Inter Press ServiceWomen’s Health – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 25 May 2018 13:52:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amb. Amina Mohamed

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

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

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

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-not-importance-finding-balance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 18:48:35 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155735 While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it. Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman. At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be […]

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While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Credit: Bigstock

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2018 (IPS)

While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.


However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted—a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.

Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people—almost 4 billion—will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

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Human Trafficking for Organs: Ending abuse of the Pooresthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 17:42:38 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155547 Organ transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Globally about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of […]

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By Maged Srour
ROME, Apr 30 2018 (IPS)

Organ transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Dr. Francis Delmonico, is a transplant surgeon with a long career, serving also as an Adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO). Credit: Harvard Health Policy Review

Globally about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of demand for organs widely outstripping supply and consequently creating an underground market for organs that are illicitly obtained from the poor. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “human organs for transplants have two sources, deceased donors and living donors; ultimately, human organs can only be derived from a human body, and thus any action in the field of organ transplantation must be carried out in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards”. The reality is that in several countries such as India, Pakistan, Egypt or Mexico, organ trafficking has been peaking in recent years. Organ transplantation is a medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient, replacing a damaged or missing organ. Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Worldwide, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart.

“People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs” says Delmonico. “You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive”.
Organ trafficking, also defined as ‘illegal organ trade’, ‘transplant tourism’ or ‘organ purchase’ describes the phenomenon of trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, a grim reality even in the 21st century.

This IPS correspondent interviewed Dr. Francis Delmonico, a transplant surgeon who is an adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) on organ donation and transplantation. In 2016, Delmonico was appointed by Pope Francis as an academician of the Pontifical Academy of Science, a benchmark in the field of organ transplantation worldwide.

Delmonico has traversed the world to learn about transplantation practices and how these are carried out by his colleagues across the globe. He states that there is a grim reality around this medical practice. “People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs” says Delmonico. “You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive”.

An example of abuses of this kind is a story reported by world media in February 2018 about a man in India who sold his wife’s kidneys without her knowing about it. The man was eventually arrested, but the woman has been suffering a lot, since her left kidney was infected. Malevolence permeates the practice of organ transplantation in a despicable way.

Delmonico adds that there is yet another aspect about this social injustice. According to him, many rich people come to the United States and simply ‘skip the line’. “These people” says the surgeon, “come mainly from the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or the Emirates. Some others come from Japan, looking for a new heart, but not as many as from the Middle East. They come to the US and supplant somebody who had been on the waiting list for a long time to get a “deceased organ”. “This simply means that if you have money you can buy an organ anywhere in the world” stated Delmonico.

 

Best practice: China

A few years ago, China was under the radar of the transplantation community for suspected unethical and illegal behaviour in this field. For decades, donor organs were taken from executed convicts – a controversial practice which was greatly restricted by the government and eventually banned in 2015.

Delmonico explained the ‘rationale’ behind this Chinese reversal. “China has great ambition to be a leader in the world. It wants to make scientific contribution, presentations at congresses, write reports in the medical literature and so forth. The transplantation community, seeing widespread organ trafficking in China, urged the country’s leaders to make changes otherwise they will not be given opportunities to make any presentations or appear in any medical literature reports. Considering China’s interest in a global leadership role in all aspects of medicine, especially in organ transplantation, convinced them to make changes prohibiting that shameful behaviour”. The practice was banned in 2015 and, in 2016, the number of voluntary organ donors increased to 4,080. This was a great leap in numbers, compared to the 37 voluntary donors in 2010, the year the practice was introduced. The proportion of donors in China, still remains low compared with that of many developed countries but, according to Delmonico, China’s current commitment must be appreciated.


Worst practice: Iran

Delmonico is highly critical of Iran that has a legal market for organs and it is the only country in the world to do so. Delmonico warns that even when authorized by governments, the sale of organs often means exploitation of the poorest. “It’s the same problem. In Iran the government encourages money as the basis for donors but then there is often a negotiation that takes place between a donor and a recipient in which the former stresses the need for more money and the latter is able to meet that need”.

According to the surgeon, Iran is trying to change this practice and to do more on “deceased donation” that is happening in Shiraz and Tehran but Iran is still far from being a positive example. “Even if it starts on legal basis, it quickly becomes a corrupt situation. I’m definitely not in favour of this Iranian approach.”

 

Organ donation and religion

When it comes to religion, the debate on organ donation sometimes turns out to be controversial, as many religious leaders tend to criticize this medical practice saying it is forbidden by their faith. This happens in all the main religions – Islam, Catholicism or Judaism. At the same time, many religious leaders across the world tend to be in favour of organ donation “When it comes to religion” says Delmonico “we can say that practically no religion stops anybody from going to a “deceased donor” for transplant as a recipient. In Israel for example, sometimes the Rabbi would object to having someone being a donor but certainly no one objects to having someone being a recipient”. In the end, considering that all religions agree with deceased organ donation for recipients, it means that, as a consequence, no religion stops you from being a donor.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, one of the lead initiators of the Global Sustainability Network (GSN) stated “according to Pope Francis’ new ideas in this field, even though it’s not easy to reach an agreement on the notion of God, who is an infinite being with many names and attributes, it is necessary to reach an agreement to act together to defend human dignity and freedom, health, climate and peace. All of the major religious leaders agree on this. Nevertheless, not all religions have a hierarchical structure like the Catholic faith, so it sometimes happens that minor leaders are harder to convince. However, it is necessary to arrive at a consensus, so that all religious leaders act to protect human dignity and health, including the health of our planet. This is one of the tasks of the GSN.”

The GSN is a community and platform that is strongly committed to delivering Goal 8 of the 17 Global Goals. The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world, second only to illegal drug trade. According to EnditAlabama, it is a very lucrative business estimated to be a $32 billion industry annually and it would be only a matter of short time until it surpasses the drug trade and becomes the largest criminal industry in the world, both in terms of business that has moved and in terms of people who are involved.

According to Delmonico what is needed is transparency through which every donor and every recipient is identified and that this information is accessible to the evaluation of the Ministry of Health. The oversight by the Ministry of Health can guarantee the protection of the living donor not be exploited, not have complications, not die and above all it should guarantee that the practice of transplantation in the medical centres is carried out with a satisfactory outcome.

Some other transplant surgeons such as Ignazio Marino, a former Mayor of Rome, Italy had suggested few years ago that “the only way to tackle organ trafficking and organ sale, is by cutting down the demand of organs themselves”. The key, according to Marino, would be to “propose hard legal punishments for those people who buy organs. If they would know that buying an organ would save their lives but also bring them to jail for fifteen years, maybe those people would think about it twice”.

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Kidnapped, Abducted and Abandoned…http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kidnapped-abducted-abandoned http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2018 06:39:05 +0000 Geetika group http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155434 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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By Geetika Dang , Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Kidnappings and abductions have soared since 2001. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that their share in total crimes against women nearly doubled from 10% in 2001 to 19% in 2016. More striking is the fact that 11 women were kidnapped or abducted every day in Delhi in 2016. What these statistics do not reveal are brutal gang-rapes of kidnapped minors and women, multiple sales to husbands who treat them as animals, unwanted pregnancies, police inaction, and frequent abandonment with nowhere to go—not even to their maternal homes—because of the stigma of a being a “prostitute”.

Geetika Dang

An illustrative account from Mirror (23 August 2016) is not atypical. A 12-year-old girl went missing on 2 July 2006, in northeast Delhi and returned home after 10 years. After she was sold to a farmer for a paltry sum, she was forced to work all day in the fields, load heavy sacks of grain onto her back and trucks, and then at night she was raped by numerous men. Over a period of three years, she was sold nine times. At 15, she was sold and married to a drug addict and alcoholic from whom she had two children. After the husband’s death in 2011, she was tortured, forced to have sex with her brother-in-law and his friends, her children were taken away and she was thrown into the street.

A frequently cited fact that for every100 abductions of women aged 18-29 years, 66 were abducted for marriage, is at best a half-truth as it conceals how women are traded and treated as animals.

Our analysis with the data obtained from the NCRB, the Census, National Commission of Population and RBI unravels the factors that are responsible for the surge in kidnappings and abductions, especially since 2013 or post Nirbhaya.

While the incidence of kidnapping and abduction (per 1,000 women) surged 7.5 times in India over the period 2001-16, many states and Union Territories (UT) witnessed alarming spikes too. In Haryana, for example, it spiked 15 times, and in Assam 8.5 times. Delhi remained the worst with the highest incidence in both 2001 and 2016, and saw a surge of 5.8 times during this period.

Vani S. Kulkarni

An important finding of our analysis is that the higher the sex ratio (ratio of women to 1,000 men) in a state, the higher is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Available evidence suggests that women are often abducted from areas that have a surplus and sold in areas with a deficit. The more affluent a state, the more likely is this crime. The higher the ratio of rural/urban population, the lower is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women. This implies greater vulnerability of women in urban areas. As emphasised by Amartya Sen (2015) and others, the roots of crimes against women lie in the weak police and judiciary system, and callousness of society. An approximation to the ineffectiveness of the police and judiciary system is the conviction rate for all IPC crimes, which is extremely low, besides being a long drawn-out corrupt process. Yet it lowers the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Another is governance that we capture through which party ruled a state (BJP or its coalition, Congress or its coalition, and President’s rule, relative to regional parties). The difference may lie in whether they believe in gender equity, women’s autonomy and their protection. Accounting for all other factors, the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women are lowest in Congress or its coalition ruled states and highest in President ruled states. The latter presumably reflects a breakdown of the law and order system. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, 2013 on saw a surge, suggesting that over these years the incidence of this crime rose markedly. It is unclear why this surge persisted.

Raghav Gaiha

The IPC distinguishes between kidnapping (applies to minors) and abduction (applies to adults). Sections 359 to 369 of the Code have made kidnapping and abduction punishable with varying degree of severity according to the nature and gravity of the offence. For example, whoever maims any kidnapped minor in order that such minor may be employed or used for the purposes of begging, is punishable with imprisonment for life. Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person in order that such person may be murdered or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being murdered, is punishable with imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment up to ten years. The relentless rise in kidnappings and abduction, and subsequent abandonment of women, despite a plethora of legislation and amendments, tell a cruel tale of apathy towards them and abysmal enforcement machinery.

Published in the Sunday Guardian, 22nd April 2018

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 18:21:40 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155414 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A protest march in New Delhi against the rape a a child in Kathua. Credit: PTI

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

Grotesque and barbaric, is the only way to describe the rape and murder of an 8 year old child, in a country where women and girls are traditionally revered as Goddesses.

There have been numerous cases of rape across the country, however, the story of little Asifa, who was sedated, gang raped, tortured and then murdered in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir has haunted us all. While Asifa was killed in January 2018, the details of the case only grabbed national headlines in April, this was partly due to the heinous nature of the crime, and disturbing allegations that the child’s treatment, was the result of a concerted plan of action to drive out the nomadic Muslim community which her family belongs to.

Since then, the media in India has been awash with case after case of babies and girls being raped across India, with little to no action taking place to prevent this deluge of sexual assault and violence. From an 8-month old baby girl in Indore, to a 9-year in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, to a 10-year old girl in Chhattisgarh, to the rape of a 16-year old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh (allegedly by a leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ruling party), there is seemingly a new atrocious daily headline which exposes the rape and murder of yet another child.

All the while, elected officials have either been shockingly silent, or have spoken out too late, and some have even shown their active support for the accused perpetrators of such crimes.

Have we become so numbed in India, that such revelations no longer hold any shock value for us? Has the simple humanity of protecting our innocent and helpless children from harm, the most important duty of every adult in India, forsaken us?

Consider this. In 2016, over 19000 cases of rape were registered in India. In 2017, in India’s capital Delhi, an average of 5 rapes was reported every day.

In response, through an executive order and cabinet approval, the Indian government introduced the death penalty for those found guilty of the rape of a child under the age of 12.

Globally death sentences are coming to an end. It is my personal belief that the death penalty will have little or no effect, however heinous the crime is. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “when fighting a monster, be careful not to become a monster yourself”.

The issue that India is grappling with at present is an endemic, societal problem and no quick fixes are likely to solve it. Harsh penalties alone will not be a deterrent. As the malaise is systemic, so too should be the cure.

So here is a four-tier approach

Firstly, it is important to increase the reporting of rape and assault. Across the world rape is a generally underreported crime; this is all the more true in India. It is essential that women and children be educated on their rights on reporting of a violent act against them through an active social media campaign.

Secondly, it is absolutely vital that law enforcers are trained to react swiftly and with sensitivity to women and children who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. Sensitivity training and knowledge of the rights of women and children are another vital need and must be made mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Thirdly, punishments need to be exemplary and widely covered in the media. There must be a “shock and awe” campaign of zero tolerance of sex offenders and those who kill and violate women and children. Fast track courts must ensure that the law is surgical and unrelenting in pursuing and ensuring that such offenders face the full force of justice, regardless of their rank and station.

Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to ignite values and traditions that respect and nurture women and children. This can only be borne out of consensus in society. Awareness amongst men of the scope of this issue is critical. Men who turn a blind eye to such brutal acts in their own neighbourhoods, communities and families are just as culpable as those that perpetrate these acts. Action from courts and police will not suffice if the community remains defiantly opposed to change.

So the biggest question remains: how exactly to engage the entire populace to initiate a change in mindset? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

The post The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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El Salvador’s Shameful Treatment of Women Who Miscarryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/el-salvadors-shameful-treatment-women-miscarry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=el-salvadors-shameful-treatment-women-miscarry http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/el-salvadors-shameful-treatment-women-miscarry/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 13:06:24 +0000 Jeannette Urquilla http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155057 Jeannette Urquilla is executive director of Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz (ORMUSA), the Salvadoran partner of Donor Direct Action, an international women's group.

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A low middle-income country with half the population below the age of 25, El Salvador suffers from high socioeconomic and gender inequity. Credit: UNFPA

By Jeannette Urquilla
SAN SALVADOR, Mar 28 2018 (IPS)

Mayra Veronica Figueroa Marroquin (34) was released from prison earlier this month after serving time for what she argued was a miscarriage. Her sentence was reduced from 30 years to the 15 years she had already spent behind bars.

At age 19, she had been working as a housekeeper in 2003 when she was raped and subsequently suffered a miscarriage. She was convicted under El Salvador’s abortion ban – one of the most extreme in the world.

Figueroa Marroquin is the second woman this year to have been freed from jail under such circumstances. Last month Teodora del Carmen Vasquez was also released 11 years into her 30 year sentence for what she stated was a stillbirth. Del Carmen Vasquez was waiting at the gates to meet the other woman this week.

Since 1998 under Article 133 of our Penal Code abortion has been completely illegal in El Salvador in all circumstances. Women have been sentenced to up to eight years in more typical cases, but if a judge decides that the abortion was in fact an “aggravated homicide” then a much higher sentence – up to 50 years – is passed down. And when a miscarriage takes place a woman is often at severe risk of being charged with this.

Pregnant women are often abandoned by the country’s public hospitals and are often at severe risk of being arrested following a miscarriage. More often than not these women are also from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, which makes it difficult for them to pay for private medical care.

This means that instead of getting proper treatment if anything goes wrong during pregnancy they either do nothing at all and hope for the best – or they turn to unofficial covert channels, thereby putting themselves in serious physical danger.

The Alliance for Women’s Health and Life previously reported that, between 2000 and 2014, 147 women from El Salvador were charged with abortion-related crimes. This year the Citizens’ Association for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, of which my organization ORMUSA is a member, found that there are still 24 women in prison for what have been categorized as “homicidal” abortions. These women were all convicted in similar scenarios to the two that were released this year and many have already sent many years behind bars.

Not only do we need to ensure that these women are all released but also that the law on abortion is urgently changed. The Ministry of Health estimates that almost 20,000 abortions took place from 2005 to 2008. Regardless of whether abortion is legal or illegal it still takes place.

The only difference is the level of women’s safety who undergo the procedure. The WHO confirms that 68,000 women die every year because of illegal and unsafe abortions. It is likely that a significant number of these deaths can be prevented.

El Salvador is one of only four countries in Latin America which bans abortion in all instances – including after rape and when a mother’s health is at risk. It is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman.

We have the highest rate of femicide globally – 15.9 homicides for every 100,000 women. Between 2010 and 2017 we found that 3,138 women were murdered. This is not a country where the basic human rights of women are held in high regard.

We are hopeful though that things may be starting to change. The Supreme Court’s decision to free these two women is encouraging. Last year the United Nations also urged El Salvador to review the discriminatory and harmful abortion law – at least in instances of any risk to the life and health of the pregnant woman, after rape, incest or where there is severe fetal impairment.

We are still waiting to see if a 2016 parliamentary bill on reproductive rights will be debated and passed – a proposed reform of Article 133. In this bill abortion would be decriminalized in the following instances: after rape, statutory rape, or when the woman has been trafficked; where the fetus is likely to die, or when the pregnant woman’s life is put at risk.

Despite having many allies such as the Ministry of Health as well as parliamentarians, resistance by many religious groups and politicians means that we still have a long way to go.

The post El Salvador’s Shameful Treatment of Women Who Miscarry appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jeannette Urquilla is executive director of Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz (ORMUSA), the Salvadoran partner of Donor Direct Action, an international women's group.

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Accelerating Universal Health Coverage in Kenya-How do we get there?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/accelerating-universal-health-coverage-kenya-get/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accelerating-universal-health-coverage-kenya-get http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/accelerating-universal-health-coverage-kenya-get/#respond Tue, 27 Mar 2018 14:04:10 +0000 Werner Schultink and Rudi Eggers 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155045 Dr. Schultink is the UNICEF Representative to Kenya, Dr. Eggers is the WHO Representative to Kenya, Mr. Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta greets a one-day-old baby when he commissioned medical equipment at the Mwingi Level 4 Hospital in Kitui. Kenya. Credit: State House

By Werner Schultink and Rudi Eggers & Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

The Government of Kenya has prioritized universal health coverage (UHC) in its Big 4 agenda over the next 5 years.

This is a significant and perhaps the most important strategic priority. Why? Every year over a million Kenyans get trapped into poverty because of a catastrophic out of pocket payments due to health reasons.

In 1978, health campaigners worldwide achieved a major breakthrough at the UN Alma-Ata Conference on Primary Health Care. This conference statement signaled a new approach to health care, often described as the ‘primary health care approach’ or the ‘Alma-Ata principles’ – deeply rooted in the social and structural determinants of health (such as poverty eradication), and emphasising the importance of health care being accountable and accessible to the people it serves. A global target of achieving “Health for All” by the year 2000 was established.

How do we ensure that Universal Health Coverage is possible in Kenya by 2022?

The answer is simple. The focus has to be on preventable and primary health care as emphasized in the Alma-Ata principles. The centrality of reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health will be critical to achieving UHC.

Kenya has made considerable but slow progress in reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality, but missing its 2015 Millennium Development Goal targets implies there is still a lot of pending work to give women and children the most basic of rights – the right to life and well being. As the First Lady of Kenya Ms Margaret Kenyatta has often said, “No woman should die giving life” which led to the launch of her signature Beyond Zero campaign and the Government declared a free maternal health care policy in 2013.

There are two reasons for seeing maternal and child health as a forerunner for UHC. First, it is clear that the mother’s overall state of health has a lifetime impact on an individual child’s health. Second, there is now evidence that households with maternal health complications spend considerably more of their savings to cover medical expenses. This is particularly key in rural settings where women play major economic roles.

The loss of women’s contributions combined with the spending shock they face can force households, particularly those already vulnerable, into deeply-entrenched poverty.

Reduction of out-of-pocket expenditure is central to achievement of UHC. One approach towards this reduction must be promotive and prevention-based intervention. We already have several proven, low cost-high impact interventions for significantly reducing the number of women dying during childbirth and shrinking new-born and childhood mortality.

About 74,000 Kenyan children under the age of five died in 2016, including 33,000 aged below the age of one month. At the same time, about Kenyan 6,000 women die every year from giving life, many from treatable infections. Many of these deaths could have been averted with relatively simple interventions.

Kenya has done very well in developing relevant national guidelines and policies creating a framework that can efficiently deliver these high-impact maternal, newborn and child health interventions. Devolution of health services must now include cascading the policies to local health services, but more importantly, ensuring the guidelines are fully implemented.

Another concern is the variations in mortality, with differences between rural and urban communities, rich and poor and between developed and under-developed counties.

Even though Nairobi is the most developed county, it has the highest annual absolute number of maternal, newborn and child deaths compared to all other counties. This will only increase as the city population rapidly expands. Conversely, maternal and newborn mortality rates are highest in counties such as Marsabit, Turkana, Kitui, and Kilifi.

The recently-released UNICEF report on the power of investing in the poor indicate that for every US$ 1,000 invested in health for the poorest children, nearly twice as many lives are saved compared to investing in areas where richer people live.

The attainment of UHC must not be seen as a purely technical objective, but must be accompanied by purposeful redistribution of resources for equitable gains.

The following low cost high-impact interventions will leapfrog UHC
. These interventions should be included in the essential health service package that should be available to all Kenyans at no further cost: 1. 100% immunization coverage. 2. Scaling up maternal and child health by ensuring exclusive breastfeeding, hand-washing to prevent transfer of infectious diseases, chlorhexidine as an antiseptic for umbilical cord, newborn resuscitation, ‘Kangaroo’ mother care, family planning, antenatal and postnatal care and skilled delivery. 3. Prevention of water borne, vector borne, TB and HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. 4. Prevention of non-communicable diseases, particularly diabetes and hypertension. 5. Improving nutrition of women who conceive and follow this through to the first 5 years of a child’s life.

These 5 actions will not only help achieve universal primary health coverage within 5 years, but reduce the number of patients going into the referral systems. It will reinforce the famous adage, “prevention is better than cure.”

Innovative approaches are needed to address weaknesses and shortages of human resources and focus more on improving performance of the existing workforce. Already, the government is emphasizing the role of community health volunteers in implementing some of these interventions.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population under 30 years of age, the government of Kenya’s focus on UHC is critical for Kenya to reap a demographic dividend.

It is crucial that we further strengthen our partnership between county governments, UN agencies, international development partners, civil society and private sector to seek the quickest pathways towards realization of universal health coverage.

Kenya can lead the way in achieving universal health coverage.

The post Accelerating Universal Health Coverage in Kenya-How do we get there? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Schultink is the UNICEF Representative to Kenya, Dr. Eggers is the WHO Representative to Kenya, Mr. Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A Pledge for Parityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/a-pledge-for-parity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-pledge-for-parity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/a-pledge-for-parity/#respond Wed, 21 Mar 2018 22:23:11 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154943 With March marking Women’s History Month, the debate over gender-based discrimination couldn’t have reached its new peak at a more critical time. Speaking on International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Around the world, women and girls are calling out the abusive behavior and discriminatory attitudes they face everywhere and all the time. They […]

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At least 1,000 people marched in Rio de Janeiro on March 15 to protest the targeted assassination of 38-year-old political activist Marielle Franco. Credit: Mídia Ninja

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 21 2018 (IPS)

With March marking Women’s History Month, the debate over gender-based discrimination couldn’t have reached its new peak at a more critical time.

Speaking on International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Around the world, women and girls are calling out the abusive behavior and discriminatory attitudes they face everywhere and all the time. They are insisting on lasting change. This is what women and girls want. And that is what I want. And it is what every sensible man and boy should want.

“There is no better path to a more peaceful and prosperous world than the empowerment of women and girls. […] As we still live in a male-dominated world with male-dominated culture, and until power is fairly shared, the world will remain out of balance. Gender inequality, discrimination, and violence against women harm us all,” he concluded, defining the importance of a robust women’s rights movement seeking equality.

Research conducted by MTV and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on young people’s political participation found striking results: Compared to four in ten young men, about six in ten young women agree that gender stereotypes encourage men “to treat women weaker and less capable” and encourage “sexually aggressive behavior.”

Compared to 17 percent of young men, around 38 percent of young women feel pressured by stereotypical gender roles. Regarding double standards in the labor market, only 55 percent of young men, compared to 81 percent of young women, “believe that women must be more qualified than men to compete successfully for the same job.” Forty-two percent of young men say “women use gender as an excuse when they don’t get what they want from the labor market.”

These results translate to gender impacting the likelihood of young people’s political involvement. Therefore, young women are more likely to become politically active, “from online participation to volunteering for a cause to attending a public rally or demonstration.”

Women took to the streets in Curitiba the day after the killing of Marielle Franco. The sign reads “The state killed Marielle.” Credit: Oruê Brasileiro

Young women activists are a vital element to sustain these movements as they raise new women’s rights issues. According to the National Democratic Institute, there is hard evidence in places where women saw political empowerment of an eventual increase in “democracy,” “responsiveness to citizen needs,” “cooperation across party and ethnic lines,” and “sustainable peace.”

In Rwanda, where women hold 56 percent of the seats in the Parliament, female parliamentarians receive credit for “forming the first cross-party caucus” tackling “controversial issues, such as land rights and food security.”

While some argue the #SayHerName,#HeForShe, #MeToo, and #TimesUp movements marked the beginning of a new feminist era, women human rights activists are not only targeted for their activism but also for their identity. Women’s rights activists around the world face repression and poor assistance from governments in the context of the motto “Good girls don’t protest.”

“Female human rights activist are particularly politically targeted,” Nyaradzo “Nyari” Mashayamombe told IPS, repeating “Particularly!” for emphasis.

Mashayamombe is the core founder of the Tag a Life International Trust, a Zimbabwean Girls and Young Women’s Rights organization also working with boys and men to tackle religious and cultural practices that expose girls and young women gender-based discrimination with the government targeting their activism.

“In Zimbabwe, before the recent change in leadership, it was sometimes difficult to get into the communities,” she said. “The government feared we would influence people, so local authorities refused us entry. With the new government voicing respect for international human rights, we are hoping for change.”

The death of Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro on March 14 made the councilwoman and LGBTQ activist a global symbol. Crowds of ten thousands of protestors turned out in the streets across Brazil when it was reported her assassination was politically motivated and in retaliation for her criticism of police brutality in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. The hashtag #MarielleFrancoPresente was used 3.6 million times in 42 hours and more than 30 languages, pledging to stand together.

“Around the world, when they come for one of us, when they come for one women’s rights defender, they come for all of us,” Noelene Nabulivou, Political Adviser for DIVA for Equality, told IPS. “Whenever one is killed or harmed in the process of our work, the rest of us needs to look at what we have learned from the feminist movement which is intersectionality. They come for an LGBTQ-activist, we are all there in support. Online and offline.”

Time’s up.

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The United Nations Strongly Supports Kenya’s Push to Achieve Universal Health Carehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/united-nations-strongly-supports-kenyas-push-achieve-universal-health-care/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-strongly-supports-kenyas-push-achieve-universal-health-care http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/united-nations-strongly-supports-kenyas-push-achieve-universal-health-care/#respond Mon, 12 Mar 2018 09:47:12 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154761 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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First Lady of Kenya, Ms Margaret Kenyatta with President Uhuru Kenyatta at the State House in Nairobi Kenya, during the launch of the Second Strategic Framework to improve maternal & child health on 08 March 2018. Credit: State House

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 12 2018 (IPS)

Mr. Maina Kiai’s account (Nation, 24 February) of the exciting dialogue hosted at Stanford University, USA does not present a true account of what transpired at that meeting.

The former WFP Executive Director Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, students, professors, Silicon Valley professionals and civil society were present at this meeting.

The article has clear factual errors that cannot go unchallenged.

First of all
– Attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) or Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)3 on health is a substantive human rights agenda that requires sincere and collaborative action across all parts of society. We are talking about everyone’s health and wellbeing – we will not get distracted by disingenuous headings like “UNDP’s unholy alliance with Jubilee will derail health project” in progressing on this journey. Neither the Jubilee party or UNDP were mentioned in this meeting.

Siddharth Chatterjee at the State House in Nairobi Kenya, during the launch of the Second Startegic Framework to improve maternal & child health on 08 March 2018, Credit: State House

We are living in a day and age where we have the expertise, technology and means to advance everyone’s health and wellbeing. It is our moral obligation as the UN and development partners of Kenya to forge partnerships, find the right modalities to harness the potential out there and make it work for everyone, everywhere.

Second – The dialogue organized at Stanford University was about driving the SDGs and particularly primary health care through collaborative action across all sectors led by the Government of Kenya and supported by the UN through its “One-UN” joint UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). A new UNDAF 2018-2022 is being crafted to align with the Big 4.

I was invited in my role as the UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya and not as the UNDP Resident Representative. Since 2014 when I came to Kenya I have been a strong advocate for UHC.

This open letter by the Frontier Counties Development Council hopefully clarifies and sets things in context about the push by the Government of Kenya and the UN in Kenya to “leave no one behind”.

Third, UHC as part of the Big Four Agenda was never presented as a UNDP’s brainchild or project. Based on the discussions which took place it was stated clearly that the UN country team in Kenya has prioritized UHC aligned to the Government of Kenya’s Big 4 agenda in realizing Health For All within the coming years. The UN family in Kenya will be “Delivering as One” to support this.

Fourth, Mr. Kiai, refers to the process “given its international and foreign focus with little Kenyan participation or ownership” and “turning counties into mere recipients for short term benefits is one more fabrication”. I cannot understand how he makes this statement despite clear elaborations at the meeting on how the process is to be led by the Government of Kenya and the counties, supported by the UN with private sector, philanthropy and civil society partners through engaging in the diagnosis of contextual challenges and opportunities for transformative action from inception.

Fifth, “short term” handouts as misrepresented in the article. As Kenya climbs up the middle-income ladder, development aid will shrink. The Government of Kenya will need to pursue and find alternative means of financing, beyond traditional development aid, to sustainably drive socio-economic transformation in the country. As the UN family we will do everything possible to mobilize resources to support the Government.

Sixth, the discussion on building on lessons learnt from other parts of the world and on addressing corruption and human rights was omitted in the article. It was stated categorically that technology is a way forward to overcome challenges of corruption. The partnership of the Government of Kenya and the UN to reach the most remote and hard to reach areas was even featured in Forbes. This is about human rights.

Finally, the reference to Ms. Nyokabi Muthama is inaccurate. She is an alumna of Stanford University, was there in her private capacity and has every right like anyone else to join meetings at Stanford University or anywhere for that matter where she is invited.

Catastrophic health shocks pushes one million Kenyans into poverty every year due to out of pocket expenses. Let us all join together and move forward in supporting Kenya in attaining the Big 4 agenda, in “Realizing Kenya’s Vision to Achieve Universal Health Coverage” and leave “no one behind”. This will be critical to reap a demographic dividend.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Helping Women, Periodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/helping-women-period/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=helping-women-period http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/helping-women-period/#comments Fri, 09 Mar 2018 20:05:38 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154741 The United Nations Headquarters and Brooklyn Bridge were lit up on Thursday night not to help tourists navigate the major landmarks but to bring attention to a key issue that many women and girls face today: period poverty. In commemoration of International Women’s Day, the innovative menstruation-proof underwear company THINX shed the light on period […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 9 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations Headquarters and Brooklyn Bridge were lit up on Thursday night not to help tourists navigate the major landmarks but to bring attention to a key issue that many women and girls face today: period poverty.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, the innovative menstruation-proof underwear company THINX shed the light on period poverty and urged world leaders to ensure that menstrual equity exists around the world.

“Today of all days on Women’s Day, we want to come together and light the path forward for greater equality,” Vice President of Brand at THINX Siobhán Lonergan told IPS.

But what is period poverty?

The Poor Have Periods Too

Half of the almost 4 billion women around the world are of reproductive age. For these women and girls, menstruation is a natural monthly reality.

However, millions of poor and marginalized women and girls around the world still lack access to basic sanitary products to help manage menstrual bleeding.

“Period poverty is having access to products that basically allow you human dignity to get up and do what you need to do everyday whether that is go to work or go to school,” Lonergan said.

“If you don’t have access to products for a human bodily function that happens every month, then how can you exist? How can you go about your regular everyday functions?” she continued.

In Bangladesh, many families are unable to afford sanitary pads and instead use rags from old clothing.

In India, only 12 percent of women have access to sanitary products leaving others to use materials from old newspapers to sand.

The use of unsanitary materials often has health implications, including reproductive tract infections and cervical cancer.

Approximately one in 53 Indian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The lack of such hygiene products also affects girls’ attendance and participation in school.

In Nepal, 30 percent of girls report missing school during their periods.

This is partly due to the lack of sanitation facilities at schools such as private toilets and clean water needed for girls to clean and manage their menstruation.

Another significant dimension which keep menstruating girls from school is ongoing cultural taboos.

“Untouchable”

Menstruation has long been shamed in many communities, including those around South Asia.

Such stigma has put over 100 million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 at risk of dropping out of school in India.

In August 2017, a 12-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu committed suicide after a teacher shamed her over a period stain on her uniform.

The stigma arises from customs such as Chhaupadi which banishes girls and women to a hut outside of the main house for the duration of their period

Translating to “untouchable being”, Chhaupadi dictates that she cannot enter her home, cook, touch her parents, and go to school or temple.

The UN has found reports of pneumonia, attacks from wild animals, and rape when women and girls are banished to a shed.

However, if a woman doesn’t follow the rules, she is told that she will bring destruction and misfortune to their family.

Though Chhaupadi was outlawed in Nepal in 2005, the practice is still widely observed across the South Asian region.

Shopna and Monira, 14- and 17-year-olds from Bangladesh, told the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) of the stigmatization of periods in their community including the ideas that monthly periods are shameful and menstrual blood is dangerous.

“We are taught that things will be spoiled if we touch them during our periods…we can’t touch food, cooking utensils or the kitchen gardens,” Shopna said.

“Hindu girls can’t touch cows or even the cow-shed because cows are holy,” Monira added.

They also described the lack of family support as mothers rarely speak to their daughters about their menstruation.

“The topic of periods has never been at the forefront of conversations, it’s always been this thing that has been kind of brushed underground,” Lonergan told IPS.

Lighting the Way Forward

Lonergan highlighted the importance of menstrual care and as it is a health care issue, governments must take action and provide access to affordable hygiene products.

“If we are working towards true gender equality, we must expand access to menstrual products whether that is in public spaces, schools, or in the workplace. It is really imperative that we have policies that ensure menstrual products are safe and available for those who need them,” she said.

At the grassroots level, citizens have already sprung into action to find ways to make such products accessible, including Arunachalam Muruganantham.

Also known as the ‘Pad Man’, Muruganantham set about to create affordable sanitary pads after discovering that his wife had been using dirty rags during her periods.

“When I asked her why, she said we would have to cut half of our milk budget to buy sanitary pads,” he said.

Muruganantham has become a pioneer of menstrual health after successfully developing a machine that produces low-cost sanitary pads and teaching women how to use it.

Media groups like Inter Press Service (IPS) have also conducted workshops for teachers and students about the importance of healthcare and hygiene in Bangladesh.

Lonergan pointed to the need for women and girls to learn about reproductive health and menstruation.

“It starts with education—a basic understanding of what your period is before it happens and then how to actually manage it and then having access to products to get you there,” she said, adding that both boys and girls must be educated about the natural bodily function.

“Without periods, none of us would be born in the first place,” Lonergan concluded.

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Turning Promise into Action: Working Towards Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/turning-promise-action-working-towards-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turning-promise-action-working-towards-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/turning-promise-action-working-towards-gender-equality/#respond Thu, 15 Feb 2018 07:54:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154332 Persistent and pervasive gender-based discrimination is undermining sustainable development and preventing communities and countries from reaching their full potential, said a UN agency. In a new first-of-its-kind report, UN Women examines the progress in realizing the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a gender lens. Though SDG 5 specifically highlights the need to achieve […]

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Protesters gather outside the Lahore Press Club in the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province, to demand justice for victims of sexual violence. Credit: Irfan Ahmed / IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 15 2018 (IPS)

Persistent and pervasive gender-based discrimination is undermining sustainable development and preventing communities and countries from reaching their full potential, said a UN agency.

In a new first-of-its-kind report, UN Women examines the progress in realizing the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a gender lens.

Though SDG 5 specifically highlights the need to achieve gender equality, the report points to worrisome trends in the implementation of all 17 SDGs and calls on the international community to accelerate its efforts.

“Unless progress on gender equality is accelerated, the global community will fail to achieve the SDGs,” UN Women Research and Data Specialist and author of the report Ginette Azcona told IPS.

1 in 5 Say #MeToo

Among the issues highlighted in the report is sexual harassment and violence.

UN Women found that approximately one in five women and girls aged 15 to 49 from around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last 12 months.

However, 49 countries still do not have laws that protect women from such violence.

The issue has gained international spotlight in recent months with millions rallying behind the #MeToo campaign which aims to reveal the magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women all over the world experience every day.

Though the original #MeToo movement was launched ten years ago by activist Tarana Burke, the recent viral campaign has inspired many to come forward with their stories, including those who have exposed celebrities and public officials.

“The women’s movement has been working for many years to raise awareness of the different forms of violence ad abuse faced by women and girls. The current spotlight is therefore a welcomed insertion of energy to this important but too often neglected area,” Azcona told IPS.

Such attention will help advance a number of SDGs such as access to safe public spaces, she added.

Intersectional-Issue Lives

UN Women particularly pointed to the the report’s figures on poverty which reveal a persistent gap between women and men.

In 89 countries, 4.4 million more women than men live on less than 1.90 dollars a day.

This is partially due to the disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic work that women face, especially during their reproductive years.

Poverty often does not stand alone in the lives of women and girls as different dimensions of well-being, deprivation, and even racial identity often intersect.

For instance, a girl who is born into a poor household is more likely to be forced into early marriage and thus more likely to drop out of school, give birth at an early age, suffer complications during childbirth, and experience violence than a girl from a higher-income household.

“It is the intersection of gender with other forms of discrimination that pushes women and girls from poor and marginalized groups even further behind,” Azcona said.

In the United States, race and income are deeply intertwined.

UN Women found that Black, Hispanic, and Native American or Alaska Native women are more likely to live in poverty. The rates of poverty are highest for Black women at almost 24 percent.

Women who find themselves in the bottom of the income distribution are least likely to be employed and thus lack access to health insurance.

As the range of deprivations that women face span all 17 SDGs, the report highlights the need to make progress on more than the goal to achieve gender equality.

“Progress on some fronts may be undermined by regression and stagnation on others, and potential synergies may be lost if siloed approaches to implementation take precedence over integrated, multi-sectoral strategies,” it states.

Among the report’s recommendations for action is for governments to create and implement integrated policies.

For instance, providing free and universal child care to women would allow them to access employment and income and improve the family’s health and well-being.

Universal childcare can also create generate new jobs and revenue.

Azcona also highlighted the need for spaces for democratic debate in order to hold governments accountable on their promises, including a sustained involvement of women’s organizations.

“Addressing violence and inequality after all is key to greater social and political stability,” she said.

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How It Feels to Survive Slavery: Ira’s storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/feels-survive-slavery-iras-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feels-survive-slavery-iras-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/feels-survive-slavery-iras-story/#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 16:41:48 +0000 Olga Borzenkova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154219 “A client called at night and ordered a girl. I was sleeping when suddenly I was told to go to the client. He was already drunk and aggressive. I was scared to stay with him. He made me drink and I had to obey. You feel neither pain nor shame when you are drunk. Everything […]

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By Olga Borzenkova
Feb 7 2018 (IOM)

“A client called at night and ordered a girl. I was sleeping when suddenly I was told to go to the client. He was already drunk and aggressive. I was scared to stay with him. He made me drink and I had to obey. You feel neither pain nor shame when you are drunk. Everything goes easier. I woke up in the morning and got ready to leave when he told me to stay. He told that he had paid for the whole day and I must work it off. The door was closed. He hid the door keys and my phone. He claimed that he had paid for my services and could do with me whatever he wanted… He fell asleep soon again. I didn’t find the keys. I thought I could exit through the window. It was the third floor and there was a fire escape ladder nearby. I decided to climb over the balcony to the ladder. And fell down… Everything happened very quickly. I felt no pain… I remember that I tried to stand up but couldn’t and saw my bones sticking out of my arms. I passed out. I came round in the ambulance. Later – only in the intensive care unit. There I told my name and where I came from. Doctors called my relatives. Later my family moved me back to Belarus. It was super expensive.”

Ira is a victim of trafficking in human beings. She survived sexual slavery.

It is hard to believe that slavery still exists in the modern world. Today this phenomenon is referred to as “Trafficking in Human Beings” and “traffickers” are subject to criminal liability for the recruitment, detention and exploitation of victims of trafficking. Victims are often psychologically and/or physically injured for the rest of their lives. Hardly ever do they tell their stories to others because most likely they will be criticized and blamed for what has happened to them.

Ira agreed to tell her story for other girls to be aware of a hidden danger. She tells that no matter how difficult one’s situation in life is, one should always doubt and check what one is offered. There is always a right and opportunity to refuse and leave. The important thing is to stay in touch with relatives before making a decision to accept an offer, and even after, if the decision is already made.

Ira is a person in a wheelchair. She has a daughter, work, a dacha where she likes to go in summer, and plans for the future.

We were a little bit nervous before meeting with Ira because we knew that her life was not easy. We expected to see a young depressed woman and didn’t know what questions we should ask and what to avoid.

When we met Ira, we saw a young woman with a strong will, because only such a person can pluck up all her courage and tell us her story, which she thinks about every day. We saw a brave woman who overcame pain and lives a normal life, works, raises a daughter. Ira is from a small town in the Vitebsk region. She says that she’s never had warm family relationships: her mother spent a lot of time at work due to her high and responsible position. Ira didn’t have close relationships with her sister either, because of a big age difference.

“Neither my mother nor my sister was a close friend to me. It seemed to me that my mother didn’t care a lot about us. She got married for the third time; her husband was a few years younger. But she always performed her mother’s responsibilities to ‘dress and feed’ us, and we never struggled to make ends meet,” Ira recalls.

Life with Ira’s mother and her new husband went wrong from the very beginning. Ira was a teenager when he moved to their place. The mother was jealous of him. On any occasion he tried either to pinch Ira or to hug her or to pat her hips. He constantly provoked her.

Ira ran away from home many times. But she was too young and didn’t have an opportunity to earn money to live on her own. Ira got married very early. Her husband seemed to be a like-minded person, a perfect candidate for her. Soon she gave birth to a daughter and in the beginning everything was quite fine. But years passed and relations became worse. Ira’s young husband didn’t want to work. The family lacked money and didn’t have proper accommodation to live in. They were all the time moving from her mother’s-in-law place to the rented flat and back.

“We were too young and fed up with the daily routine,” Ira explains.

Ira left her husband and returned to her mother’s place, taking the child with her. But it didn’t make her life easier. Ira’s stepfather turned his spouse against her own daughter, and got irritated if Ira’s mother helped her with the child. As a result, Ira’s mother stopped supporting her although she could. Neither husband nor mother supported and helped Ira.

Since the town was tiny and Ira didn’t have a high level of education, it was difficult to find a job. She got a job in a small company but then the company faced economic problems and Ira ended up with nothing. She was desperate about her life when her neighbor introduced her to a female friend from Saint Petersburg who earned her living by providing escort services.

“She wasn’t ashamed to talk about it openly. She assured me that it was always possible to choose a client and turn him down if you didn’t like him. She also emphasized that being an escort was not always about sex; it could be accompanying a client to a restaurant. The friend pointed out that it was possible to come back home any time and bring gifts for a child, for example. ‘This work means you always have money.’ She advised me that I try and said: ‘Look at the poverty around, you will be able to earn one salary at a time. In case you don’t like it you are always free to come back.’”

“I was puzzled. At first, I couldn’t bear any talk about it. What if people know what I do for a living? Later I made up my mind. I asked my sister to take care of my daughter. Nobody knew where I was going because I wasn’t used to sharing my plans and, frankly speaking, not many were eager to know about them.”

As Ira had no money, the neighbor’s friend paid for her tickets and joined her. Upon arrival she explained the working schedule and how to meet with clients. She didn’t work herself. Ira shared a two-room apartment with a few more girls.

“What was my job like? It was far from what I had been promised. It was difficult to admit that you were deceived. Everything was not the way I’d expected.”

“The clients were totally different, several clients per day. It was impossible to refuse a client otherwise you could be fined. There was always a lot of alcohol. You had to drink because if you were drunk it was possible to stay out of work. A lot of wealthy clients sought only a heart-to-heart conversation…”

Ira pauses. These memories are hard to recall and unpleasant to share with someone else.

“How did you leave?” we ask.

“A client called at night and ordered a girl. I was sleeping when suddenly I was told to go to the client. He was already drunk and aggressive. I was scared to stay with him. He made me drink and I had to obey. You feel neither pain nor shame when you are drunk. Everything goes easier. I woke up in the morning and got ready to leave when he told me to stay. He told that he had paid for the whole day and I must work it off. The door was closed. He hid the door keys and my phone. He claimed that he had paid for my services and could do with me whatever he wanted… He fell asleep soon again. I didn’t find the keys. I thought I could exit through the window. It was the third floor and there was a fire escape ladder nearby. I decided to climb over the balcony to the ladder. And fell down… Everything happened very quickly. I felt no pain… I remember that I tried to stand up but couldn’t and saw my bones sticking out of my arms. I passed out. I came round in the ambulance. Later – only in the intensive care unit. There I told my name and where I came from. Doctors called my relatives. Later my family moved me back to Belarus. It was super expensive.”

It took Ira two years to finally recover and feel the desire to live. She wanted to see and talk neither to her relatives nor her daughter.

“When asked about my life I had to lie. There was a lot of gossiping but relatives didn’t bother me. They understood my condition. Only acquaintances could ask me questions. For sure, I avoided answering, made something up. I have only one person to talk to about it,” Ira says.

We continued with our interview:

What helped you start a new life?

“Probably, it was my daughter. I picked myself up and changes happened. I don’t remember what I started with. I learnt how to get out of bed and sit into the wheelchair myself. To put on clothes myself. It took me an hour to get dressed in the morning. I ordered a Balkan crossbar. I learnt to be independent. Every day I discovered something new. Slowly did I realize that I didn’t have to ask for help any more. I remember my daughter’s surprise when I put her on my knees and brought her to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Now I even mop up the floors myself. My daughter sees me as a typical Mom.”

How did you find a job?

“At one of the events for the disabled people I met a lot of people like me. They advised me that I could work remotely on the Internet. I took a risk and it was a success. After having started as an assistant on the probation period I got a job with a fixed contract. Now I know everything about my job and even train new specialists.

What advice would you give to the people reading your story?

Ira keeps silent. It seems she is going to burst into tears. After a deep breath, we see a strong Ira again.

“I think about it every day. I shouldn’t have taken the offer to go. It was very hard. Having made such a silly decision, I ruined my life.

“Every person changes every day. And it’s natural. Changes influence the way how we see life. What seems acceptable now may become unbearable later and one will have to live with this for the rest of his life.”

“It’s also necessary to take care of your loved ones. Wonder what happens with them and what their lives look like. Don’t stay indifferent. If you have an opportunity to influence a person in a positive way – don’t miss it, help and guide a person.

“Such a foolish decision negatively affects your life. Yes, it may be a short-term solution, but later… you will regret it. It may seem that now and then your decision may help to solve current financial problems. But you can’t make an agreement with your conscience. Moreover, in the society we live in, you won’t avoid judgements…

“It seems to me that people may have some prejudices towards me or they may not, but I don’t care about it.”

Ira, is there any hope that you’ll walk again?

“I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to walk again. I’ve gotten used to myself. I’m independent.”

What are your next goals in life?

“There is always room for improvement. I don’t have any ambitious plans. My daughter is the centre of my life. I would like to become a real friend to her and support her as much as I can. I wish I could have an education. Perhaps, it wouldn’t open up new prospects but nevertheless… I like my job. I like being busy. At work, time flies. Now I know all the details of my work. And I would like to improve my professional skills. Perhaps I’ll decide to continue my education.”

Ira received psychological and reintegration assistance within the counter-trafficking programme implemented by the IOM office in Belarus and financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Olga Borzenkova is a Public Information Assistant at IOM Belarus.

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“No Time to Waste” in Ending FGMhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/no-time-waste-ending-fgm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-time-waste-ending-fgm http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/no-time-waste-ending-fgm/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2018 16:17:11 +0000 Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154216 More than 200 million women around the world have experienced some kind of female genital mutilation (FGM) and more could be at risk, a UN agency said. Though the practice has declined in prevalence globally, alarming new figures from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predict that any progress could be off-set as a further […]

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FGM is a taboo and complicated topic in Liberia and it is dangerous for women to speak out about it. Credit: Travis Lupick / IPS

By Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 million women around the world have experienced some kind of female genital mutilation (FGM) and more could be at risk, a UN agency said.

Though the practice has declined in prevalence globally, alarming new figures from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predict that any progress could be off-set as a further 68 million girls face the risk of FGM by 2030.

The statistics from the UN were unveiled today as the world marks the 15th International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

“The new figures mean that this practice is threatening the life and wellbeing of more girls and women than initially estimated,” the Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on FGM, Nafissatou Diop, told IPS.

“You and I and everybody and the girl next door can be affected,” she continued.

FGM – sometimes called female circumcision or being ‘cut’ — is often practiced for religious, personal, cultural, and coming of age purposes. According to the UN, most cases are inflicted upon girls from infancy to the age of 15.

The increase in ‘at risk of FGM’ cases is partly due to population growth in countries where FGM is common – namely in parts of northern and western Africa, the Middle East and pockets of Asia.

In Egypt alone, more than 90 parent of women have undergone the practice.

Both UNICEF and UNFPA denounce FGM, calling it a “violation of human rights’ and a “cruel practice” that inflicts emotional harm and preys on the most vulnerable in society.

“It is unconscionable that 68 million girls should be added to the 200 million women and girls in the world today who have already endured female genital mutilation,” they said.

Life-Changing Harm

FGM can cause lifelong trauma, including urinary and vaginal problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, and psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and low self-esteem.

Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director of the Women’s Right Division at Human Rights Watch, told IPS that the predicted 68 million FGM cases was “unacceptable”.

“It’s a fundamental human rights violation that can ruin girls’ lives,” she said. “So often these girls don’t have a say – at infancy and childhood, how can you?

“There is no health benefit to women being cut, so you tend to see it in those societies that don’t have high levels of gender equality…This practice is rooted in gender inequality,” she added.

FGM = Gender Inequality

Gerntholtz highlighted that in order to tackle the practice, the international community needs to look at not just the specific act of FGM, but at the broader issue of entrenched gender inequality.

“As an international community, we can fight FGM not only by supporting FGM-specific initiatives, but also by looking holistically at the gender inequality in these regions, so investing in programs that support girl’s rights, girls’ education, community education on these things – that’s also key.”

UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem echoed similar sentiments, saying that the world already knows what it needs to do to overcome FGM.

“We know what works, targeted investments that changing social norms, practices and lives,” Kanem said

“Where social norms are confronted villages by village…when there is access to health, education and legal services…where girls and women are protected and empowered to make their voices heard.”

Change has particularly come from the community level.

Fourteen-year-old Latifatou Compaoré became an advocate for ending the practice after learning of her mother’s experience with FGM.

“She told me that one of the girls who had been cut the same day as her had experienced serious problems and died following a haemorrhage that no one had taken care of,” Compaoré told UNFPA.

“When she became a mom, she made the commitment that if she had girls, she would never cut them. And she kept her word,” she continued.

In countries where UNICEF and UNFPA work, some 18,000 communities have publicly disavowed the practice and many African countries have moved to implement legislation outlawing it.

For instance, in 2016 after Kenya banned FGM, FGM rates fell from 32 percent to 21 percent.

Accelerated Action Needed

But legislation and verbal commitments are not enough, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Without concerted, accelerated action, we could see a further 68 million girls could be subjected to this harmful practice,” he cautioned.

Diop similarly called for more efforts in allocating financial and human resources.

The goal of curbing FGM is highlighted in the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Its inclusion was praised because it was seen as an acknowledgement of the far-reaching consequences that FGM has – consequences that go beyond the individual to include social and economic repercussions for entire communities.

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved without full respect for the human rights of women and girls,” Guterres said in a statement.

The Secretary-General called upon governments to enact and enforce laws that protect the rights of girls and women and prevent FGM.

He also announced a new UN global initiative called the Spotlight Initiative which aims to create strong partnerships to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

“With the dignity, health and well-being of millions of girls at stake, there is no time to waste,” he said. “Together, we can and must end this harmful practice.”

*Marked annually on 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation aims to strengthen momentum towards ending the practice which is globally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women as well as perpetuates deep-rooted inequality between the sexes.

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Gaza Health Sector on Verge of Collapsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse/#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 07:21:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154213 UN agencies have sounded the alarm on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to the devastating repercussions of the ongoing fuel shortages. UN agencies have appealed for donor support as emergency fuel for critical facilities in Gaza are due to run out in 10 days. In a meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres […]

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GAZA, Gaza City. Queuing in hope of fuel. Credit: Mohammed Omer / IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2018 (IPS)

UN agencies have sounded the alarm on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to the devastating repercussions of the ongoing fuel shortages.

UN agencies have appealed for donor support as emergency fuel for critical facilities in Gaza are due to run out in 10 days.

In a meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that Gaza is a “constant humanitarian emergency.”

“Gaza remains squeezed by crippling closures…two million Palestinians are struggling everyday with crumbling infrastructure, an electricity crisis, a lack of basic services,” he said.

Fuel shortages are threatening Gaza’s hospitals and sanitation services that rely on backup generators to maintain operations.

If the energy supply is not replenished, at risk are emergency and diagnostic services such as x-rays, intensive care units, and operating theaters. Over 100 sewage pools, desalination plants, and solid waste collection capacity are also in jeopardy, said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Hospitals have already begun to close. Without funding, more service providers will be forced to suspend operations over the coming weeks, and the situation will deteriorate dramatically, with potential impacts on the entire population,” said OCHA’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Roberto Valent.

“We cannot allow this to happen,” he added.

So far, 16 hospitals and health centers have suspended operations.

Hospitals such as the al-Durra children’s hospital were forced to drastically reduce services due to the lack of fuel.

WHO said that Best Hanoun hospital only has its Emergency Department functioning at minimal capacity and estimates its reserve fuel will only last until mid-March.

In 2018, approximately 6.5 million dollars is required to provide 7.7 million liters of emer-gency fuel.

“This is the bare minimum needed to save off a collapse of services,” OCHA said in its ap-peal.

For the full functioning of basic facilities, 10 million dollars is needed per year.

Meanwhile, hospitals continue to face challenges in coping with the influx of trauma pa-tients.

According to WHO, 40 percent of the supply of essential drugs has been depleted, including drugs used in emergency departments and other critical units.

The UN Country Team in Palestine has predicted that Gaza will become unlivable by 2020 unless action is taken to improve basic services and infrastructure.

“Immediate donor support is urgent to ensure that vulnerable Palestinians in Gaza can access life-saving health, water, and sanitation services,” Valent said.

Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is occurring in the wake of the United States funding cuts to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

Approximately 65 million dollars has been withheld from the agency which serves over five million refugees with healthcare, social services, and emergency assistance in the Middle Eastern region.

Guterres expressed concern over the move, stating: “At stake is the human security, rights, and dignity of the five million Palestine refugees across the Middle East. But also at stake is the stability of the entire region which may be affected if UNRWA is unable to continue to provide vital services.”

Though it began in 2006, the energy crisis worsened in 2017 following a dispute between Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and Gaza over the funding and taxation of fuel and Israel’s subsequent move to reduce its electricity supply to the territories.

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UN Refugee Agency Calls for Aid and Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 15:35:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154190 As South Sudan quickly becomes Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis, the world must come to its aid, said the UN refugee agency. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global appeal to support displaced persons amid South Sudan’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation. “The human cost of the South Sudan conflict has reached epic […]

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South Sudanese refugee new arrivals wait in the registration tent at the Imvepi Refugee Settlement in Arua, northern Uganda. Credit: UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

As South Sudan quickly becomes Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis, the world must come to its aid, said the UN refugee agency.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global appeal to support displaced persons amid South Sudan’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.

“The human cost of the South Sudan conflict has reached epic proportions,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“The conflict is purging South Sudan of the people who should be the greatest resource of a young nation. They should be building the country, not fleeing it,” he continued.

Now in its fifth year, the conflict in South Sudan has displaced 1 in 3 of the country’s population with over 2 million fleeing the nation.

The number of refugees is projected to surpass the 3 million mark by the end of 2018, making South Sudan Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide.

On Jan. 30, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also launched an appeal for 103.7 million dollars this year to provide lifesaving relief assistance, support recovery and migration of people affected by conflict in South Sudan.

The insecurity and violence, which erupted in 2013, has also fueled famine conditions and a humanitarian crisis which has left seven million people in need of assistance.

“As civilians continue to bear the brunt of the crisis, experiencing violence and displacement, timely and effective humanitarian assistance is critical,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission William Barriga.

“IOM remains committed to responding to these needs and reaching the most vulnerable, wherever they are,” he said.

Meanwhile, UNHCR launched a 3.2-billion-dollar appeal to help both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who have fled to neighboring countries such as Uganda.

South Sudanese twins, Jacob and Simon, meet UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, at Kakuma, Kenya. The boys walked for 21 days to reach the camp and are traumatised by the killing of their father and eldest brother. Credit: UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin

Grandi lauded Uganda’s “open border” policy which has welcomed almost 500 refugees per day.

“Uganda has the most progressive refugee policies in Africa, if not the world,” he said.

Uganda is now home to the largest refugee population in Africa, many of whom are from South Sudan.

Grandi noted that refugees often received portions of land to grow food, were allowed to work and access education, health, and judicial services.

However, if the conflict continues unabated, Uganda could end up hosting another quarter million refugees more and further strain on already limited resources.

“Please make peace,” Grandi appealed to warring parties while visiting refugee camps in Uganda.

“We can’t subject these people once again to exile, to suffering. We can’t always take for granted the generosity of the Ugandan people…everybody told me this morning, as in the past, ‘If there is peace I will go back, because this is where I belong. It’s my country.’”

Almost 90 percent of those displaced are women and children and nearly 65 percent are under the age of 18. Women have reported cases of sexual violence and other forms of violence including the abduction of children.

However, the South Sudanese refugee response program only received 33 percent of required funds in 2017.

“For as long as the people of South Sudan await peace, the world must come to their aid,” Grandi said.

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Business Unusual will Drive Africa’s Quest to achieve Health Care for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 08:33:11 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Radhika Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154176 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Kenya. Radhika Shah, is Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) pledged his full support for the delivery of universal healthcare within the next five years, one of the pillars of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Action plan. Credit: State House

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Radhika Shah
NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

Africa’s quest for health continues to be held back by a combination of factors such as natural disasters and pandemics, prevailing high rates of communicable and rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, sedentary lifestyles, road accidents and greater population mobility.

With the region accounting for approximately a quarter of the world’s disease burden and just 3 percent of its doctors, it is difficult to be optimistic about the future.

Every year for example one million people in Kenya, fall into poverty and stay poor due to a catastrophic health shock. Nearly 11 million Africans fall into poverty due to high out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, even as the continent is expected to provide access to essential health services, medicines and vaccines for all its citizens by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed on globally.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has prioritised universal health coverage (UHC) for all in his second term.

It is obvious that to achieve UHC, more resources will not only have to be mobilized for the health sector, new partnerships must also be forged, such as the one between United Nations, Government of Kenya and technology company Philips, to improve access to health care in hard to reach communities. New models of blended financing and impact investing need to take up the slack to address the scarce resources, which must also be used more efficiently and effectively.

The Better Business Better World Africa Report shows how challenges in the delivery of health care can be turned around into large business opportunities with a potential value of US$259 billion and could create over 16 million jobs in Africa by 2030.

More 21st century partnerships that connect the dots between innovators, health systems and patients are critical to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage by 2030. Credit: UNDP

Innovation Tech could be a game-changer in diagnostics, health information, supply chain management, health financing, and even remote tele-surgery performed by robotic arms.

Few frontiers provide greater potential for African countries to achieve UHC than information technology. “Just as mobile payments have transformed Kenyan markets, I think innovations in the health sector— from machine learning algorithms that help diagnose disorders, to digitized prescriptions that make drugs more affordable— could have a transformative impact on health, quality of life, and the efficiency of our investments in healthcare,” says Dr. Temina Madon Executive Director for the Center for Effective Global Action at U.C. Berkeley.

A crucial enabling factor is the continent’s impressive mobile penetration profile. Africa is getting more and more interconnected. With prices falling, smartphone penetration more than doubled between 2014 and 2016. By 2020, smartphone adoption on the continent is expected to surpass 50 percent, meaning that technology will be well placed to open up health systems to the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Increasing penetration and scaling of private, public-private and community insurance schemes could transform access to better healthcare, especially if the right insurance mechanisms, including forms of micro-insurance, are put in place. Digital solutions such as Kenya’s M-Tiba could play an important role in the realization of UHC.

Google researchers have trained image recognition algorithms to auto-detect signs of diabetes related eye disease by analysing retinas which could help prevent blindness.

Stanford University innovators are creating a cell phone based mosquito monitoring platform for anyone to submit a mosquito buzz – producing the most detailed global map of mosquito distribution that can help prevent mosquito borne diseases.

Drones, as those of Zipline, are revolutionizing supply chain management systems in Rwanda and Tanzania, drastically reducing the time of delivery of blood at the facility when patients are in need and at risk of dying.

With the ubiquity of smartphones and a shortage of specialist doctors, calling or texting a physician for a consultation and to obtain a prescription can be done in a flash, literally. With ICT prices dropping, telemedicine will be more than a niche application of cutting-edge tech; it could be the future norm of medicine.

Dashboard systems will help policy makers and implementing agencies monitor progress of programmes and identify areas in need of improvement. Likewise, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can provide geographically-referenced data to help in identifying relationships, patterns and trends in diseases.

Taken together, these innovations will ensure that each building block and therewith entire health systems can be strengthened and that resources mobilised in the health sector are used more efficiently and effectively.

Fortunately, these innovations are already in existence, albeit many of them at pilot-level implementation stages. Countries need to identify tools that are available in the market, especially those that are based on open source software that allow for adaptation, and take them to scale. The price of failing to take up such opportunities will be a slower march towards economic progress, as families continue to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow to meet the cost of health care.

A demographic dividend looms in Africa, and countries need to capitalize on the employment opportunities offered by the health sector while strengthening their health systems. A young army of community health workers who are tech savvy and can reach the last mile, could offset the chronic shortage of doctors and nurses through task-shifting.

One of the steps in the right direction is Kenya’s move to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities. Credit: Clinton Foundation

UNDP’s Administrator Mr. Achim Steiner has underscored the importance of multi-sectoral partnerships as a vehicle to attain UHC. Such partnerships he says, “are key in connecting players nationally and globally, across sectors and silos to drive progress on UHC”.

This is exactly what innovative Platforms such as the SDG partnership Platform in Kenya are beginning to catalyse – harnessing global tech innovations and intellectual firepower to serve the continent’s populations with public-private investments to achieve Universal Health Care for basic human dignity and as a springboard for greater economic growth.

And Kenya can lead the way in achieving Universal Health Coverage.

The post Business Unusual will Drive Africa’s Quest to achieve Health Care for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Kenya. Radhika Shah, is Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs

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Survival of Indigenous Tribes in Bangladesh Starts at Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 07:02:06 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154171 Just before sundown on Jan. 30, a group of women day labourers from the Shantal indigenous community are in a rush to wind up their work harvesting potatoes in a field in the village of Boldipukur, some 15 km away from Rangpur district in northern Bangladesh. One young girl looked indifferent and didn’t seem to […]

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Iraq’s Toxic Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iraqs-toxic-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 08:33:08 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154135 In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste. Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment. Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste.

Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment.

Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to conflict for decades, in recent years it has been exacerbated due to the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

“Wherever ISIS has been there has been huge environmental destruction and with that have come potentially major health threats to the public,” says Wim Zwijnenburg, a lead researcher at the dutch not-for profit, PAX.

Over the past two years, PAX has used public satellite images, social media and first-hand field research to track the environmental damage and the subsequent risk to public health in the northern parts of Iraq.

The findings are outlined in the report, ‘Living Under a Black Sky: Conflict Pollution and Environmental Health Concerns in Iraq.’

The report focuses heavily on ISIS’s destruction of oil refineries which were a signature move in their ‘scorched earth’ strategy.

In 2014, the group took control of the Qayyarah oil field and the Baiji Oil refinery, the latter being the nation’s largest, producing more than a third of Iraq’s domestic oil production. In both cases, Iraqi forces retook the facilities, but not before ISIS set fire to oil wells as they retreated.

“When we were there, there were burning oil slicks still flowing from oil wells,” Zwijnenburg said about his visit to the Qayyarah region last year. “I wanted to walk around to see more but had to wear a gas mask, you could already feel how the smoke affected young lungs.”

“We saw lakes that were full of solidified crude oil, that had spilt form the wells, and there were white sheep covered in black soot. It was surreal and apocalyptic.”

In each of these attacks, the threat to public health is substantial.

“The fires (from these oil wells) have burnt for months, releasing huge amounts of toxic residue into the air that people in the area – some people haven’t left, some can’t leave, some are returning – those people are inhaling this toxic air,” Zwijnenburg told IPS.

In the case of the Qayyarah, the Iraqi oil ministry estimates that about 20,000 cubic meters may have been released into the environment and haven’t been cleaned up yet.

In April 2017, the PAX team in conjunction with the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) conducted a survey with over twenty women from affected local communities about their concerns over the oil pollution in Qayyarah.

One of the participants voiced her worry for inter-generational health consequences.

“Locals have been suffering from burns, deformations and countless disability cases. Human genes are also affected due to the use of chemical weapons and the burning of oil wells and military remnants. The gene mutations will result in having more birth defects.”

Aside from oil pollution, the PAX report also highlighted the human health risks from what it called ‘urban damage’. That is, the dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals realized from damaged industrial sites and abandoned weapons facilities.

There has been extensive PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination in Mosul, due to damage to the city’s electricity network. Similarly, the city has recorded extensive sulphur contamination, from when ISIS bombed a 50,000 ton stockpile of the toxin. That attack released some 6 million tons of the substance into the air, leaving 20 people dead and hundreds hospitalized.

These other pollutant concerns are not surprising, as even before the ISIS conflict, Iraq was named the world’s most contaminated country.

It continues to see high levels of radiation and other toxic substances flow into its environment – all left over from previous conflicts such as the Gulf War.

So the question now is, how to clean up the region?

In a statement to IPS, Dr. Zaid Noori, an ambassador of Iraq in Nairobi, admitted that “Iraq is an environmental disaster” and that the Iraqi government needs help in cleaning up affected areas.

“The Government is doing all it can to remedy the situation, but due to the great amount of damage, pollution and contamination Iraq is seeking support and assistance from the international community and UN agencies to ensure clean and habitable environment to civilians in the liberated areas,” the statement read.

The PAX report similarly noted that Iraq would not likely be able to clean up the pollution and manage health fallouts alone.

“It really needs to be an international effort,” says Zwijnenburg. “We should have States pledging and proving funding and expertise to relevant UN organizations such an UN Environment, UN Habitat and UNDP – all of who are working with the Iraqi government.”

Currently, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is concentrating much of its efforts in Mosul, cleaning up ‘urban damage’.

There is no current international effort to clean up the regions oil pollution.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, told IPS that it is regrettable that environmental recovery work is not taken more seriously in reconstruction efforts.

“If environmental recovery work is built into the wider reconstruction effort – which it should be – recovery can and will happen in Iraq,” he says. “Now is the time for donors to make that investment, because we can’t afford to push it to one side.”

Zwijnenburg agrees. “Environment disasters like this are not always the top priority in recovery,” he says.

“The people living here know that and they’re concerned that as the fires die down, as time passes, that that their cause will be forgotten.”

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Thoughts on the Alcohol Ban for Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thoughts-alcohol-ban-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:52:13 +0000 Tharusha Deegala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154050 “A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol” Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out […]

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By Tharusha Deegala
Jan 25 2018 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

“A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol”

Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out for a drink to cope up with the stress this country throws at them on a daily basis but the 70% cases of domestic violence and cases of marital rape that go unheard of, where the women have no say because alas, Sri Lanka is so morally and ethically articulate that we didn’t have laws against domestic violence until 2005 and we still don’t have laws against marital rape.

It’s a country where only 1% of domestic abuse cases go reported due to the encouraging pat-on- the-backs women receive when trying to be open about the abuse, telling them “gedara gini eliyata daana epa” a country where a woman can’t walk outdoors without getting cat called or worse, a country where women are silenced and portrayed as the dutiful submissive role in this family role-play while men are given the privilege to use alcohol and substance abuse as an excuse for their unruly and violent behaviour with their spouse.

A country where women are constantly judged, criticised, hated and judged again for every single miniscule thing they do be it wearing what they feel comfortable in or sitting in a particular position. All this discrimination and hatred against women amidst the hypocritical movements of encouraging female empowerment and employment while at the end of the day even their right to decide whether or not they trust themselves enough to take a pint is taken away.

Imposing this law 40 years ago may have been justifiable due to the fact that old times were careers of old fashioned, women oppressing and discriminatory notions anyway. However re-imposing the law in the name of prevention of the destruction of family culture is such a disappointing joke which screams the fact that the Sri Lankan government is a sexist old man that encourages women to remain sober in their homes, cooking and looking after the children while having no regard for whatever men do. People may believe that women have more rights to win before the right to drink a swig of beer but the truth is, if we don’t stand up against such deliberate, unashamed acts which continue to discriminate women, we have little to say when it comes to large scale problems.

On a different note, this is not about the alcohol ban at all. No, this is about the blatant sexism displayed by the leaders of our nation which should not be tolerated. We can live without liquor but we refuse to live with that. If you’re honestly concerned about the ethical and moral state of the country, dear government, you might as well ban alcohol for everyone, men and women alike because, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re all human desperately trying to find a spot of freedom at the end of the day after all the bad businesses life puts all of us through. This being a major one, excuse me while I go ahead and drink my worries out because if men are allowed to do that, what do I lack or have more for you to say I can’t?

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Thoughts on the Alcohol Ban for Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thoughts-alcohol-ban-women-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women-2/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:15:57 +0000 Tharusha Deegala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154146 “A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol” Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out […]

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]]>
By Tharusha Deegala
Jan 25 2018 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

“A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol”

Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out for a drink to cope up with the stress this country throws at them on a daily basis but the 70% cases of domestic violence and cases of marital rape that go unheard of, where the women have no say because alas, Sri Lanka is so morally and ethically articulate that we didn’t have laws against domestic violence until 2005 and we still don’t have laws against marital rape.

It’s a country where only 1% of domestic abuse cases go reported due to the encouraging pat-on- the-backs women receive when trying to be open about the abuse, telling them “gedara gini eliyata daana epa” a country where a woman can’t walk outdoors without getting cat called or worse, a country where women are silenced and portrayed as the dutiful submissive role in this family role-play while men are given the privilege to use alcohol and substance abuse as an excuse for their unruly and violent behaviour with their spouse.

A country where women are constantly judged, criticised, hated and judged again for every single miniscule thing they do be it wearing what they feel comfortable in or sitting in a particular position. All this discrimination and hatred against women amidst the hypocritical movements of encouraging female empowerment and employment while at the end of the day even their right to decide whether or not they trust themselves enough to take a pint is taken away.

Imposing this law 40 years ago may have been justifiable due to the fact that old times were careers of old fashioned, women oppressing and discriminatory notions anyway. However re-imposing the law in the name of prevention of the destruction of family culture is such a disappointing joke which screams the fact that the Sri Lankan government is a sexist old man that encourages women to remain sober in their homes, cooking and looking after the children while having no regard for whatever men do. People may believe that women have more rights to win before the right to drink a swig of beer but the truth is, if we don’t stand up against such deliberate, unashamed acts which continue to discriminate women, we have little to say when it comes to large scale problems.

On a different note, this is not about the alcohol ban at all. No, this is about the blatant sexism displayed by the leaders of our nation which should not be tolerated. We can live without liquor but we refuse to live with that. If you’re honestly concerned about the ethical and moral state of the country, dear government, you might as well ban alcohol for everyone, men and women alike because, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re all human desperately trying to find a spot of freedom at the end of the day after all the bad businesses life puts all of us through. This being a major one, excuse me while I go ahead and drink my worries out because if men are allowed to do that, what do I lack or have more for you to say I can’t?

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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