New York/IBNS: Conflicts, humanitarian crises and increasing climate-related disasters have led to higher levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG), which has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing into sharp focus the urgent need to stem the scourge.
Image credit: UN Women/Mohammed Bakir
Globally, nearly one-in-three women have experienced violence, with crises driving the numbers even higher.
Gender-based violence (GBV), the most pervasive violation of human rights, is neither natural, nor inevitable, and must be prevented.
Marking the 16 Days of Activism to combat violence against women and girls, UN Women is showcasing the voices of five survivors, each of whose names has been changed to protect their identity. Be forewarned that each character sketch includes descriptions of gender-based violence.
‘Convinced’ she would be killed
From the Argentine province of Chaco, 48-year-old mother of seven, Diana suffered for 28 years before finally deciding to separate from her abusive partner.
“I wasn't afraid that he would beat me, I was convinced that he would kill me,” she said.
At first, she hesitated to file a police complaint for fear of how he might react, but as she learned more about the services provided by a local shelter, she realized that she could escape her tormentor. She also decided to press charges.
Living with an abusive father, her children also suffered psychological stress and economic hardship.
Leaving was not easy, but with the support of a social workers, a local shelter and a safe space to recover, Diana got a job as an administrative assistant in a municipal office.
Accelerate gender equality
Violence against women and girls is preventable.
Comprehensive strategies are needed to tackle root causes, transform harmful social norms, provide services for survivors and end impunity.
Evidence shows that strong, autonomous women’s rights movements are critical to thwarting and eliminating VAWG.
The Generation Equality Forum needs support to stem the VAWG violence.
“I admit that it was difficult, but with the [mental health] support, legal aid and skills training, I healed a lot,” she explained.
Essential services for survivors of domestic violence are a lifeline.
“I no longer feel like a prisoner, cornered, or betrayed. There are so many things one goes through as a victim, including the psychological [persecution] but now I know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to”.
Diana is among 199 women survivors housed at a shelter affiliated with the Inter-American Shelter Network, supported by UN Women through the Spotlight Initiative in Latin America. The shelter has also provided psychosocial support and legal assistance to more than 1,057 women since 2017.
Survivor now ‘excited about what lies ahead’
Meanwhile, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Bangladesh, triggering a VAWG surge, many shelters and essential services shut down.
Romela had been married to a cruel, torturous man.
“When I was pregnant, he punched me so hard I ended up losing my baby...I wanted to end my life”, she said.
She finally escaped when her brother took her to the Tarango women’s shelter, which in partnership with UN Women, was able to expand its integrated programme to provide safe temporary accommodations, legal and medical services, and vocational training to abused women who were looking for a fresh start.
Living in an abusive relationship often erodes women’s choices, self-esteem and potential. Romela had found a place where she could live safely with her 4-year-old daughter.
Opening a new chapter in her life, she reflected, “other people always told me how to dress, where to go, and how to live my life. Now, I know these choices rest in my hands”.
“I feel confident, my life is more enjoyable,” said the emancipated woman.
Tarango houses 30–35 survivors at any given time and delivers 24/7 services that help them recover from trauma, regain their dignity, learn new skills, and get job placement and a two-month cash grant to build their economic resilience.
“Our job is to make women feel safe and empowered, and to treat them with the utmost respect and empathy,” said Programme Coordinator Nazlee Nipa.
Uphill battle with in-laws
Goretti returned to western Kenya in 2001 to bury her husband and, as dictated by local culture, remained in the family’s homestead.
“But they wouldn’t give me food. Everything I came with from Nairobi – clothes, household items – was taken from me and divided between the family,” she recounted.
For nearly 20 years after her husband’s death, Goretti was trapped in a life of abuse until her in-laws they beat her so badly that she was hospitalized and unable to work.
Afraid to go to law enforcement, Goretti instead reached out to a local human rights defender, who helped her get medical attention and report the case to the local authorities.
They wouldn’t give me food. Everything...was taken from me and divided between the family – Survivor
However, she quickly discovered that her in-laws had already forged with the police an agreement in her name to withdraw the case.
“But I cannot even write”, Goretti said.
Human rights defenders in Kenya are often the first responders to violations, including GBV. Since 2019, UN Women and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have been supporting grass-roots organizations that provide legal training and capacity-building to better assist survivors.
In addition to reporting the issue to local police and the courts, human rights defender Caren Omanga, who was trained by one of these organizations, also contacted the local elders.
“I was almost arrested when confronting the officer-in-charge”, Ms. Omanga explained.
But knowing that the community would be against Goretti, she started “the alternative dispute-resolution process, while pushing the case to court”.
Finally, with her case settled out of court, Goretti received an agreement granting her the property and land title that she had lost in her marriage dowry, and the perpetrators were forced to pay fines to avoid prison.
“It is like beginning a new life after 20 years, and my son is feeling more secure… I’m thinking of planting some trees to safeguard the plot and building a poultry house”, she said.
In Moldova, sexual harassment and violence are taboo topics and, fearing blame or stigmatization, victims rarely report incidents.
At age 14, Milena was raped by her boyfriend in Chisinau. She was unaware that her violation was a sexual assault and continued to see her abuser for another six months before breaking up. Then she tried to forget it.
“This memory was blocked, as if nothing happened”, until two years later, upon seeing an Instagram video that triggered flashbacks of her own assault, she said.
Almost one-in-five men in Moldova have sexually abused a girl or a woman, including in romantic relationships, according to 2019 research co-published by UN Women.
Determined to understand what had happened to her, Milena learned more about sexual harassment and abuse, and later began raising awareness in her community.
Last year, she joined a UN Women youth mentorship programme, where she was trained on gender equality and human rights and learned to identify abuse and challenge sexist comments and harassment.
Milena went on to develop a self-help guide for sexual violence survivors, which, informed by survivors aged 12 – 21, offers practical guidance to seek help, report abuse, and access trauma recovery resources.
Against the backdrop of cultural victim-blaming, which prevents those who need it from getting help, the mentoring programme focuses on feminist values and diversity, and addresses the root causes of the gender inequalities and stereotypes that perpetuate GBV and discrimination.
“The programme has shown that youth activism and engagement is key to eliminating gender inequalities in our societies”, explained Dominika Stojanoska, UN Women Country Representative in Moldova.
Support survivors, break the cycle of violence
A 2019 national survey revealed that only three-out-of-100 sexual violence survivors in Morocco report incidents to the police as they fear being shamed or blamed and lack trust in the justice system.
Layla began a relationship with the head of a company she worked for. He told her he loved her, and she trusted him.
“But he hit me whenever I disagreed with him. I endured everything, from sexual violence to emotional abuse…he made me believe that I stood no chance against him”, she said.
Pregnant, unmarried and lonely, Layla finally went to the police.
To her great relief, a female police officer met her, and said that there was a solution.
“I will never forget that. It has become my motto in life. Her words encouraged me to tell her the whole story. She listened to me with great care and attention”, continued Layla.
She was referred to a local shelter for single mothers where she got a second chance.
Two years ago, she gave birth to a daughter, and more recently completed her Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics.
“I was studying while taking care of my baby at the single mother’s shelter”, she said, holding her daughter’s hand.
UN Women maintains that building trust and confidence in the police is an integral part of crime prevention and community safety.
When professionally trained police handle GBV cases, survivors are more likely to report abuse and seek justice, health and psychosocial services that help break the cycle of violence while sending a clear message that it is a punishable crime.
Over the past few years, the General Directorate of National Security, supported by UN Women, has restructured the national police force to better support women survivors and prevent VAWG.
Today, all 440 district police stations have dedicated personnel who refer women survivors to the nearest specialized unit.
“It takes a lot of determination and courage for women to ask the police for support”, said Saliha Najeh, Police Chief at Casablanca Police Unit for Women Victims of Violence, who, after specialized training through the UN Women programme, now trains her police officers to use a survivor-centred approach in GBV cases.
As of 2021, 30 senior police officers and heads of units have been trained through the programme.
“Our role is to give survivors all the time they need to feel safe and comfortable, and for them to trust us enough to tell their story”, she said.
Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Morocco has also expanded channels for survivors to report and access justice remotely through a 24-hour toll-free helpline, an electronic complaints mechanism, and online court sessions.
#UN; #Women; #GenderIssues; #GenerationEqualityForum
Paris/Canadian-Media: With the chief of the UN’s gender empowerment agency declaring that women are still “sitting in the corridors when men are inside at the table negotiating peace”, the historic Generation Equality Forum in Paris concluded on Friday with new commitments designed to address that, and other injustices.
Women’s leadership is one of the key drivers for gender equality worldwide. Image Credit: UN
Close to $40 billion was pledged in new investments, as well as ambitious policy and program commitments from governments, civil society and others, to help fuel a new global five-year action plan to accelerate true gender parity, by 2026.
“The Generation Equality Forum marks a positive, historic shift in power and perspective”, said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.
The Forum has been held at a critical moment, as the world assesses the disproportionate and damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls.
Gender equality advocates took the opportunity to press for gender-responsive stimulus and recovery plans to ensure that women and girls are not left behind as the world re-builds.
Timely commitments The $40 billion in investments represent a major step-change in resourcing for women’s and girls’ rights, as lack of financing has been a major reason for slow progress in advancing gender equality and in enacting the women’s rights agenda of the milestone 1995 Beijing Conference, according to UN Women ??.
Governments and public sector institutions have committed to $21 billion spending on gender equality investments, the private sector $13 billion and philanthropy $4.5 billion.
UN entities, international and regional organizations committed an aggregate of $1.3 billion.
“The Forum’s ecosystem of partners – and the investments, commitments and energy they are bringing to confront the greatest barriers to gender equality – will ensure faster progress for the world’s women and girls than we have seen before”, said the head of UN Women.
Many organizations have made strong policy and program commitments, including 440 civil society organizations and 94 youth-led organizations.
Hosting the event, the French Ambassador and Secretary-General of the Forum, Delphine O, said the it had “reversed the priorities on the international agenda and made gender equality, for too long underestimated, a long-term issue for the international community, along with climate, education and health. France will continue to be at the forefront to accelerate gender equality progress”.
African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, said: “This week, I relived the experience of 1995, when I was a young women's rights activist at the Beijing Conference…Now it’s time to invest in girls and young women even more – for resources to reach rural and marginalized communities, for technology for public good and available to all, and for Member States’ greater accountability to human rights of women and girls”.
Taking the lead Over the past three days, the Forum engaged nearly 50,000 people in a mainly virtual format to rapidly advance of gender justice.
It launched a Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality designed by six Action Coalitions, partnerships that have identified the most critical actions required to achieve gender equality, ranging from gender-based violence and technology to economic and climate justice.
The Forum also launched a Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, and announced new gender equality initiatives focused on health, sports, culture, and education.
UN Women will maintain a critical role driving the Forum’s 5-year action plan, overseeing the implementation of commitments to ensure accountability and progress.
#Manitoba; #GenderIssues; #SexualOrientation; #GayPoliceOfficer
Manitoba, Nov 21 (Canadian-Media): Van Norman, the eldest of four brothers from Manitoba, was one of the many public service employees who lost their jobs due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, media reports said.
Elenore Sturko, Image credit: Facebook official
After she learnt from Norman's journal that he had received the Queen's Coronation Medal for his work on on the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW line), she wanted to change the way her uncle's life is remembered.
She also learnt that he had worked as an agent of the government at a time that deeply impacted the Inuit, and that he was also a protector of the people he was serving
After receiving a $17,000 grant from the LGBT Purge Fund., Sturko got Van's journal translated through Qikiqtani Inuit Association so that her uncle's words will appear in Inuktitut next to the English text and plans to give free copies to people in the communities where Van Norman was stationed.
"It's not a perfect world by any means. Looking at what happened to my uncle and then seeing where I am today is really, really meaningful," she said.
Sturko plans to travel to Iqaluit next spring where a plaque will be dedicated to Sgt. R.A. Van Norman.
#ILO; #GenderEqulity; #Covid19; #Employment; #UNWomen
International Labour Organization, A (ILO) Aug 23 (Canadian-Media): The pandemic is disproportionately affecting women workers. Governments should prioritize policies that offset the effects the COVID-19 crisis is having on their jobs, ILO reports said.
ILO. Image credit: Twitter Handle
"I am a feminist economist. My job is to examine how the inequalities between women and men are part and parcel of the functioning of labour markets, and to assist our constituents in implementing what we call “gender-responsive” employment policies – i.e., macroeconomic, sectoral and labour market policies that explicitly contribute to gender equality." said Valeria Esquivel, ILO Senior Employment Policies and Gender Officer.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis large numbers of women were excluded from the labour market. The pandemic has made things much worse.
It is disproportionately affecting women workers who are losing their jobs at a greater speed than men. More women than men work in sectors that have been hard hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic, such as tourism, hospitality and the garment sector. Large numbers of domestic workers, most of whom are women, are also at risk of losing their jobs. The vast majority of health workers are women, which raises the risk of them catching the virus.
Moreover, the fragility of their employment situation, coupled with reduced access to labour and social protection have meant that women have found they are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, even in sectors which, until now, have experienced less disruption.
One of the ideas at the core of feminist economics is that the unpaid care work that takes place in households and families to support everyday life is a vital part of the economic system. This type of work is primarily carried out by women and most of the time is not recognized as such. School closures and caring for those who become sick, has forced women lucky enough to remain in employment to cut down on paid working hours or to extend total working hours (paid and unpaid) to unsustainable levels.
Here are five ways to ensure that women’s job prospects are not damaged long-term by the COVID-19 crisis:
#IndiaSupremeCourt, #HinduSuccessionAmendmentAct, #InheritProperty, #Daughters,
New Delhi (India), Aug 12 (Canadian Media): India's the Supreme Court, in a major judgement, Tuesday ruled daughters of a joint Hindu family have equal rights to inherit paternal properties even if the coparcener died before the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, came into effect, media reports said.
India Supreme Court. Image credit: Twitter handle
A coparcener is a person who acquires a right in the ancestral property by birth as well as a person who has a right to demand partition in the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) property.
The verdict was passed by a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra while hearing a batch of pleas questioning whether the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, had a retrospective effect.
Equal rights to daughters were given in inheriting the ancestral properties in the concerned Act.
"Daughters must be given equal rights as sons, Daughter remains a loving daughter throughout life. The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether her father is alive or not," Justice Mishra said as quoted by Livelaw.
The amendment to the Act is applicable, said the top court bench, to the living daughters of living coparceners as of Sept 9, 2005, Times Now reported.
#UN; #GenderIssues; #WomenJournalists; #Covid19; #HumanRights
New York, Jul 9 (Canadian-Media): Women journalists face particular dangers while going about their work, an independent UN expert told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, saying that Governments should do more to protect them.
Radio Miraya host, Irene Lasu, works out of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). (file). Image credit: UNMISS/Isaac Billy
In an appeal to Member States, Dubravka Simonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said that action was needed now, to combat an “emerging fundamentalist discourse” and a “global backlash against women’s rights”.
She also called on Governments to keep women journalists safe by “fully implementing human rights instruments that are specifically aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and gender-based violence”.
Highlighting additional threats of violence against women during the COVID-19 crisis, the UN-appointed expert also urged all countries to support a UN-led strategy to combat and prevent such gender-based abuse.
“Women have a right to be safe in their own homes,” she said. “Any measures to combat the pandemic must respect human rights and take into account the needs of women in line with the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for ‘Peace at home’”, she said.
While rights’ movements, such as #MeToo and #NiUnaMenos, have highlighted sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence as well as offered a platform for women journalists to speak up against abuse, many are still reluctant to do so, according to the Special Rapporteur.
She highlighted that since 1992, 96 women journalists have been killed while doing their jobs, and although more male journalists have died, female reporters are subject in particular to gender-based violence.
This includes “sexual assault and rape, and particularly the threat of rape…to undermine their credibility and discourage them from working”, Ms. Simonovic explained.
Moreover, digital spaces are double-edged swords for women, expanding harassment to cyberspace.
Although they are transforming and reshaping society, they also enable new forms of online violence.
“Women journalists have become increasingly targeted as visible and outspoken representatives of women’s rights”, said Ms. Šimonović.
“Journalists face even higher levels of discrimination if they are not only women, but also indigenous, from a minority, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex.”
She cited a 2019 study across dozens of newsrooms in five countries that indicated that women and minority journalists were not only more often targeted online, but that the attacks they experienced were particularly malicious and often highly sexualized.
Condemning “alarming increases” in gender-based violence against women, Ms. Simonovic also pointed to a survey by The Guardian Media Group in the UK that published millions of comments on its website, in which eight of the 10 most abused writers were women.
Much work ahead
Women journalists have become increasingly targeted as visible and outspoken representatives of women’s right -- UN expert
Despite some progress, the UN independent envoy maintained that “much remains to be done”, to stem the “alarming increases in gender-based violence against women around the world, including women journalists, during the Covid-19 pandemic”.
She renewed her call to all countries to “support the elaboration of a UN system-wide coordinated approach or strategy to combat and prevent violence against women and a global implementation plan on violence against women”.
Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
#ILO; #UNWomen; #EuropeanUnion; G7Nations; #genderEquality; #Covid19Pandemic
Geneva, May 18 (Canadian-Media): The International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Women and the European Union have called on G7 nations to put in place measures to promote gender equality amid the COVID-19 crisis .
ILO. Image credit: Twitter Handle
At a virtual high-level meeting on COVID-19, bringing together government ministers, CEOs, business associations, trade unions, civil society, global women’s movements and academia from G7 countries, participants agreed that women’s economic empowerment should be part of the crisis response.
The pandemic has deepened pre-existing inequalities and exposed cracks in social, political and economic systems including access to health services and social protection. Women with care responsibilities, informal workers, low-income families, and youth are under particular pressure. Since the crisis began, there has been a significant rise in domestic violence.
They called on G7 nations to:
Ryder called for a ‘human-centred’ COVID-19 response and recovery that tackle these injustices and build a ‘better normal ’.
UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the pandemic “has caused a crisis reaching far beyond health, challenging fundamental aspects of the ways in which we have previously arranged our social and economic structures. Women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, and are more likely to be employed in the informal economy, with less access to social protections. I call on leaders at the virtual G7 Summit to explicitly recognize this and ensure that their COVID-19 response intentionally, strongly and permanently redresses these long-standing inequalities in order to create inclusive, equal, and more resilient societies.”
Hilde Hardeman, Head of the European Commission's Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), said: “We can say that the COVID-19 crisis is gender biased looking at its impact on women-owned businesses, on the burden women are facing during the crisis, at the increase of gender based violence, but the COVID crisis is also an opportunity to rebuild back better. Our efforts should now concentrate on putting women at the centre of the recovery.”
#India'sSupremeCourt; #WomenRights; #GenderIssues; #IndianArmy
New Delhi (India), Feb 17 (Canadian-Media): Favor of equal rights in the armed forces was ruled by India's Supreme Court on Monday and ordered the Indian government to make women officers to be granted permanent commission and command positions on par with men, media reports said.
India's Supreme Court. Image credit: Facebook Page
The judgment implies all women to be eligible for the same promotions, ranks, benefits and pensions as their male counterparts, irrespective of their years of service or whether they had retired.
"This change will lift up women -- not just in the army but all girls across the country and the world," said Lt. Col. Seema Singh to reporters after the court ruling.
Although the court's ruling does not permit women to serve in army combat units, like the infantry or artillery corps, they are now eligible to command entire battalions or head the intelligence department.
It was agreed by the Indian government last year that permanent commissions would only be given to female officers who had served less than 14 years, which excluded hundreds of women who had already served out their short service commissions.
Aishwary Bhati, one of the lawyers representing female officers, said the government's decision denied women a route to leadership positions: "It is not about money, it is about career prospects."
A powerful defense of equality was delivered by the Supreme Court in its verdict on Monday, saying in the judgment that it was time for change in India's armed forces.
"The time has come for a realization that women officers in the army are not adjuncts to a male dominated establishment whose presence must be 'tolerated' within narrow confines," the court said.
#GenderEquality; #GenderEqualityIndex; 2020BloombergGenderEqualityIndex;
Pittsburgh (United States), Jan. 27: It was announced by the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC), an American bank holding company and financial services corporation based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that it has been named to the 2020 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI) for the 4th consecutive appearance on the list, media reports said.
Bloomberg Gender Equality Index. Image credit: bloomberg.com
Bloomberg, the global business and financial information and news leader and delivers data, news and analytics through innovative technology, quickly and accurately. Bloomberg allows customers to efficiently and effectively access, integrate, distribute and manage data and information across organizations.
Companies recognized by GEI are committed to transparency in gender reporting and advancing women’s equality. The five pillars across which reference index is measured are: female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, inclusive culture, policies relating to sexual harassment, and pro-women brand.
Inclusion of 325 Public Companies globally has expanded Bloomberg’s 2020 GEI.
#Terf; #TransExclusionaryRadicalFeminist; #GenderRecognitionAct
United Kingdom, Dec 19 (Canadian-Media): JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter, had been accused of being a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) after defending a researcher Marya Forstater who was forced out of her jobs for stating that sex is real, offending many fans of Rowling, media reports said.
J K Rowling. Image credit: Facebook page
Many followers and Harry Potter fans criticised the tweet and branded Rowling a ‘TERF’ for her defence of Marya Forstater, who lost a test case after she didn’t have her contract renewed at the Centre for Global Development (CGD).
Forstater had been accused of using offensive and exclusionary language in a number of tweets relating to proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow self-identification.
A former fan, who is trans, wrote: ‘I grew up as a trans child reading your books as an escape. I would often pick out names from characters to give to myself, before I ever felt comfortable in who I was. This decision, to support people that hate me, and want to do me harm. It brings me to tears… Why. Why?’
However, many ‘thank you’ messages were sent to the to the author, with one reply reading: ‘Thank you so much for speaking the truth on behalf of women #adulthumanfemale.’