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Parliamentarians Promote Youth Investment in Kazakhstan

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - 6 hours 34 min ago

Kazakhstan boys swim in muddy water of Syr Darya river. Parliamentarians from Kazakhstan are advocating for youth employment opportunities, healthcare services, and educational possibilities at a regional, national and global level. Credit: Ninara/CC By 2.0

By Carmen Arroyo

Parliamentarians from 36 countries met this weekend in Astana, Kazakhstan, to discuss the future of youth in Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. The gathering called “International Conference on Investing on Youth: Leaving No One Behind” took place on the Oct. 19 to 20, and the goal was to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set by the United Nations, with regards to youth.

Keizo Takemi, Member of Parliament (MP) from Japan and chair of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD), told IPS: “We would like to reach a broad consensus among the participants that investment in youth is a core part of the investment of human capital.”

Kazakhstan and the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) have long been concerned with the future of youth in Asian countries. Parliamentarians from the region have turned to this issue, advocating for youth employment opportunities, healthcare services, and educational possibilities at a regional, national and global level.

Given that 60 percent of the world’s youth lives in Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, their concern with youth is justified. According to World Bank data, the majority of young people in these regions is literate, and healthy. Thus, the parliamentarians at Astana focused mainly on three issues: healthcare information and access, civil participation and increased employment opportunities for the youth.

Two hundred participants attended the conference at the Rixos President Astana Hotel. The two-day event was organised by the Parliament of Kazakhstan, the ministry of social development in Kazakhstan and the APDA, funded by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) through the Japan Trust Fund.

Event’s agenda

Of the 200 participants that attended the conference, 90 were from Kazakhstan and 110 from abroad. Among them, there were parliamentarians, international experts and representatives from U.N agencies, NGOs, academia and the private sector.

The two-day event opened with the remarks of G. I. Issimbayeva, deputy chairperson of the Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and closed with Takemi and Issimbayeva’s comments.

During the conference, there were four main sessions which included panels. The first three sessions took place on Friday. The first one focused on education and employment, featuring speakers such as Ato Brown, World Bank country manager, and Madina Abylkasymova, from the ministry of labour and social protection of population in Kazakhstan.

The second one talked about health, with speakers like Keizo Takemi and Soyoltuya Bayaraa, from UNFPA. The last session of the day concentrated on youth participation in civil, political and social affairs, with representatives such as Tatyana Lebedeva, Russia’s MP, and Bakhtyar Maken, Republic of Kazakhstan’s MP.

Finally, the fourth session occurred on Saturday, and it dealt with opportunities for youth in globalisation, with Vitalie Vremis U.N. Development Programme as moderator.

Takemi, Chairman at AFPPD, talked at the conference on improving universal access to health information and services for youth. He shared with IPS his thoughts on how health relates to gender. “There are many gender-related issues on investment in youth and in access to healthcare services. We, at AFPPD, have always kept a comprehensive framework on population related issues, including gender empowerment, investment in youth and active ageing,” he said.

UNFPA is another crucial organiser of the meeting. It has supported the region’s parliamentarians in investing in youth, by raising awareness through gatherings. In 2016 UNFPA, AFPPD and APDA launched the “G7: Global Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development,” where the participants committed to improve quality of education and health services, employment and gender equality among the youth.

All these issues remain intertwined, explained Takemi. “Each building block is related to each other. Therefore, when we highlight investment in youth, simultaneously we must take into account gender and ageing.”

No one left behind – including the youth

These gatherings aim to advance the SDGs and translate them to the national context. “The SDGs means that no one is left behind. That broad consensus can be the basis on which many MPs bridge national boundaries,” stated Takemi.

Specifically, the “International Conference on Investing on Youth” wanted to increase awareness of the need for a cross-sectoral and inter-ministerial approach to resolve the problems identified by the parliamentarians.

It also aimed to include policies related to the youth in their implementation of the SDGs at a national level. Those policies would vary depending on the country and the overall situation of their youth. With the World Bank’s Human Capital Project, countries can keep track of their youth’s needs. Takemi said: “I really hope the heads of the states recognise where they are through resources of the human capital through the World Bank.”

But one type of policy is not enough. A multilateral approach is needed. Takemi stated: “In order to achieve SDGs by 2030 we should have cross sectoral policy concept. Each goal and target can’t be achieved by isolated players and sectors.” He continued: “Investment in youth, education, vocational training, employment policies should be combined through a cross-sectoral conceptual framework, such as investment in human capital.”

Takemi concluded: “I myself recognise investment in youth should be the core of the investment in human capital.”

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Categories: Africa

Despite Progress, Over 200 Million Women Still Waiting for Modern Contraception

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - 7 hours 5 min ago

End Child Marriage. Credit: UNFPA

By Thalif Deen
OTTAWA, Canada, Oct 23 2018 (IPS)

The international community will be commemorating two milestones in the history of population and development next year: the 50th anniversary of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the 25th anniversary of a Programme of Action (PoA) adopted at the1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo.

“Let’s use these important benchmarks to launch accelerated action – together. Starting here in Ottawa,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem told a gathering of over 150 parliamentarians from more than 60 countries who were meeting in the Canadian capital to review the progress made in several key socio-economic issues on the UN agenda, including reproductive health, maternal and infant mortality, family planning, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

She said this is a time to reflect on some fundamental questions.

“Have we done justice to the vision that world leaders articulated nearly 25 years ago in Cairo? What have we achieved? Where is progress lagging? For whom? Why is it that life-saving sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions come into question time and again?,”

She pointed out that the world has made great progress in recent decades, as reflected in impressive declines in maternal deaths and child marriage rates.

Fewer women around the world are dying in pregnancy and childbirth. More women are using modern contraception. More girls are in school.

“Yet, more than 200 million women and girls are still waiting for modern contraception. And every year, there are still nearly 100 million unintended pregnancies,” said Dr Kanem.

And over 300,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year while tens of thousands of girls continue to be married off every day—in child marriages. And the global epidemic of violence against women and girls, including the violence of female genital mutilation (FGM) persists, she warned.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Canadian Minister of International Development, who played a key role in hosting the Parliamentarians’ Conference, which concluded October 23, said her country is committed to lead the discussion on gender equality– and welcomes the present conference as a key stepping stone towards hosting the “Women Deliver Conference” in 2019.

“Canada firmly believes that if we want to maximize the impact of our actions and help eradicate poverty, we must passionately defend gender equality and the rights of women and girls so they can participate fully in society,” she added.

To this end, Canada has fully committed itself to mobilizing global support for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.

Both are key commitments in Canada’s “Feminist International Assistance Policy”.

As a vibrant discussion followed, Martha Lucia Micher, a parliamentarian from Mexico,
drove home the point that “women’s bodies were being politicized”.

Senator Catherine Noone of Ireland said some of those who opposed legalizing abortions in her country offered a convoluted theory that men will resort to more sex if abortion was made legal.

Dr Kanem said it was an outrage that so many women and girls have so few choices.

“Let’s turn outrage into action. Choice can change the world! Let’s expand rights and choices for all. This is key to gender equality and the only way to advance the ICPD and 2030 agendas.”

Meanwhile, UNFPA has its own ambitious aims for the 2030 deadline of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
• Zero unmet need for family planning,
• Zero preventable maternal deaths and
• Zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls (including child marriage and female genital mutilation).

“And our actions towards these three zeros will be grounded in quality population data and evidence.”

“The 2020 census round is an important piece of this puzzle, and we are ramping up our preparations. When everyone is counted, we can identify and reach those still being left behind. That includes millions of women and girls,” she added.

Paying a tribute to parliamentarians, she said: “Your commitment to the principles and goals of the ICPD Programme of Action paves the way for further progress. Your defense of human rights, including reproductive rights; of gender equality; public participation and democratic principles is vital.”

“As parliamentarians, you have the power to transform the voices of your people into concrete action. You have the power to make a real difference. I appeal to you to protect the precious mandate that you share with UNFPA. Our women, girls and young people deserve no less,” she declared.

The post Despite Progress, Over 200 Million Women Still Waiting for Modern Contraception appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Honduran Migrant Caravan Moves Northwards, Defying all Obstacles

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - 14 hours 12 min ago

In the central park of the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, a camp was improvised, where thousands of migrants stopped to rest and wash before proceeding to the border with the United States, 2,000 kilometres away. People of all ages, entire families and many children are part of the caravan that began its desperate trek on Oct. 13 in Honduras. Credit: Javier García/IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
TAPACHULA, Mexico, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

A long chain of people is winding its way along the highways of Chiapas, the southernmost Mexican state. It is moving fast, despite the fact that one-third of its ranks are made up of children, and it has managed to avoid the multiple obstacles that the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and now Mexico, under pressure from the United States, have thrown up in a vain effort to stop it.

Every attempt to make it shrink seems to have the opposite effect. And on Monday Oct. 22, some 7,000 Central Americans, most of them Hondurans, kept walking northward, in defiance of U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning to do everything possible to “stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing” the U.S.-Mexico border."This is giving rise to something like a trail of ants, and we don't know where it's going to end…We're going to be seeing mass exoduses much more similar to those we see from Africa to Europe." -- Quique Vidal Olascoaga

The caravan that set out from San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, in the early hours of Oct. 13, has put the migration policy of the entire region in check. Trump took it up as the campaign theme for the Nov. 6 mid-term elections, and via Twitter, threatened Honduras with immediate withdrawal of any financial aid.

“People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first and if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away,” Trump tweeted.

The caravan isn’t stopping. In nine days it has travelled a little more than 700 kilometres to reach Tapachula, a city of 300,000 inhabitants, close to the border, which has welcomed the migrants’ arrival with food, beverages and encouraging messages.

Groups of activists and human rights defenders are preparing to meet them in different parts of the country. “This is not a caravan, it’s an exodus,” say migrant advocates.

There is still a long road ahead, however. The migrants still have 2,000 kilometres to go before reaching the nearest Mexican-U.S. border crossing, in an area governed by criminal groups, which have made migrant smuggling one of the country’s most lucrative businesses.

In addition, the Mexican government has threatened to detain them if they leave Chiapas, where local legislation allows them to be in transit with few requirements because it is a border zone.

But none of this has prevented new groups of migrants from arriving every day to join the caravan.

The number of children in the arms of their parents is striking, as they walk kilometre after kilometer, cross rivers and border barriers, or wait for hours in crowded, unsanitary conditions, in suffocating temperatures.

The stories they tell are heartbreaking.

A line of more than five kilometres of migrants walked on Sunday, Oct 21, from Ciudad Hidalgo to Tapachula, 40 kilometers inside the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. There are 2,000 kilometres left to the U.S.-Mexico border, along a route that is partly controlled by organised crime groups. Credit: Javier García/IPS

“We don’t have a job, we don’t have medicine, we have nothing in our country, we can’t even afford to eat properly. I want to get to the United States to raise my children,” Ramón Rodríguez, a man from San Pedro Sula who arrived with his whole family to the Guatemalan-Mexican border on Oct. 17, told IPS in tears.

In the last decade, human rights organisations and journalists have documented the massive displacement of Central Americans toward the southern border of Mexico, and have repeatedly warned of a humanitarian crisis that is being ignored.

In 2016, the Global Report on Internal Displacement, published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, devoted a special section to an emerging phenomenon of displacement in Mexico and the countries of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador).

In May 2017, Médecins Sans Frontières presented the report “Forced to Flee Central America’s Northern Triangle: A Neglected Humanitarian Crisis”, in which it warned of an exodus, caused above all by criminal violence in the region.

The Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, which has organised 14 caravans of mothers of migrants who have disappeared in Mexican territory, has also described the situation in the Northern Triangle as a “humanitarian tragedy”.

The violence, along with precarious labour and economic conditions, skyrocketed a few days ago when the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez announced hikes in the electricity rates.

According to versions given by Hondurans who arrived in Mexico, it was Bartolo Fuentes, a pastor and former legislator who has participated in several caravans in Mexico, who launched the call for a collective march to the United States.

They were to gather in the Great Metropolitan Central bus station in San Pedro Sula. Around one thousand people showed up.

Hundreds of Mexicans mobilised to help Central American migrants, many giving rides in their cars and trucks to members of the caravan, to ease their journey to Tapachula, where other supportive residents provided them with food and beverages. Credit: Javier García/IPS

“Many of us thought that in a group it was easier and safer, because we know that going through Mexico is dangerous,” a member of the caravan who asked for anonymity told IPS. “Later, messages began to arrive through Whatsapp (the instant messaging network), and people began to organise to flee the country,” he said.

By Oct. 15, another group had organised in Choluteca, in southern Honduras, and yet another in Tegucigalpa.

The Honduran government tried to close the border crossings, but was unable to stop some 3,000 people from leaving the country and crossing Guatemala. The detention and deportation of Pastor Fuentes did not stop them either. On Oct. 17, the caravan arrived in the city of Tecún Umán, on the border with Mexico.

The Mexican government had stepped up security at the border and the caravan was stranded on the bridge that joins the two countries. Desperation set in: on Oct. 19, the migrants crossed the police cordon and were dispersed with tear gas.

Faced with media pressure, the Mexican authorities offered “orderly passage” for groups of 30 to 40 people who were to take the steps to apply for refuge.

But it was actually a ruse, because the migrants were taken to an immigration station where they must stay 45 days, and have no guarantees of the regularisation of their immigration status.

The border bridge became a refugee camp, without humanitarian assistance from either government. The only thing the Guatemalan government provided were buses for those who wanted to “voluntarily” return to their country.

Exhausted, many decided to turn around, the disappointment plain to see on their faces.

However, the bulk of the caravan made the decision to swim or raft across the Suchiate River.

For more than 24 hours, images of thousands of people crossing the river circled the world, while other groups of migrants continued to arrive at the border to join the caravan that today numbers more than 7,000 people, according to human rights groups.

Some activists believe that, because of its size and the form it has taken, this caravan could fundamentally change migratory movements in Central America, with people increasingly turning to a new strategy of migrating in huge groups.

“This is giving rise to something like a trail of ants, and we don’t know where it’s going to end,” Quique Vidal Olascoaga, an activist with the organisation Voces Mesoamericanas, told IPS. “We’re going to be seeing mass exoduses much more similar to those we see from Africa to Europe.”

With reporting by Rodrigo Soberanes and Angeles Mariscal, from various places in the state of Chiapas.

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Categories: Africa

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Supporting Morocco’s Quest to Close USD24 Billion Green Investment Gap

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 16:48

Morocco has in recent years emerged as a continental leader in terms of modelling green growth. Credit:Celso Flores/CC By 2.0

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

Science has increasingly made it clear that the world is on an unsustainable growth model where economic development is occurring at the expense of the environment. The need for a well-balanced approach has therefore become a necessity rather than a luxury.

The green growth model, according to experts, is seen as having the required balanced approach that fosters economic growth and development while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which people’s well-being relies.

While Morocco has in recent years emerged as a continental leader in terms of modelling green growth, the country has an estimated green investment gap of USD24 billion.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international treaty-based organisation that assists countries develop a green growth model, is actively supporting initiatives to help the North African country close this gap and transition to a green economy.

IPS had an opportunity to speak to Nicole Perkins, the GGGI country representative in Morocco on the specific aspects of support being offered, and how it relates to the green growth model being spearheaded by GGGI. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): The government of Morocco has requested technical support from GGGI to support the transition to a green economy. The design of the project is dedicated to the development of inclusive green territories in order to contribute to Morocco’s goal of a national overall GHG emission reduction target of 42 percent below business-as-usual (BAU) emissions by 2030, and contribute to the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target of closing the green investment gap of USD24 billion in conditional investments. Could you briefly shade more light on this project?

Nicole Perkins (NP): GGGI’s work in Morocco provides technical support to accompany the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, aimed at promoting a green, inclusive, integrated and sustainable development model at the territorial (regional) level, and the realisation of Morocco’s NDC number 9, which is to develop a model, low-carbon city centred on optimised energy, transport and waste management.

Our support focuses on the development of policies and incentives, identification and design of bankable projects, and assistance in mobilising funding for their implementation, in alignment with the advanced regionalisation process adopted by the Kingdom of Morocco.

On Oct. 23, 2017, GGGI and the Moroccan government signed in Rabat, a Memorandum of Understanding during a workshop they co-organised on the theme: green growth and development of the green territories in Morocco.

In June 2018, GGGI Morocco received two official letters requesting technical support from both the ministry of interior and the secretary of state for transport, for a total of eight measures in the areas of increasing sub-national access to climate finance, and sustainable mobility, which provides a solid focus for the 2019-2020 programme.

Nicole Perkins, the GGGI country representative in Morocco. Courtesy: Nicole Perkins

IPS: The general thematic area of support is green cities and territories. Could you explain in some detail, the concepts of green cities and territories? What are they, and how do they relate to the green growth model? 

NP: For GGGI, green cities are:

• Innovative and smart: This implies cities that provide a unique environment and an opportunity for innovation, through technology, information, communication and good governance – and the synthesis of these.

• Resource-efficient and based on circular economies: Waste-to-resource and circular economy to lower resource footprints. They are transformational and creative: they decouple growth from resource use.

• Climate smart and resilient: In pursuing low-carbon pathways in support of the Paris Agreement, and underpinned by resilient infrastructure, systems and communities.

• Inclusive and pro-poor: Green cities must provide livelihood opportunities beyond BAU. They are pro-poor, ‘connected’, accessible, and provide affordable solutions for all.

• Healthy and liveable: With an improved quality of life, cleaner air and accessible green spaces.

• Prosperous and bankable: Cities that are competitive, create opportunity and are attractive for (new) investment.

Green territories can be geographically defined as a region or province that inclusively encompass both the urban and rural populations. They leverage the characteristics of green cities and ensure healthy linkages between the urban and rural components in terms of access to economic opportunities and sustainable services such as transport, waste, water, energy, education and health.

IPS: Aside from the key strategic outcome of greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, the project aims to achieve, among others, green jobs, sustainable services, air quality, ecosystem services, and enhanced adaptation to climate change. Briefly explain how the project intends to achieve these targeted outcomes?

NP: The programme aims to increase access to climate and green growth finance; strengthen national institutional capacity to develop policy in the transport/mobility sector; accelerate national and sub-national investments in the National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS), NDCs, and Sustainable Development Goals; and improve the enabling environment in the territories in order to catalyse pro-poor, pro-youth, inclusive, and gender-sensitive investments in environmental goods and services. To achieve these outcomes, GGGI in Morocco is focusing on: supporting the design, implementation and operationalisation of a multi-sectoral National Financing Vehicle, its institutional framework, capacity building, and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation.

This will contribute to the NDC target of closing the green investment gap of USD24 billion in conditional investments and contribute to Morocco’s goal of a national overall GHG emission reduction target of 42 percent below BAU emissions by 2030.

Regarding the transport and mobility sector, GGGI is providing policy advice and project development services to increase access to sustainable transport and mobility, transition to green transport/mobility, and support the implementation of the National Sustainable Mobility Roadmap, contributing to the NDC target of 23 percent energy savings in the transport sector by 2030.

At a sub-national level, GGGI support is to catalyse the development of Morocco’s inclusive green territories and support the Regional Project Execution Agencies in selectively and strategically developing a pipeline of bankable, sustainable, inclusive and scalable projects in order to attract investments into Environmental Goods and Services and transition to a low carbon economy, contributing among others to Morocco’s NSDS target of 23 percent energy savings in the transport sector by 2030; 20 percent recycled materials rate by 2020; 50 percent wastewater reuse rate in inland cities by 2020; 60 percent wastewater treatment rate by 2020.

IPS:  What financing model have you used to raise funds for the project? Is it a wholly public financed project or a mixture? This comes on the back drop that Green cities—the roads, pavements, street lights are all public sector and are owned by governments not the private sector. 

NP: GGGI Morocco has been building ties with in-country priority donors and conducted comprehensive partner and donor consultations on a national level, which provide the foundation for the 2019 – 2020 biennial country programme. Both GGGI and Morocco’s various donors and international financing institution partners have indicated interest in supporting the government of Morocco’s requests for technical support and GGGI’s efforts to assist Morocco in implementing its NSDS territorial approach to transitioning to inclusive green growth. The structuring of project financing, and avenues for partner involvement and contribution is currently in process.

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Friday Phiri interviews NICOLE PERKINS, the GGGI country representative in Morocco

The post Supporting Morocco’s Quest to Close USD24 Billion Green Investment Gap appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

Solar Power Lights up the World’s Fastest-Growing Refugee Camp

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 14:32

Credit: HOPE Foundation

By Dr Iftikher Mahmood
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

Solar energy has long powered homes, businesses and portable electronics. Now, it’s powering a field hospital in the middle of the world’s fastest-growing refugee camp.

Last month, my organization, the HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh, opened the HOPE Field Hospital for Women in the Kutupalong mega-camp for Rohingya refugees.

Here, the population density is five times above the United Nations’ recommended standard for refugee camps, and there is a dire need for more health services among this vulnerable community.

UN Women estimates that more than half of the refugee population are women and girls—and UNFPA has estimated over 64,000 pregnant women will give birth this year—many of whom have been traumatized and are suffering from injuries caused by fires, brutality, rape, gunshots, and more.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first to be opened by a Bangladeshi NGO, and the only hospital in the camp that specializes in care for women. But there is another important distinction that we are equally proud of: our field hospital is significantly powered by solar energy, at a scale not seen anywhere else in the camps.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Solar power is unique in its ability to be brought into remote areas, to be pollution free, and to scale easily. Before the new solar installations, there were numerous times when a lack of power put women and children at risk.

One example is during the recent monsoon season, when our midwives found themselves providing care in the dark after flooding brought power outages. They worked in the conditions they had to, but as you would imagine, they were quite concerned that in the dark they might make a mistake that could harm mother or the baby. But, when a mother goes into labor, you can’t exactly tell a baby to wait for the lights to come back on.

It’s not just monsoons that cause loss of power. The hot, humid conditions in southern Bangladesh are often responsible for disruptions to the electrical service.

This is another reason why it was important to HOPE to make sure that solar energy played a key role in powering our new facility. A generous donation from the family foundation of 8minutenergy Renewables’ CEO, called the Abundant Future Foundation, helped us do just that. Five solar-powered clinics, custom-built by SOLARKIOSK in Germany, now power our field hospital’s most important and power-dependent services.

They’re ensuring that labor and delivery rooms stay well lit, that our sterilization units maintain power and that our medications and vaccinations remain refrigerated at the appropriate temperature. We’ve also incorporated solar into other areas of the hospital power grid, using this technology to fuel our indoor lighting as well as lighting around the perimeter of the hospital.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Now, our midwives won’t have to worry about delivering in the dark. And babies who need incubators and specialized care will stay safe and warm.

Nearly one million Rohingya refugees have crossed the border to Bangladesh since the Rohingya influx began a little over a year ago.

This is the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis. The last thing any aid organization wants to have to worry about is loss of power during an operation or a life-saving intervention.

Solar will be a game-changer for our ability to provide high-quality, uninterrupted care, and there is room for growth in this area. Other organizations have utilized solar power on a smaller scale in the camps. For example, UNFPA has distributed solar-powered LED lights to all of the health facilities in the camps that are open 24/7.

But investment in renewable energy on a larger scale could provide a tremendous payoff in terms of lives saved here in Bangladesh, and in refugee camps around the globe. In Jordan last year, UNHCR opened a solar plant in the Za’atari refugee camp, which supports 80,000 Syrian refugees.

In Kenya, you’ll find Africa’s largest solar-powered borehole, providing clean drinking water for refugees in the Dadaab camp in the country’s arid northern border. Renewable energy is good for the planet and the pocketbook, too, reducing emissions and saving precious dollars that aid organizations can apply toward providing critical services and procuring medicines, materials and staff to help alleviate suffering.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first facility to apply solar technology at such a scale in the Rohingya camps. Hopefully we’re just the first of many.

The post Solar Power Lights up the World’s Fastest-Growing Refugee Camp appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Dr Iftikher Mahmood is Founder and President, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

The post Solar Power Lights up the World’s Fastest-Growing Refugee Camp appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Time for Global Collaboration to Address Pressing Issues of Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 08:03

Dr Hedy Fry, PC MP, is a Trinidadian-Canadian politician and physician. She is currently the longest-serving female Member of Parliament, winning eight consecutive elections in the constituency of Vancouver Centre since the 1993 election, when she defeated incumbent Prime Minister Kim Campbell

By Dr Hedy Fry
OTTAWA, Canada, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

300 Parliamentarians from over 150 nations will meet, in Ottawa, to tackle one of the most serious global challenges facing humanity.

The International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Program of Action (IPCI), October 22-23, is a forum, for all global regions, to generate collective action on issues of population and development, specifically as they relate to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Dr Hedy Fry

As chair of the host Canadian parliamentary association (CAPPD), I am excited at the prospect of not only looking back at the gains we have made since nations pledged action on the 1994 UN Declaration on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights globally, but also to identify where and why we have failed to achieve those goals for women, girls and youth.

Canada is in a strong position, now, in 2018, to play a leadership role in addressing the existing inequalities to SRHR not only worldwide, but in our own backyard.

The Government of Canada has pledged and made good on, our commitment to play an enhanced role in this area, through the Feminist International Assistance Policy. This policy’s commitment to maternal, new born and child health aims to close the still glaring gaps in SRHR for many developing regions.

‎It is backed by an additional investment of $650 million over three years, which will be allocated to meet SRHR needs, globally.

Here at home, there’s also much work that needs to be done. Canada is well aware that our own Indigenous communities still have unequal access to SRHR and basic health infrastructure.‎ We are also aware that Indigenous peoples in the Americas face the same, if not greater challenges.

Also here in Canada, federal and provincial jurisdictional issues can lead to unequal access to abortion, and to Mifepristone, the abortion pill—both of which are legal in Canada.

The National Newspaper, Globe and Mail, has been highlighting these issues and its Atlantic Desk, Jessica Leeder, will be a keynote speaker at IPCI 2018, expanding on these challenges.

The IPCI forum will not only look at solutions to these existing problems but discuss, frankly and openly the new worldwide issues that are looming.

Diverse cultural and religious practices, as well as poverty and minority status, remain a problem where women and youth are denied access to full SRHR. Recent UNICEF statistics indicate that at least 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation.

The rise in regional conflicts that now use rape as a “tactic” to subdue minority and “enemy” populations have made women and girls even more vulnerable.

Unprecedented migration of those fleeing conflict, seeking food and sustenance as a result of climate change and poverty has created large populations of displaced persons living in temporary zones with no access to healthcare, where they are increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and sexual trafficking.

For the one million Rohingya now living in Bangladesh refugee camps, the United Nations reported that over 60 births occur each day, while Oxfam Canada released a startling statistic that showed 25 to 50 per cent of maternal deaths in refugee camps are caused by unsafe abortions and related complications.

We’ve also seen an increase of “right wing” political movements that seek to curb access to legal contraception and abortion and the education of youth with regard to sexual health. Additionally, these movements have been known to promote systemic ‎xenophobia denying rights to minorities.

This includes LGBTQ+ communities, which has an impact to increase public health mortality and morbidity rates globally. We must not forget the persistent and growing incidence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The fact is, there’s no better time than now to take action. Parliamentarians at IPCI 2018 will not only explore these themes, frankly and openly, but will hear from speakers about innovative solutions that are taking place in a variety of regions around the world.

We are uniquely placed to influence change. As stated in the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, paragraph 45 recognizes “the essential role of national parliaments through their enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets and their role in ensuring accountability for the effective implementation of our commitments.”

Parliamentarians can challenge governments that promote xenophobia and harmful policies. We can stand up for human rights and the full access to SRHR for women and youth locally. We can bond with other nations to make concrete change that would benefit all, globally. This is what I hope we can achieve at IPCI 2018.

The post Time for Global Collaboration to Address Pressing Issues of Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Dr Hedy Fry, PC MP, is a Trinidadian-Canadian politician and physician. She is currently the longest-serving female Member of Parliament, winning eight consecutive elections in the constituency of Vancouver Centre since the 1993 election, when she defeated incumbent Prime Minister Kim Campbell

The post Time for Global Collaboration to Address Pressing Issues of Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

Women's Africa Cup of Nations draw completed

BBC Africa - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 04:51
Defending champions Nigeria will face South Africa with hosts Ghana set to play Cameroon, as the draw for the 2018 Women's Nations Cup is made in Accra.
Categories: Africa

Kenyan crypto-currency pioneer: 'I make my money from Bitcoin and tasty roast meat'

BBC Africa - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 03:22
The rural eatery where you can buy a traditional favourite with the most modern of currencies.
Categories: Africa

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 'We all breathe misogyny'

BBC Africa - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 02:16
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about her family, Africa, misogyny and the adaptation of Americanah.
Categories: Africa

Cuban Women, Vulnerable to Climate Change, in the Forefront of the Struggle

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 21:44

A group of women clean a street after the passage of Hurricane Irma, in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado in September 2017. Women play a leading role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, a phenomenon to which they are also the most vulnerable. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Oct 21 2018 (IPS)

When people ask marine biologist Angela Corvea why the symbol of her environmental project Acualina, which has transcended the borders of Cuba, is a little girl, she answers without hesitation: “Because life, care, attachment, the creative force of life lie are contained in the feminine world.”

Acualina is a little philosopher dressed in an ancient Greek tunic in the colours of the Cuban flag – red, white and blue. She teaches, gives advice, issues warnings and provides guidelines on how to reduce risks to the environment. Her educational message is broadcast on TV and spread through other means, ranging from stickers to books.

This environmental education initiative created by Corvea in the coastal neighbourhod of Náutico, in Playa, a municipality on the northwest side of Havana, just celebrated its 15th anniversary. It is an area plagued by pollution, mainly coming from the mouth of a river, and from an open coast that causes flooding of the sea or the river during extreme climatic events.

“This is my way of developing, on a voluntary basis, organisational capacities to protect the environment, and adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. We developed this experience in many ways,” the 69-year-old expert, who has received international awards for her work on behalf of the environment, told IPS.

Corvea pointed out that in the face of the impacts of global warming, women are not only protagonists, but are also the most vulnerable. “In general, women are overburdened with work and in the face of a disaster, everything is magnified, the care of children and older adults, food and water shortages,” she said.

“The sixth sense that they attribute to us is activated with more power than normal and we have no other choice but to act, in the end we end up more tired than men: they are occupied (busy working) while we are occupied (working) as well as preoccupied (worried about and caring for everyone) – we have a double workload,” concluded the biologist, whose awareness-raising messages are tailored to children but also reach adults.

According to official reports, Cuban women currently make up 46 percent of the state labour force and 17 percent of the non-state sector. At the same time, they make up 58 percent of university graduates, more than 62 percent of university students, and 47 percent of those who work in science.

In politics, nine of the 25 cabinet ministers and 14 of the 31 members of the State Council are women, as are 299 of the 612 deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the local parliament. The Minister of Science, Technology and Environment has been Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya since 2012.

The first head of this ministry, created in 1994, was scientist Rosa Elena Simeón. She was succeeded by José Miguel Miyar Barrueco, Pérez Montoya’s predecessor.

The data point to a steady increase in professional qualifications and in the level of female participation in Cuban society. However, they continue to be more vulnerable to the impact of climate change, which has intensified the force and frequency of hurricanes and exacerbated periods of drought.

Angela Corvea sits in front of the image of Acualina, the educational project she created 15 years ago in Cuba to teach children – and their families – how to reduce environmental risks, including climate risks, in an island nation where the impacts of rising temperatures are very noticeable. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The response of men and women to this type of disaster is usually different. “Women generally assume the greatest responsibility during evacuations, packing up necessary personal belongings and water and food, often on their own with the children and the elderly in their care,” journalist Iramis Alonso told IPS.

Alonso, who specialises in scientific and environmental issues, added that women “tend to take longer to get back to work after these events, depending on how quickly support services are restored, such as day care centres. That affects them from the point of view of income more than men.”

“All efforts and conflicts are complicated by disasters, because women in every sense are more vulnerable, both at home and at work, where a machista organisational culture still reigns,” sociologist and academic Reina Fleitas told IPS.

In her opinion, disaster management policy should include a gender perspective, because solutions to the problems they generate have to be related to the different impacts and capacities created by people for recovery.

The researcher regretted that “vulnerability studies do not always include a gender focus, there is resistance to recognising that there is a feminisation of poverty that does not mean an increase in the number of women living in poverty, but rather the intensity of how they live.”

“It is known that the vast majority of Cuban women have double workdays and when a natural disaster occurs their efforts triple,” environmental educator Juan Francisco Santos told IPS.

They are the ones who have to prepare the food for the family, “who have to come up with meals, in many cases working magic to figure out how to cook,” she said.

Several women walk in the rain towards their homes carrying food, as part of their preparations for the imminent arrival in Cuba of Hurricane Gustav, in 2008, in a Havana neighbourhood. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

In her view, there are several factors that increase women’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change. In the first place, she mentions the domestic role assumed by the majority of women and, as heads of households, they suffer greater tensions in the face of shortages during extreme events.

Santos said the aging of the population also plays a role, “because most of them are responsible for the care of both the very young and the elderly,” as well as “the lack of understanding of what it means to be a woman, on the part of men and of many women, and society as a whole.”

The educator attributed the “differentiated” responses of men and women to the danger of “cultural constructions.”

The male provider, the woman (mother) protector, the man guarding the home, the woman in charge of domestic chores, the man “in the vanguard” and the woman “in the rear,” are the stereotyped roles that still remain widespread, he said.

“Faced with a natural disaster, we will continue to reproduce the world as we conceive it,” warned Santos.

According to the State Plan for Confronting Climate Change, approved by the Council of Ministers on Apr. 25, 2017, officially known as the Life Task, scientific studies confirm that Cuba’s climate is becoming warmer and more extreme.

The average annual temperature has increased by 0.9 degrees Celsius since the middle of the last century.

At the same time, great variability has been observed in storm activity and, since 2001, this Caribbean island nation has suffered the impact of 10 intense hurricanes, “unprecedented in history.”

Since 1960 rainfall patterns have changed and droughts have increased significantly, and the average sea level has risen by 6.77 centimetres to date. Coastal flooding caused by the rise of the sea level and strong waves represent the greatest danger to the natural heritage and buildings along the coast.

Future projections indicate that the average sea level rise could reach 27 centimetres by 2050 and 85 centimetres by 2100, causing the gradual loss of the country’s surface area in low-lying coastal areas, as well as the salinisation of underground aquifers.

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The post Cuban Women, Vulnerable to Climate Change, in the Forefront of the Struggle appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

The Right to Choose

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 19:41

Manes Feston, flanked by her children, holds her four-month-old son Fedson. He was one of triplets but his siblings died because of a lack of welfare support. High fertility rates can be seen in much of Africa with four or more births per woman. Generally, these countries are poorer with limited access to quality healthcare and contraception. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Reproductive choice can transform the world and our goals towards a sustainable society, a new report says.

Every year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) examines the state of the world population. In this year’s report, the agency focuses on the power of reproductive choice and the role it can play to promote social and economic development.

“Choice can change the world,” UNFPA’s executive director Natalia Kanem said in the report’s foreword.

“It can rapidly improve the well-being of women and girls, transform families, and accelerate global development,” she added.

While progress has been achieved, the international community still has a ways to go, UNFPA’s Washington D.C. director Sarah Craven told IPS.

“There is no country in the world where reproductive rights and choices are enjoyed by all people at all times,” she said.

The State of the World Population 2018 report examines global fertility trends and how they are influenced by choice or the lack thereof.

High fertility rates can be seen in much of Africa with four or more births per woman.

Generally, these countries are poorer with limited access to quality healthcare and contraception.

UNFPA found that over 20 percent of women in the region want to avoid a pregnancy but have an unmet need for family planning.

At the same time, almost 20 million—or 38 percent—of the region’s pregnancies each year are unintended.

Practices such as early marriage, which is associated to an early start to child bearing, is also common.

In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 38 percent of women are married by the age of 18. In Niger, 76 percent of girls marry by the age of 18.

Child marriage, which is accompanied with the end of education and the lack of opportunities for employment and thus reduced earnings in adulthood, denies girls’ decision-making power and their right to choose.

It also hinders progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as the elimination of poverty, achievement of good health and well-being, and access to decent work.

Countries with high fertility have faster population growth, which poses challenges for governments already struggling to make progress on the SDGs and to provide education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.

On the other hand, while there are trends towards lower birth rates as a result of greater access to services, some women are having fewer children due to constraints rather than choice.

“The gap between desired and actual family size suggests that women and men are not fully able to realise their reproductive rights,” the report states.

For instance, the culture of overwork in East Asia has made it difficult for many to have both a career and a family.

In South Korea, almost 20 percent of employed women worked more than 54 hours a week in 2014.

The East Asian nation has a fertility rate of 1.17 births per woman, below the recommended replacement level of 2.1 and the level needed to sustain the current size of the population.

In Japan, which also has concerning fertility levels, the demanding work environment has even led to “karoshi,” or death by overwork.

In 2013, journalist Miwa Sado died of a heart failure and investigators found that she had logged 159 hours of overtime work one month before she died.

In 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide. It emerged that she worked for over 100 hours of overtime at her advertising job and had barely slept in the period leading up to her death.

In an effort to address this problem, both countries have started to put policies in place to restrict work hours.

However, women with children also often face discrimination in the labour market, which can be seen in countries such as South Korea and Japan where mothers predominately hold low-salary positions and have limited career options, resulting in vast gender wage gaps.

With fewer children and young adults, the labour force has been shrinking contributing to weaker economies.

At the same time, as older people account for larger shares of the population, governments face challenges to cover health-care costs and social security systems, further weakening economies.

Among the recommendations in the report is to provide universal access to quality reproductive healthcare, including access to modern contraceptives, make available sexuality education, and achieve gender equality.

“Choice can be a reality everywhere. This is something that governments should prioritise,” Craven told IPS.

In high fertility countries, there is a need for education on reproductive rights and employment opportunities for rural women while low fertility countries should implement family-friendly policies such as child care services and parental leave.

Questions and challenges remain as to how governments should achieve such policies as the debate over reproductive choice in many countries is often grounded in religious beliefs.

In the United States, a new set of proposed rules will expand religious exemptions, allowing employers to deny health care access such as reproductive health coverage and access to contraception.

In Saudi Arabia, child marriage is still widespread and often justified by clerics.

Craven expressed concern over any policy that restricts individuals to access information and services, and highlighted the importance of reproductive choice.

“You will not achieve the SDGs if you don’t also achieve reproductive rights of your citizens,” she said.

Kanem echoed similar sentiments in the foreword of the report, stating: “The way forward is the full realisation of reproductive rights, for every individual and couple, no matter where or how they live, or how much they earn…the real measure of progress is people themselves: especially the well-being of women and girls, their enjoyment of their rights and full equality, and the life choices that they are free to make.”

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The post The Right to Choose appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

Ex-Guinea international Ismael Bangoura convicted of fraud

BBC Africa - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 15:31
Ex-Guinea striker Ismael Bangoura is given a six-month suspended jail sentence and fined more than 130,000 euros after being convicted of fraud by a court in France.
Categories: Africa

Benzarti describes his sacking by Tunisia as 'humiliating and insulting'

BBC Africa - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 12:31
Faouzi Benzarti, sacked as Tunisia's coach having just secured the team's place at next year's Africa Cup of Nations, describes the decision as 'insulting.'
Categories: Africa

UAE, Italy sign MoU to increase business opportunities

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 12:09

ABU DHABI, Oct 21 2018 (WAM)

Etihad Credit Insurance (ECI), the UAE Federal export credit company, and SACE, the Italian Export Credit Company (CDP Group), have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance business opportunities between the UAE and Italy, as part of the 6th meeting of the UAE-Italy Joint Economic Committee held recently in Rome, Italy.

The signing of the MoU took place at the Ministry of Economic Development in Italy, in the presence of Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors at ECI; Luigi Di Maio, Italian Minister for Economic Development; and Saed Al Awadhi, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Export and Development Corporation, and Board Member and Chairman of the Executive Committee at ECI.

Under the MoU signed by Massimo Falcioni, CEO of ECI, and Alessandro Decio, CEO of SACE, the two national export credit companies have expressed commitment in strengthening the cooperation between UAE and Italy through the mutual sharing of expertise as well supporting the business relations of both countries.

One of the main highlights of the MoU is the intention to enhance trade between the two countries with focus on Halal industry through Shariah-compliant insurance and finance solutions.

Furthermore, ECI and SACE have agreed to create a dedicated task force and collaborate on seven work areas: insurance, reinsurance and collections initiatives; information sharing; technical training programmes; halal industry and Shariah-compliant insurance and finance solutions; trade promotions (B2B events and workshops); investments; and SME programmes.

CEO of Etihad Credit Insurance said, “Our partnership with SACE plays a strategic and important part in ECI’s role as a major catalyst in supporting UAE’s non-oil exports, trade, investments and strategic sectors development, in line with UAE Vision 2021 agenda. Italy is one of the major trading partners of the UAE in the European Union, while the UAE is also a major trading partner of Italy in the Arab region. Through mutual cooperation in extensive areas, this agreement is set to further cement the growing bilateral trade between the two countries.”

CEO of the Italian Export Credit Company said, “We are honored to cooperate with Etihad Credit Insurance, a key player in the UAE, being fully aware that stronger trade and investment ties between Italy and the UAE are crucial for the future of our respective economies. Our office in Dubai, with a €5-billion (AED21 billion) project pipeline, will play an active part in the Task Force confirming its role of ‘Italian bridge’ in the UAE”.

The trade volumes between two countries have exceeded €6 billion (AED26 billion) in 2017. The UAE ranks number one in the MENA region for Italy’s agriculture and F&B exports while Italy’s imports from the UAE have also been growing.

Other high-potential sectors for joint business exploration include steel and aluminum, ceramics, renewable energy, mechanical, waste management, industrial technologies, infrastructure and construction, jewelry and fashion, and F&B.


WAM/Esraa Ismail

The post UAE, Italy sign MoU to increase business opportunities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa


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