Tag Archives: Gender

The Secretary General’s Written Message on International Womens Day- March 8 2017

Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.

Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.

Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined.  Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.

Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.

Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.

Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.

When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.

Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.

I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve.  Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.

On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering Women and Girls: Is SDG 5 Missing Something?

By Gita Sen

Gita Sen is Professor of Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India, and Adjunct Professor of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, United States of America.

Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

In a paper entitled “No empowerment without rights, no rights without politics”, that was written for a Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) assessment project, we argued that: “…progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in the development agenda requires a human rights-based approach, and requires support for the women’s movement to activate and energize the agenda. Both are missing from Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3. Empowerment requires agency along multiple dimensions—sexual, reproductive, economic, political, and legal. However, MDG 3 frames women’s empowerment as reducing educational disparities. By omitting other rights and not recognizing the multiple interdependent and indivisible human rights of women, the goal of empowerment is distorted and “development silos” are created…”.

We also drew attention to “women’s organizations…[as] key actors in pushing past such distortions and silos at all levels, and hence crucial to pushing the gender equality agenda forward. However, the politics of agenda setting also influences funding priorities such that financial support for women’s organizations and for substantive women’s empowerment projects is limited” (Sen and Mukherjee, 2014, p. 188).

Much has changed since the MDGs were first formulated soon after the Millennium Declaration in 2000. Or has it? It is undoubtedly true that, as compared to the formulation of the MDGs, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) has been a more open and more inclusive process driven by United Nations Member States, and generating intense and wide debate. And yet, when it comes to gender justice, the goals sound eerily similar. MDG 3 committed to “Promote gender equality and empower women”; SDG 5 (as agreed thus far through the process of the General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG)) (United Nations, 2014) calls to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. However, two important differences at this level are the explicit inclusion of girls, and of the word “all ”, which can be used to address the challenges faced by the most marginalized and oppressed. More differences appear at the level of the targets under the goal: whereas MDG 3 had a single target focused on education, SDG 5 proposes a range of targets to end discrimination, violence and harmful practices, recognize and value unpaid care work, participation and leadership in decision-making, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. How SDG 5 and its proposed targets will finally translate into indicators, and whether these will be effective and usable for monitoring (where the rubber hits the road) remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, despite advances over the MDGs, there is still a worrying limitation to SDG 5: the absence of a clear recognition of the human rights of women and girls. This piece is being written even as the battle over the affirmation of women’s human rights and the role of women human rights defenders has been bitterly fought at this year’s meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). What happens at the CSW is important because it is an established institution for review and monitoring, and because it is under the aegis of UN-Women, which will be the main operational arm for meeting SDG 5.

The Political Declaration of the CSW (United Nations, 2015), which is the main outcome of the meeting, includes human rights in a non-operational chapeau; once more in paragraph 2 where it recognizes that the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women are mutually reinforcing for the realization of the human rights of women and girls; and again in paragraph 5 where human rights of women are listed as one of the 12 critical areas of concern (of the BPFA). The attempt to thread human rights throughout the document did not succeed, although neither did the attempt to remove all mention. But the main operational paragraph (paragraph 6) where Governments pledge to take action contains nothing explicit on human rights, nor does any other paragraph.

Even the limited mentions of human rights in the Political Declaration were only agreed upon after protracted negotiations against arguments such as those of an observer State that women’s human rights are only one among the 12 areas of the BPFA and should not be given special mention. That the human rights of girls and women should be contentious 15 years after the Millennium Declaration, and 20 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, is a product of backlash. This backlash attempts to roll back the advances and very real changes in norms and frameworks for realizing women’s human rights, agreed by consensus among Member States during the United Nations conferences (at Vienna, Cairo and Beijing) of the 1990s. While funding to translate these norms and frameworks into practice has been woefully inadequate as noted by Sen and Mukherjee in their articles, the norms themselves are essential to have in place.

Human rights are contentious because, unlike policies and programmes, they are often more

The SDGs

The SDGs

clearly justiciable, and can be used to hold Governments and others to account for their acts of commission or omission. The backlash against women’s human rights has been led by Member (and observer) States of the United Nations with poor records on discrimination against women, as well as laws, policies and practices that sustain gender inequality across a wide spectrum of issues. A telling reminder of who is principally behind the backlash was the Political Declaration’s refusal to recognize the key role of women’s human rights defenders who often risk their liberty and their lives to protect and advance the human rights of girls and women at risk. However, the fault is not only here. The refusal by other Member States to recognize that economic, social and cultural rights are interlinked and inseparable from civil and political rights is also a serious challenge to advancing towards the fulfilment of SDG 5.

Finally, one also has to ask the question: where’s the beef? Each SDG (as enunciated in the OWG’s report) has its attached targets and means of implementation. Those linked to SDG 5 mention legal reforms and technology (5.a, 5.b and 5.c), but there is no reference made about funding. Given that a major weakness in the fulfilment of MDG 3 was the inadequacy of funding, the challenge of funding SDG 5 will remain as a major stumbling block unless it becomes central to its means of implementation.

References

Fukuda-Parr, Sakiko, Alicia Ely Yamin, and Joshua Greenstein (2014). The Power of Numbers: A Critical Review of Millennium Development Goal Targets for Human Development and Human Rights. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, vol. 15, no. 2-3, p. 105-117.

Sen, Gita, and Avanti Mukherjee (2014). No Empowerment Without Rights, No Rights Without Politics: Gender-equality, MDGs and the post-2015 Development Agenda. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, vol. 15, no. 2-3. p. 188-202.

United Nations, Report of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals, 12 August 2014 (A/68/970). Available from http://undocs.org/a/68/970.

United Nations, Economic and Social Council (2015). Commission on the Status of Women. Political declaration on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women.

5 March. E/Cn.6/2015/L.1.

First published in the UN Chronicle, Department of Public Information, United Nations.

UNDP Administrator Ms. Helen Clark, visits Zambia

UNDP Administrator Ms. Helen Clark was in Zambia from July 16 to July 19 2015. During this visit she held a number of meetings with Republican President Mr. Edger Lungu, The National Assembly, Minister of Foreign Affairs and corporating partners of the United Nations in Zambia.

UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark on arrival in Chief Nyampande's area, Petauke, Eastern province, Zambia. Photo credit/UNIC Lusaka

UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark on arrival in Chief Nyampande’s area, Petauke, Eastern province, Zambia. Photo credit/UNIC Lusaka

She also took part in the official launch of the “HeforShe” Campaign which took place in Chief Nyampande area and Misolo Village in Petauke, of the Eastern Province Zambia some 500kms from the capital city Lusaka on July 18, 2015 she was accompanied by the UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Ms. Janet Rogan and UNDP staff. The launch was graced by the Head of State, various traditional Chiefs, the Ministers of Gender; Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, Women for Change and other corporating partners.

In Lusaka, she saw the President; the Vice President who hosted a lunch on environment and climate change resilience, attended by the Ministers of Mines, Energy and Water Development, Agriculture and Tourism as well as the French Ambassador and the Director of the Disaster Mitigation and Management Unit; the Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairs of main Committees and Caucuses, including the new SDG Caucus; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who also hosted a reception for her; the Ministers of Commerce, Trade and Industry and Transport, Works and Supply and Communications, who co-hosted a meeting with the private sector; the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, who hosted a meeting with youth representatives. The Chief Justice hosted lunch with senior members of the judiciary. She also met the diplomatic community in Lusaka and the UN Country Team.

Students wearing branded attire for the "HeforShe" campaign.

Students wearing branded attire for the “HeforShe” campaign. Photo Credit/UNIC Lusaka

Her field trip to Eastern Province was a great success. The President agreed to launch the Zambia HeForShe campaign and spent the whole day with the UN Team at Chief Nyamphande’s village and then at Misolo village visiting the Anti-GBV One-Stop Shop there. We could not have a better platform for pushing forward this campaign. Driving around Eastern Province, Helen was struck by the persisting levels of rural poverty, which she had also seen in other countries, such as Malawi and Tanzania, which have not experienced conflict since independence. She found the persistent rural poverty and inequalities in such circumstances shocking and she hopes that, among other work, the UN (UNDP) extractives project, once launched, can become part of a solution for dealing with persistent rural poverty and inequalities.

About the global HeforShe Campaign, HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for gender equality initiated by UN Women. Its goal is to engage men and boys as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights, by encouraging them to take action against inequalities faced by women and girls. Grounded in the idea that gender equality is an issue that affects all people — socially, economically and politically — it seeks to actively involve men and boys in a movement that was originally conceived as “a struggle for women by women”. Some noticed the contradiction of a campaign for gender equality which only takes action against inequalities faced by women and girls, ignoring problems affecting men and boys.

Branded HeforShe Minibus at Chief Nyampandes Palace. Petauke, Eastern Province, Zambia.

Branded HeforShe Minibus at Chief Nyampandes Palace. Petauke, Eastern Province, Zambia. Photo Credit/UNIC Lusaka

On the HeForShe website, a map which uses a geo-locator to record global engagement in the campaign counts the number of men and boys around the world who have taken the HeForShe pledge, as UN Women works towards its goal of engaging 1 million men and boys by July 2015. The campaign website also includes implementation plans for UN agencies, individuals and civil society, as well as those on university and college campuses, both through online and sustained engagement.

“Initially we were asking the question, ‘Do men care about gender equality?’ and we found out that they do care,” said Elizabeth Nyamayaro, senior adviser to the executive director of UN Women. “Then we started to get a lot of emails from men who signed up, who now want to do more.”

World Press Freedom Day 2015: Celebrated in Zambia

Zambia joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Press Freedom Day that falls on the 3rd May each year. This important day gives the media and various stakeholders time to reflect on what the men and women who give us information go through in order to get information to our” table”. This is the time when we look at the contribution that information plays in the development of the nation and the world at large.

World Press Freedom Day Parade.

World Press Freedom Day Parade.

The global theme was “Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Media Safety in the Digital Age and the Media in Zambia adopted “Women in the Media Digital Age”, the theme challenges the Media and Government to reflect on the use of new media and the responsibilities it comes with as well as the role women in the media are playing. It is important that as the media becomes involved in transforming societies through the new found media freedom, they should also be very responsible in the information that they put across.

The United Nations recognizes that information is the most powerful tool that can transform the nation, hence the need as to recognize that in order for a developing country like Zambia to move forward, it needs to work hand in hand with the media.

A number of activities were planned to mark the occasion as follows; a social media training for community radio stations and some main stream media houses was facilitated by BBC Media Action on April 28, 2015. The was a digital media exhibition held at Arcades Shopping mall in Lusaka were organizations such as UNESCO, Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS), Zambia Institute of Mass Communication (ZAMCOM), Media Institute Southern Africa, Zambia Chapter (MISA-Zambia), Q FM Radio and others showcased various products in line with the theme for 2015, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Service Mr. Malama toured the exhibition and encouraged the media in Zambia to embrace good media ethics and technology in the execution of their duties.

Over the weekend on April 30, the scribes took time out from their notepads and pencils and engaged in social sports at Zamsure Sports Complex with games such as tug-of-war, football and netball that saw them battle it out in mixed teams for honors and later on had a social braai.

On May 4th, print and electronic media houses gathered for the official commemoration at the Freedom statue, beforehand, held a match past through the city centre after being flagged off by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Hon. Chishimba Kambwili MP. Speaking at the venue were Mr. Enoch Ngoma the chairperson of the 2015 organizing committee, the UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Janet Rogan and the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services. The chairperson of the organizing committee urged government to support the media, by enacting the access to information bill (ATI) and guaranteeing the safety of journalists from being harassed by political cadres. This sentiment was also affirmed by the Minister who said government will not protect anyone who harasses media personnel in the discharge of their duties.

The UN Resident Coordinator in her speech stated it is about living the aspirations of the young generation, providing them access to information and preparing them to make the right choices in life.  It is also about building new partnerships and working better together with media professionals for sustainable development across societies and countries. And, it is about unleashing our true commitment to leave no one behind and to create a more equal world. Quoting the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, “women remain underrepresented throughout the media, at decision-making level but also in the coverage of issues. We cannot let this stand. Men and women must participate equally in making and sharing the news.”

She said the stereotyped portrayal of women and girls in the media is not only unfair but it also harms them.  It contributes to harmful traditional practices, including child marriage.  It can encourage violence against women and girls and violation of their rights. In Zambia, hardly a day goes by without reading or hearing of a case of a woman beaten or raped; or a girl child who has been defiled.  I say to journalists: it is not enough to report these cases.  It is necessary to look beyond the incidents and plain numbers and investigate and report on the root causes of discrimination and violence against women and girls in this country. For the media have the power not only to influence government decisions and the direction of national policy, but also to raise a voice against discrimination, oppression and violence in society itself. Harnessing this unique power is key to promoting human rights and achieving equality.

At the event, MacPherson Mukuka, a journalist and a community radio station called Chikuni

Part of the participants who took part in the mentorship program at UNIC Lusaka.

Part of the participants who took part in the mentorship program at UNIC Lusaka.

radio received recognition awards, a Climate Change and UNESCO award sponsored by the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, under the Climate Change Secretariat and UNESCO respectively. Both awards were presented by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Mr. Chishimba Kambwili.

May 5th was the climax of the press freedom day activities as veteran scribes got to mentor their juniors, the mentorship program was primarily focused on women in the media. The mentorship was held at the UN Information Centre and facilitated by Ms. Felistus Chipako, Chairperson of the Zambia Media Women Association (ZAMWA). Other notable speakers included Mr. Victor Mbumwae from the Ministry of Gender and Mr. Enock Ngoma a veteran journalist.

UN ZAMBIA JOINT STATEMENT INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, 2014

This year’s United Nations theme for International Women’s Day stresses that “Equality for women is progress for all.” Achieving equality for women and girls is important not simply because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.

An investment in the improved health and education of women, leads directly to a healthier and

International Women's Day march past

Women in uniform marching

more prosperous household, village and larger community. Giving women the power to make choices over their lives is one of the first steps towards a world with zero hunger. In every country where UN works, including in Zambia, women are front and centre in programmes to tackle many development challenges, including food insecurity and nutrition.

“It is evident that equality for women and girls means progress for all. This simple fact must be central as we work to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 deadline, and design an ambitious agenda for the Post-2015,” said Martin Clemensson, the UN Resident Coordinator a.i in Zambia. “We are seeing some progress on gender equality indicators in the area of health and education; continued commitment and intentional policies and programmes however, are essential to accelerating the progress made so far.”

Over 50 per cent of Zambia’s population is female. The chance to go up the education chain, without having to drop out, be beaten or become a child labourer, and having the same access to skills and resources required to participate fully in the country’s economic development will more than double Zambia’s GDP, and halve the levels of child malnutrition and ill-health.

The UN in Zambia commends the efforts that have been taken by government to address Gender Based Violence in Zambia, through the enactment of the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act. The UN acknowledges the political commitment attached to this issue, and takes special note of the fact that work to establish ‘fast track courts” is being undertaken. The UN System is actively collaborating with Government, the Police and the Judiciary on these initiatives. “I have a message for every girl born today, and to every woman and girl on the planet: Realizing human rights and equality is not a dream, it is a duty of governments, the United Nations and every human being,” said the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon in his message on International Women’s Day.

The Secretary General also appealed men and boys to play their part. “All of us benefit when women and girls – your mothers, sisters, friends and colleagues — can reach their full potential.

Together, let us work for women’s rights, empowerment and gender equality as we strive to eliminate poverty and promote sustainable development. Equality for women is progress for all.”