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Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: 'We're the government and we know what you're doing'

BBC Africa - 1 hour 15 min ago
The BBC's Girmay Gebru recounts his experience of being detained in Ethiopia's Tigray region.
Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day, 2021Women’s Leadership in the Global Recovery from COVID-19 Pandemic

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 10:13

UN Women China Qinghai programme beneficiaries. Credit: UN Women

By Siddharth Chatterjee
BEIJING, Mar 6 2021 (IPS)

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and the theme for this year’s celebration is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” We recognize the tremendous contribution and leadership demonstrated by women and girls around the world in shaping our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and a more sustainable future.

A global review of the progress achieved towards commitments made at the Fourth World Conference on Women 25 years ago in Beijing, conducted by UN Women in 2020, reveals that no country has fully delivered on the Beijing Platform for Action, nor is close to it. Globally, women currently hold just one-quarter of the seats at the tables of power across the board and are absent from some key decision-making spaces, including in peace and climate negotiations.

This reality is despite the advances that we can see globally: there are now more girls in school than ever before, fewer women are dying in childbirth, and over the past decade, 131 countries have passed laws to support women’s equality.

However, progress has been too slow and uneven.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and threatening to halt or reverse the gains from decades of collective effort – with data revealing that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line globally.

We also witness new global challenges emerging from the pandemic, such as the increased reports of violence against women trapped in lockdown throughout the world, forming a Shadow Pandemic. Women with disabilities facing further obstacles in accessing essential services. Women have lost their livelihoods faster, being more exposed to hard-hit economic sectors as they make up the majority of informal sector workers. Access to technologies have become a necessity, but the gender digital divide lingers, particularly in the least developed countries.

But in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, women have stood tall at the frontlines, serving as health workers and caregivers, where they make up 70% of the global workforce. Women also lead in their capacities throughout government and civil society to give vital assistance, bringing their irreplaceable perspectives and skills to the table.

Answering these complex global challenges while tearing down the barriers to women’s participation and leadership now requires bolder political commitment backed up by adequate resources and targeted approaches to accelerate progress towards parity through legislation, fiscal measures, programmatic change, and public-private partnerships.

China has made progress in safeguarding women’s rights and promoting gender equality. Notably, China’s poverty alleviation achievements have had a multiplier effect on advancing women’s empowerment beyond alleviating poverty among women. Advances in girl’s education, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, social protection and assistance are admirable – and important not just for the advancement of women’s rights – but in creating a “moderately prosperous” Chinese society with a “bright shared future” for all. Yet, as in many countries, there are still challenges that persist across the course of women’s lives.

Like elsewhere, systemic issues remain in equal pay for equal work and promotion opportunities for decent work in China. Under-representation of women in senior leadership roles impacts many sectors, with less than 10% of board members of listed companies in China being women.

Disproportionate sharing of unpaid care work leaves women in China carrying 2.5 times the burden of men, all of which impacting the female labour force participation rate. The shadow pandemic of gender-based violence, like anywhere else, continues to be a concern for women and girls in China as widely reported and discussed in media already.

The newly enacted Civil Code offers opportunities to strengthen legislation, including judicial mechanisms, law enforcement and service delivery for addressing sexual harassment, sexual abuse and violence against women and girls. Robust implementation of the provisions for ending sexual harassment and abuse will be a step towards China’s demonstration of “Zero Tolerance” towards ending all forms of violence against women and girls.

The 14th Five-Year National Development Plan, 2021-2025 and the new 10-Year Plan on Development of Women and Children, 2021-2030, also present opportunities for China to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment are at the centre of the development agenda and address the remaining gender gaps and challenges in the country. The world now looks to China for continued leadership on the SDGs and the Beijing Platform for Action.

We welcome the Government of China’s recent commitment to prioritizing women’s empowerment in its future development cooperation and global engagement. This comes at a time, when we need stronger global action and multilateralism to alleviate the long-lasting impacts of COVID-19 and accelerate actions towards the achievement of the SDGs. As we look at women’s rights issues that many countries are grappling with – poverty, maternal health, livelihood and food security, access to continued education, to name a few – are also the areas where China has seen the most progress domestically. South-South cooperation enables China to share its lessons and continue learning from others, to achieve genuine empowerment for women and girls around the world.

We recognize that gender equality and women’s empowerment are drivers for transformative change and a prerequisite for the achievement of all SDGs. The UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, 2021-2025, signed between the United Nations System in China and the Government of China, is underpinned by this principle and prioritizes the advancement of women’s rights as a key programming area of its own. As the UN Country Team (UNCT), we stand ready to support and continue to work with the Government of China and all national actors for our concerted efforts towards advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.

2021 is only the beginning of our journey on the Decade of Action for the SDGs. We have an unprecedented opportunity to do things differently for current and future generations of women and girls. On International Women’s Day, we call upon our partners and supporters to celebrate the leadership and contribution of China’s women, and become advocates, champions, and influencers that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment today, and every day.

The author is UN Resident Coordinator in China & Smriti Aryal, Head of Office, UN Women in China
On behalf of the UN Country Team in China for International Women’s Day 2021

 


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The post International Women’s Day, 2021
Women’s Leadership in the Global Recovery from COVID-19 Pandemic
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The following opinion piece is part of series to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, March 8.

The post International Women’s Day, 2021
Women’s Leadership in the Global Recovery from COVID-19 Pandemic
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day 2021 Online Violence against Women Journalists Harms everyone. Let’s End It!

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 09:32

By UNESCO
Mar 6 2021 (IPS)

UNESCO will launch a campaign on online violence against women journalists this 8 March for International Women’s Day.

In a recent UNESCO-ICFJ survey, 73% of the women journalists surveyed reported having faced online violence while doing their job. They are often targeted in coordinated misogynistic attacks.

This violence harms women’s right to speak and society’s right to know. To tackle this increasing trend, we need to find collective solutions to protect women journalists from online violence. This includes strong responses from social media platforms, national authorities and media organizations.

The campaign will highlight key results from the UNESCO-ICFJ global survey on online violence against women journalists, which were published last December in the report ‘Online violence against women journalists: a global snapshot of incidence and impacts’ 

 

The post International Women’s Day 2021
Online Violence against Women Journalists Harms everyone. Let’s End It!
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day 2021 A Post-COVID World Needs Amplified Women’s Voices in Politics, Climate Change

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 09:22

The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in the COVID-19 World. A new United Nations report says progress towards gender parity in public life and decision-making has been too slow. The report encourages countries to remove the barriers that prevent women from entering public life, to help tackle the COVID-19 and climate change crises. Credit: UN Women/Yihui Yuan.

By Alison Kentish
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 6 2021 (IPS)

The theme for International Women’s Day 2021, ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in the COVID-19 World,’ is grounded in the reality that this women’s day is unlike any other.

It is being observed against the devastating health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic. As vaccination campaigns bring hope for recovery, United Nations Women says that shift must include women ‘at every table where decisions are being made.’

“Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in all areas of life drives progress for everyone. Yet, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making,” the agency said.

According to the most recent UN Economic and Social Council’s Commission on the Status of Women, progress towards gender parity in public life and decision-making has been too slow. The report encourages countries to remove the barriers that prevent women from entering public life, to help tackle the COVID-19 and climate change crises.

It also calls for urgent action to facilitate women in the ‘political pipeline,’ noting that young women are particularly underrepresented in politics. IPS spoke to Lisa Jawahir, a young communications professional who was appointed by the Saint Lucia Labour Party to the Senate in August 2020, about her experience, goals and vision for women in politics. 

“The reality is that in Saint Lucia, young women in leadership, particularly political positions are very rare. While we had a young woman run for political office at the age of 21 in 1997, since then, there hasn’t been a bold step by administrations to have young women serve at the highest order of the land. For me, at the age of 31, being appointed as the youngest Parliamentarian in the House of Assembly means that women and young girls can believe again that anything is possible,” Jawahir told IPS.

Senator Lisa Jawahir (left) and Environmental Consultant and Youth Climate Activist Snaliah Mahal (right).

UN Women says while women have been influential in political decision-making, they often face push-back, both online and offline. It is something that Jawahir says she has experienced.

“I once participated in a political forum, representing young women interested in politics.  In an interview with a print journalist, I shared my desire to run for political office and the article made the cover page. While this felt like a remarkable step in the right direction, a few days later, I lost my biggest client who shared concerns that I was now politically affiliated.  

“Unfortunately, in my country, victimisation based on political affiliation is rampant, especially for women. It’s become a challenge to operate my small business, but I’m driven by the desire that one day I will be in a position on the governing side, to ensure that no young person, woman or vulnerable group will be unjustly treated due to their political interests,” she told IPS.

Voices like Jawahir’s, according to UN Women, must be multiplied and amplified. As the world pivots to pandemic recovery, the agency says women and girls will be key leaders and change agents, particularly in areas like climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Saint Lucia’s Snaliah Mahal is a recognised personality in sustainable living, environmental protection and climate change education. As an undergraduate student in Mexico, she interned with the UN Information Centre and volunteered in relief efforts post-flooding in Mexico and following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. She completed a post-graduate degree in Climate Change and International Development and volunteers with the Caribbean Youth Environment Network. She also runs 7K’s, a small business that produces zero waste and eco-friendly home and personal care products.

“I believe that citizens from Small Island Developing States, because of their inherent disadvantages and vulnerabilities, must do whatever they can to ensure that our voices are heard not only internationally which sometimes is the focus, but locally and regionally and be part of the discourse no matter how small you may consider your contribution,’ she told IPS.

Mahal’s contribution is part of what UN Women describes as the critical role that women play in climate action and natural resources management. The agency says in many countries, women also serve as energy managers in the home. As entrepreneurs, they continue to offer innovative solutions to climate change impacts.

Mahal says women and girls who want to be part of the movement for a more sustainable future can start small; wherever they are, with whatever resources are available.

“Find a cause that you believe in and focus on it. It does not have to be something big. It can be as simple as deciding to share your knowledge with friends and family, or something a little more challenging such as starting a backyard garden or a compost heap. These are important first steps,” she said.

This International Women’s Day, an important message by UN Women is that ‘when women lead, we see positive results.’ As women lead campaigns for social justice, environmental justice and a sustainable future and as they seek to amplify their voices, the agency is calling for countries to make space for women and encourage their participation in public life, private sector leadership and parliaments.

As the world focuses on building back better, the role of women as caregivers, lawmakers, community organisers and innovators is being celebrated – even as calls for increased representation in decision-making continue. Mahal and Jawahir say women and girls can continue to make positive change in their communities.

“You can join an organisation that advocates climate change and other environmental issues and implements projects. Most importantly, individuals especially women already in the field, who have the knowledge and skills should not hesitate to share their experiences with other women and girls, to ensure that there is continuity in action,” Mahal says.

Jawahir’s message to young women is “if you were to remember anything after reading this article, remember that there is absolutely nothing stopping you from reaching your goals whether you decide to enter politics or become an entrepreneur. Not your age, not your gender. You decide what it is that you want. Stay focused, and go after it.”

 


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The post International Women’s Day 2021
A Post-COVID World Needs Amplified Women’s Voices in Politics, Climate Change
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The following opinion piece is part of series to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, March 8.

 
The UN says young women remain particularly underrepresented in politics and disproportionately excluded from consultation on issues that affect them such as climate change. This IPS International Women’s Day article features 2 young Saint Lucian women; one in her first year as a senator and the other, a champion for sustainable living and environmental protection

The post International Women’s Day 2021
A Post-COVID World Needs Amplified Women’s Voices in Politics, Climate Change
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day, 2021Recognizing Rural Women as Central to Cost-COVID Recovery: An Imperative for International Women’s Day

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 09:05

Agricultural biodiversity at the market in Western Bengal. Credit: Krishnasis Ghosh

By Haley Zaremba
ROME, Mar 6 2021 (IPS)

In times of crisis, policymakers have a tendency to prioritize economic recovery while leaving “social issues” like women’s empowerment on the backburner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, women’s leadership is as essential to full and meaningful recovery as it is to basic human rights. As the world mobilizes to design and build a post-COVID landscape, women’s rights, interests and priorities must not only be included in international recovery agendas but pushed to the forefront. To achieve this, women themselves must not simply be included in the discussion, but equitably represented in leadership roles.

For these reasons the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” is a cause for celebration as much as a call to action. Women’s considerable achievements at the forefront of global pandemic response have been as laudable as they are essential. They also call into stark relief the disproportionate and undue labor burden that continues to fall upon women in this time of global crisis.

While there is a clear and pressing need to achieve more gender-equitable representation in leadership – just a quarter of parliamentary seats are held by women worldwide – women are already on the front lines of COVID-19 response efforts. As the United Nations has stated, women have played outsized roles in this crisis as “health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic.” At the same time, women are also among those most vulnerable to the pandemic and its devastating externalities. Among other disproportionate and gendered impacts, women’s unpaid domestic and care-based labor burdens have increased during the spread of COVID-19, as has the frequency and severity of gender-based violence in a frightening phenomenon that the UN has called the “shadow pandemic.”

This increased vulnerability is particularly relevant for rural women. Women in rural areas already stood a higher risk of disenfranchisement, and their considerable social and economic struggles have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Already confronted with the devastating combination of climate change, decreased biodiversity, severe and worsening land degradation, and resulting food insecurity, rural women have been pushed further below the poverty line than men and into the margins by COVID-19 .

Secure land tenure, essential to the well-being and livelihoods of rural women, has increasingly come under threat with the advance of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 widows are at a high risk for disinheritance in several countries, and many more rural women are being displaced as unemployed men return to rural communities, thereby “increasing pressure on land and resources and exacerbating gender gaps in agriculture and food security.”

Safeguarding the rights, livelihoods, empowerment and agency of rural women should be a goal unto itself, but doing so is also essential to safeguarding ecological health and food security writ large. Already, COVID-19 has not only compromised progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but has undone some of the progress made. Rural women are central to sustainable development and post-COVID resilience as natural resource managers, land stewards, food growers, sellers, buyers and preparers. They are not merely victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also essential – and all too often overlooked – agents of change. They are also part of the solution.

The restrictions brought on by the pandemic have isolated rural women and inhibited their abilities to maintain their livelihoods as well as to “fulfill their fundamental roles as farmers, social organizers, wives, and mothers.” What’s more, as women have been kept from gathering in common spaces such as marketplaces, an essential forum for communication in rural communities, misinformation has proliferated. All of these effects are exacerbated by the “digital gender divide,” which is heightened in rural areas where women are even less likely to have access to phones, computers and other technologies which would allow for innovation and resilience in isolation.

As illustrated by one case study of rural women in Burkina Faso by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, social distancing requirements keeping rural women from the marketplace, as well as keeping them from each other, has greatly compromised these women’s ability to earn a living, as well as their ability to support one another in community-led efforts and organization. Women’s stories documented in this study show that, “As pillars for their households and communities, rural women’s needs and priorities must take center-stage in efforts to rebuild a better world.”

Despite being essential to safeguarding biodiversity, combating climate change, and shoring up food security and food sovereignty, rural women’s labor is often carried out in the background, with little recognition (not to mention little compensation). This International Women’s Day, we urge that post-COVID recovery initiatives not repeat these mistakes; and that the needs and priorities of rural women are not only recognized but prioritized. As we advocate for more women in leadership in COVID-19 recovery efforts and across all spheres of social life to create more resilient societies, those calls to action must intentionally and explicitly include rural women, their rights, and their perspectives.

The author is a gender researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

 


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The post International Women’s Day, 2021
Recognizing Rural Women as Central to Cost-COVID Recovery: An Imperative for International Women’s Day
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The following opinion piece is part of series to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, March 8.

The post International Women’s Day, 2021
Recognizing Rural Women as Central to Cost-COVID Recovery: An Imperative for International Women’s Day
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

Women Are the Future of Africa’s COVID-19 Recovery

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 01:24

Groundnut farm in Torit, South Sudan. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS.

By Sabdiyo Dido
NAIROBI, Mar 6 2021 (IPS)

The COVID-19 pandemic is arguably one of the biggest disruptors to modern day life as we know it. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating; millions of people have lost their lives, tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty and nearly half of the global work force is at risk of losing their livelihoods. Africa is facing its first economic recession in 25 years due to the impact of the pandemic.

In a continent where agriculture accounts for 23% of the GDP and about 40% of the workforce is engaged in the sector, agriculture has not been spared from the worst impacts of the pandemic.

Across the globe, it has been inspiring to see prior investments in empowering women-led agribusiness begin to pay off—and that the measures have enabled women farmers to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. This could be the case for Africa too

Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, markets and agricultural workers from harvesting crops, thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets.

Through all this, about 50% of the global population has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, women.

The pandemic has exacerbated existing structural economic, social, and technological inequalities that women face as they struggle to perform their multiple roles in society. These inequalities undermine women’s capacity to respond and recover from the disruptions that result from the pandemic. Women are a key pillar in the Africa’s food and agricultural systems.

They constitute 50% of the agricultural workforce and own one-third of the small and medium enterprises (SME’s) that produce, process and trade in agricultural products and services. The pandemic not only affected their livelihoods and agri-business enterprises, but also increased women’s workloads, threatened their families’ wellbeing, and increase incidences of gender-based violence.

As we commemorate the International Women’s Day this year, we are acutely aware that as the narrative now shifts to building back better, we must ensure that women are at the center of short term and longer term recovery efforts to create a more equal and resilient society.

Over the course of my career as an agricultural economist and development practitioner and, I have seen the change that can be realized when women receive the support, they need during times such as these. A growing body of evidence demonstrates the power of interventions designed for and targeted to women in agriculture that can help protect their lives and livelihoods in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

African governments need to design and support such interventions. This means providing avenues for continued access to inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, mechanization and advisory services. It also means women accessing knowledge and skills to make best outcome of their labour inputs.

As economies open after months of lockdowns and restricted movement, access to financing, grants for those that closed due to pandemic and flexible loans for those that kept going albeit in a small way- is key for recovery. Accessing high value markets is an important factor, not only for recovery, but for higher incomes that help build financial resilience in women’s agri-enterprises.

During the pandemic, digital services have provided a crucial lifeline for businesses. Women business managers have used social media to market their products while accessing information on production, weather and agronomic advisories, financing and accessing markets. Deploying digital capacity building at scale and increasing women entrepreneurs’ participation in the digital economy through digital finance, digital marketing and digital trade is key as we rebuild economies.

Initiatives such as VALUE4HER, a platform whose aim is to increase incomes and employment opportunities for women by linking women-led agribusinesses with competitive high value regional and global markets, and improving women business leader’s technical and managerial skills, with training on market dynamics are key to growing women-owned agribusinesses further.

Currently hosting over 750 users from 36 countries across the continent, the platform provides real-time access to relevant knowledge, market information, buyers, financiers, business development services, technical assistance, capabilities and social networks.

These services hosted under one roof provide a conducive ecosystem for female owned agribusinesses to access the tools they need to become profitable businesses.

Also key is providing tailored training and capacity building for women to respond, recover, and build resilience. With low literacy levels and limited networks, women’s access to relevant information and support mechanisms is curtailed.

Programs such as the African Resilience Investment Series for Women Executives (ARISE), which AGRA kicks off today in celebration of international women’s day- seeks to equip women-owned and women-led SMEs with the necessary tools and practical management skills, needed to recover from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the globe, it has been inspiring to see prior investments in empowering women-led agribusiness begin to pay off—and that the measures have enabled women farmers to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. This could be the case for Africa too. Investing in women makes good business sense; it leads to increased incomes for women and boosts the wellbeing of their families, which means better lives for families, communities and society as a whole.

 

Sabdiyo Dido is the Head of Gender and Inclusiveness at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

 

The post Women Are the Future of Africa’s COVID-19 Recovery 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 Are the Future of Africa’s COVID-19 Recovery appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

How Kenya's Malindi morphed into 'Little Italy'

BBC Africa - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 01:15
Italian is the lingua franca of Malindi, which can be a culture shock when walking its old Swahili streets.
Categories: Africa

UK 'to cut aid to Syria and African countries'

BBC Africa - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 22:59
Aid will be more than 60% less, a leaked email suggests, but the government says no decision has been made.
Categories: Africa

Will Caf presidency be decided in next 72 hours?

BBC Africa - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 20:02
Expectation that the next Caf president could be determined over the next 72 hours increases as Augustin Senghor withdraws from the race.
Categories: Africa

Senegal protests after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko arrested

BBC Africa - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 19:40
Ousmane Sonko is accused of rape but his supporters say the allegations are politically motivated.
Categories: Africa

'Gorilla Glue girl' Tesicca Brown will make a full recovery, surgeon says

BBC Africa - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 19:28
Dr Michael K Obeng, who operated on Tessica Brown, says she will make a full recovery.
Categories: Africa

Education Cannot Wait Interviews Karina Gould Canada’s Minister of International Development

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 19:18

Credit: Education Cannot Wait

By External Source
Mar 5 2021 (IPS-Partners)

The Honourable Karina Gould was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Burlington in 2015.

A graduate of McGill University and the University of Oxford, Minister Gould is passionate about public service and international development. Before her election as the Member of Parliament for Burlington, she worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican Trade Commission in Toronto, a consultant for the Migration and Development Program at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., and spent a year volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico.

Minister Gould has deep roots in her hometown of Burlington, Ontario, and is an active member of the community and an advocate for women’s issues and affordable housing. She has volunteered with and actively supports the Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club, the Burlington chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Mississauga Furniture Bank, Halton Women’s Place, and other local organizations.

Minister Gould lives in Burlington with her husband Alberto and son Oliver.

With the birth of Oliver, Minister Gould became the first federal cabinet minister to have a baby while holding office. She is passionate about breaking down barriers for women, youth, and underrepresented groups.

ECW: As Canada’s Minister of International Development and as a key member of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group, could you please elaborate on the importance of linking emergency humanitarian response with development to achieve quality education for vulnerable children and youth in countries affected by armed conflict, forced displacement, and natural disasters.

Karina Gould: We have heard from children and youth affected by armed conflict, forced displacement, and natural disasters, as well as their families, that education is a priority for them. And we know that education in emergencies is an issue that ideally works across humanitarian and development responses.

Working through the humanitarian-development-peace nexus is crucial to ensuring that both immediate and long-term educational needs are fulfilled. By working through a nexus approach, we recognize that the immediate response of humanitarian actors is vital to keeping children engaged and protected, while the long-term vision of the development community is critical to maintaining gains towards SDG4 and to strengthen education systems and make them more resilient to crises in the future.

Education is often the first thing that is disrupted and the last thing to be rebuilt during an emergency. Despite the importance of maintaining a system of quality education, especially in protracted humanitarian situations, education is still not sufficiently prioritized for immediate humanitarian funding and development actors need to do more to support resilient national education systems that ensure education is not disrupted. This is why Canada supports organizations like Education Cannot Wait, which is emerging as a leader in demonstrating how education programming can be quickly and efficiently rolled out within the humanitarian-development-peace nexus space.

ECW: Canada is a staunch defender of multilateralism in addressing the world’s challenges and opportunities. With almost 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 26 million refugees, Education Cannot Wait will dedicate its First Emergency Response to refugee education in its upcoming COVID-19 response actions this month. How do you see ECW’s progress so far in responding to COVID-19 and how can we strengthen collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind?

Karina Gould: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how connected we all are to one another across the globe. At the height of the pandemic, 164 countries had closed their schools, which affected 1.4 billion students worldwide – over 90% of the world’s learners. This is on top of the already marginalized populations such as refugees and internally displaced peoples who did not previously have consistent access to quality education.

In the past months, the world has come together to try to stop the spread of the virus. We shared innovative ideas for how to make education and learning more accessible for those who had their education disrupted, to ensure a continuity of learning for all. These solutions are made more effective and are amplified when we work in partnership, including through our major multilateral institutions like Education Cannot Wait.

I have been impressed with Education Cannot Wait’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the speed with which they responded to the crisis in the first round of COVID-19 funding, and the commitment to focus the second round of funding on education for refugees, particularly adolescent girls. This is a group of children and youth who are often left behind and who are disproportionately affected by education disruptions due to displacement, and now even more so due to COVID-19. It is important that we take this time to strengthen our efforts to ensure these marginalized populations remain a priority in our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These groups must not be forgotten.

We can strengthen our collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind, by continuing to work through multilateral organizations like Education Cannot Wait and ensuring strong coordination with other partners on the ground, including other multilateral partners, civil society and local refugee organizations.

In January, I traveled to Congo and the DRC and witnessed firsthand the important work that ECW’s partner organizations like War Child Canada are doing on the ground to support improved access to education for refugees and displaced peoples, especially girls. Their radio program allows adolescent girls and boys to continue with their learning during school closures by transmitting lessons and allowing learners to access teachers through dedicated hotlines. There are even question and answer periods to keep things dynamic and to keep the youth engaged in learning. I have seen how these initiatives are making a difference on the ground, and it is by building on these partnerships that we can maximize our ability to reach the most marginalized children and youth, particularly girls, refugees, and displaced children, to ensure they have the opportunities they deserve.

ECW: Education Cannot Wait greatly appreciates Canada’s continued strong support in meeting the educational needs of children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises – including Canada’s new contribution of CAD $5.5 million a few days ago, and the Charlevoix Declaration to strengthen girls’ education in emergencies. ECW is committed to ensuring that 60% of our beneficiaries are girls. As a strong advocate for girls’ education, why is it so important for girls, including refugee and adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts?

Karina Gould: Girls and adolescent girls face a unique and additional set of challenges that limits their chances of accessing and completing an education. These challenges include poverty, unequal gendered roles in the household and at school, gender-based violence, and school environments and curricula that perpetuate inequalities. In crisis contexts, these barriers to girls’ education can be even further entrenched, with girls being 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

Through the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), Canada recognizes that gender equality is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Access to education is a pathway to achieving this goal. It can significantly reduce poverty, provide for better economic opportunities, and can improve health outcomes such as maternal and child health, protecting women and girls from a child, early and forced marriage, and providing essential sexual and reproductive health services that can enable women to engage in improved family planning.

Yet access is only part of the solution. We also need to make sure that once the children are in school, they are learning. Quality teaching and learning, and ensuring that schools are safe places for children, particularly girls, are equally important and require additional efforts and resources, especially during a crisis. Ensuring that teachers are well-trained and equipped to instruct children who have or are living through a crisis; that curricula and learning materials reflect relevant cultural realities and do not perpetuate negative gender norms; and that girls and boys have access to adequate hygiene and WASH facilities are all required in order to keep children engaged and for families to continue to see the value in sending their children, particularly their girls, to school. This is why Canada, as President of the G7 in 2018, championed the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for girls, adolescent girls, and women in developing countries to further address these challenges in order to ensure that girls – especially those affected by crisis and conflict – have access to quality education.

I personally believe that it is essential for girls, including refugee and displaced girls, as well as adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts.

ECW: Prior to becoming Minister of International Development, you were appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions in 2017 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, becoming the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history. Congratulations! You are an inspiration and a role model for girls and women around the world. What message and guidance would you like to share with girls who face education challenges – including the COVID-19 pandemic – in achieving their hopes and dreams?

Karina Gould: My message to girls around the world facing education challenges would be this:

“You are worth it. I know it is hard and there are a lot of challenges you are facing. But your hopes and dreams are worth fighting for. You have so much to offer the world. You and your voice and your experience matter. The world needs you to keep studying, to keep dreaming, to keep pushing for what you want to see in the world.”

ECW: We’d love to learn a bit more about you on a personal level. Could you tell us what are the three books that have influenced you the most (or that you’d recommend to others to read), and why? We’d also love to know what kind of music gets you energized and motivated to address the challenges you face as Minister. Finally, is there an inspirational or motivational quote (or two) that you often turn to in life?

One of my favourite quotes is by Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It was hard to pick just three books, so here are my top four!

To Life by Ruth Minsky Sender

I read this book in grade 7, I was 12 years old. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, this book opened my eyes to the experiences of my own family. It helped me talk to my grandmother and understand what it was like to be a survivor and to have to pick up and restart life after living through unimaginable trauma and loss. It is an incredible story of loss, tragedy, strength, courage, and renewal.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

I have always been a feminist. I have always believed in seeking and fighting for equality. But this book woke me up to the distinct disadvantages that women face around the world. Until I read this book I didn’t understand how dangerous giving birth was for the majority of women in the world. I learned so much and it made me want to learn even more. This book put me on a path to fight for women’s rights and women’s health around the world.

What is the What by Dave Eggers

This a fictionalized biography of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan. This book ignited my passion for protecting children from the ravages of war, building a more compassionate world, and fighting for the rights of refugees. It also led me to explore books about Africa written by Africans, which opened up a whole new literary world for me.

Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Was one of my favourite series as a child, written by a great Canadian author!

ECW: Are there any final comments you would like to share with ECW’s global audience on the importance of refugee children’s education in emergencies, as well as the importance of not only prioritizing education in humanitarian contexts but also delivering quality education with ‘the fierce urgency of now’, rather than waiting until the crisis is over?

Karina Gould: When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was quick to mobilize to ensure – to the best of our abilities – that we focused on continuity of learning for out of school children. What I would like to reiterate is that we need to remember the vulnerable populations, including refugees and displaced children, who were not in school before the pandemic and who never had access to quality education. These children deserve the chance to learn, and must not be left behind.

 


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Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day 2021

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 18:23

By External Source
Mar 5 2021 (IPS-Partners)

“A girl should be two things: Who and what she wants.” – Coco Chanel

Women of the world want and deserve an equal future…a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is: Women in Leadership: Achieving and equal future in a COVID-19 world.

It celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world… shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the gaps still remain.

Women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making.

Women are Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries.

Only 24.9% of national parliamentarians are women.

At this rate, gender equality among Heads of State or Government will take 130 years.

An analysis of COVID-19 task teams from 87 countries found only 3.5% of them had gender parity.

When women lead, we see positive results.

Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women.

Young women are at the forefront of movements for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world.

Yet, women under 30 are less than 1 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide.

This year’s International Women’s Day is a rallying cry for Generation Equality.

It is time to act for an equal future for all.

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Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day, 2021A Just COVID-19 Recovery – Not Without Women’s Leadership

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 17:43

By Katja Iversen
NEW YORK, Mar 5 2021 (IPS)

Almost exactly a year ago today, I packed my computer and a couple of necessities in the office in New York, hugged the colleagues, and headed home to what most people thought would be a couple of week’s Covid-19 lockdown. Little did we know.

Katja Iversen

Despite Trump and the blows he and his administration had dealt to sustainable development, women’s leadership, LGBTQI rights, and the right of women to decide on their own bodies and lives, there were still some optimism on the gender equality front. The number of women in politics across the globe was slowly creeping upwards; new innovative contraceptives were hitting the market; the role of girls, women and gender equality in sustainable development, was getting a lot more traction; there was a growing attention to gender smart investing; and the worldwide Generation Equality Forum, hosted by the governments of Mexico and France with UN Women, was coming up as a unique opportunity to refuel and accelerate action around Sustainable Development Goal 5.

Taking stock today on International Women’s Day 2021 with its theme: “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world,” the bag is a lot more mixed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened inequality at large, and has disproportionately affected girls and women. They constitute the vast majority of the frontline health and social workers across the globe; they carry even more of the unpaid care work at home in locked down families than before; they are the victims of the dramatic surge in domestic violence spurred by lockdowns; many women have lost access to essential sexual and reproductive health care, like family planning and safe childbirths; and women have – to a much larger extend than men – lost their jobs and economic opportunities.

Women’s rights organizations have worked tremendously hard in the communities and on the fore-front of COVID-19. Back in the first weeks of the pandemic, I myself and the civil society led Deliver for Good campaign worked with the UN Secretary General and his team on how we could place girls, women and gender equality at the center of the UN’s COVID-19 work, and we also made sure that the UN COVID-19 response and recovery fund got a solid gender lens.

However, throughout the world, women have largely been left out of decision making on essential COVID-19 efforts. Only 3.5% of national COVID task forces have gender parity according to a study in British Medical Journal, and the brand new Global Health 50/50 report being launched on 8 March 2021 suggests that rhetoric is often used as a substitute for action, and reveals that the vast majority of programmatic activities to prevent and address the health impacts of COVID-19 largely ignores the role of gender.

There is a certain irony to this, as countries with women at the helm, like New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Taiwan etc. have fared a lot better in dealing with the pandemic – and as countries with more women in political leadership in general do better in terms of both lowering inequalities and driving stronger economies. The answer to this dichotomy might be found in the latest Reykjavik Index by Women Political Leaders and Kantar, that measures how people feel about women in power. It shows that support is stagnating, and that it is even decreasing among younger men.

So, hard won progress has been rolled back. But there are also good news, which I as an eternal optimist, want to include in today’s stocktaking:

The global cry for racial justice has propelled a much and long needed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in political, economic and social life. We are also seeing a surge in gender smart investing, with 2020 bringing some big, new and achieved gender-smart allocations. A global survey from Women Deliver and Focus 2030 from January shows that the vast majority of the surveyed voters consider gender equality to be an important cause governments should work towards, and support involving women in all aspects of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. And the Biden/Harris win in the United States is manifesting in very diverse political appointments, in budget allocations, in commitments to sustainability and to gender equality, and the revoking of the republican Global Gag Rule that has prevented support to reproductive health across the globe.

The global Generation Equality Forum was postponed a year, and the work of its six action coalitions is gaining speed. Over the next three months all actors – heads of states, leaders from corporates and civil society organizations, celebrities, journalists, activists, young and old – will be meeting – mostly virtually – on multiple occasions to commit to transformative action, and show that a gender equal world is a healthier, wealthier, and better world for all.

So – as I am celebrating International Women’s Day 2021, it is on a backdrop of hope, some apprehension, and a lot of determination. The inclusion and leadership of girls and women, in all their rich diversity, is needed in every arena and at every level – in COVID-19 efforts, in politics, in the economy, and in general. If we don’t prioritize and invest in women’s leadership, the COVID recovery will be less effective, and the future will be less just and less sustainable. That is not the world we want!

The author is an executive adviser and leading global advocate on sustainability, gender equality, and women’s health and leadership. Katja was a member of President Macron’s and Prime Minister Trudeau’s G7 Gender Equality Advisory Councils, an advisor to the Clinton Global was one of the original members of 100Women@Davos, and was recently named Dane of the Year, as well as included in Apolitical’s Top 20 of the Most Influential People in Gender Policy.

 


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A Just COVID-19 Recovery – Not Without Women’s Leadership
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Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day, 2021International Women’s Day: To Change the World, Women Must Choose to Challenge

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 16:56

By Patricia Scotland
LONDON, Mar 5 2021 (IPS)

Among the greatest gifts with which I have been blessed were parents who instilled in me a deep-rooted sense of identity, and the unequivocal belief that there was no difference between what a boy and a girl could achieve.

This assurance sustained me while growing up, as the tenth child out of twelve wonderful siblings, and through the numerous times when it was suggested by others that I would never succeed, simply because I was black, poor and female.

Patricia Scotland

When I set out on my career in law, a mere 3% of the profession were women, and less than 0.01% were black women. Given my background, few expected that I would one day become the first woman in 700 years to serve as Her Majesty’s Attorney-General for England and Wales.

We have come a long way since then, and today – thanks in a large part to sustained advocacy efforts over the years – there is encouraging progress in terms of gender equality in the Commonwealth.

Almost half the lawyers in the UK are women now. In the Commonwealth, a girl is just as likely to attend primary school as a boy, while on average, 56% of women participate in the labour force, and they make up the larger part of the informal sector.

To date, 13 member countries have achieved 30% or more female members of parliament, while ten have 30% or more ministers who are women. The Commonwealth Secretariat continues to work diligently alongside member countries through programmes that encourage women’s participation in politics to build on success already achieved.

However, there remains much progress to be made on several key indicators. Currently, only one in five Commonwealth parliamentarians is a woman, and only three Commonwealth countries have achieved gender parity in parliament. Women are still vastly under-represented in leadership positions in the science, academic and private sectors.

Furthermore, in an era where digital technology is becoming increasingly the norm, women in poorer countries face a ‘double digital divide’, being 14% less likely than men to own a mobile phone. In practical terms, this means that there are 200 million fewer women who can readily access this technology to find information or manage money online.

Other underlying systemic inequalities continue to be remarkably persistent, including the distressing prevalence of violence against women and girls, which remains high throughout the Commonwealth and across the world, despite the advances there have been in women’s economic status, leadership and agency.

Covid-19

A year into the global pandemic, it is clear that besides economic and social shocks, the consequences of COVID-19 are also exacerbating existing gender inequities.

In addition to rising cases of domestic violence, reports show that women have been losing their jobs at a greater rate than men, despite making up a smaller proportion of the formal labour force. Meanwhile, the burden of unpaid care work is being borne disproportionately by women.

Research indicates that women are overly represented in sectors and industries expected to decline because of COVID-19, such as education, accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade, arts and recreation, and public administration. Similarly, women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises which rely on tourism have also been affected, because of greatly reduced travel and visitor arrivals in most Commonwealth countries.

Notably, throughout this crisis, I have been impressed by the leadership demonstrated by female heads of government in the Commonwealth. Prime Ministers Mia Mottley of Barbados, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand have all been rightly lauded for their able handling of the crisis, marked by coordinated action as well as compassion.

However, this also draws our attention to how few women hold these positions of leadership, underlining the need for politics and government to reflect more fairly and inclusively the societies they represent and serve.

International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat is highlighting ways in which it engages to challenge the gender inequalities that continue to hold back the economic, social and leadership potential of half of the world’s population.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has launched a social media campaign #SheLeadsTheWay, which aims to recognise women leaders across the Commonwealth, during COVID-19 and beyond. (Download toolkit)

On 5 March, we celebrated women’s contributions to ocean science in a virtual event featuring women from across the Commonwealth who are challenging gender norms through their work in ocean industries.

On 8 March, another virtual panel will put a spotlight on women’s leadership in responding to COVID-19 and charting an equitable recovery.

There remains much more to do to achieve gender equality in the Commonwealth, and in order to deliver Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Agenda. As the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on inequality emerges, laws and policies to support women’s empowerment are needed more than ever before, and it is vital that we should not be diverted from this priority by other competing demands during these times of crisis.

The author is the sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General and the first woman to hold the post.

 


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International Women’s Day: To Change the World, Women Must Choose to Challenge
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Categories: Africa

UFC 259: Can Nigeria's Israel Adesenya become an MMA legend?

BBC Africa - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 16:27
Nigeria-born Israel Adesanya is aiming to become a two-weight UFC world champion as he steps up to face Jan Blachowicz.
Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day, 2021Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 15:32

By Lesley Ann Foster
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Mar 5 2021 (IPS)

International Women’s day 2021 heralds a particularly challenging time for women and girls. The Covid pandemic has battered our world to such an extent that we know that our lives have been irrevocably changed and has rolled back some of the gains we made in the human rights and gender equality field.

Lesley Ann Foster

South Africa has the most infections and deaths on the African continent. Women suffered the brunt of the pandemic due mainly to the inequality in our country that existed prior to this health disaster.

Some 2,6 million jobs were lost with two out of every three jobs lost being lost to women. Women constitute the bulk of informal traders and are largely found in the travel and hospitality industry which was hard hit by the pandemic. The lock down saw children and students working from home and men who lost jobs returned home as well. The burden of care fell largely to women. Women took on the responsibility of caring for the sick, the infected and many who lost family members had the burden of funerals placed at their doorstep. Food insecurity was at its highest levels in spite of the social grants that the state made available to try to mitigate the hunger deepened by the pandemic.

Stepping up

85 women’s groups who are part of a network of rural women’s groups that Masimanyane Women’s Rights International supports, provided leadership at great cost with some lives lost to the pandemic. Yet, women activists and human rights defenders braved the storm of the pandemic to feed people by approaching suppliers to donate food, establishing family gardens and sourcing water. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) rose sharply during Covid due to existing inequality and harsh lock down regulations resulting in isolation from support systems.

Masimanyane Women’s Rights International (MWRI)developed responses that dealt with the structural impediments and providing care and support.

We were cognisant of the inequality in our society and initiated a policy to guide our responses to the pandemic grounded in a gender inequality perspective.

Secondly we addressed the needs of women on the ground by taking our face to face engagements with women and communities onto online platforms to avert the risk of infection. This revealed inequality through digital poverty and illiteracy, a lack of working space at home, limited access to connectivity and data and a lack of smart resources. We developed a structured plan to overcome these obstacles.

Mental health problems emerged early into the Covid pandemic based on fear, anxiety, stress, depression and suicide. We pre-empted this and included mental health protocols for self-care. We advocated for increased mental health support for women through national structures. The rise in deaths prompted us to conduct bereavement and grief counselling to ensure the necessary skills in responding to deaths. When the hunger levels grew, we secured a humanitarian grant to provide women with food vouchers to assist in food security.

MWRI applied its care and support internally by providing staff with a strengthened health support through the provision of immune boosting supplements, flu vaccinations and personal protective equipment. These safety measures reduced the risk to staff as we had only three infections out of 62 staff members.

Structural developments

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, our organisation was deeply involved in a presidential committee that was tasked to develop a national strategic plan on gender based violence and femicide (NSP GBVF). This NSP GBVF was completed in March 2020 and signed off in April 2020. This plan addresses gender inequality and recognises it as a key driver of GBVF. We worked with partners nationally to develop referral pathways so that women in situations of isolation could reach support services. We developed a data base of women’s organisations in each province that could provide a rapid response to calls for assistance. We gathered data in an attempt to provide a snapshot of how women were experiencing the lock down.

Monitoring

We monitored the impact of COVID-19 on the economy generally and on women specifically. We found that women were suffering the most from job loses, from the docking of their pay and from retrenchments. While the government put a social grant system in place to assist the poor communities, women were the least likely to access those grants due to social impediments impeding access. Food insecurity grew and women bore the brunt of that too.

MWRI was able to approach donors and request humanitarian support to provide food vouchers which helped in small measure to alleviate hunger for some families.

Leadership

When confronting a national disaster, we have to apply a strong gender analysis before we try to thread the response needle. It was important to provide a comprehensive and holistic response to the Covid pandemic by working on the structural inequalities through policy formulation, programme development and resource allocation. It is critical that the immediate needs of women at the rock face be addressed with urgency in a crisis.

We salute the women whose courage, strength and resilience was evident throughout the pandemic and applaud their on-going activism to dismantle structural inequality.

The author is Executive Director Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, South Africa

 


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Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World
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Categories: Africa

Loveth Young: Meet Nigeria's fighting policewoman

BBC Africa - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 15:16
Loveth Young - the only female Nigerian competing in elite MMA - fights crime by day.
Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day, 2021Fight Against Pandemic Requires Women at the Highest Leadership in Governments & in the UN

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 12:42

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, CEO of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, speaking at the 19th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in New York, NY. Credit: Katrina Leclerc/GNWP

By Maria Victoria (Mavic) Cabrera Balleza
NEW YORK, Mar 5 2021 (IPS)

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future, including an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

From our work at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, we know that local women peacebuilders are the first responders in this pandemic. They distribute food packs, face masks, hygiene and sexual health products to internally displaced people, refugees, indigenous communities and other groups that often lack access to aid provided by governments and international organizations.

They work with mental health experts to provide online counseling to women who are victims of, or at risk of gender-based violence. They disseminate factual information on how to prevent the spread of the virus. They speak on local radio to counter fake news about the pandemic.

Local women peacebuilders were out on the frontlines at the outset of the pandemic, even as governments did not yet know what to do, or were paralyzed by their own politicking and heavy bureaucracy.

Today, almost a year after COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic, they remain on the frontlines: advocating for strengthening of health care systems, dismantling institutional inequalities, addressing the long-term impacts of the crisis on livelihoods and peace in their countries and communities, and promoting sustainable recovery.

The success of women-led governments such as Finland, Germany, New Zealand, and Taiwan in managing the pandemic presents yet additional evidence that women’s leadership makes a positive difference.

Despite this, the norm remains that women are not the leaders and decision-makers. Only 24.7 per cent of the world’s health ministers are women even though they make up 70 per cent of health care workers. At the sub-national and local levels, women are often excluded in COVID-19 Task Forces.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (SG) has stated “the #COVID19 response has highlighted the power of women’s leadership. Yet women remain marginalized from many decision-making spaces. We need to act now to ensure women have an equal voice in our response to the pandemic and other crises facing our world.”

Members of GNWP’s Young Women+ Leaders for Peace – Philippines distributing COVID-19 relief packages to local community members in Marawi, Philippines. Credit: YWL-Phillippines/GNWP

Signs of hope in the Security Council, but much remains to be done

As civil society, we join the SG in demanding Member States to institute measures to support women’s leadership!

There are some hopeful developments and opportunities that could be seized. The election of Ireland, Mexico and Norway as non-permanent members of the Security Council can provide a much-needed boost to the calls for women’s leadership.

All of these countries have demonstrated global leadership on women’s rights and gender equality as well as the women, peace and security agenda. Mexico takes pride in its adoption of a feminist foreign policy.

It co-chairs the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security with Ireland, and is a co-host of the Generation Equality Forum, a civil society–centered global convening for gender equality wherein one of the outcomes is the Action Coalition on Feminist movements and leadership. France, a permanent member of the Security Council, is the other co-host of the Generation Equality Forum, and one of four countries that have adopted feminist foreign or international development policies.

The other two are Canada and Sweden. It should however be noted that there does remain a disconnect between these countries’ aspirations and leadership on the global arena and the actual state of women’s rights.

The confirmation of Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the new US Ambassador to the UN is another key development. With the US having elected the first woman Vice President and other female leaders appointed to key positions in the Biden administration, women’s influence in US Foreign Policy looks to be changing for the better.

It is also important to mention that there are now five women Permanent Representatives to the Security Council namely, Ireland (Geraldine Byrne Nason), Norway (Mona Juul), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Inga Rhonda King), United Kingdom (Barbara Woodward) and Thomas-Greenfield. Probably the biggest number of women taking up seats in the Security Council in the recent years—if not ever.

A few questions beg to be asked. How can these handful of countries influence the rest of the world and make women’s leadership a priority? How can the UN be the model of women’s leadership when, 76 years since its founding, there has still never been a woman Secretary-General?

Local Women and Youth Peacebuilders Demand to Participate in the Afghan Peace Process. Credit: GNWP

Security Council members need to unite behind the call for a woman SG and remove the gap between what is stipulated in the Women and Peace and Security resolutions and leadership in the UN.

All Member States should seriously pay attention to the letter sent by Ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake of Honduras on 03 February 2021 urging her fellow diplomats “to look genuinely at your commitments to the United Nations and present women candidates…”

It is also high time to demonstrate that the most important action that male leaders can take to support women’s leadership is to step back, and share power. This will require men to sacrifice their personal ambitions and set their egos aside for the bigger goal of achieving gender equality and a better world for all.

Electing a woman SG is much more than a symbolic gesture. It is about the UN leading by example which is crucial to its credibility. It is also about fulfilling the promise to nominate candidates for appointment to senior posts in the UN made by 189 Member States during the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing.

Civil society groups such as Equality Now have been advocating for a woman SG. While the next opportunity to elect a woman to the highest position in the UN is still five years away, our advocacy should NOT stop.

Our advocacy should start from the capitals of the 193 Member States and continue through the Permanent Missions in New York. Women’s rights organizations from around the world should demand their governments to nominate and elect a woman as the next SG. And who are the “right” women for this role?

I think we can agree on this set of qualifications: feminist values, strong connectedness with and appreciation of civil society, excellent leadership track record, managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations, and outstanding diplomatic skills.

From the looks of it, Antonio Guterres is already a shoo-in for a second term. China and the United Kingdom, two permanent members of the Security Council have already expressed their support to the incumbent SG.

For now, and throughout his second term, women’s rights activists need to have discussions with SG Guterres to seek his assurance that he will do everything in his power to pave the way for a woman SG, and integrate feminist values in the work of the UN.

As the UN calls on Member States to ensure women’s leadership at all levels, it needs to practice what it preaches. Echoing SG Guterres, “the #COVID19 response has highlighted the power of women’s leadership.” The world needs women at the decision-making table in order to build back better and equal.

The author is Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. She also serves as a consultant to UN Women.

 


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Fight Against Pandemic Requires Women at the Highest Leadership in Governments & in the UN
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Excerpt:

The following opinion piece is part of series to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, March 8.

The post International Women’s Day, 2021
Fight Against Pandemic Requires Women at the Highest Leadership in Governments & in the UN
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Categories: Africa

International Women’s Day, 2021#MarchWithUs: 5 Activists on Dismantling “Gender Lies”

Africa - INTER PRESS SERVICE - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 11:32

Protest for women's rights in Kathmandu, Nepal. Credit: Sanjog Manandhar

By Bibbi Abruzzini, Pénélope Hubert and Yohan Cambet
PARIS, Mar 5 2021 (IPS)

Today, despite centuries of activism and mobilisations, women and non-binary people continue to remain disadvantaged in almost every sphere – from “public life” to the “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence.

In light of COVID-19, some struggles have been considered in theory, but most continue to be ignored in practice. How can we dismantle the “gender lies” perpetuating in the 21st century? How do we start taking into account the diverse experiences of women, without excluding black and indigenous voices on the basis of power and privilege?

Afghanistan, Nepal, Bolivia, Mexico and Uganda: five activists tell us how they transform the ways their communities think and act around gender.

Afghanistan: rap music to save child brides

Sonita Alizadeh, is a survivor of two attempts at forced marriage, and now a rapper and activist fighting for the liberation of women against forced marriage. Born in Herat, Afghanistan, under the Taliban regime, she grew up in Iran, as a refugee with her family. At 10 years old, she narrowly escaped a forced marriage. Her family again tried to sell her when she was sixteen, she escaped. Afghanistan has the 20th highest number of women married before the age of 18 in the world, with 28% of Afghan girls married off as minors, according to Girls Not Brides.

My mother was a child bride, and she did not meet her husband until their wedding day. By marrying me off at a young age, she was simply repeating the cycle. This tradition makes me want to raise awareness of this harmful issue with the help of millions of others around the world through my music,” says Sonita in an interview with Forus.

Witnessing her friends swiftly disappearing as they were forced to marry, Sonita wrote the song “Daughters for Sale”, which kick-started her work as a human rights activists and rapper.

Music touches people in a way words cannot – it is deeper and more emotional. People listen to music and young people pay attention to the lyrics. Music can be a powerful way to hear important messages. That is why I always rap about things that need to change in the world, or ideas that young people need to hear, to dream big.”

Today, Sonita uses her tracks and success to give young girls self-confidence. She sings to tell: “Hold this hope in your heads and your hearts. Hold this hope for the future. Never give up.”

Nepal: Fighting “period poverty”.

As 2020 drew to a close, protesters across South Asia took to the streets and to social media, calling on their governments to end the perpetuating cycle of widespread sexual violence against women and children.

In Nepal, hundreds of activists returned to the streets after a 17-year-old girl was raped and strangled to death. Some protesters wore black over their eyes to symbolize public authorities closing their eyes to sexual violence. Activists say that although the country’s constitution guarantees equal rights to women, there is a clear disjunction between theory and practice.

“How do we make sure that there is no gap between law and social progress?” asks Jesselina Rana, a human rights lawyer, co-founder with engineer Shubhangi Rana of Pad2Go, a social enterprise focusing on menstrual health and the taboos surrounding it.

It is estimated that around 83 percent of menstruating individuals face some form of restriction or exclusion during their menstrual cycle in Nepal.

“From a very young age, menstruating individuals are made to believe that their menstrual cycle makes them impure, and it can only be talked about behind closed doors,” Jesselina explains.

With Pad2Go, Jesselina distributed over 80 sanitary napkin vending machines across Nepal. She collaborates with pad manufacturers, to provide pads at less than market rate in order to ensure affordability. She also organises discussions with both men and women to normalise conversations around menstruations.

“Nepal being a patriarchal society, men engagement is crucial to overcome social issues faced by women. Socially we need to get men into those spaces of conversation, at a young age, to make sure that everyone is part of the discussion to end the toxic cycle of gender discrimination.”

Protest in Mexico. Credit: Melanie Isahmar Torres Melo

Bolivia, Mexico: “Ni Una Menos”

Cradled in the “machismo culture”, Bolivia has one of the highest domestic violence rates against women in South America. The annual average of 110 femicides in the past 7 years persists, despite a 2013 law establishing measures to prevent and prosecute gender-based violence.

During the Covid-19 crisis, the economic consequences of the pandemic disproportionately affected Bolivian women. Government restrictions reduced access to food, aid programs did not adequately address the needs of communities, increasing their vulnerability and insecurity.

During the lockdown the slogan “Stay at Home” was widely promoted across Bolivia, yet for many women and girls victims of violence, that actually meant a very dangerous “Cállate en casa” (shut up at home), explains Iris Baptista from Red Unitas, a platform funded in 1976 that reunites 22 NGOs in Bolivia.

“Red Unitas created the campaign “SIN VIOLENCIA ES MEJOR” (Better Without Violence), to raise awareness of the fact that women are doing most of the work during the pandemic, to fulfil their role as mothers, wives and workers, yet they continue to face violence at home,” Iris explains.

But, violence against women and femicides are not just common in Bolivia—they are prevalent throughout the region. Global data is difficult to gather due to differences in reporting standards, however, the 2016 report, “A Gendered Analysis of Violent Deaths” founds that fourteen of the twenty-five countries with the highest femicide rates are Latin American.

Defined as “a pandemic within the pandemic”, gender-based violence has spiked since COVID-19 broke out. Writer Lynn Marie Stephen believes that laws and initiatives to protect women, “fail to indict the broader systems that perpetuate these problems, like social, racial, and economic inequalities, family relationships and social mores”.

“It’s not that there was less violence against women in the past, it’s just that it wasn’t made as visible as it is today,” says Melanie Isahmar Torres Melo, a photojournalist covering women issues in Puebla, Mexico.

Every day, 10 women are killed in Mexico. The number of femicides has increased by 137% in the past five years and reached its highest monthly rates in 2020. Despite this number, only 5% of all crimes committed in Mexico are punished. This dichotomy between numbers is often the result of a “single crime” vision, rather than a sociological phenomenon, linked to the idea of patriarchy and sexism.

“Most perpetuators are never caught; this has triggered ‘social anger’ around the issue of feminicides in Mexico. There is no respect for victims, they are blamed for being killed. New movements are rising led by different collectives and civil society organisations. People are taking to the streets and shouting “Ni Una Menos” no woman should be killed,” says Mela.

Uganda – creating an enabling environment for civil society

I was arrested and shamed for leaked nudes”, model and activist Judith Heard explains. When nude pictures of her were published without her consent in 2018, she was widely criticized and was arrested under the Anti-Pornography Act. Her situation is far from unique, a survey conducted in 2016 found that 50% of Ugandan women aged between 15 and 49 has experienced violence by an intimate partner. As a result, in February 2019, Heard launched Day One Global, an advocacy organisation that seeks to curb sexual harassment and rape.

From Marion Kirabo who led a women’s protest against rising tuition fees, to Rosebell Kagumire, editor of the African Feminism digital platform opening “discussion and dialogue on feminist issues throughout the continent”, activists and “gender advocates” in Uganda, are creating innovative forms of “transnational feminism” both online and offline.

Yet, a recent report by Forus International, shows that only 1% of gender equality funding is going to women’s organizations worldwide, and that promoters of gender equality need increased protection. Even more worryingly, attacks on women organisations and civil society more generally, have been reinforced by the current COVID-19 crisis.

Overall, organizations that engage in monitoring the state’s conduct and advocate for human rights, anti-corruption, accountability, and democratic governance are experiencing growing obstacles. One of the most recent examples is the Uganda Communications Commission Guidelines for everyone posting content online, including bloggers and online news platforms, which aims to control people’s freedom of speech.

“While the Ugandan government welcomes the social services many civil society organizations provide, at the same time it feels threatened by the possibility of political mobilization and empowerment of the population that come with self-organized practices; needless to say, such threats to the government’s grip on power yield conflicts between the state and civil society actors,” according to the Uganda National NGO Forum, an umbrella organization with more than 650 member NGOs across the country.

#MarchWithUs

Despite the considerable progress, more than half of the world’s girls and women—as many as 2.1 billion people—live in countries that are not on track to reach key gender equality-related targets by 2030.

However, a new survey from Focus 2030 and Women Deliver, covering 17 countries on six continents—reveals that citizens are eager for sustained and strengthened political and financial investments to accelerate progress towards gender equality. In particular, the global public supports the need for women to play a role in all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic response, with 82% of survey respondents on average saying they believe women should be involved in the response at all levels.

To build a recovery plan and a roadmap for the future, a gender lens must be applied. With the digital campaign #MarchWithUs, Forus is taking a full month to reflect on the voices of women and non-binary activists who are on the frontline of social change. It is time to act to turn “gender lies” into gender promises.

The authors are members of Forus Communication team.

 


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The post International Women’s Day, 2021
#MarchWithUs: 5 Activists on Dismantling “Gender Lies”
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The following opinion piece is part of series to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, March 8.

The post International Women’s Day, 2021
#MarchWithUs: 5 Activists on Dismantling “Gender Lies”
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Categories: Africa

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