‘Real change’ involving women in peace and security, still too slow, Guterres tells Security Council
#UN, #UNSecurityCouncil, #Women
New York, Oct 30 (Canadian-Media): The Women Peace and Security agenda must continue to be “one of the top priorities of the United Nations”, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council on Tuesday, in an open debate on how best to accelerate change.
Malawian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) greet children while on patrol in August 2012. Credit: ONUCI/Patricia Esteve
He spoke of “the sad fact” that the commitment “reflected around this table is not translating into real change around the world”, lamenting, “it is not coming fast enough or far enough”.
“Change is coming at a pace that is too slow for the women and girls whose lives depend on it, and for the effectiveness of our efforts to maintain international peace and security”, the UN chief said.
Mr. Guterres informed the Security Council that nearly two decades since resolution 1325 acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, “women still face exclusion from peace and political processes”.
“A pitifully small 0.2 per cent of bilateral aid to fragile and conflict-affected situations goes to women’s organizations”, bemoaned the UN chief, noting the rise of attacks against women human rights defenders, humanitarians and peacebuilders and the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war.
Misogyny, a ‘strategic objective’
A growing number of armed groups use gender inequality as a strategic objective, with “misogyny part of their core ideology”, according to Mr. Guterres. “And, of course, we know that women and girls continue to pay the consequences of conflict in general”.
Turning his attention to northeast Syria, he pointed to thousands of women and children fleeing the latest violence, and vowed not to give up, calling it “an absolute priority” for him.
Mr. Guterres elaborated on UN actions to include women in processes, such as the UN-established Women’s Technical Advisory Group in Yemen, to ensure their perspectives.
UN departments are implementing a new, stronger policy on women, peace and security, he noted, while special political missions and envoys have been instructed to report regularly on their efforts to promote women’s “direct participation” throughout all stages of peace processes.
Moreover, peacekeeping operations are working to end sexual exploitation and abuse and increase women’s participation.
“Incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse have been reduced by half, and we are finally moving the needle on the percentage of women in the military and the police component of our operations”, flagged the UN chief.
Noting that he was pursuing “emergency measures to achieve gender balance”, Mr. Guterres pointed out that he has appointment many women as heads and deputy heads of missions and reminded the Chamber that – endorsed by more than 150 countries – “women, peace and security is one of the eight priority pillars of our Action for Peacekeeping”.
As such, he has requested peacekeeping and special political missions to improve their monitoring and reporting on threats and violence against activists, and for this to be built into early warning signs of escalating conflict or instability.
Mr. Guterres closed his statement by recognizing both the progress made and how much more remains to be done.
“When we fall short, women and girls and all members of society pay the consequences”, he said, noting the “enormous” cost of not acting on behalf of women’s rights.
‘Stark contrast’ between words and deeds
UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka presented the Secretary-General’s latest WPS report in the Council, noting the “stark contrast” between offers of support and reality.
“We still live in a world that tolerates and excuses women’s continued exclusion from peace and political process and institutions”, she stated, pointing out that after conflict, men dominate large-scale reconstruction while economic recovery for women is overwhelmingly limited to small-scale activities like micro-enterprises.
“Feminist organization’s repeated calls for disarmament, arms control and shifting military spending to social investment go unanswered”, censured Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.
In remarking that several recent peace talks had largely excluded or sidelined women, she stated: “We can do better than this”.
“We need your political will to demand women’s direct and meaningful participation in peace talks”, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed, observing that fewer than eight per cent of agreements reached, contained gender-related provisions –down from 39 per cent in 2015.
She cited a recent analysis on Colombia’s 2016 peace accord that showed around half of the 130 gender-related provisions in the agreement have not been initiated.
A new resolution
Before the meeting adjourned, the Council adopted resolution 2493, which, among other things, requested further information on the progress and setbacks in the WPS agenda as well as recommendations to address new and emerging challenges.
It called for the appointment of gender and/or women protection advisers to facilitate women's “full and effective participation and protection” in election preparation processes, disarmament, judicial reforms and wider post-conflict reconstruction processes.
The resolution also requested the Secretary-General to develop “context-specific approaches” for women's “full, equal and meaningful participation” in all UN-supported peace talks to ensure their inclusive involvement.
#LatinAmerica; #UN; #FemaleLabourForceParticipation; #GenderGap
New York, Oct 29 (Canadian-Media): More women are entering the workforce across Latin America, with an increase in 11 per cent in the last 30 years, putting the region ahead of the curve when it comes to growth in female labour force participation, according to new data published by the United Nations on Monday.
A woman attends her produce post in a market in zone 3, Guatemala City, Guatemala. (August 2009). Photo Credit: World Bank/Maria Fleischmann
The research gathered jointly by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), spotlights the array of factors influencing women’s labour participation in the region, while highlighting the social and economic benefits of women in the workforce.
Women’s access to paid opportunities, and the narrowing of gender gaps are “crucial for growth, equality and poverty reduction in the region,” the authors highlight in the new study.
Despite a closing disparity between the number of working men versus women, the new figures demonstrate that the gap between women’s labour participation versus that of men still amounts to more than 25 per cent on average. Further, a deeper dive into pay scale shows that for each hour worked, women’s earnings are on average 17 per cent below those of men, of the same age and education and economic status.
Large differences also exist among countries in the region when it comes to pace of growth, and the levels of female participation achieved, with figures lagging significantly in developing countries.
In 2018 overall, over half of all women (aged 15 or over) in 18 countries in the region were working, with Peru taking the lead at 68.7 per cent, followed by Bolivia with 63 per cent, and among the lowest, Costa Rica at 45.1 per cent, and 43. 5 per cent in Mexico.
One of the main factors underpinning a growing working women population is higher education-the study demonstrates a positive correlation between number of school years completed, with rates of labour participation. In Peru, for example, 90 per cent of women with advanced education (which in this case refers to schooling beyond high-school level), were working, and 80 per cent in Venezuela, with similar correlations in neighboring countries.
The gaps can be attributed to an array of circumstances; from national economic status, to social and cultural expectations, the authors note, and it is “crucial” to take into account that the decision to work, in turn, has an impact on other facets of life.
Greater work opportunities do not necessarily imply greater participation or, better quality of life, the study indicates. The amount of unpaid work to be done within the household, along with working for economic earnings, can double a women’s workload if unpaid duties are not balanced.
Broadening women’s participation in the labour market, therefore, “necessitates major changes in society.”
Technology, equal access to education, declining fertility rates, and greater levels of average income have levied the time needed to carry out domestic tasks, which have collectively contributed to greater numbers of working women in the region, Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, and Juan Felipe Hunt, the ILO’s acting Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean stated in the document's foreward.
“Progress has also been achieved in terms of political rights and social norms. However, some areas that could limit the growth of labor participation are still lagging, “ she said, “these include gender gaps regarding expected educational achievement and cultural aspects that promote women’s reproductive and caregiving role.”
Greater participation of women in the workforce pursues gender equity goals, as established in the UN’s Sustainable Development target (SDG 5), which highlightlights that gender equality is not only a human right, but a prerequisite to achieving a peaceful and sustainable world, the report highlights.
New York, Oct 26 (Canadian-Media): Around two-thirds of sexually active women surveyed in a new UN study indicated that although they wished to avoid or postpone having children, they had stopped relying on contraception out of concern for how it was affecting their health. As a result, around a quarter of all pregnancies are unplanned.
© UNICEF In Ambon, Indonesia, a pregnant woman has a check-up at a local health centre.
That’s according to World Health Organization (WHO) findings published on Friday. The family planning study of more than 10,000 women aged 15 to 49, across 36 low and middle-income countries confirms that 65 per cent of women with an unintended pregnancy were either not using contraception, or relied on traditional methods (such as withdrawal or calendar-based methods).
More than half of all women who become unintentionally pregnant in WHO’s study, had not used a contraceptive in the five years prior to conceiving; nearly 10 per cent reported the last method they had used was traditional; just over three per cent indicated they used short-acting modern contraceptives (pills and condoms) and under three per cent relied on long-acting prevention (intrauterine device and implants).
Report authors make clear that unintended pregnancy does not necessarily equate to unwanted pregnancies, but without proper planning, they may lead to a range of health risks and complications for the expecting child and mother, from malnutrition, illness, neglect and even death.
Issues and concerns regarding birth control could be addressed through effective family planning, counseling, and support, the health agency explains.
The “important public health issue” of unplanned pregnancies, WHO says, is at such a scale that 74 milllion women in low and middle-income countries have unintended pregnancies each year, leading to some 25 million unsafe abortions, and 47,000 maternal deaths annually.
Moreover, around the world, complicated pregnancies and childbirth are the leading killer of adolescent girls, aged 15 to 19, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), yet these young women and girls face enormous barriers when it comes to accessing essential reproductive health information and services.
The study findings spotlight a gap in health system support, it’s authors note, calling for a need to scale up availability of suitable contraceptive options, reduce switching failure, and identify early when women are having concerns about the method they are using.
For example in a parallel study by the WHO in the Philippines, only three per cent of women wanting to delay or limit childbearing received contraceptive counseling during their last health visit. It is estimated there are nearly 2 million unplanned pregnancies each year in the country alone, resulting in some 600,000 unsafe abortions.
A key component of overcoming legal, policy, social, and cultural challenges to enable people to benefit from effective contraceptive services will be to first identify the women who are living with concerns, and follow up with high-quality counseling of skilled professionals to ensure the women receive effective support, WHO recommends.
New York, Jul 19 (Canadian-Media): Because the “earliest years” of life are the most crucial, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a list of new family-friendly policy recommendations on Friday it says will likely reap “huge” benefits.
Grandmother of two, Roopa Devi Lohar, working. Credit:L © UNICEF/UN0322054/Kolari
“There is no other time more critical to children’s lives than their earliest years”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, “which is why we need a transformative shift in how businesses and governments invest in policies and practices that not only support healthy brain development, but also strengthen the bond between parents and their children – and reap huge economic and social benefits in return.”
And yet, policies, such as paid parental leave, breastfeeding breaks and affordable childcare are not available for most parents around the world. Family-Friendly Policies: Redesigning the Workplace of the Future, outlines the latest evidence and new recommendations that lay the foundation for healthy development, success and poverty reduction.
Paid parental leave
According to UNICEF, a one-month increase in paid maternity leave in low-and-middle income countries has been found to reduce infant mortality rates by 13 per cent. In high-income countries, each additional week of paid parental leave is associated with more than a four per cent lower chance of single mothers living in poverty. Paid parental leave of six months also helps promote exclusive breastfeeding, according to the agency.
Moreover, it also contributes to lower staff turnover rates, lower recruitment and training costs, and retention of experienced employees. For countries that have had these policies in place for the past several decades, increases in female employment have boosted GDP per capita growth by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent.
UNICEF recommends at least six months of paid leave for all parents combined, with 18 weeks reserved specifically for mothers.
Regular breaks during working hours to breastfeed, or to express breastmilk in a supportive environment, contributes to lower rates of acute infant and chronic child illness as well as improved cognitive and educational outcomes, UNICEF says.
The benefits for mothers include lower rates of postnatal depression, improved physical health and a reduction in the lifetime risk of breast cancer. Optimal breastfeeding practices produce societal benefits in what UNICEF estimated to be a $35 to $1 return on investment.
And yet, the latest available data shows only 40 per cent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, as recommended.
Because the workplace represents a substantial barrier to breastfeeding, with around 16 per cent of workplaces without any statutory requirements to support it, breastfeeding is another priority recommendation of the new policy manifesto.
“The gains of family-friendly policies far outweigh the cost of implementation: improved health outcomes, reductions in poverty, increased business productivity, and economic growth,” Ms. Fore asserted.
Universal access to affordable, quality childcare from the end of parental leave until a child’s entry into the first grade of school is the brief’s third recommendation.
Children who receive quality and nurturing early childcare are healthier, learn better and stay in school longer, and have higher earnings as adults. Childcare provisions enable parents to meet their work obligations and be parents at home.
Expanded coverage of cash benefits should be part of all countries’ social protection system for young children.
A recent analysis indicated that only one-in-three households globally receive child or family cash benefit that varied from 88 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, to 28 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and 16 per cent in Africa.
In translation, the majority of children in the poorest countries do not yet receive cash benefits to support their development.
“Investing in our families is smart social policy, but it’s smart economic policy as well”, concluded the UNICEF chief.
25 years after population conference, women still face challenges to ‘well-being and human rights’, says UN chief
New York, July 17 (Canadian-Media/UN): Many women and girls “still face enormous challenges to their health, well-being and human rights”, Secretary-General António Guterres told a High-level General Assembly meeting on Tuesday conevened to mark the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), a milestone in reproductive health and rights, UN reports said.
A mid-wife at the Sar-e-Hause medical health clinic in Tajikhan Village, Afghanistan, speaks with a mother and her 5-month-old baby. (10 May 2012). Credit: World Bank/Graham Crouch
“Violence against women and girls affects one-in-three women worldwide”, the UN chief stated, adding that that number is “even higher” in parts of the world and during conflict and emergencies.
While the progress that has been achieved in women’s rights over the past 25 years has contributed to reducing poverty and hunger and improving education and health, globally, some 650 million women were married as children, and every day, more than 500 women and girls die during pregnancy and childbirth.
“We are seeing a global pushback on women’s rights, including reproductive rights and vital health services”, he informed the participants.
The conference, held in Cairo, “rightly emphasized” that promoting the rights of women and girls is “key to ensuring the well-being of individuals, families and nations”, he said. “It recognized gender equality as a pre-requisite to inclusive, sustainable development and affirmed sexual and reproductive health as a fundamental human right”.
The Cairo Programme of Action, the Conference's landmark outcome document, recognizes that women’s rights and access to sexual and reproductive health are an essential response to demographic trends that could undermine sustainable, equitable and inclusive development for all.
Young women and men are central to implementing the Cairo Programme, not only as beneficiaries, “but powerful agents of change, able to make their own choices and demand the action needed to address today’s challenges”, Mr. Guterres argued.
“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, which has had a major role in implementing the Cairo Programme of Action”, the Secretary-General noted. “Through its leadership and operational work, UNFPA has been instrumental in empowering young people and enabling women and couples to access the sexual and reproductive health care they need; in preventing gender-based violence; and in tackling female genital mutilation and early marriage”.
He told the participants that in November, Kenya and Denmark, together with UNFPA, will convene a summit in Nairobi to mark the 25th anniversary of the Cairo Conference, encouraging Member States “to participate and to make firm political and financial commitments to realize the Programme of Action.
Holistic, coherent programmeMr. Guterres stated that many of the policies set out in the Cairo action plan – from tackling inequality and environmental degradation, to promoting gender equality and access to sexual and reproductive health – “remain fundamental to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed two decades later”, calling it “a testament” to its “enduring legacy”.
He recalled that the Conference shifted thinking around population from specific demographic targets towards a greater emphasis on the rights, equality, dignity and well-being of individuals’ lives.
“One of its most important achievements was in making the link between population, human rights, sustained economic growth and sustainable development, and addressing these issues in a holistic and coherent way”, maintained the UN chief.
While the Secretary-General heralded population growth as a sign of “human achievement”, because it meant people were living longer, healthier lives, he acknowledged that it had also contributed to “an increase in global production and consumption” – underpinning the need to adjust production and consumption habits to avert serious consequences for lives and livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable.
“Completing the unfinished business of the Cairo Conference will put us on course to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to ensure lives of peace, prosperity and dignity for all”, concluded the UN chief.
#EndingAbortionbaninIreland, #LeoVaradkar; #TogetherForYescampaigner; #amassivemomentinIreland’ssocialhistory; #MaryHiggins; #SaveThe8th
Ireland, May 26 (Canadian-Media): Ending abortion ban in Ireland, one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries, as a quiet revolution is a big transformation for the country, media reports said.
According to two exit polls released on Friday evening voters had supported this change by more than two-to-one.
An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI exit poll suggested that voters backed change by 68 percent to 32 percent and indicated majorities in all age groups under 65 voted for change, including almost nine in every 10 voters under the age of 24.
The vote to repeal the ban was far higher than any opinion poll in the run up to the vote.
Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar said that he plans to bring in legislation by the end of the year.
“It’s incredible. For all the years and years and years we’ve been trying to look after women and not been able to look after women, this means everything,” said Mary Higgins, obstetrician and Together For Yes campaigner.
After official results began to be announced on Saturday, politicians on both sides agreed that the referendum had passed by a large margin.
Final results were due later on Saturday which appeared to be positive.
If confirmed, the result will be the latest milestone on a path of change for Ireland.
Other milestones were: legalisation of divorce by a thin majority in 1995; became the first in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote three years back;
The country’s largest newspaper, the Irish Independent described the result as “a massive moment in Ireland’s social history”.
But some voters who said 'No' objected to this new ban saying that it is against protecting the unborn child.
“What Irish voters did yesterday is a tragedy of historic proportions,” Save The 8th said. “However, a wrong does not become a right simply because a majority support it.”
Save The 8th were reportedly in favour of protecting both the mother and the unborn child.
Reform in Ireland also raised the prospect that women in Northern Ireland, where abortion is still illegal, may start travelling south of the border.