#UN; #HumanRights; #WomenRights; #WomenEmpowerment
New York, Feb 25 (Canadian-Media): Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has warned against complacency on women’s rights at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, a landmark agenda for the empowerment of women, UN media reports said.
Michelle Bachele addresses the High-level segment of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Image credit: UN Photo/Antoine Tardy
Ms. Bachelet, taking part in a panel discussion, held at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, said that the Beijing Declaration should be celebrated but noted that the Plan of Action agreed at the event is still unfinished.
According to Ms. Bachelet, the risks of setbacks to women’s rights are real, and growing. The rights chief noted that, whilst the Beijing conference is recognized as a demonstration of strong collective commitment to human rights, the scenario 25 years later is quite different.
"Women's rights are threatened and attacked" on many fronts, she warned, adding that there over this period there has been “a backlash and the resurgence of gender inequality narratives based on age-old discrimination”.
However, for the UN human rights chief, women's rights are not negotiable: "they cannot be an optional policy, subject to the changing winds of politics," she warned. According to Ms. Bachelet, the women’s rights agenda must not be torn apart by the establishment of a hierarchy between what is acceptable and what is deemed “too sensitive”.
Ms. Bachelet called on the international community to “resist any challenge to a hard-won affirmation, namely that women’s rights are human rights. "Human dignity cannot be dissected, compartmentalized, negotiated, nor be the privilege of the few," she said.
Guterres concerned by setbacks to women’s rights
However, Ms. Bachelet declared that the gains made since the 1995 declaration were nothing less than revolutionary: “although we are still far from parity, the number of women national parliamentarians has almost doubled. More than 150 countries now have laws on sexual harassment. The number of child marriages has decreased worldwide”.
The High Commissioner highlighted the progress noted in the recording of data on violence against women worldwide. In addition, the percentage of women in gainful employment has increased, and more than 140 countries guarantee gender equality in their constitution.
Ms. Bachelet also welcomed the speech delivered to the Human Rights Council by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday.
As part of his Call to Action for human rights, Mr. Guterres called on every country to “support policies and legislation that promote gender equality, to repeal discriminatory laws, to end violence against women and girls and to strive for equal representation and participation of women in all areas”.
In his speech, Mr. Guterres also worried about “setbacks to women's rights, alarming levels of feminicide, attacks on women's rights defenders, and the persistence of laws and policies that perpetuate submission and exclusion”.
“Violence against women and girls”, he said, “is the most widespread human rights violation”.
Women’s rights progress ‘slow and uneven’
Ms. Bachelet affirmed that the Beijing agreement was neither a coincidence nor an accident, but rather the result of deliberate action by governments, civil society and other partners.
“Over the past 25 years, we have built up good practices and are well equipped to speed up progress even more,” she said, asking stakeholders to rediscover the “unity and vision, as well as the purpose and determination that prevailed in Beijing”.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN-Women reported “slow and uneven progress” on women’s rights, including the gap in the labour market.
“Although the employment rate has decreased in recent years, many women are employed and doing unpaid domestic work”.
Violence against women and girls persists, and remains a globally endemic crisis, she said, adding that more measures must be adopted, and Member States must reaffirm forcefully the commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action.
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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.
Promoting education for adolescent girls. Image credit: UNICEF
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.
#UNPopulationFund; #FemaleGenitalMutation; #WomenRights; #UNWomenRights
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.
#UN; #WomenIssues; #SexualViolenece; #RepeatedRapes; #ForcedMarriage; #SouthSudan
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.