Inter Press ServiceInternational Women’s Day 2018 – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 18 Sep 2018 19:31:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Women Miners Stake a Claim in Zimbabwehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-miners-stake-claim-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-miners-stake-claim-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-miners-stake-claim-zimbabwe/#respond Thu, 08 Mar 2018 12:31:11 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154700 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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

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

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Mar 8 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women also lead the struggle for housing in São Paulo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The power of #MeToo

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

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

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

Where #MeToo doesn’t make a difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

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

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

Lakshmi Puri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

By Audrey Azoulay
PARIS, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

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

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

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

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

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

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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New University graduates in Kenya. Credit: Nation Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Promoting Green Growth to Meet Global Aspirations for Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/promoting-green-growth-meet-global-aspirations-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-green-growth-meet-global-aspirations-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/promoting-green-growth-meet-global-aspirations-gender-equality/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:04:15 +0000 Frank Rijsberman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154649 Dr. Frank Rijsberman is Director-General, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

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

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Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Frank Rijsberman
SEOUL, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

The world has seen tremendous economic growth over the last decades, which has led to poverty reduction and increased welfare for millions of people. Environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness are key to the resilience of these gains and continued growth. “Leaving no one behind” as we navigate a shift towards green economies must be woven throughout the growth and development agendas.

Most obvious is the acknowledgement that unless we can include women –50% of the world’s population – in economic growth and climate action, we will not reach our full potential. This was recognized at COP23 with the establishment of the Gender Action Plan highlighting that women and men are impacted differently by climate action, and that unequal participation of women is impeding efforts to solve our shared challenges.

Green growth provides a powerful vehicle for modernizing economies while simultaneously reducing inequalities and safeguarding natural resources and ecosystems. Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is working with governments in 28 countries to identify transformational green growth potential through policy, financial vehicles and investment projects in support of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Frank Rijsberman.

Fortunately, our experience shows there are not necessarily trade-offs between social, environmental and economic outcomes. Increasing equitable access to sustainable services leads to the growth of markets and strengthened economies that bring resilience and prosperity to people.

Addressing barriers to gender equality requires bold leadership, innovations, and broad, cross-sectoral engagements. Transformational change happens through deliberate strategy, resources and actions. For example, the Government of Rwanda has shown commitment to gender mainstreaming across ministries, and GGGI has supported the adoption of a Gender and Social Inclusion Framework into the National Roadmap for Secondary Green City Development.

In Indonesia, GGGI has worked with the provincial governments of East and Central Kalimantan to promote gender equality, poverty reduction and safeguards through synergies between Provincial Energy Plans and across Provincial Sustainable Development Plans. The aim is to identify opportunities across sectors to allow gender equality to ride on the green growth agenda.

Out of 173 economies surveyed, 155 have laws impeding women’s economic opportunities, be it gender-based job restrictions, legal rights to land tenure, and other policies which hampers women’s opportunities to be active agents of change in the families, communities and country.

In Vanuatu, GGGI has supported the government taking policy a step further by making finance work for women, marginalized groups, and the poor by incorporating gender and social inclusion into the design of a National Green Energy Fund (NGEF). By aligning the fund’s financing criteria with the Sustainable Development Plan and National Gender Policy, the aim is to enable women and men to access credit to invest in green technologies through innovative and inclusive finance.

Under the Amazon Vision Program in Colombia, GGGI has supported indigenous groups to have direct access to financing. GGGI supported the Organization of Indigenous People of the Colombian Amazon Region (OPIAC) in developing a successful proposal for strengthened environmental governance. In its implementation, women and men will be involved as green jobs are created. Securing livelihoods opportunities is essential to fight against deforestation and remove environmental stressors in remote areas of the Amazon.

Similarly, in Indonesia, GGGI’s work with the Peatland Restoration Agency to mainstream gender responsive policies into the mobilizing of public private partnerships and carbon finance to restore and stop further degradation of peatlands across the country will ensure creation of co-benefits to local communities. Without the active participation of women in decision-making and implementation, a project is less likely to achieve its economic and environmental objectives.

We have come far, and we have a long way to go. Women are still under-represented in politics around the world. Globally, the pay gap between men and women for equal work remains a concern. The World Bank released a report in 2016[1] concluding that out of 173 economies surveyed, 155 have laws impeding women’s economic opportunities, be it gender-based job restrictions, legal rights to land tenure, and other policies which hampers women’s opportunities to be active agents of change in the families, communities and country.

GGGI’s Member countries have made ambitious NDC and SDGs commitments. There is a broad recognition that green growth will only be effective and sustainable when proven beneficial to people. For International Women’s Day, GGGI reconfirms its commitment to transforming towards economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive, with particular focus on gender equality”.

[1] The Word Bank. 2015. Women Business and the Law 2016. Getting to Equal. Washington.

The post Promoting Green Growth to Meet Global Aspirations for Gender Equality appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Frank Rijsberman is Director-General, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

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

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

 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can wait no longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:


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

 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Time for binding agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fear-uncertainty-grip-rohingya-women-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fear-uncertainty-grip-rohingya-women-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fear-uncertainty-grip-rohingya-women-india/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 01:57:38 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154637 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Rohingya refugee women in Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Rohingya refugee women in Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
JAMMU, India, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

In the semi-lit makeshift tent covered with strips of cardboard, five women sit in a huddle. As their young children, covered in specks of mud and soot, move around noisily, the women try to hush them down. Hollow-eyed and visibly malnourished, all the women also appear afraid.

Aged 19-30, they have two things in common: one, they are Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and two, they all live in fear of being sent back to the country they were forced to flee.“In Burma, they are still killing our people. Here, they say we are Bangladeshis. We do not even speak Bangla. Where shall we go? --Ansari

“I came here when I was 13. Now I am 19,” says Nur Kalina, the youngest. She faintly remembers running with her parents from their village in Myanmar’s violence-wracked Rakhine state.

“From Akhyep (Akyab, currently known as Sittwe) we started. We ran through rice fields, then by the river. When we came to Cox’s Bazar (across the border in Bangladesh), our fellow villagers were there. My aunt was there. They said, there is no food, no work, no future here. So my parents came here.”

All the other women in the room – Leila, Shamshida, Taiyyaba and Rahena – nod. Their stories are not very different from Kalina’s. Each one of them came to Jammu in 2012. Since then, the rows of huts in the Kiriyani Talav neighborhood of northern India’s Jammu city have been their home. They all got married here and became mothers.

Each one of them has relatives who are still living in Sittwe who call every now and then to talk about the current situation. Every time, they share news of fresh attacks and new names of relatives and neighbors who have been murdered. “They always tell us, don’t come back here,” says Laila.

Rohingyas in Jammu

There are around 5,743 Rohingyas in Jammu & Kashmir state, according to the state government. Scattered over Jammu, the summer capital of the state, and neighboring Samba district, their number is a fraction of that in Bangladesh (858,898) or Pakistan (350,000).

Yet this tiny population is at the center of a controversy with some local factions accusing them of indulging in criminal activities such as land grabs, illegal settlement and aiding terrorists, and demanding their repatriation.

One of the political parties spearheading the opposition against the Rohingyas is the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JNKPP), a Jammu-based right-wing group led by Harshdev Singh. Singh, formerly a minister in the state, would not talk to IPS despite granting an appointment, but his party has been very vocal in demanding a quick repatriation of the Rohingyas. On March 3, he led a protest march in Jammu and urged the home minister of India to send back the Rohingyas, who he described as a security threat.

“The illegal immigrants pose a threat to communal harmony and pluralism of Jammu. The Union Home Minister should personally intervene and direct the state government to take necessary action in this regard otherwise the situation in Jammu could take an ugly turn like in Kashmir,” Singh was quoted as saying by local media.

Opposition to the Rohingyas intensified after a terrorist attack on an army camp in Sunjwan, an area on the city outskirts. Right after the attack, Kavinder Gupta, a local politican, accused the Rohingyas of being involved in the attack. Although he was criticized by other lawmakers, his party members stood by him.

India, which has not signed the International Refugee Convention, asked the states in August 2017 to identify the Rohingyas for a possible deportation. The decision, however, has since been challenged in the Supreme Court of India by some Rohingya refugees.

A child plays outside a makeshift home in a Rohingya camp, Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A child plays outside a makeshift home in a Rohingya camp, Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Fear in the air

Hazara, who asked to go by her first name only, is a 29-year-old Rohingya refugee woman living in a hut bordering the army camp in Sunjwan. Like all the other women Rohingya refugees, Hazara never went to school. With no education and no specific skills, the single mother of two was earning her livelihood by shelling walnuts for her non-Rohingya neighbors. The wages of INR 12 (less than a quarter) for each kilogramme of walnuts were not very high, but they helped the woman feed herself and her family.

However, since the attack on the army camp, it has become difficult to find work.

“The next day when I went to work, they said, ‘You are troublemakers, we don’t want you here.’ Everyone was looking at me suspiciously, as if I have done something very bad,” recalls Hazara, who is now working as a part time domestic for a Kashmiri Muslim family. This will help her pay the rent for the hut – a princely sum of INR 500 (about 7 dollars) – but not enough to feed herself and her children. Hazara is largely dependent on a Madrasa (religious school) run by fellow Rohingyas for her survival.

Mushtaq Ahmed, one of the 16 teachers at the school, says that right after the attack on the army camp, security forces entered the school to question them about the assailants. Since then, the attitude of the neighbors changed dramatically.

“Since 2017, we have been hearing things like we are collabrating with militants, helping them, etc, but this time, the attacks are more direct. Some women are still shelling wallnuts, but once the season is over, who knows what will happen?” Ahmed said.

Illiteracy, child marriage and poor health

There are 40 Rohingya refugee families in Kiriyani Talav locality. None of the women in these families has had a formal education. Uneducated and unskilled, they were married before the age of 18.

Nur Kalina was married at 14. “The elders in the community said it’s a sin to stay unmarried for long. So my parents got me married soon after I started to menstruate,” recalls Kalina. All of 19, the young woman already has three children.

“Child marriage is rampant in the Rohingya refugee community,” says Ravi Hemadri, who heads the Development and Justice Initiative (DAJI), a Delhi-based NGO that partnered with UNHCR until last month in documenting the Rohingya refugees and helping them access the aid and support they are entitled to.

At DAJI, activists have been campaigning against early marriage, Hemadri says, but the progress is slow. The refugees live in extreme poverty which drives the families to marry off their daughters early, he explains.

Laila Begum, 34, and Taiyyaba, 29, have asthma, while Taiyyaba has a 3-year-old daughter with stunted growth and weak limbs. As many as 12 women in the camp said they are suffering from respiratory diseases, while some, including Kalina’s mother Medina, 54, has tuberculosis. Kalina also has chronic lower back pain that often keeps her in bed.

None of the women gets regular medical treatment because they can’t afford it. Laila, who has visited the government-run hospital a few times for free medicine, says that the hospital asked her to pay INR 2000 (about 30 dollars) for medicine the last time.

“I don’t have so much money,” she said, adding that only the widows among them are entitled to some aid – 10 kgs of free rice each month.

Hope in the middle of hopelessness

Early this year, the UNHCR ended its partnership with DAJI in Jammu. The UN organization also advised the Rohingyas to move elsewhere in view of the growing political opposition. Since then, some of the Rohingya refugees – about 200 of them – have indeed moved out of Jammu.

But the women refugees say that despite the growing threat to their safety, leaving is not an option. “In Burma, they are still killing our people. Here, they say we are Bangladeshis. We do not even speak Bangla. Where shall we go? Why shall we leave? There is no safe place for us, so only way is to keep quiet,” says Ansari, a Rohingya woman.

The post Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-america-doesnt-always-mean-thing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-doesnt-always-mean-thing http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-america-doesnt-always-mean-thing/#respond Mon, 05 Mar 2018 23:10:38 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154632 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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The post In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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When Environmental Crises Hit Homes, Women Suffer the Mosthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/environmental-crises-hit-homes-women-suffer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=environmental-crises-hit-homes-women-suffer http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/environmental-crises-hit-homes-women-suffer/#respond Mon, 05 Mar 2018 06:57:34 +0000 Victor Tsang and Shari Nijman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154606 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Victor Tsang is UN Environment gender expert and Shari Nijman, UN Environment communication officer

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Women from the Mishing community in Dhemaji district are shocked by the siltation caused by the floods. Credit: Priyanka Borpujari/IPS

By Victor Tsang and Shari Nijman
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 5 2018 (IPS)

When Mandelena became a mother, she was only 16. During the prolonged dry season in Gwor County, South Sudan, her community saw crops failing and cattle dying. Children stopped going to school because of hunger and women and girls had to walk up to five hours every day to collect water.

When resources for families further dwindled as the drought prolonged, young girls were married off for a dowry as soon as they reached puberty. Mandelena’s situation was no different. Indirectly, the course of her life had been forever changed by the environmental crisis that crippled her country.

All hands on deck

While environmental changes affect everyone, due to existing gender inequalities, women often bear the bulk of the burden. In patriarchal societies, cultural, legal and political restrictions often undermine women’s adaptability and resilience to climate change.

When cyclones and floods, droughts and extreme heat rip through the social fabric, communities need all hands on deck to deal with the repercussions. Lack of access to land and financial credit make it especially hard for women to bounce back from the onslaught.

When the effects of climate change don’t present themselves as emergencies that grab our attention on the evening news, but rather as slow-onset changes in landscapes and livelihoods, the most severe social consequences are for women and girls first.
• Being in charge of domestic fuel and water provision, women and girls have to walk farther to find these threatened resources. More and more unpaid hours are spent, which could otherwise have been spent on remunerative tasks or in school.
• Every year, indoor air pollution kills 4.3 million people, most of them women and children, because three billion people rely on inefficient cooking technology, such as wood, charcoal or animal waste.

The struggles of women and girls are only part of the picture, as gender equality concerns both men and women. In Mandelena’s community in South Sudan, cattle raiding is common and intimately linked with men’s needs to pay a good dowry for a young bride. This practice is upheld even as resources are becoming scarcer.

The result is a culture of violence, including sexual violence, to the backdrop of climate change and environmental degradation, which intensifies hunger, reduces water availability and kills cattle.

Holistic approach to a sustainable world

More than ever, the world is realizing that the sustainable development goals we set for ourselves aren’t standalone targets but rather a holistic approach to a more inclusive world. We need to recognize the key role women play in taking care of our communities, as they bear the brunt of environmental changes.

When we empower women – by supporting equal access to land, agricultural extension services, financial inclusion and education – we give them the tools to become true custodians of our biodiversity.

Some of the world’s most passionate environmentalists have shown the world that women could be powerful guardians of our planet and agents of change. We can capitalize on their knowledge and experiences.

As we increasingly become aware of the existential climate risks and repercussions of environmental degradation, governments and the private sector are pledging to take action in order to ensure a livable future for all, it is time to consider the role that women are already playing in the sustainable future of our world.

Who will lead our green revolution? Who will take the green jobs? And where will the science and innovations that facilitate our sustainable future come from?

If we want to make a real difference in our future, we have to empower every woman and man to be custodians of our earth. Because the legacy of our environment is the legacy of Mandelena’s daughters as much as her sons.

The post When Environmental Crises Hit Homes, Women Suffer the Most appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

 
 
Victor Tsang is UN Environment gender expert and Shari Nijman, UN Environment communication officer

The post When Environmental Crises Hit Homes, Women Suffer the Most appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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DRC: A Crisis the World Can No Longer Afford to Ignorehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/drc-crisis-world-can-no-longer-afford-ignore/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drc-crisis-world-can-no-longer-afford-ignore http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/drc-crisis-world-can-no-longer-afford-ignore/#respond Sun, 04 Mar 2018 20:01:47 +0000 Badylon Kawanda Bakiman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154612 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post DRC: A Crisis the World Can No Longer Afford to Ignore appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
KIKWIT, DR Congo, Mar 4 2018 (IPS)

The numbers are hard to fathom. Nearly two million people driven from their homes in 2017 alone. The worst cholera epidemic of the past 15 years, with over 55,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths. Countless others killed, maimed or sexually assaulted.

The human costs of the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo are borne disproportionately by women and children, whose homes have been pillaged and burned, who are not in school and thus vulnerable to soldier recruitment, and who have now been left with almost nothing.“These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years." --Jan Egeland

Charlotte Ukuba, 60, fled to Site Etat at Kikwit, Kwilu Province in the southwest of DR Congo.

‘’I’m living now outside with my eight children,” Ukuba told IPS. “My husband was killed last year by the Kamwina Nsapu’s violence in Kasai province. When I came here, I was living first in a church with other displaced persons. But last week, a pastor chased us away. I have no money and need clothes for my children.”

Her eldest daughter is suffering from malaria. ‘’There are no drugs for this girl. I’m calling for help,” she added.

Violence broke out in Kasai in August 2016 following the uprising of local militia in Kasai Central. The crisis has been characterized by repeated clashes between militias and local security forces, which have subsequently generated inter-community conflicts.

Another displaced woman named Rose Thimbangula died at the age of 47 on Feb. 14 in Nzinda commune in Kikwit. The cause of death was tuberculosis complicated by fistula due to sexual violence. She had no money for medicine.

Dressed in a long black dress, Marie Ntumbala, 37, sleeps on the floor of a small room in Mweka, Kasai province. She is originally from a village called Tutando, 150 kilometers from Tshikapa, but was forced out by conflict. Ntumbala was fortunate enough to be taken in by a local family. But she says she is still living on the edge.

“When I’m ill, I can’t go to the hospital because I’m penniless. The Congolese government must help all the displaced persons in our country,” she said.

DR Congo has some 4.5 million internally displaced people, the largest number in Africa. Elections scheduled for 2017 were postponed to the end of this year, as political instability and clashes between soldiers and militias continues to escalate. An estimated 120 armed groups are operating in eastern DR Congo alone.

Red Cross workers provide a hot meal to IDPs at the Kanzombi Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Red Cross workers provide a hot meal to IDPs at the Kanzombi Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Humanitarian actors launched the largest ever funding appeal for the country this year, asking for 1.68 billion dollars to assist 10.5 million people. Only half of the 812.5 million dollars appealed for in 2017 was funded.

Brigitte Kishimana is 28 years old and six months pregnant. She lives at the Moni Site in Kalemi, Tanganyika province in the southeast. ‘’I need prenatal care,” she said. “Several other pregnant women at the sites need it too. If not, their lives will be in danger. Last year, four displaced women died during pregnancy or childbirth,” she told IPS.

Georgette Bahire, a 45-year-old farmer in Sud-Kivu province, fled Lulumba village on June 29, 2017. Fighting between government soldiers and the Mai-Mai, an armed group, drove her from her land. She was taken in by a family in the city of Kibanga.

“Humanitarian workers helped us in 2017 with food and some drugs. But the needs are still great,” she said.

Since the beginning of this year, armed conflicts have continued to plague the country, particularly in the areas of Rutshuru, Masisi, Walikale, South-Lubero and Beni. The gradual withdrawal of humanitarian aid workers from these areas has amplified the vulnerability of people affected by the humanitarian crisis, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a September 2017 report.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, at an IDP camp in DRC. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, at an IDP camp in DRC. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council

“The crisis in DR Congo has deteriorated exponentially over the last two years,” Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IPS in an interview. “These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years. Regions that were normally peaceful and stable areas of the country such as the Grand Kasai region and Tanganyika have now become hotbeds of unrest, with intercommunal violence displacing hundreds of thousands.”

“The fighting in the Kivus and Ituri is pushing the conflict in DR Congo closer and closer to a regional humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes into neighbouring countries like Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. A fresh appeal is necessary because while humanitarian needs are exploding and assistance is not able to meet the pace of needs.”

Egeland called on the international community to prioritize the humanitarian crisis in DR Congo and step up their efforts to help the 13.1 million people in need of assistance.

“If not,” he warned, “there will be fatal consequences for the country and possibly for the region.”

IOM is working to provide durable solutions for 5,973 IDP households in the North-Kivu province.

‘’Currently, IOM is helping 77 displaced women suffering from fistulas caused by sexual violence,” IOM Programme Officer Jean-Claude Bashirahishize told IPS. “In 2017, IOM received 205 cases of sexual violence in 12 sites,” he said, adding that cultural taboos made it difficult for women to talk about what had happened to them.

IOM helps victims of sexual violence get economic assistance, but also to train in livelihood activities so they can become self-sufficient.

‘’Insecurity is the greatest barrier to IOM accessing areas where armed groups are fighting government military forces,” Bashirahishize added.

Patrice Mushidinima, a civil society leader at Bukavu, the county seat of Sud-Kivu province, confirmed this, telling IPS, “Sud-Kivu province has 33 distinct armed groups operating in the area.”

In October 2017, the Congolese government and FAO helped more than 20,000 internally displaced persons, of whom about whom 70 percent were women and children at Kikwit, Kwilu province. But the situation is growing increasingly dire.

‘’Farmers who fled due to conflict have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced,” FAO, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a statement.

‘’IDPs have rights that need to be respected by the government and other authorities in the country. The Congolese Constitution claims that human life is sacred,” Valentin Mbalanda, a human rights activist in DR Congo, told IPS.

The European Commission, United Nations, and Dutch government will co-host a pledging conference in April. Jan Egeland said that international donors must give the same attention and priority to DR Congo that they do comparable crises around the globe.

“That means they must put their muscle and weight behind a successful donor conference and fulfill any pledges made. Donors must also look at needs on the ground and not just the bottom line. The DR Congo crisis of 2018 is not what is was in 2000 or 2005,” he said.

“Lastly, the international community must acknowledge the consequence of doing nothing. The stakes in DR Congo are high if inaction is the route we choose. There could be mass loss of life and humanitarian neglect could destabilize the entire region. This is a crisis of conscience that the world cannot afford to ignore.”

The post DRC: A Crisis the World Can No Longer Afford to Ignore appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post DRC: A Crisis the World Can No Longer Afford to Ignore appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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

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

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

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Mar 3 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The urgent need to empower rural women

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

Anamuri, a model for rural producers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 18:19:58 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154574 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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

By Sopho Kharazi
ROME, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

As a student in Rome, the closest event that left a mark in my life was the Women’s March in the Italian capital. The march allowed me to contribute to the empowerment of women and to demonstrate that no woman is free– even if one’s rights are being violated. #MeToo.

Domestic violence thrives in a culture of silence. A broad-based campaign in Georgia aims to bring the issue out into the open. Credit: UNFPA

As a woman born and raised in Georgia, I know what it is like to live in a patriarchal society where women have to fight for self-identification. Despite the fact that Georgian women have received more voice in society and filled more workplaces, the problem of gender inequality still exists. And this problem is the most significantly expressed in domestic violence.

Even though the issue of domestic violence has received public attention and few shelters have opened for the victims, the problem still remains unspoken. Until 2014, I myself believed that domestic violence was non-existent in Georgia because nobody talked about it.

However, little I knew how actively present it is in Georgian women’s lives. I remember one day, listening to my parent’s conversation while they were talking about their mutual male friend. My mother suddenly jokingly mentioned how this male friend physically abused his wife only because she ironed his shirt poorly. This is when I felt astonished, angry and frustrated at the same time.

First, I was shocked to hear about domestic violence happening in the friend’s family. Second, I was angry that my mother mentioned the story in a funny way, completely ignoring women’s solidarity and basic human rights. Finally, I was frustrated that my parents were inactive while acquiring this kind of information.

This event forced me to think how Georgian society treats domestic violence and allowed me to open my eyes wider in order to see other instances happening in front of me. For example, later I found out that my Godmother was physically abused by her ex-husband too. However, she was smart enough to leave after the first instance.

The problem of domestic violence has gone viral only in 2014, after 33-year old female lecturer, Maka Tsivsiradze, was shot dead by her ex-husband at Ilia State University in Tbilisi. The UN-funded research suggests that one in every eleven married woman in Georgia is a victim of domestic violence.

At the same time, it should be recognized that this number is depicted from the cases which have been reported while there might be thousands of victimized women who stay silent. In accordance to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 75% of Georgian women see domestic violence as a private matter which prevents the resolution of the problem and the acquisition of the exact data.

In order to solve the problem, it is important to find the cause. According to the psychologist Lela Tsiskarashvili, who works in the Centre for Victims of Torture, low self-esteem of unemployed Georgian men is one of the main reasons of domestic violence. She states that the economic crisis brought by the collapse of the Soviet Union shifted the gender roles, leaving men unemployed while transforming women into street vendors. Despite the fact that women have become the sources of income, the social structure of Georgian family remained the same with men on the top.

The 2015 Report on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence in Georgia incorporates information received from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MoIA). This information suggests that in 2014 there were 92,901 emergency calls to “112” regarding domestic violence.

Apart from this, there were 350 prosecutions for domestic violence, 902 restrictive orders approved, and 87 protective orders issued. These numbers are very high for the nation with the population of 3,718,200.

Even though, there is no report of 2017, the Deputy Public Defender, Eka Skhirtladze, notes that out of eleven cases of attempted murder, eight were identified as domestic violence which demonstrates that the problem is still serious.

However, despite this fact, there is also positive news. For instance, in 2016, the first domestic violence crisis centre opened in Georgia while more and more women start to report about the cases.

According to President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who spoke at the international conference on ‘Femicide Cases Monitoring Tools and Mechanisms: “We should realize that femicide is an issue for our entire society. Many problems can be prevented by adopting legislative amendments or carrying out new policies; however, today I would like to address Georgian society: you play a crucial role in preventing violence against women.”

The post The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Rise of Feminism & the Renewed Battle for Women’s Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rise-feminism-renewed-battle-womens-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rise-feminism-renewed-battle-womens-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rise-feminism-renewed-battle-womens-rights/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:00:37 +0000 Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154581 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini is co-founder & Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

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Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini

By Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini
WASHINGTON DC, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

In 1909, the Socialist Party of America, in support of female garment workers protesting working conditions, designated March 8 as a day to honor women. By 1917, women in Russia were protesting for ‘bread and peace’ against a backdrop of war. In recognition of that protest and women’s suffrage in Soviet Russia, The International Socialist movement designated March 8 as International Women’s Day.

Over the past 101 years, women, governments and the UN around the world have marked the day of solidarity and recognition of our rights. I appreciated its true significance in 2010 when, I spent the day among a group of Masai women in Kenya.

I was leading a delegation of women peacebuilders from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Canada and the US. We drove miles through dusty plains speckled with the occasional tree and giraffe herds to meet the Masai. They had walked hours to join us at their community center, a cinder block building that they’d paid for by making and selling jewelry and crafts.

They knew it was International Women’s Day and they were excited to be included as women in the world. It was humbling to be with them and it felt like a universal sisterhood.

In 2017, in the wake of the massive women’s protests, in the US on March 8th women wore red. For just that day on the sidewalks and in traffic, in government buildings and beyond, we the women signaled our mutual solidarity through our shared flash of red. It was symbolic, reassuring and empowering.

So 101 years on as March 8th 2018 dawns, how far have we come and how far do we still need to go? In America, it is easy to feel angry.

We are witnessing the most deliberate and targeted rollbacks of basic rights for women to be enacted by a government. Domestically in 2017 the Trump administration revoked the Fair Pay act that enabled women and minorities to determine if they were being subject to pay discrimination.

Health care provisions particularly reproductive rights are at perpetual risk. Vice President Mike Pence has openly stated that they aim to put an end to abortion – presumably the legal, safe variety – in his time.

Internationally too, the US is retrenching. In February 2018 the State Department announced that its annual global human rights report would no longer highlight the range of abuses and violations that women and girls typically experience. In the name of expediency and to ‘sharpen the focus’, the US has determined that violence against women is not a sufficiently egregious form of abuse – despite its prevalence among and relevance to at least 50% of the world’s population.

To give simple context: Globally women and girls make up 71 percent of the victims of human trafficking – a vast source of revenue for criminal and violent organizations. Three quarters of them are sexually abused. Of the women murdered globally in 2012, their partners or their own relatives killed half of them. But according to the US administration this evidence does not amount to egregious abuse.

Such denial makes for strange bedfellows internationally. The Trump administration puts the US in the same camp as Cuba, China, Iran, Syria, all of which refused to acknowledge violence against women as a gendered issues in recent years. On seeking to assert state control over women’s bodies particularly in terms of reproductive health issues, it is aligned with among others, Sudan, Russia, and the Vatican/Holy See – a nation of some 570 citizens, of whom just 30 are women –

Globally too, there is room for concern. In recent years, we have seen a co-opting of the rights and equality agenda in insidious ways. Many conservative states have become champions of girls’ education on the global stage. Yet scratch the surface and their agenda is not one of equal rights, opportunity or freedom to choose their own paths. They want to educate girls so they can be good wives and better mothers.

In other words, girls’ education is not for the purpose of fulfilling a human being’s potential, rather it is to prepare her to be subservient to male dominance, and cede the public sphere where decisions are made and power is wielded. And most tellingly no state is making the effort to educate men to be good husbands and better fathers. That would certainly go a long way towards reducing levels of violence.

Another recent trend has been to claim support for the women, peace and security agenda, by opening militaries to female recruitment in combat roles. The latest to join the ranks is Saudi Arabia, which in February 2018 announced that women could join the army as security officers but not as combat soldiers (The irony that these women would still need to live with their male guardians seems lost on the state).

So in the name of equality, women are being deployed to wield weapons and if needed, oppress, perpetrate violence, maim or kill. But an equal chance to fit into existing structures does not equate to an equal chance to transform the entrenched status quo.

When it comes to the women, peace and security issues for example, many of us advocates would argue that our cause is not to enable our daughters to be drafted into armies on equal footing as our sons. Rather ours to ensure that neither our daughters nor our sons have bear witness or engage in the horrors of war. That is the paradigm shift and equality we strive for – much like the Russian women in 1917.

But neither Saudi Arabia nor many other countries are matching their purported awakening to gender equality with a commitment to ensuring women’s effective participation in the realms where decisions – particularly about peace and security – are being made. It is evident by the paucity of women in the negotiations regarding the fate of Yemen and Syria.

Meanwhile conservative forces that rail against women’s rights and feminism, have co-opted the empowerment agenda by deploying their own army of women. From ISIS to the White Supremacist, they understand that women have power and influence. They also understand that women have aspirations and capacity to contribute to a cause.

In the US the fact that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a female spokesperson and television series with female heroes is no accident. They recognize that the optics work in their favor. Their spokeswomen inevitably appear more disarming (pun intended), conveying an image of both modernity and traditionalism, femininity and empowerment, even if they are handmaidens to the male leadership.

But the anger is also giving rise to positive developments. Trumpism sparked the women’s marches and a linking of arms among women across nations, of every generation. Feminism, long taken for granted and even denigrated, is fashionable again. It is fueled by indignation and action.

The #MeToo campaign founded by Tarana Burke long before Trump arose, has surged and its impact is evident in every sector. In the political realm despite the negative stance of the administration, Congress has passed two critical pieces of legislation – the Women, Peace and Security Act and a new Anti-online Sex trafficking bill that is heading to the Senate.

Perhaps the greatest sign of hope is the younger generation. Our teenage girls, who grew up in the Obama years that brought kindness, respect and a ‘can-do’ attitude to the fore, and whose political consciousness evolved in tandem with the rise of social media and greater connectivity, are emerging as new leaders. This too is a global phenomenon.

In the US, high school students Emma Gonzalez and Delaney Tarr who survived the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School shooting in Florida have become leading activists in the tough, overwhelmingly male dominated debates on security and gun control.

In Palestine, 17-year old high schooler, Ahed Tamimi has become the symbol of resistance against the Israeli occupation, after confronting armed Israeli soldiers about shooting her unarmed young cousin. Pakistani Malala Yousefzia, survivor of a terror attack and already a veteran activist at 21, won the Nobel Prize for daring to confront the Taliban about attacks on schools girls.

In Iran, a younger generation of women are confronting the state’s compulsory hijab laws by provocatively standing in public spaces, waving their scarves like flags on a pole. It is notable that in every instance they are either working on equal footing with men, or they have men recognizing their courageous leadership and cheering them on.

In each instance, these young women activists, stands on the shoulders of the many who came before them. They may not be familiar with the terms of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action, Security Council Resolution 1325 and its 7 sister resolutions, the Millennium or Sustainable Development Goals. They may even take much of it for granted, but that itself is an indication of empowerment, as this new generation is taking the struggle into a new phase.

This younger generation’s starting point is one of absolute equality. They not only feel entitled to speak, but feel entitled to be heard. And as my 17 year old daughter remarks, ‘Years of dystopic novels with female heroes saving the day, combined with lessons in civil rights, means of course we want to speak out and act.”

So if their grandmother’s generation fought to get into the system and participate in the status quo set by men, and their mother’s generation fought to transform systems from within by being collaborative, this younger generation is standing their own ground. They are setting their own terms, shaping their own narratives, and creating their own space – particularly through their adept handling of social media.

As they stand up to might of the vested interests and security state offering common sense solutions–be it in the US, Israel, Iran or Pakistan – but being rebuked violently, they reveal how naked and absurd the emperor truly is.

So a century on from the first International Women’s Day, these young women are lifting the veil off the systems that have perpetuated discrimination and violence and calling them out. In solidarity with women of the past they are saying ‘Time’s up”. I know they mean it. So it is with pride and confidence that I, for one, am happy to pass the baton.

The post Rise of Feminism & the Renewed Battle for Women’s Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

 
 
Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini is co-founder & Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Akinwumi A. Adesina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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