While poor countries are jostling to ensure the lives of their people are protected in a deal on the changing climate being negotiated in Durban, various NGOs, agencies and research institutes are lobbying to get a word into the negotiating text. They include groups who are keen on the words “nutrition security”, and others who want to ensure that “women and children" feature in the text each time the word “vulnerable” appears.
“It is not opportunistic. We are pushing for the empowerment of women and the recognition of the words ‘nutrition security’ - by that we are addressing so many issues at the same time,” said Cristina Tirado, director of the Centre for Public Health and Climate Change at the US-based Public Health Institute.
“Protection and promotion of nutrition and health are essential components of climate-resilient and sustainable development,” she added. ”Women serve as agents of change. Through their unique roles in the family and child care, agricultural labour, food and nutrition security, health and disaster risk reduction, they can be instrumental in addressing climate change, health and nutrition in an integrated way.”
Conditions in women prisons’ and services offered to women prisoners have considerably improved in the past 10 years, but there is still “a lot of work to do,” according to a newly released “Guide for Working in Women’s Prisons in Lebanon.”
The guide aims to help those wishing to implement projects in women’s prisons by providing general information on rights of prisoners and status of women prisoners in the country, as well as a 1999-2010 comparative study on women’s situation in prison.
Anita Nassar, the assistant director of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University, is the author of the guide, and of the 1999 study.
She said she noted “big, big progress,” in the country’s four women’s prisons over the past decade, describing Barbar Khazen prison in Beirut and Baabda, Tripoli and Zahle women’s prisons as “much better” than men’s prisons.
Giving the example of the Tripoli facility, she said it, in partnerships with NGOs, had installed hot water, arranged a room for training and implemented psychological and legal programs. ...
Message from UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet on the occasion of World AIDS Day, 1 December 2011.
Today on World AIDS Day, we are called to action to achieve zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. On behalf of UN Women, I would like to stress that getting to zero requires zero discrimination against women and girls.
Women have continued to lag behind in terms of education and independence, all because of bad policies and cultural norms. Culturally, boys are given better chances of education than girls.
In a home where parents are financially constrained, they will use the meager resources they have to educate boys as the girls remain home to do household chores and are eventually married off to get bride price. And with those who get the opportunity to go on with school, fewer have been joining sciences. But are we seeing this changing? Perhaps yes, as statistics may confirm to us.
Already, there have been improvements with respect to girl enrolment currently at an average of 30 percent in non-physical science and about 10 percent for mathematics, physics and engineering. Government initiatives At a recent forum in Dar es Salaam under the auspices of UNESCO, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Community Development, Gender and Children, Ms Mijakazi Mtengwa painted a picture of optimism, noting that even as girls faced cultural barriers, more were now pursuing science subjects.
Explaining, she said that potential future scientists are lost in the transition from high school to college, in the transition from college to graduating at school, and in the transition from gaining a doctorate to getting a job. Ms Mtengwa was speaking at the Women in Science Workshop for ministries, independent departments, government agencies and private sector where a Women In Science Reference Group in Tanzania has been formed under the support by UNESCO.
This report is the culmination of a two-day experts meeting, “Macroeconomics and the Rights to Water and Sanitation,” which took place in Lisbon, Portugal from March 31 to April 1, 2011. The meeting was organized as a means to contribute to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation’s work on gender equality and macroeconomics. To this end the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur brought together economists, researchers and advocacy specialists working from a feminist perspective to offer analyses and recommendations.
The Government of Afghanistan took a big step forward in support of women’s equality and protection of women’s rights when it enacted the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW law) in August 2009. The landmark legislation criminalizes for the first time in Afghanistan child marriage, forced marriage, forced self-immolation and 19 other acts of violence against women including rape, and specifies punishments for perpetrators. This report from the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) examines implementation of the EVAW law by judicial and law enforcement officials throughout Afghanistan for the period of March 2010 to September 2011, and identifies both positive progress and large gaps.
A law meant to protect Afghan women from a host of abusive practices, including rape, forced marriage and the trading of women to settle disputes, is being undermined by spotty enforcement, the U.N. said in a report released Wednesday.
A law meant to protect Afghan women from a host of abusive practices, including rape, forced marriage and the trading of women to settle disputes, is being undermined by spotty enforcement, the U.N. said in a report released Wednesday.
Afghanistan’s Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was passed in August 2009, raising hopes among women’s rights activists that Afghan women would get to fight back against abuses that had been ignored under Taliban rule. The law criminalized many abuses for the first time, including domestic violence, child marriage, driving a woman to resort to suicide and the selling and buying of women.
Yet the report found only a small percentage of reported crimes against women are pursued by the Afghan government.
Between March 2010 and March 2011 — the first full Afghan year the law was in effect — prosecutors opened 594 investigations involving crimes under the law. That’s only 26 percent of the 2,299 incidents registered by the Afghan human rights commission, the report said. And prosecutors went on to file indictments in only 155 cases, or 7 percent of the total number of crimes reported.
Sometimes victims were pressured to withdraw their complaints or to settle for mediation by traditional councils, the report said. Sometimes prosecutors didn’t proceed with mandatory investigations for violent acts like rape or prostitution. Other times, police simply ignored complaints.
To protect and empower girls, programs must start with the girls themselves. This approach – one that meets girls where they are in their lives – was the foundation for an innovative participatory action research pilot project, which aimed to both understand and respond to girls’ HIV-related vulnerabilities. Working with older girls ages 12-17 and their communities in Newala District, one of the least developed and poorly resourced districts of Tanzania, the project's ultimate goal was to design and qualitatively assess a pilot intervention model to address the most pressing vulnerabilities of adolescent girls. This brief report summarizes the process and findings of the participatory action research with lessons for researchers, development practitioners and policymakers working with adolescent girls.
Jennifer McCleary-Sills, Zayid Douglas, Richard Mabala, Ellen Weiss 2011
A Decade Lost: Locating Gender in U.S. Counter-Terrorism provides the first global study of how the U.S. government's (USG) counter-terrorism efforts proffoundly implicate and impact women and sexual minorities. Over the last decade of the United States' "War on Terror," the oft-unspoken assumption that men suffer the most—both numerically and in terms of the nature of rights violations endured—has obscured the way women and sexual minorities experience counter-terrorism, rendering their rights violations invisible to policymakers and the human rights community alike. This failure to consider either the differential impacts of counter-terrorism on women, men, and sexual minorities or the ways in which such measures use and affect gender stereotypes and relations cannot continue.
Testimony on the role of women in the Arab Spring by Tamara C. Wittes, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittees on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues and Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs,
Testimony Tamara C. Wittes Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions Senate Foreign Relations Committee Washington, DC November 2, 2011 Subcommittees on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues and Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
Thank you Chairwoman Boxer, Chairman Casey, Senators DeMint and Risch and the other members of the Subcommittees for inviting me to speak to you today. I am honored to be here, and commend you for holding this timely and important hearing.
I would like to acknowledge the achievements of the women you have invited to testify in the next panel. Women have been at the forefront of the revolutions across the region, and I am grateful to hear their perspectives.
I am also very honored to be here with Ambassador Melanne Verveer, who is a tenacious and invaluable partner in our efforts to advance women’s empowerment and women’s inclusion – globally and in the Middle East in particular. She has already communicated the key point that Secretary Clinton has underscored throughout the Arab Spring – that the full participation of women is an essential ingredient for any democracy.
Therefore, we are committed to championing women’s full participation in the new democracies now emerging, and in the reforms that are underway across the region. The Administration’s whole-of-government approach demonstrates our belief that the women of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are essential partners in any successful transition.
The democratic transitions underway in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and the pressures for democratic change across the region, present a great strategic opportunity for the United States, for three reasons.
The first reason is stability, which is crucial to the pursuit of all our longstanding interests in the Middle East. The dramatic events of this spring were driven by deep, underlying trends in Arab societies. As Secretary Clinton noted nearly a year ago, last January in Doha, the status quo in the region was not stable. We have an opportunity now to help promote lasting stability in the Middle East – stability that will only come through democratic and economic reforms that will write a new social contract between governments and citizens.
The second reason we see an opportunity in the events of the Arab Spring is about democracy. As you all know well, where democracy and democratic freedoms are valued, the world also gains in security. Democracies give people a stake in their governance and weaken the appeal of those who call for violence. We see the changes underway in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as an opportunity to support the emergence of more democratic states, which will be stronger partners for the United States in advancing our shared interests in security, stability, and prosperity for the region and the world.
Finally, we see a strategic opportunity in these events because of the way this change has come about, and who is driving it – the Arab world’s rising generation of young people. The disciplined and determined young men and women who are driving the Arab Spring have put forward a powerful repudiation to the narrative of extremists who preach violence and confrontation as the only means to achieve change. They have also put forward their own indigenously generated, positive vision for the future of the Middle East, a future defined by dignity, freedom and opportunity. We have a keen interest in seeing that positive vision succeed.
The recent announcement of three courageous women receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is the latest affirmation of women’s ability to advance human progress and human rights in the region and around the world. As Secretary Clinton noted, the three winners – including one from Yemen – “are shining examples of the difference that women can make and the progress they can help achieve when given the opportunity to make decisions about the future of their societies and countries.” As you may know, one of those Nobel Prize winners, Tawakkul Karman from Yemen, is an alumna of the Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), and also participated in State Department exchange and visitor programs. I met with Tawakkul last week in the State Department, and we discussed the absolute determination of the Yemeni people to see a political transition that is not merely a change of leadership but that ushers in real participation, and real justice for the Yemeni people.
There is no question that this period of transformative change carries with it some anxiety. The fate of the region’s democratic movements is uncertain, and in some countries citizens are facing brutality and repression from their governments in response to their legitimate demands. And the democratic transitions now beginning in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya are far from complete. So it’s crucial that the United States government stay engaged to support these democratic transitions and democratic reforms across the region. Let me tell you a little bit about what we are doing to further that goal.
The events unfolding in the Middle East are the foreign policy challenge of our time. In response to and in support of these transitions, the U.S. Government has rededicated its efforts to assist the people of the Middle East and North Africa as they create more participatory, prosperous and pluralistic societies. We have realigned our resources to promote democratic and economic reforms across the region and to strengthen those within Arab societies who are advancing change. Many of those civil society leaders, like Tawakkul, are women, and we want to support their efforts.
The Department of State has also created a new Office of Middle East Transitions with Ambassador Bill Taylor at the helm as Coordinator. This office is tasked with ensuring U.S. assistance to transition countries is coordinated and prioritized across all agencies and programs. We know that resources are limited, and that with so much at stake in the region, we need to be efficient and make every dollar count. In addition to my regular duties as the Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for democratic reform in the Middle East, I now also have the privilege of serving as Deputy Coordinator for this office. So I come to you with a very clear view of the efforts we are undertaking to support successful democratic transitions in the region at this critical time.
As you know, I supervise the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which is located in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. MEPI has had women’s empowerment as one of its key priorities since it was first founded in 2002. I’m delighted to have this fantastic program as one of the key tools we are using to support women during the political transitions across the region. Let me speak briefly about some of the efforts we have underway in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya specifically.
As Ambassador Verveer noted, Tunisia’s women have a proud history as active participants in their country’s political, social, and economic life. When Ben Ali fled Tunisia in January, MEPI mobilized the bulk of our initial U.S. government response to support civil society and election preparation in Tunisia – and in all of that work, women’s inclusion and women’s participation is a constant theme. Indeed, some of MEPI’s longstanding partners in Tunisia, who operated under significant constraints previously, became crucial players in the work of voter education this year. A singular example is CAWTAR, the Center for Arab Women Training and Research. With MEPI support, they are promoting women's rights in Tunisia through media, trainings and public debates.
The American Bar Association is another important MEPI partner in Tunisia in advancing women’s political inclusion. Later this year, they will be hosting, with their Tunisian colleagues, a national forum on the role of women in transitional processes focusing on comparative experiences; women’s rights in law and constitutional reform; and advocacy for law reform. Participants will include women jurists, rights groups, civil society organizations, and political party representatives, among others.
MEPI is just one program undertaking efforts to support the political, economic and social participation of women in Tunisia. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives supported a "Get Out and Vote" campaign designed to encourage women of all ages, backgrounds and means, through mainstream and new media channels, to vote and participate in Tunisia’s democratic reform process.
The Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) is supporting programming in Tunisia, on transitional justice and independent journalism, including a project to empower women in civil society and media.
In Egypt, the United States is working with international as well as Egyptian organizations to ensure that the gains made in women’s legal rights before the revolution are not lost, and that women play a central role in the definition of rules and institutions for Egypt’s new democracy.
USAID is focusing on women’s issues across all its programs in Egypt. USAID is bringing together women-led civil society organizations from all governorates in Egypt to strategize on ways to they can improve women's participation in elections and political parties. These conversations are specifically focused on increasing the participation of women candidates before the upcoming parliamentary elections. During this time of transition, USAID is continuing its crucial work to improve maternal and child health, combat violence against women, and extend equal access to justice and education for women and girls. On the economic front, USAID partners will provide 1,000 new business loans within the next twelve months in Qena, one of the poorest, least served areas of Egypt, to spur job creation and to increase employment opportunities for the poor. Women are slated to receive about 60 percent of these loans.
MEPI is working with Vital Voices to create a network of women activists across the region, and to help Egyptian women’s groups develop their priorities for egislative change. MEPI’s local Egyptian partner, the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, is training younger women as future leaders, and encouraging women to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Other State Department programs assist women who want to compete in the newly open political process. In the past several months, more than 200 women from a diverse array of political parties have taken advantage of U.S.-government-funded training programs, which are offered on a non-partisan basis, and which provide everything from training on how to confidently deliver a stump speech -- to organizational skills that will help them sharpen their party platforms and build campaigns that resonate with voters.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is working with the International Labor Organization to strengthen women’s participation in key labor market institutions. This project will help women and employers, along with government institutions, become more practiced in fundamental labor rights and procedures, giving more women the chance to enter the labor market, and building the capacity of Egyptian businesses to offer decent work to women.
Since the first days of the revolution, when Libyan women formed sewing circles to create the ubiquitous independence flags, Libyan women have been at the heart of the revolution. Some of the most promising and effective non-profit initiatives have been founded by women leaders. Wafa and Hana Gusbi, twin sisters and previous US Embassy Public Affairs grant recipients, co-founded Wafa Charity Organization. The Gusbis left for Tunis in May 2011 and, utilizing the skills they learned through managing their earlier USG-funded project, they have organized social programs for Libyans living in exile -- serving up to 20,000 hot meals per day to refugees during Ramadan. Now is the time to demonstrate to these women our support for their efforts.
In Libya, we are working through the United Nations Special Mission in Libya to target our assistance to priorities identified by the Libyans themselves. But we have already begun to offer our support to the newly emerging NGOs in Libya and to support those who want to create new political parties to compete in Libya’s planned elections. We will continue to focus on ensuring that Libyan women are active beneficiaries of our efforts.
Our work in these three countries in transition is just one element of our regional focus on empowering women and girls. Through MEPI, and working with democratic partners around the globe, we continue to promote further progress in women’s political, economic, and social participation. Through the Community of Democracies’ Working Group on Gender Equality, which Ambassador Verveer co-chairs with the Lithuanians, the United States is taking a leadership role in promoting gender equality and good governance, with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa. Under the auspices of the working group, the U.S. is partnering with the Dutch government to conduct dialogues with civil society leaders and academics from across the region to better understand the priorities of women in transitioning societies and how the United States and the international community can best assist them.
Working with the International Republican Institute, MEPI is supporting the Arab Women's Leadership Institute, which assists women leaders across North Africa to maximize their political gains during periods of transition. In countries undergoing reform or transition, the Leadership Institute is providing female officials currently in office, candidates for office, and civil society leaders with models of good governance and coalition-building to help them realize the reforms their constituents are demanding. In addition, the Institute is giving women civic leaders advocacy skills so they can fight for equal social and political rights for women as their countries define new rules of the road in politics.
The U.S. Government is also supporting the Middle East and North Africa Women’s Business Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This group accelerates the development of women’s entrepreneurship in the region.
Without a doubt, the final outcome of the region’s democratic transition is uncertain. But because we believe that democratic transformation in the Middle East is profoundly in our interests, we are committed to remaining engaged and to providing the necessary long-term support for women in these countries who are already working as agents of positive change. In his May 2011 speech, President Obama said, "History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered.” This is a guiding principle for us as we support democratic transitions in the Middle East.
We look forward to working with you, our partners in Congress, to ensure that we can sustain our urgent support the Middle East in this historic moment.