its Global Gag Rule among other anti-women policies, is taking its place side-by-side with the very countries it has targeted with the ban,” she said.

Stern added that the theme of this year’s CSW – the economic empowerment of women – should not be a politicised issue.

“(It) should be a non-partisan issue that every government in the world can get behind because every government has a vested interest in the eradication of poverty and national economic development and we know that women are the majority of the world’s poor and so if you empower women economically than you empower families communities and nations,” said Stern.

She emphasised the importance of the meeting as a global forum for people who are actively working for gender justice around the world to speak with governments.

At the CSW “thousands of activists for women’s rights and gender justice (speak) with every government of the world to say what struggles they have from their own governments and the kind of accountability that they expect from the international system,” says Stern.

The rights organisations sponsoring the No Borders on Gender Justice campaign include: MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and OutRight Action International.

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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.

The post 16-Hour Days for Zimbabwe’s Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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Women’s Rights Activists: “Nevertheless, We Persist”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/womens-rights-activists-nevertheless-we-persist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-rights-activists-nevertheless-we-persist http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/womens-rights-activists-nevertheless-we-persist/#comments Thu, 02 Mar 2017 16:40:41 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149202 Human rights groups have expressed concern for the future of global negotiations on women’s rights in a climate of restrictive policies ahead of an upcoming annual UN meeting on the status of women. While discussing the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), organisations highlighted the importance of intersectionality in the discussion of women’s […]

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The theme of the 2017 UN Commission on the Status of Women will be economic empowerment. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 2 2017 (IPS)

Human rights groups have expressed concern for the future of global negotiations on women’s rights in a climate of restrictive policies ahead of an upcoming annual UN meeting on the status of women.

While discussing the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), organisations highlighted the importance of intersectionality in the discussion of women’s rights and implementation of relevant social and economic policies, referring to the importance of considering the many different ways that women can be marginalised.

“You need to look at issues of education, issues of mobility, issues of violence in the workplace, issues of sexual and reproductive rights of women…as a precursor to employment,” said President of the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) Françoise Girard.

Negotiations have begun to create an outcome document for the CSW, whose main theme for 2017 is women’s economic empowerment.

“We feel very strongly that you cannot talk about women in a world of work globally without looking at the other factors that keep women from decent work,” Girard told IPS.

However, the initial draft failed to address these issues adequately with no mention of girls’ access to education or young women’s access to reproductive health care, she said.

“If women don’t have access to education or ethnic minorities are discriminated in the school system…or [lack] the ability to control their fertility and reproductive health…that will have a huge impact on their ability to be in paid work,” Girard told IPS.

Co-Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) Eleanor Blomstrom also noted the “disappointing” lack of language around climate change.

“If we don’t address [climate change], then we don’t have a planet on which to live where women can exercise their full rights,” she said during a press conference.

Girard and Blomstrom also expressed alarm at the implementation of policies that further restrict women’s rights and thus economic empowerment.

The global gag rule, reinstated by the Trump administration, forbids non-governmental organisations receiving U.S. global health funding from working on issues around abortion regardless of other sources of funding. It also blocks recipients from participating in any national discussions on abortion.

Under the Bush administration, the policy only applied to family planning funds. This is the first time the condition has been applied to all global health assistance which makes up USD 9.5 billion, including funding for HIV and maternal health.

Girard cited the example of Kenyan organisation Kisumu Medical and Education Trust (KMET) which receives approximately USD 200,000 to provide a range of reproductive health services including the treatment of postpartum haemorrhage. However, they are now left in a precarious position of whether or not to limit their services.

“Now they are having to choose—they cannot provide comprehensive health care anymore if they accept U.S. government funding, but they don’t want to stop training providers for postpartum haemorrhage,” said Girard.

Girard and Blomstrom noted that including such intersections of women’s issues in the CSW outcome document will help pave the way for governments to implement longer-term, detailed plans that allow for positive development opportunities and outcomes for women.

And there has been some progress, they added, with governments contributing to a new draft that views women’s participation in the world of work in a more holistic manner.

The new draft has thus far pulled language from the Paris Climate Change Agreement to address the intersections between women’s economic empowerment and environmental and climate change concerns, and highlighted the “crucial” need for men and boys to share household work and work towards a fair division of labor.

“I am pleasantly surprised at this early stage that there is real recognition (of these issues),” Girard said.

She also noted the important mobilisation around the world for and after the Women’s March on Washington which saw millions of protestors gather for women’s rights.

“I see the energy is very high, people are mobilised, the actions are continuing and we’re not going away, we’re not going back,” Girard told IPS.

The organisers of the Women’s March have planned a women’s strike on March 8, which also falls on International Women’s Day.

“In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women’s March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognising the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system—while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity,” the organisers state.

And in that same spirit and despite the potential disagreements that are expected to occur as CSW negotiations proceed, “nevertheless, we persist,” said Girard and Blomstrom.

The term is a play on words after U.S. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, said ““She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” in reference to U.S. Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren, after Warren was told to stop reading out loud a letter by Coretta Scott King – the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. – earlier this month.csw

Governments and civil society from around the world will be convening for CSW at the UN Headquarters in NY from 13 to 24 March to discuss and implement plans to promote women’s rights.

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The Peasant Farmer Who Stood Up to the President of Nicaraguahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/the-peasant-farmer-who-has-stood-up-to-the-president-of-nicaragua/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-peasant-farmer-who-has-stood-up-to-the-president-of-nicaragua http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/the-peasant-farmer-who-has-stood-up-to-the-president-of-nicaragua/#comments Fri, 24 Feb 2017 22:59:57 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149106 The unequal battle that small farmer Francisca Ramírez is waging against the Nicaraguan government of Daniel Ortega has become so well-known that people are calling for her security and her rights from the political heart of Europe. Who is she and why did the European Parliament order Nicaragua on Feb. 16 to protect her life […]

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Francisca Ramírez, the head of the peasant movement that is leading the fight against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua, which has made her a victim of harassment by the administration of Daniel Ortega. Credit: Luis Martínez/IPS

Francisca Ramírez, the head of the peasant movement that is leading the fight against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua, which has made her a victim of harassment by the administration of Daniel Ortega. Credit: Luis Martínez/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Feb 24 2017 (IPS)

The unequal battle that small farmer Francisca Ramírez is waging against the Nicaraguan government of Daniel Ortega has become so well-known that people are calling for her security and her rights from the political heart of Europe.

Who is she and why did the European Parliament order Nicaragua on Feb. 16 to protect her life and rights, as well as those of thousands of peasant farmers in the centre-south of this impoverished Central American country?

Ramírez is a 40-year-old indigenous farmer who has lived all her life in the agricultural municipality of Nueva Guinea, in the Autonomous Region of Caribe Sur, 280 km from the capital.

She told IPS in an interview that her family has always lived in that rural area, which was the scene of bloody fighting during the 1980s civil war.

When she was eight, her father abandoned them and her mother had to work as a day labourer, while Ramírez took care of her five younger siblings.

Having survived the U.S.-financed war against the government of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (1979-1990), Ramírez learned agricultural work, got married at 18, had five children, and with the effort of the whole family, they acquired some land and improved their living conditions.

Ortega, who governed the country in that period, after overthrowing the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, returned to power in 2007. In January, he started a third consecutive term of office, after winning widely questioned elections where the opposition was excluded, supported by a civil-military alliance which controls all the branches of the state.

Ramírez was happy with her life until 2013. “They told us over the radio that they were going to build a canal and I thought that it was a very important thing because they said that we were no longer going to be poor,” she said.

Then, gradually, the news started to change her perception of the project to build the Great Nicaraguan Canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific, granted in concession to the Chinese group HKND in 2013, and she started to ask questions that nobody answered.

One day, bad luck knocked on her door: delegations of public officials who her community had never seen before, accompanied by members of the police and the military, escorted delegations of people from China who made measurements and calculations about the properties of the farmers.

“The route of the canal runs through your property and all of you will be resettled,” they told her.

Law 840, passed in 2013 to give life to the over 50-billion-dollar mega-project, which she was barely able to understand with her three years of formal schooling, was very clear: they would be paid for their lands a price which the state considered “appropriate”.

So the resistance began. “At first everybody was happy, we thought that at last progress was coming, but when overbearing soldiers and police officers started to show up, guarding the Chinese, the whole community refused to let them in their homes and we started to protest,” she said.

Since then, she said the official response has not varied: repression, harassment and threats to farmers who refuse to give up their land.

Ramírez said that she became an activist in the National Council in Defence of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty, a civil society initiative to organise the peasant movement to defend their lands and rights.

She started marching behind the rural leaders who led the first demonstrations against the canal.

One of the many demonstrations by small farmers who came to Managua from the southern Caribbean coastal region to protest the construction of an inter-oceanic canal that would displace thousands of rural families and cause severe environmental damage. Credit: Carlos Herrera/IPS

One of the many demonstrations by small farmers who came to Managua from the southern Caribbean coastal region to protest the construction of an inter-oceanic canal that would displace thousands of rural families and cause severe environmental damage. Credit: Carlos Herrera/IPS

Later on, the leaders were arrested, threatened, intimidated and repressed by the police and military, and Ramírez unexpectedly found herself leading the demonstrations in 2014.

Her leadership caught the attention of the national and international media, human rights organisations and civil society.

Soon, the peasant marches against the canal became a symbol of resistance and more people joined, turning the movement into the most important social force to confront Ortega since he took office again 10 years ago.

The peasant movement against the canal “is the strongest social organisation that exists today in Nicaragua. Within any movement, an authentic and genuine leadership emerges, and that is what Mrs. Ramírez represents,” sociologist Oscar René Vargas told IPS.

The president “is aware that the movement is the most important social force that his government is facing,” he said.

The admiration that Ramírez arouses, with her ability to organise and lead more than 90 demonstrations in the country, has irritated the authorities.

More than 200 peasant farmers have been arrested, about 100 have been beaten or wounded by gunfire, and the government has basically imposed a military state of siege in the area, where it refuses to finance social projects, according to the movement.

Police checkpoints along the entire route to Nueva Guinea and military barricades in the area give the impression of a war zone.

Ramírez has not escaped the violence and harassment: her house has been raided without a court order, her children and family persecuted and threatened by intelligence agents and police officers, her belongings and goods that she sells, such as food, confiscated and damaged, and she has been accused of terrorist activities.

One of the latest episodes occurred in December 2016, during a visit to Nicaragua by Organisation of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro, to discuss with Ortega the allegations of attacks on democracy.

To keep Ramírez and other leaders of the movement from meeting with Almagro, police convoys besieged the community and repressed members of the movement, she said.

They partially destroyed the main bridge out of the area, and suspected members of the movement’s Council were held at military checkpoints.

They even confiscated Ramírez’s work vehicles, used them to transport troops and later damaged them, according to Gonzalo Carrión, from the Nicaraguan Human Rights Centre.

“Ortega’s government has visciously mistreated Francisca Ramírez and the farmers who follow her. Her rights have been violated, from the right to protest to the right to freedom of movement, and we fear that they will violate her most sacred right: to life,” Carrión told IPS.

Walking along footpaths in the dark and crossing a deep river, where she almost drowned, Ramírez got around the military cordon and travelled, disguised and hidden in a truck, to Managua, where she was able to meet with Almagro on Dec. 1, 2016 and tell him of the abuses to which her community had been subjected for refusing to give up their lands.

On Feb. 16, the European Parliament issued a resolution condemning the lack of protection for human rights activists in Nicaragua, putting a special emphasis on the case of Ramírez, and lamenting the deterioration of the rule of law and democracy in this country.

The members of the European Parliament urged “the national and local police forces to refrain from harassing and using acts of reprisal against Francisca Ramirez for carrying out her legitimate work as a human rights defender.”

“Francisca Ramirez is a victim of abuses by the police in the country aiming at risking human rights defenders’ security and livelihood,” the European Parliament denounced.

“Ramírez, coordinator for the Defense of the Land, the Lake and Sovereignty, was in Managua to file a formal complaint over acts of repression, violations of the right to free circulation, and aggression experienced by several communities from Nueva Guinea on their way to the capital city for a peaceful protest against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal, projects which will displace local farmers activities and indigenous people from the premises of the construction,” the resolution states.

While the government remained silent about the resolution, social activist Mónica López believes that it represented a victory for the rural movement.

“Without a doubt, the resolution is a social and political victory for the peasant movement against the canal, a condemnation of Nicaragua, and a global warning about what is happening against indigenous peasant movements in Nicaragua,” López told IPS.

The government asserts that the canal project is moving ahead, although a year has passed with no visible progress, and it maintains that it will eradicate the poverty that affects more than 40 per cent of the 6.2 million people in this Central American country.

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Trump’s Global Gag a Devastating Blow for Women’s Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trumps-global-gag-a-devastating-blow-for-womens-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-global-gag-a-devastating-blow-for-womens-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/trumps-global-gag-a-devastating-blow-for-womens-rights/#comments Wed, 25 Jan 2017 17:49:02 +0000 Erika Guevara-Rosas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148665 Erika Guevara Rosas is Americas Director at Amnesty International.

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The post Trump’s Global Gag a Devastating Blow for Women’s Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Erika Guevara Rosas is Americas Director at Amnesty International.

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