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Geneva, Apr 6 (Canadian-Media): The United Nations is advocating immediate global action to end all forms of violence against women and girls in the midst of a global upsurge related to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, UN reports said.
The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed (center left) joins a march in support of International Women's Day in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea in March 2020.
Image credit: United Nations
Reports from countries in every region suggest that restrictions in movement, social isolation, coupled with increased social and economic pressures are leading to an increase in violence in the home.
UN News spoke to the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed about the issue, what is being done, and what governments, the UN, and others can do to prevent and address this abuse.
How serious is violence against women and girls right now?Before this pandemic broke out, statistics showed that one in three women will experience violence in their lives. In Papua New Guinea, where I commemorated International Women’s Day last month, the rate is even higher, at two in three.
My concern today is for all women across the world who are suffering even more now due to the extra economic and social stresses caused by a radical shift away from normal life. This stress is leading to an increased danger of violence. It’s clear that when women and girls are ‘locked down’ in their homes with abusive partners, they are at much greater risk than ever before.
This upsurge in violence is not limited to one country or one region. Media reports are documenting an increase in violence across the globe - from Argentina, to China, Germany, Turkey, Honduras, South Africa the United Kingdom and the United States to name just a few.
In Malaysia calls have doubled and in France they are up 32 per cent. In Lebanon calls to the helpline were double in March of this year as they were in the same month last year.
When women and girls are ‘locked down’ in their homes with abusive partners, they are at much greater risk than ever before. Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General
And the worry is that these figures only reflect reporting. Domestic violence is typically grossly under-reported. In the case of restricted movement and limited privacy, women are finding it difficult to phone for help. So, the likelihood is that even these figures represent only a fraction of the problem. They are also reflective of countries that have reporting systems in place. The availability of data is not the same everywhere, particularly in developing countries.
How complex is the situation?
We are seeing not just a huge increase in the number of women and girls being abused but also a greater complexity to the violence being perpetrated. Women who are suspected, however erroneously, of exposure to the coronavirus, are faced with being thrown out onto the street in the midst of lockdown. Abusers are taking advantage of isolation measures knowing that women are unable to call for help or escape.
All of this is happening against a backdrop of health and social services that are overwhelmed, under-resourced, and have shifted to manage the implications of the virus.
Civil society organizations which may have previously helped victims of violence are unable to operate. And the domestic violence shelters that have been able to remain open are often full; shelter managers are not equipped and scared to take in new victims because of the virus.
What is being done?
All actors have a responsibility to act, from individuals to governments, from the UN to business and civil society. Addressing gender-based violence must be at the center of all domestic plans on COVID-19 response.
There are innovative actions being taken that should be both commended and replicated. In Argentina, for example, pharmacies have been declared safe spaces for victims of abuse to report. Similarly, in France, where grocery stores are housing pop-up-services and 20,000 hotel room nights have been made available to those women who cannot go home.
The Spanish government has told women that they are exempt from the lockdown if they need to leave the home because of abuse and both Canada and Australia have integrated funding for violence against women as part of their national plans to counter the damaging fall-out from COVID-19.
What other actions should be taken?
National governments in all countries should dedicate funding in national COVID-19 response plans for domestic violence shelters, increased support to call-in lines, including text services so reports of abuse can take place discreetly, online legal support and psychosocial services for women and girls. These are services which are run, in many cases, by civil society organizations, which now also need financial support. Shelters should be designated as essential services and kept open, which may mean providing childcare to staff so they can work. It’s crucial that these services are accessible, so they should be integrated into other essential service spaces, like grocery stores and pharmacies.
What is the United Nations doing? Where the UN is providing humanitarian support, which includes some of the poorest and most unstable parts of the world, it is prioritizing protection services for women. It is advocating with governments for the measures mentioned above to be integrated into all national response plans. Lastly, the UN is building on the Spotlight Initiative, a large-scale partnership with the European Union to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
Through the Spotlight Initiative, UN Country Teams, hand in hand with relevant partners, are shifting programming to the current context: moving services and campaigns online, scaling up support to civil society organizations on the front line of response, ensuring that domestic violence shelters can stay open, and developing online and text based peer support and chat programmes. The Initiative is also aiming to increase core support to women’s organizations providing services and who are at risk with the shift in funding priorities.
In this unprecedented and unpredictable global crisis, the United Nations remains committed to protecting and supporting women, wherever they are in the world.
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New York, Mar 27 (Canadian-Media): The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is pledging support for those suffering from invisible impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including women and girls whose access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health care may be disrupted, UN reports said.
People living in Lagos State in Nigeria, simulate sneezing into their elbows during a coronavirus prevention campaign.Image credit: © UNICEF/Ojo
In a statement on Friday, Executive Director of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, Natalia Kanem, said the Fund’s work is ramping up even as the novel coronavirus continues to test health care systems around the world.
She warned that women, girls and health workers must not be overlooked as the world responds to the greatest health crisis in a century.
Women and girls most vulnerable
As in most crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to critical sexual and reproductive health services and hampered authorities’ ability to respond to gender-based violence, at a time when women and girls need these services most.
UNFPA is helping governments prioritize the special needs of women and girls – often the most vulnerable in times of crises – in line with the Fund’s goals of ending unmet need for family planning, preventable maternal deaths, gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030.
In his appeal for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this week, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that women and children are among the most vulnerable in times of war and face the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from the pandemic.
UNFPA has appealed to donors to fund its response plan, which targets countries with weak public health systems including countries in fragile and humanitarian situations. It is provisionally projecting that it will need $187.5 million.
Efforts will focus on bolstering health systems, procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers, ensuring access to reproductive health and gender-based violence services, and promoting risk communication and community engagement.
Invisible impacts of COVID-19
As communities around the globe grapple with the most immediate effects of the pandemic, overwhelmed healthcare systems and populations in quarantine can also suffer a ripple of additional impacts.
“Now is a time for solidarity, resolve and selflessness. We must not forget that there are people we may not immediately see, who are at great risk as a result of the consequences of the crisis,” said Dr. Kanem.
Those can include pregnant women who require antenatal care but are unsure whether it is safe to go to the clinic, as well as women in abusive relationships trapped at home for the foreseeable future and fearing for their safety.
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Dr. Kanem also pointed to tens of millions of people living in refugee camps – for whom “social distancing” practices are not an option – and older people around the globe who remain isolated and starved of social interaction as they avoid infection.
Meeting ‘intimate, yet essential’ needs UNFPA is working to support affected health systems, in particular by distributing material support to protect health workers and midwives.
In China, Iran and the Philippines, it has distributed essential hygiene and other items to the most vulnerable and personal protective equipment to health workers. In the Republic of Moldova, it has launched an online dashboard which disaggregates the country’s current caseload by location, sex, age and pregnancy status.
However, Dr. Kanem stressed that more work is needed to ensure that the most intimate – yet essential – needs of women and girls are met as the world continues to battle COVID-19 in the months ahead.
“This global scourge requires a global response,” she said, urging the international community to stand up for the dignity and health of women as part of its efforts.
For more information on UNFPA’s response to COVID-19, please visit www.UNFPA.org.
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New York, Mar 09 (Canadian-Media): Despite constraints imposed by the new coronavirus disease, activists for gender equality gathered at UN Headquarters on Monday for the latest session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), to reinforce the message that women’s rights are human rights, UN news reports said.
Women parliamentarians of the Afghan Lower House (Wolesi Jirga or “House of the People”) arrive at their inauguration ceremony in Kabul (2001).
Image credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
Member States adopted a Political Declaration in which they pledged to step up action to fully implement the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on gender equality, agreed 25 years ago.
In his opening address, UN Secretary-General António Guterres underlined that gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls remain an “overwhelming global injustice”.
He said the vision of the Beijing Declaration has only been partly realized as progress has stalled, or even gone into reverse, in some areas.
‘Push back against the pushback’
“Some countries have rolled back laws that protect women from violence; others are reducing civic space; still others are pursuing economic and immigration policies that indirectly discriminate against women”, the UN chief stated.
“Women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services is far from universal.
We must push back against the pushback”.
This pushback is occurring even though change has been slow in coming for most of the world’s women and girls. As the UN General Assembly President pointed out, no country on the planet has actually achieved gender equality.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande called for accelerated progress at all levels, particularly as countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“Make no mistake: it is critical that we mainstream gender equality across all of our work if we are to achieve any of the SDGs,” he said. “We simply cannot exclude 50% of the population. It is everyone’s responsibility to uphold our pledge to leave no one behind”
A new generation
The Secretary-General observed that one of the legacies of the Beijing process has been movement-building, amplifying the call from diverse groups of women across the world for systemic change.
A new generation of young activists are also taking the Beijing spirit forward.
Aasha Shaik, 17, addressed the Commission on behalf of young women in Afghanistan, where a peace process is unfolding.
“Afghan women, young women and girls must meaningfully participate in the peace process and political decision-making at all levels in order to ensure sustainable and inclusive peace and development”, said Ms. Shaik, who is a member of the UN Women Beijing+25 Youth Task Force.
“Today, most Afghan women men and youth fear peace with the Taliban may mean war on us, if we are marginalized from the peace process”.
CSW in the time of coronavirus While the CSW normally meets for two weeks in March, its 64th session was compressed to just one day amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
“I know that activists and women’s groups around the world share my disappointment. But I also take heart because I know we remain committed to the cause of gender equality”, said the Secretary-General.
CSW provides an opportunity to further galvanize momentum for gender equality and women’s rights that has been growing worldwide, and he urged participants to reaffirm the Beijing promise and its full implementation.
“Let us send a clear message to the world that women’s rights are human rights, and that gender equality is central to all the Sustainable Development Goals”.
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New York, Feb 12 (Canadian-Media): Promoting education for adolescent girls is an “indispensable foundation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”, Secretary-General António Guterres declared at the launch event of the Drive for 5 education initiative at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, hosted by the Irish Mission to the United Nations, UN news release of Feb 11 reported.
Image credit: Twitter
Drive for 5 is a global call to action for all Governments to commit to five transformative actions: 12 years of free quality education; supportive school environments; teacher training; safe journeys to and from school; and keeping girls healthy in the classroom.
“Education is necessary for success and well-being in society”, the UN chief pointed out, “And it is essential for gender equality. A good education can boost a woman’s quality of life and open doors to decent work opportunities. “
Mr. Guterres added that education also give women and girls the life skills they need to adjust to an uncertain future, to stand up to discrimination and violence, and to make decisions about health care, including sexual and reproductive health.
Great strides made in last 25 years, but barriers still to overcome
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, which marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality. Since then, great strides have been made. More girls are in school than ever before, and more countries have reached gender parity in educational enrolment.
However, as the Secretary-General pointed out, there are still many barriers to overcome: “The rising rates of female education have not shifted deeply entrenched occupational segregation in both developed and developing countries; the global gender pay gap stands at an unrelenting 20 per cent; and, despite doing just as well as boys in the classroom, social and institutional barriers still discourage girls from taking up careers based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics”.
‘Overturn deeply rooted stereotypes’The event took place on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and the UN chief pledged to end the gender imbalance in science: according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are published less, paid less for their research and do not advance as far as men in their careers.
“These are the careers of the future, and we cannot achieve gender equality in our societies without women playing an equal role”, said Mr. Guterres, “addressing these issues means working to overturn deeply rooted stereotypes and social norms that see women and girls as less deserving of an education, or that limit which subjects they have access to”.
The Secretary-General ended his speech for a call for investment in building new skills, enabling young women to be equipped for the changing world of work, and in mobile learning so that education is accessible to women and girls wherever they are.
Also speaking at the event were rock star Bono, singer of U2 and co-founder of the ONE Campaign, a global movement to end extreme poverty and preventable disease; Mary Robinson, first woman President of Ireland, former UN High Commission for Human Rights, and Chair of the Elders group, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.
Drive for 5, a partnership between the Government of Ireland, the Global Partnership for Education, UN Women, One and Malala Fund, is a response to the continued exclusion of some 96.5 million adolescent girls from secondary education worldwide.
Among the reasons girls are being kept out of the classroom are high costs, domestic responsibilities, socio-cultural norms and expectations, early marriage and early pregnancy. Girls living with disabilities, from ethnic minorities or living in remote areas face additional constraints.
Geneva, Feb 5 (Canadian-Media): Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) poses serious risks to the health and well-being of women and girls, but it also exacts a crippling economic toll, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), UN news release reported today.
Khadija Mohammed is an FGM survivor from the Afar region of Ethiopia.
Image credit: UNFPA
New modelling by the UN agency to coincide with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, marked on Thursday, reveals that the cost of treating the total health impacts of FGM would amount to $1.4 billion globally per year.
The figure sees individual countries devoting nearly 10 per cent of their yearly expenditure to treat FGM; for some countries, it could be as high as 30 per cent.
“FGM is not only a catastrophic abuse of human rights that significantly harms the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women; it is also a drain on a country’s vital economic resources”, said Dr Ian Askew, Director of WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research.
“More investment is urgently needed to stop FGM and end the suffering it inflicts.”
More than 200 million affected
It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls today have undergone FGM, which involves altering or injuring female genital organs for cultural or non-medical reasons.
The procedure is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and 15-years-old, and the impacts on their health and well-being can be immediate—from infections, bleeding, or psychological trauma—to chronic health conditions that can occur throughout life.
Women subjected to FGM are also more likely to suffer life-threatening complications during childbirth, and to experience pain or problems when they menstruate, urinate or have sex.
Medicalized FGM on the rise
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) further reports that around a quarter of FGM survivors, or roughly 52 million women and girls, were cut by health care providers. The death of a 12-year-old girl in Egypt last month highlighted the dangers of medicalized FGM.
Although the Egyptian authorities banned FGM in 2008, it is still common there and in Sudan, according to UNICEF.
Agency analysis indicates that medicalized FGM is increasing due to the misguided belief that the dangers of FGM are medical, rather than a fundamental violation of a girl’s rights.
“Doctor-sanctioned mutilation is still mutilation. Trained health-care professionals who perform FGM violate girls’ fundamental rights, physical integrity and health,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“Medicalizing the practice does not make it safe, moral, or defensible.”
Abandoning FGM is possible
The trend toward medicalized FGM comes as opposition to the practice continues to grow.
Since 1997, global efforts have led to 26 countries in Africa and the Middle East enacting legislation against FGM, while 33 other countries with migrant populations from nations where it is practiced have also followed suit.
UNICEF also found that the proportion of girls and women in high-prevalence countries who want FGM stopped has doubled over the past two decades.
“We are making progress. Attitudes are changing. Behaviors are changing. And overall fewer girls are getting cut," said Ms. Fore, the agency's chief.
Dr. Christina Pallitto, a scientist at WHO, added that many countries and communities are showing that abandoning FGM is possible.
“If countries invest to end female genital mutilation, they can prevent their girls from undergoing this harmful practice and promote the health, rights and well-being of women and girls,” she stated.
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Ethopia, Feb 5 (Canadian-Media): “My flesh has been taken away, but I can never give away my heart”; those are the powerful words of resolve from Abida Dawud, one of three women survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM), from Ethiopia, who have been speaking to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) about their experiences, UN news release reports said today.
Abida Dawud, a survivor of female genital mutilation, walks in the Afar desert of northern Ethiopia. Image credit: Sara Elgamal for UNFPA
“My flesh has been taken away, but I can never give away my heart”; those are the powerful words of resolve from Abida Dawud, one of three women survivors of female genital mutilation, or FGM, from Ethiopia, who have been speaking to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) about their experiences.
The three women, all from the Afar Region of the Horn of Africa country, tell their stories in the hope that they can empower others in their communities to help bring an end to FGM.
The practice which involves injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons is internationally recognized as a violation of women’s human rights.
Globally, it’s estimated that some 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
Ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, marked annually on February 6, watch the three women explain why FGM should be eliminated once and for all.
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United Nations, Feb 4 (Canadian-Media): The expert leading UN efforts to stamp out sexual violence committed during wartime has welcomed the release of 78 women and 50 children by an armed group in South Sudan, UN news release reported today.
Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, addresses the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security, with a focus on sexual violence in conflict. (April 2019). Photo credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
They were among more than 500 women and children abducted between April and August 2018 by the pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO RM) and subjected to repeated rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage.
“This release is an encouraging and long-awaited development, in a context of prevailing insecurity and immense operational, logistical and resource constraints,” said Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Release followed months of negotiations South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been marred by years of conflict and instability following a political crisis which led to conflict between supporters of President Salvar Kiir and Mr. Machar, his former deputy, in December 2013.
The two leaders were expected to form a unity government last November, in line with a September 2018 peace deal, but the deadline was extended to this month.
Ms. Patten said the release of the abducted women and children followed months of negotiation between Mr. Machar and his local commanders and her Office, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and its Senior Women Protection Adviser.
“When I met with Dr. Machar last year, I expressed my grave concern about the plight of these women and children, many of whom were reportedly subjected to systematic and brutal forms of conflict-related sexual violence”, she said.
“As a result of our discussion, he issued a command order calling for the release of all women and children held against their will and their transfer to the United Nations and its civil society partners. This order was in line with the Unilateral Communiqué on the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, which was signed by the SPLA-IO in 2014 in the framework of my mandate”.
Women and children inspired to come forward The women and children who were freed had been held for many months in military bases in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan.
They are currently being supported by the UN and its civil society partners and have been referred for medical and psychosocial support.
Several of the women are pregnant and also have been referred to prenatal healthcare facilities.
Ms. Patten said their release is encouraging other women and children to come forward and seek support.
Her Office will continue to advocate for the release of the remaining abductees being held in Western Equatoria.
United States, Jan 30 (Canadian-Media): There is a growing need for high-skill workers in the American workplace, and this has helped to narrow gender disparities in the labor market, a new Pew Research Center report finds.
Increasingly, U.S. employers are in pursuit of workers who are adept in social skills, like negotiation and persuasion, and who have a strong grounding in fundamental skills, such as critical thinking and writing. Jobs attaching greater importance to analytical skills, such as science and mathematics, are also adding workers at a brisk pace. Women have been in the forefront of meeting these challenges, and this has been to their benefit.
How we did this
Here are seven key findings from the report:
1Women are in the majority in jobs that draw most heavily on either social or fundamental skills.
In 2018, women made up 52% of employment in jobs in which either social or fundamental skills are most important – such as legal, teaching and counseling occupations (up from roughly 40% in 1980). Women also greatly raised their share of employment in occupations in which analytical skills are of greatest importance – such as accounting and dentistry – from 27% in 1980 to 42% in 2018. The increase in the share of women in these high-skill occupations was much greater than the increase in their share of employment overall, from 43% in 1980 to 47% in 2018.
2The growing presence of women in higher-skill occupations helped to narrow the gender wage gap. As women surged into higher-skill occupations in recent decades, they experienced more rapid wage growth than men. A rising level of education among women was also a contributing factor. From 1980 to 2018, the average hourly wage of women increased 45%, from $15 to $22, compared with an increase of 14% for men, from $23 to $26 (wages expressed in 2018 dollars). Thus, the earnings of women as a ratio of the earnings of men increased from 0.67 to 0.85, a narrowing of the gender wage gap from 33 cents to the dollar in 1980 to 15 cents to the dollar in 2018.
3Despite women’s advantages in skills and education, the gender wage gap persists and is ubiquitous. Regardless of the classification of occupations – by skill type or the importance of a skill – women’s earnings fell short of men’s earnings in 2018. For example, women in occupations with the greatest need for analytical skills earned $33 per hour, 88% as much as the men who earned $38 per hour in similar jobs. Women in occupations with the least need for analytical skills earned 82% as much as men in the same jobs.
The wage gap persists even though women currently hold an edge over men in certain skills and in schooling. In 2018, women constituted the majority in jobs in which fundamental and social skills are more important. Also, 40% of women had completed at least a four-year college program, compared with 35% of men. The analysis in this report estimates that women’s lead in skills and education helped to narrow the gender wage gap by 4 cents to the dollar. But the ongoing presence of a gender wage gap is attributable to a variety of other factors, some measurable (such as hours worked, industry and occupation) and others more difficult to pinpoint (such as discrimination by race, gender or other characteristics and differences in professional networks).
4Gender differences in skills are rooted in gender differences in occupations. The skills that women and men deploy at the workplace are influenced by the specific occupations they gravitate to, whether by choice or due to cultural norms and other constraints. Some 61% of women were engaged in administrative support, health care, sales-related, managerial and education-related occupations in 2018 – all jobs more in need of social, fundamental and managerial skills. In contrast, 34% of men were employed in the following lines of work: production, installation and repair; construction, extraction and farming; and transportation and related. These occupations are more in need of mechanical skills.
5Employment is rising more rapidly in jobs in which social and fundamental skills are most important. From 1980 to 2018, overall employment more than doubled in jobs where social and fundamental skills are most important, by 111% and 104%, respectively. (Examples of such jobs are social workers, lawyers and obstetricians.) Employment in jobs most in need of analytical skills, such as computer programmers, increased nearly as sharply (92%), compared with an increase of 58% in employment overall. Meanwhile, there was virtually no change in employment in jobs relying most on mechanical skills (only 4%). That is at least in part due to globalization and technological change, which have sharply reduced job opportunities in the manufacturing sector and the need for mechanical skills.
6Wages are higher and rising faster in jobs that rely heavily on social, fundamental, analytical and managerial skills. When grouped by the importance of these four nonmechanical skills, average hourly wages in 2018 ranged from $29 in jobs in which social skills are most important, such as sales managers, to $36 in jobs in which analytical skills are most important, such as physicists. Jobs in which these skills are least important, such as dishwashers and telemarketers, paid from $15 to $18 per hour, on average. Furthermore, from 1980 to 2018, wages increased by at least 24% in jobs in which social, fundamental, analytical and managerial skills are most important, whereas wages in jobs least in need of these skills were either stagnant or barely changed.
Overall, both rising employment and wages in higher-skill jobs affirm the growing demand for workers more adept in social, fundamental, managerial and analytical skills. Wages vary little by mechanical skills, ranging from $22 to $25 in 2018 depending on the importance of mechanical skills.
7Emerging occupations call for greater proficiency in analytical skills. The skills profiles of “new and emerging” occupations point to a rising need for analytical skills in the near future. Many of these jobs, such as database architects, informatics nurse specialists and video game designers, reflect the changes driven by modern-day technologies. The average rating of the importance of analytical skills in newer jobs is 21% greater than the average rating in existing jobs. The average rating of social skills in new jobs is 7% greater and the ratings for fundamental and managerial skills are both 10% higher in new jobs. Starting in 2010, the government’s database on job skills used in this report (O*NET) listed 147 occupations as “new and emerging.”
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Syria, Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): Continued displacement from conflict-affected areas in northeast Syria leaves women and girls in urgent need of safe spaces, shelter and reproductive health services, according to a Flash Update this week from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, UN News release said.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing services to displaced women and girls across northeast Syria. Image credit: UNFPA Syria/2019
More than 70,000 people from the northeast remain displaced in Al-Hasakah, Ar-Raqqa and Aleppo governorates due to ongoing conflict in the area. Over 17,500 of the IDPs are women of reproductive age.
In addition to continued drops in temperature, women face hazardous living conditions and increased risks.
And without adequate health care and other services, internally-displaced women and girls are more likely to suffer gender-based violence.
"Women and girls face multiple protection and reproductive health risks in northeast Syria. The risk of gender-based violence is particularly high in camps such as Al Hol, where 96 per cent of the camp population are women and children”, explained Karen Daduryan, UNFPA Representative in Syria.
Furthermore, “women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable and require special attention”, she said
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing services to displaced women and girls across northeast Syria. Image credit: UNFPA Syria/2019
Hope in crisis
UNFPA, through its implementing partners, operates six “safe spaces” for women and girls in the wartorn region, to ensure safety and support.
They provide essential services to address gender-based violence, including psychosocial support, case management, awareness raising, vocational training, and access to more specialized services such as mental health and reproductive healthcare.
The safe spaces serve newly-displaced women, as well as those living in host communities, and there are also mobile teams and clinics, taking treatment to where it’s needed most.
Lifelines for women in need
Asma’a Al Issa, 32, was one of many women who received life-saving access to reproductive healthcare through UNFPA and partner organizations.
“I was worried before giving birth”, explained Ms. Al Issa. First displaced three years ago when her house in Al Qadisia Village was demolished, she now lives in Al Tapqqa, a city in Raqqa governorate, in a home which is still being rebuilt.
It is a great mission to have saved her and her new baby’s life – UNFPA-supported midwife, Hanan
Ms. Al Issa received maternal health services from a clinic operated by the non-profit organization Al Mawada with support from UNFPA. She went into labour on 25 October, amid rising hostilities in the area.
With the skilled care provided by Hanan, a midwife at the clinic, her pregnancy went smoothly despite the violence and turmoil around her.
“Asma’a gave birth without any complications,” Hanan later explained. “It is a great mission to have saved her and her new baby’s life.”
“Now I am very happy to have a baby girl,” Ms. Al Issa told UNFPA. She was discharged with her and her daughter in healthy condition and high spirits.
More than 42,000 women beneficiaries
Since October last year, UNFPA and partners have provided reproductive health services, including safe childbirth, antenatal and postnatal care and family planning, to over 42,000 women of reproductive age. More than 39,000 services were provided to prevent, mitigate and respond to gender-based violence.
People living in 45 shelters and four IDP and refugee camps throughout the region were helped and between October and mid-January, UNFPA supported 40 deliveries.
“Asma’a is not a special case or an exception,” explained Dr. Adnan, a reproductive health coordinator working in the area. She’s proud of the healthcare that has been provided through international humanitarian efforts.
She is one of thousands displaced and deprived families that we serve every day – Dr. Adnan, reproductive health coordinator
A sense of safety and hope, is another vital byproduct of the access to care that women have been given, amidst too much violence and despair: “She is one of thousands displaced and deprived families that we serve every day.”
Between March 2019 and mid-January, 189,463 services were provided in the Al-Hol camp alone.
Reproductive health and gender-based violence services as well as sanitary napkins and dignity kits have been provided, and literacy courses, in coordination with UNICEF.
“In certain cases, UNFPA and its partners deal with radical cultural and social norms while delivering gender-based violence and reproductive health services. And this requires tailored and innovative ways of reaching out to affected women and girls" noted the agency’s Syria Representative, Mr. Daduryan.
Dedication to safety and access
Relocations and continued displacement create obstacles for healthcare access, in addition to insufficient supplies of materials and overcrowding.
“The scope and severity of needs, as well as geographic spread in the northeast, require urgent scale-up of UNFPA's humanitarian response”, he added.
“Due to generous support of multiple donors and dedicated work of partners, UNFPA has been able to reach out to most vulnerable women and girls with lifesaving and life sustaining reproductive health and gender-based violence services.”
UNFPA cites a number of challenges to continued support for women in North East Syria. These include overcrowding in collective shelters, insufficient supply of winterized clothes and limited specialized expertise in the provision of services to respond to gender-based violence.
“It is time to assess the results and gaps in outreach and quality of services to ensure that women and girls who need these services in camps, shelters, out-of-camp settlements and communities, have access to quality gender-based violence and reproductive health services and supplies,” urged Mr. Daduryan.
“We count on continued support of our donors and partners in this challenging task of ensuring health and dignity of all women affected by the crisis in northeast Syria.”
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Sudan, Jan 16 (Canadian-Media): Ongoing instability in Sudan’s West Darfur region has left the lives, health and safety of thousands of women hanging in the balance, according to the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, UN reports said.
UNFPA has been supporting pregnant women in West Darfur following an increase in instability in the region. Image credit: UNFPA
Since 28 December, intercommunal disputes in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have left more than 40,000 civilians displaced, of whom an estimated 10,800, are women of reproductive age.
More than 50 were killed and 60 others injured, the UN has reported, and thousands of civilians in recent weeks crossed the border into Chad, seeking refuge.
Citing two flash reports this year, the UN agency shone a light on a serious lack of adequate reproductive health services and protection.
“Following the recent attack on the camps in West Darfur, women had to flee leaving behind their burnt houses and all of their personal belongings”, explained Massimo Diana, UNFPA Representative in Sudan. “The attack has left them traumatized and in need of psychological support”.
Moreover, as they have no private shelter, the women “continue to feel unsafe and are very vulnerable towards violence and harassment”, he added.
Immediate action needed
Based on data from the Ministry of Health and Social Development, there are an estimated 3,442 pregnant women in dire need of adequate reproductive health services – some 700 women of whom are in their ninth month of pregnancy, living in 41 different IDP sites.
Some 373 deliveries took place in the past 10 days alone. UNFPA stressed that immediate action is needed to save lives and ensure women’s health and safety.
“The unavailability of obstetric services for pregnant women and the lack of access to safe delivery is the reason for loss of lives both for mothers and newborns,” maintained Mr. Diana. “Overcrowding at hospitals during instability is common and in the case of current events in West Darfur means that women are delivering babies in shared rooms or open squares.”
While an estimated 160 midwives have been deployed, the availability of safe delivery facilities remains inadequate, leaving women to give birth in makeshift spaces, including classrooms in the presence of other women and children.
UN steps up assistance
UNFPA is supporting the State Ministry of Health and other partners in establishing sexual and reproductive health clinics in 31 IDP sites, which will include the services of 60 midwives.
The UN agency has also shipped 31 different emergency reproductive health kits from Khartoum to El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, to cover the needs of pregnant women.
Having no access to emergency obstetric care leads to an increase in maternal and neonatal deaths -- UNFPA
“Having no access to emergency obstetric care leads to an increase in maternal and neonatal deaths so this is a life-saving intervention,” pointed out Mr. Diana.
Credible information, including from rapid assessments, also indicates that amidst rising displacement, gender-based violence (GBV) is being perpetrated on a large scale and in different forms, especially for women and girls.
The Population Fund noted that a team of GBV and reproductive health coordinators were deployed to El Geneina and emergency reproductive health kits were dispatched to support the humanitarian response.
Moreover, prevention and response efforts are being strengthened, including by coordinating and providing psychosocial support and other services.
“Gender-based violence…is one of the most pervasive human-rights abuses in the world,” the UNFPA Representative spelled out. “Both priorities must always be treated with immediate attention – regardless of whether it is an emergency or not.”