Archive for July, 2011
Monday, July 25th, 2011
By Mary Rauto
Fiji Times Online 22/07/2011
LAWS can change society and justice systems can provide the means for women to demand accountability – to put a stop to violence in their relationships, to claim citizenship rights, to get married and divorced on equal terms to men or to claim land, inheritance or pay to which they are entitled.
Those were the words of United Nations Women Assistant Secretary-General John Hendra as he launched the Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012 report.
These laws and justice systems will put a stop to violence in relationships, to claim citizenship rights, to get married and divorced on equal terms to men or to claim land, inheritance or pay to which women are entitled.
“In fact, courts have been the site of some incredible groundbreaking legal decisions, many of which we highlight in the report,” he said.
“Women all over the world have used the courts to get justice, winning decisions that benefit not only themselves, but expand access to justice for millions of other women.”
Mr Hendra said by April this year, 52 States had explicitly outlawed marital rape in their criminal codes.
“In fact, in Asia-Pacific and beyond, there have been several significant transformations in legal frameworks,” he said.
“In our comprehensive review of legislation, we found that two thirds of countries globally now have laws against domestic violence, which is an extraordinary shift even from 10 years ago.
“Fifteen countries in East Asia and the Pacific now have domestic violence laws and six countries have taken the important step of explicitly outlawing rape within marriage.
“This shift is important not only because of the protection it affords women, but also because it signals a willingness on the part of governments to regulate the private, as well as the public domain”
Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Strategies for Increasing Women in Decision-Making in the Pacific
Nadi- July 22, 2011 – Strategic partnerships, targeted communications, enabling legislation and training women for leadership roles were highlighted as some of the crucial ingredients in increasing the number of women in decision-making in the Pacific.
These points were raised by four women who spoke at a panel discussion on “Supporting Pacific Women in Public Life and Decision-Making” that took place yesterday at the 4th Pacific Women’s Ministerial Meeting.
The speakers included: Ethel Sigimanu from the Solomon Islands; Hon Dame Carol Kidu, Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Community Development and Women’s Affairs; Léna Temauri from French Polynesia, and United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Kim Henderson.
Ethel Sigimanu, the Permanent Secretary of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs spoke about her country’s experience in trying to get legislation on Temporary Special Measures to increase the number of women in Parliament.
Temporary Special Measures (TSM) or affirmative action policies like quotas are specifically permitted under Article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as a short-term measure to “kickstart” an increase in women’s representation, while longer-term efforts are being made to create a more equal and sustainable level playing field for women in politics.
Ms Sigimanu said that in 33 years of government in Solomon Islands, there had only been one female parliamentarian. In 2009, the Women’s Ministry started a campaign for TSM to introduce reserved seats for women through legislative change. She said that the “TSM submission could not be taken to Cabinet because the voices against it were stronger than the voices for it.”
“We have learnt a few lessons in this process. We realise that we should have reached a critical mass of people in the community that understood and supported TSM. Buy-in from parliamentarians is critical as is the need for male champions,” said Ms Sigimanu.
Hon Dame Carol Kidu, Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Community Development and Women’s Affairs said that, “The political environment in Melanesia (except in the French Territories) does not give equal opportunities for women to win seats in Parliament.”
She said that cultural perceptions needed to be addressed and a targeted communications strategy supported this process.
“Women in parliament is about partnership in development, it is not about women being stronger than men. It is not about taking men’s places. Temporary special measures are about creating some space for women,” she said.
Support for Women Leaders
Léna Temauri, Advisor to the Minister of Culture, Arts, Family and Women’s Affairs of French Polynesia spoke about how the French Parity Law increased the number of women in local and national government.
“While this law has increased the number of women in decision making roles, work still remains to be done particularly in the areas of training women for leadership roles and changing the public’s opinion about women in decision making, ” she said.
Lessons from the Rest of the World
Kim Henderson, the Gender Team Leader for UNDP in the Asia Pacific Region shared examples of how the numbers of women in decision making could be increased.
“In 2010, forty five percent of the countries globally had some form of temporary special measures to increase the number of women in Parliament. These countries have almost double the amount of women in parliament than countries without them,” said Ms Henderson.
She said that the type of Temporary Special Measures most suited to a country depended on its electoral system.
“Another entry point for increasing the number of women in decision making roles is through local governments. There are a greater number of seats available and higher chances of winning them,” she said.
The Pacific region has the lowest percentage of women parliamentarians in the world and includes four of the six countries in the world with no women legislators: Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
“In 2010, five Parliamentary chambers renewed with no women members and 4 of these 5 are in the Pacific – Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu,” said Ms Henderson.
The discussion was organized by UNDP in partnership with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The Pacific Women’s Ministerial Meeting, during which the discussion took place is organized by SPC. It brings together ministers, government officials, civil society and development partners working in the area of gender from 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories.
Source: NZ Scoop
Friday, July 1st, 2011
Johannesburg – The drop in the representation of women in local government confirms the need for laws on increasing the number of women in decision-making positions, the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities said on Tuesday.
“The ministry is disappointed at the decline in the percentage of women as councillors in the country from 40% in 2006 to 38% after the 2011 local government elections,” the department read.
According to Gender Links research and advocacy organisation, which analysed representation at the May local government elections, in 1995 representation of women in local government was at 19% overall; 29% in 2000; 40% in 2006 and then dropped two percentage points to 38% for May 2011.
Women’s Minister Lulu Xingwana said: “We are developing the necessary legislation which should compel all political parties to adhere to the principle of gender equality. The Gender Equality Bill will be submitted to Cabinet by March 2012 and it will also extend to the issue of employment and appointment of women to senior positions in both the public and private sector.”
Gender Links said a legislated quota was urgently required if South Africa was to meet its 2015 commitment in terms of the Southern African Development Community’s protocol on gender and development which calls for gender parity by that year.
Leaving it up to the political parties was “fraught with challenges”.
Their researchers found that only the ANC tried to mainstream gender into its manifesto and it also tried to field equal numbers of women candidates. It was also their 50/50 representation policy introduced in 2006 which helped increased overall representivity figures.
In a study of party manifestos Gender Links said the opposition Democratic Alliance, led by Patricia de Lille and Helen Zille, made no mention of women in their entire manifesto.
They chose to focus on improving service delivery and reducing crime, but did not mention how improved service delivery would affect the lives of women.
The Freedom Front Plus also made no mention of women at all in its manifesto, with their focus on service delivery and promoting Christian values and morals.
The Inkatha Freedom Party, which suffered a blow due to a shift in support to ousted chairpersonZanele Magwaza-Msibi of the National Freedom Party, made no mention of women at all in its manifesto and focused on rooting out corruption and making municipalities accountable for money spent.
The United Christian Democratic Party had no quotas, but said corruption could hinder efforts at gender equity.
The United Democratic Movement had no quotas but an integrated development management plan which included women. A UDM-led council would also promote women and youth involvement in environmental projects that created jobs.
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), also without quotas, only mentioned women in the context of improving their safety and well being, preventing teen pregnancies and helping young mothers.
Gender Links referred to these parties as “gender blind”.
“The analysis shows that the ANC is the only party that has made an effort to mainstream gender in its manifesto.”
In terms of the percentage of women on party proportional representation lists the ANC had the highest proportion of women (47%) followed by the Congress of the People (Cope)(38%), the UDM 37%, the ACDP 36%, the DA 33% and the IFP at 32%.
Only the ANC came close to meeting the 50/50 quota by having the largest proportion of women on their party lists. They also had more women than men higher up on the lists.
But Cope, the ACDP and the UDM came close to achieving parity without quotas.
The actual election outcome was the ANC exceeded its 50/50 quota with regard to proportional representation seats. The 2011 elections had 121 parties participating – up from 79 in 2000 and 97 in 2006.
According to the Independent Electoral Commission, women comprised 19 731 of the 53 000 candidates – 37% of the total, up just 2% compared to 2006.
Gender parity was also not achieved in the individual provinces.
“Gauteng (40%), Northwest (40%), and the Northern Cape (40%) had the highest proportion of women candidates.
The DA-dominated Western Cape had the lowest proportion of female candidates (33%) despite being led by a female premier, Helen Zille, and her partner Patricia de Lille, formerly leader of the Independent Democrats (ID).”
The report also found that of the eight metros, only two had female mayors, Cape Town and Buffalo City, while Tshwane and Ekurhuleni lost women mayors.
Post-election mudslinging had the ANC calling the DA’s female leadership “poster girls” but the DA retorted by pointing out that the ANC was yet to have a female leader.
“Although South Africa still scores third in the SADC region (after Lesotho, 58% and Namibia, 41%) with regard to women’s representation in local government, the 2011 local elections proved to be a major disappointment,” Gender Links concluded.
Photo Source: Source: http://townhall.com/photos/2011/5/18/woman_arrives_at_polling_station_during_south_african_municipal_elections_in_nkandla
Friday, July 1st, 2011
By Kiran Flynn
Rose lives on a remote island in Makira province, part of the archipelagic South Pacific island nation Solomon Islands. She is the fourth of five children, and her parents estimate that she is aged 11. Rose had an accident when she was a baby that left her sight severely impaired, and lack of access to health care means her sight worsened over the years. She is now completely blind. There is one primary school on the island, but there are no resources for blind pupils, and Rose has never attended school.
“Rose stays and helps us in the home,” explains Rose’s father, Peter. “We can’t afford to pay for her to go to school because we have four other children, and you need to be able to see to learn anyway.”
Like many Pacific Island nations, traditional Solomon Islands society operates in close knit, mostly patriarchal communities, where the ‘unfortunate’ are cared for by community members. This creates an environment of charity towards those with disabilities, and while this can be positive, it is a subtle form of discrimination. This kind of attitude promotes pity for disabled individuals, and strips them of fundamental human rights – like pride, dignity, and the opportunity to shape their own lives.
Pacific customs mixed with religions such as Christianity can often be exclusionary, despite preaching tolerance and respect as core values. Literal preaching from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament depicts disability as a curse from God. Combined with customary beliefs that disability is punishment for a family’s wrongdoing, this results in many people being ashamed of and fearing people with disabilities.
“Rose plays with her brothers and sisters,” Peter says of Rose’s social life “It’s a big burden for whoever takes her outside because she has to be watched all the time, so she just plays near the house. Sometimes the other children don’t understand that it’s not her fault, so they play tricks on her because they know she can’t see. It’s better to keep her away from that.”
Solomon Islands is a Melanesian country, and in most Melanesian cultures men control the decision making and governance mechanisms in the villages – girls and women are excluded. The idea that disabled girls and women could participate in community or country scale decision making that is vital to improving their lives is unlikely to be fulfilled.
Disabled girls face discrimination in various forms. Not only because of their gender, but also because of their disability, and yet again because they are children. This is known as intersectional discrimination. However, when policies and frameworks are drawn up by governments and aid donors, this isn’t usually considered and issues are addressed separately – Gender. Disability. Children. Those from more than one marginalised group, who arguably need the most attention, are forgotten. For example, the draft 2011-2014 corporate plan from one ministry in Solomon Islands neglected to mentioned disabled children as a minority group that need protecting in one of its core aims, yet did mention age, gender, religion, ethnicity and cultural background.
“Disability is still just a buzzword in our country,” remarks Savina Nongebatu, President of the country’s only disability nongovernmental organisation, People with Disabilities Solomon Islands (PWDSI). “It’s just ‘disability’ across the board … most people aren’t even really aware of what it means to be physically disabled. There is still a long way to go before ‘invisible’ disabilities, like learning difficulties, can be addressed.”
Lack of access to education is an issue for children in many developing countries. In rural communities like Rose’s, children often walk for several hours to school. For girls with physical disabilities, this is not possible. Many schools require fees, so sending your child to school is an investment. Prejudice against women and disabled people in Solomon Islands prevent future employment opportunities, so sending your disabled girl to school simply doesn’t make financial sense for most parents. As a result, according to a 2009 UNDP study only 18% of disabled girls attend school in Solomon Islands, compared to 37% of non-disabled girls.
For girls living with disabilities in developing countries however, there are other dangers.
“How can I run away?” exclaims Savina, as she gestures to her wheelchair. “How can I run away if someone is hitting me?”
A 2009 survey conducted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community reveals Solomon Islands has one of the highest gender based violence rates in the world, with 68% of girls and women experiencing physical or sexual abuse by partners or family members. In a society where females are already treated as second class citizens with little respect for their basic human rights, what chance do further marginalised and vulnerable groups have of claiming and enjoying the rights that they are born with?
So why doesn’t the international aid community ensure that issues of intersectional discrimination and the various types of disabilities get equal inclusion in government policies?
“Donors work with governments” explains Savina. “Solomon Islands’ Government doesn’t have any clear policies in place to improve the lives of people with disabilities. It’s just not a priority. PWDSI funding has to come directly from international donors; we get no funding from the government.”
Therefore while donors can implement complex issues in their plans, in a country where the government fails to acknowledge nearly 3% of the population, just getting the word ‘disability’ into parliament would be an achievement.
However, if governments in developing countries are not prioritising disability issues, neither is the international community. The Millennium Development Goals cover issues like eradicating extreme poverty, fighting disease epidemics and promoting gender equality – but do not include goals for improving the lives of people with disabilities.
“We are always helping organisations like UNDP and UNICEF to write reports and give recommendations, but it never amounts to anything,” says an exasperated Savina. “Policies need to specify that problems faced by disabled girls are different, and must actively include girls in mainstream systems, such as schools.”
“Sometimes when we’re doing advocacy work, people with disabilities will ask questions like ‘but do I have the same right to vote?’” explains Savina. “Advocacy is our main priority. People need to be made aware of what disability is, how it happens, what it means, and that it’s not something to be ashamed of. We need people with disabilities to be visible. We need girls with disabilities doing advocacy work, and showing other girls that they have the same rights and freedoms as everybody else.”
Perhaps then girls like Rose, along with the thousands of other disabled people in the country, won’t have to be invisible any more.
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