Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Kenya has become the latest African country to make female genital mutilation illegal. The practice is still widespread in Africa, despite African Union opposition
Kenya is the most recent African country to ban female genital mutilation, with the passing of a law making it illegal to practice or procure it or take somebody abroad for cutting. The law even prohibits derogatory remarks about women who have not undergone FGM. Offenders may be jailed or fined or both.

Members of the Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association said it was a historic day. Linah Kilimo, its chairperson, said the move would improve school attendance. And Sophia Abdi Noor said:

I have fought for 18 years to achieve this legislation. Today is independence day for women. Men got their independence in 1963 – but today women have achieved independence from the cruel hands of society.

Unicef congratulated Kenya. Its child protection specialist in Kenya, Zeinab Ahmed said:

It is a great day for the girl child of Kenya. FGM is a serious violation of the rights of the child and of women. This bill gives an indication from government it is not just a cultural practice that can go on. The government has taken a bold step and will not tolerate any more violations. I applaud the work of Kewopa, the ministry of gender and the many other partners who have worked tirelessly to ensure that girls are protected from FGM.

Nobody imagines this means FGM will never take place again in Kenya, but making it illegal is a massive step towards changing attitudes and giving strength to those who oppose the practice. Kenya follows a number of African governments in outlawing the practice. According to the Pan African news agency, at the time of the African Union summit in June, which proposed prohibition of FGM, Benin, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Central African Republic, Senegal, Chad, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda already had legislation against it.

But in nine countries (including some of those where it is illegal) it is still widely practised. In Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, 85% of women undergo mutilation.

Professor Shirley Randell AO, PhD, FACE, FAIM, FAICD

Convener for International Relations, Rwanda Association of University Women

Director, Centre for Gender, Culture and Development Studies

Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) Rwanda

PO Box 5039, Remera, Kigali, Rwanda

Tel: +250 (0)2 5511 7138 Fax: +250 (0)2 5258 6890 Mob: +250 (0)7 8830 8967

mail@shirleyrandell.com.au www.shirleyrandell.com.au

www.ifuw.org/rwanda www.facebook.com/CGCDKIE

Millennium Development Goals: Yes we can!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

International Literacy Day

8 September, International Literacy Day: 793 million adults can neither read nor write

This year’s International Literacy Day, celebrated world-wide on 8 September, will focus on the link between literacy and peace. During a ceremony in New Delhi, India, UNESCO will award the international Confucius and King Sejong literacy prizes to projects in Burundi, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the United States of America.
Also in New Delhi, an international conference on Women’s Literacy for Inclusive and Sustainable Development is being organized by UNESCO’s E9 initiative,* from 8 to 10 September.

According to data from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 793 million adults – most of them girls and women - are illiterate. A further 67 million children of primary school age are not in primary school and 72 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out their right to an education.

More than half the adult population of the following 11 countries are illiterate: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. South and West Asia account for more than half (51,8%) the world’s adult illiterate population, ahead of sub-Saharan Africa (21,4%), East Asia and the Pacific (12,8%), the Arab States (7,6%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4,6%), North America, Europe and Central Asia (2%).

“The world urgently needs increased political commitment to literacy backed by adequate resources to scale up effective programmes. Today I urge governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to make literacy a policy priority, so that every individual can develop their potential, and actively participate in shaping more sustainable, just and peaceful societies,” declared UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Scheduled participants at the New Delhi conference include the President of India, Pratibha Devi Singh Patil; the ministers of education of Nigeria, Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufaí (the current E-9 President); Pakistan, Pir mazhar-ul-Aq; Nepal, Gangalal Tuladhar; Egypt, Ahmed Gamal El-Din Moussa; Sri Lanka, Bandula Gunawardhana; Bangladesh, Nurul Islam Nahid; and Bhutan, Thakur Singh Powdyel.

Representatives of international organizations, members of civil society and of the private sector, as well as experts in adult education will present successful literacy projects and share their experience.

The award ceremony of the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prizes and of the UNESCO Confucius Prizes for Literacy, financed respectively by the governments of the Republic of Korea and China, will be held ahead of the conference, on 8 September.

The National Literacy Service of Burundi is the laureate of one of the two awards of the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for its innovative approach to linking functional literacy to daily life issues and to topics related to peace and tolerance, as well as for its overall impact. From 2010 to 2011 alone, the Service presented more than 50,000 certificates to new readers.

The other UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize goes to the National Institute for the Education of Adults of Mexico, for its bilingual literacy programme. The programme is recognized for its impact in reducing the rate of illiteracy among indigenous populations, especially women, and for improving indigenous people’s ability to exercise their rights.

One of two awards of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy goes to the U.S.-based Room to Read for its effective programme, Promoting Gender Equality and Literacy through Local Language Publishing. Operating in nine countries — Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam and Zambia — the programme has assisted communities in the development of culturally relevant reading materials in local and minority languages.

The other award of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy goes to Collectif Alpha Ujuvi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for its programme, Peaceful Coexistence of Communities and Good Governance in North Kivu. The programme uses an innovative model for preventing and resolving tensions and conflicts among individuals and communities.

Each of the four laureates will receive US$20,000 during the ceremony, which will be webcast.


The E-9 brings together nine high population countries that are home to over two-thirds of the world’s adult illiterates and more than half the planet’s out-of-school children: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.

source: femnet forum

Saturday, September 3, 2011



Despite significant setbacks after the 2008-2009 economic crisis, the world is on track to reach the MDG poverty-reduction target by 2015.
Some of the world’s poorest countries, including Burundi, Rwanda, Samoa, Togo and the United Republic of Tanzania, have made the greatest strides in education.
Every region has made progress in improving access to clean drinking water.
Investments in preventing and treating HIV have caused new HIV infections to drop by 21 percent since 1997, when they peaked.
The number of deaths of children under the age of five declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009.

Quick Facts

In 2008, there were 96 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school, and 95 girls for every 100 boys in secondary school in developing regions.
The share of women employed outside of agriculture remains as low as 20 per cent in Southern Asia, Western Asia and Northern Africa.
The global share of women in parliament continues to rise slowly and reached 19 per cent in 2010 — far short of gender parity.
Gender gaps in access to education have narrowed, but disparities remain high in university-level education and in some developing regions. Girls’ enrolment ratios in primary and secondary schools have significantly increased in recent years. Nevertheless, the 2005 target was missed and major challenges remain, with large inequality gaps in primary education in Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia.

Unequal access to universities

Access to university-level education remains highly unequal, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In these regions, only 67 and 76 girls per 100 boys, respectively, are enrolled in tertiary education. Completion rates also tend to be lower among women than men. Poverty is the main cause of unequal access to education, particularly for girls of secondary-school age.

Low rates of women in paid employment

Despite progress made, men continue to outnumber women in paid employment, and women are often relegated to vulnerable forms of employment. The share of women in paid non-agricultural wage employment is slowly increasing and globally reached 41 per cent in 2008. It is still as low as 20 percent in Southern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia, and 32 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Even when women are employed, they are typically paid less and have less financial and social security than men. Women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable jobs — characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity and substandard working conditions — especially in Western Asia and Northern Africa, where paid employment opportunities for women are the lowest. Globally, only one quarter of senior officials or managers are women. In Western Asia, Southern Asia and Northern Africa, women hold less than 10 per cent of top-level positions.

Women are gaining political power

Women are slowly gaining political power, mainly thanks to quotas and special measures. Between 1995 and 2010, the share of women in parliament, on a global level, increased from 11 per cent to 19 per cent — a gain of 73 per cent, but far short of gender parity. Parliamentary elections in 2009 contributed to rising gains for women in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, where 29 per cent and 25 per cent of the renewed seats went to women, respectively. But 58 countries still have 10 per cent or fewer female members of parliament. Progress in women’s representation in the executive branches of government is even slower. In 2010, just nine of 151 elected heads of state and 11 of 192 heads of government were women. Globally, women hold only 16 per cent of ministerial posts.

Affirmative action continues to be the key driver of progress for women. In 2009, the average share of women elected to parliament was 13 percentage points higher — 27 per cent as opposed to 14 per cent — in countries that applied such measures.

Professor Shirley Randell AO, PhD, FACE, FAIM, FAICD

Convener for International Relations, Rwanda Association of University Women

Director, Centre for Gender, Culture and Development Studies

Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) Rwanda

PO Box 5039, Remera, Kigali, Rwanda

Tel: +250 (0)2 5511 7138 Fax: +250 (0)2 5258 6890 Mob: +250 (0)7 8830 8967

mail@shirleyrandell.com.au www.shirleyrandell.com.au

www.ifuw.org/rwanda www.facebook.com/CGCDKIE

Millennium Development Goals: Yes we can!

Witches - Accusations,Persecutions - Women & Girls

Throughout history, people described as witches have been persecuted,
tortured and murdered and the practice continues today. Statistics are not
easy to come by but it is known that every year, thousands of people, mostly
older women and children are accused as witches, often abused, cast out of
their families and communities and in many cases murdered.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,
Philip Alston, in his most recent report to the Human Rights Council, says:
?In too many settings, being classified as a witch is tantamount to
receiving a death sentence.

Shockingly, it is children that are increasingly targeted. A report for the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees published in January 2009,
?Witchcraft Allegations, Refugee Protection and Human Rights, says the
abuse of children accused of witchcraft is common in countries that have
suffered years of conflict where traditional social structures have
disappeared and where child soldiers have often emerged as a threat. And in
countries where sudden deaths from diseases like AIDS are common, where
there are few if any prospects of a better life, and where revivalist
churches confirm signs of witchcraft, children are often accused of
supernatural powers and persecuted.

Alston concludes: The persecution and killing of individuals accused of
practicing so-called witchcraft the vast majority of whom are women and
children is a significant phenomenon in many parts of the world. The
response to witchcraft frequently involves serious and systematic forms of
discrimination, he says, especially on the grounds of gender, age and
disability. The families of the witches are also often subjected to
serious human rights violations.

In his report, Alston offers an insight into the size of the problem and its
geographical spread;

- Reports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) suggest that
most of the 25,000 - 50,000 children living on the streets of the capital,
Kinshasa are there because they have been accused of witchcraft and rejected
by their families. In 2009 The Committee on the Rights of the Child noted
that in the DRC violence against children accused of witchcraft is
increasing, and that children are being kept as prisoners in religious
buildings where they are exposed to torture and ill-treatment or even killed
under the pretext of exorcism.
- The Special Rapporteur on violence against women has highlighted the
problem of witch hunts in India, Nepal and South Africa.
- In Ghana it is thought as many as 2,000 accused witches and their
dependents are confined in five different camps. Most of the camp inmates
are destitute, elderly women and some have been forced to live there for
- The murder and persecution of people accused of witchcraft in Tanzania
is better documented than in most countries. The figures vary widely but it
is estimated as many as a thousand, mostly elderly Tanzanian women are
targeted and killed annually.
- In Angola, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for
immediate action to eliminate the mistreatment of children accused of
- In Papua New Guinea, provincial police commanders reportedly said there
were more than 50 sorcery-related killings in 2008. Other sources have
suggested much higher figures.
- In Nigeria, the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network reports an
increasing number of children abandoned or persecuted on the grounds they
are witches or wizards.
- In Nepal, elderly women and widows are often singled out and abused in
exorcism ceremonies.

In considering how to address the problem, the Special Rapporteur has said
that making it illegal to believe in witchcraft is not a solution. Respect
for customary beliefs, however does not allow for persecution and
murder. Alston recommends in his report that all killings of alleged witches
be treated as murder and investigated, prosecuted and punished. And
governments, he says, must play their part, taking all available steps to
prevent such crimes and prosecute and punish perpetrators.

Alston also recommends that the problems surrounding the persecution and
killings be reflected in the guidelines and programs of development agencies
operating in countries where there is a significant level of belief in
witches and witchcraft. Alston wants more than awareness-raising programmes.
He believes protection should be offered to those whose lives are endangered
by accusations of witchcraft.

source:UNHCR - UN Refugee Agency

US Plans Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Test on International Day of Peace

by David Krieger

In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly created an annual International Day of Peace to take place on the opening day of the regular sessions of the General Assembly. The purpose of the day is for “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Twenty years later, in 2001, the General Assembly, desiring to draw attention to the objectives of the International Day of Peace, gave the day a fixed date on which it would be held each year: September 21st. The General Assembly declared in its Resolution 55/282 that “the International Day of Peace shall henceforth be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day.”

The Resolution continued by inviting “all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, regional and non-governmental organizations and individuals to commemorate, in an appropriate manner, the International Day of Peace, including through education and public awareness, and to cooperate with the United Nations in the establishment of the global ceasefire.”

The United States has announced that its next test of a Minuteman III will occur on September 21, 2011. Rather than considering how it might participate and bring awareness to the International Day of Peace, the United States will be testing one of its nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles that, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, continue to be kept on high-alert in readiness to be fired on a few moments notice.

Of course, the missile test will have a dummy warhead rather than a live one, but its purpose will be to assure that the delivery system for the Minuteman III nuclear warheads has no hitches. As Air Force Colonel David Bliesner has pointed out, “Minuteman III test launches demonstrate our nation’s ICBM capability in a very visible way, deterring potential adversaries while reassuring allies.”

So, on the 2011 International Day of Peace, the United States has chosen not “to honor a cessation of hostilities,” but rather to implement a very visible, $20 million test of a nuclear-capable missile.

Perhaps US officials believe that US missile tests help keep the peace. If so, they have a very different idea about other countries testing missiles. National Security Spokesman Mike Hammer had this to say about Iranian missile tests in 2009: “At a time when the international community has offered Iran opportunities to begin to build trust and confidence, Iran’s missile tests only undermine Iran’s claims of peaceful intentions.”

In 2008, Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State, said, “We face with the Iranians, and so do our allies and friends, a growing missile threat that is getting ever longer and ever deeper – and where the Iranian appetite for nuclear technology is, to this point, still unchecked. And it is hard for me to believe that an American president is not going to want to have the capability to defend our territory and the territory of our allies, whether they are in Europe or whether they are in the Middle East against that kind of missile threat.”

The US approach to nuclear-capable missile testing seems to be “do as I say, not as I do.” This is unlikely to hold up in the long run. Rather than testing its nuclear-capable delivery systems, the US should be leading the way, as President Obama pledged, toward a world free of nuclear weapons. To do so, we suggest that he take three actions for the 2011 International Day of Peace. First, announce the cancellation of the scheduled Minuteman III missile test, and use the $20 million saved as a small down payment on alleviating poverty in the US and abroad. Second, announce that the US will take its nuclear weapons off high-alert status and keep them on low alert, as China has done, in order to lower the possibilities of accidental or unauthorized missile launches. Third, declare a ceasefire for the day in each of the wars in which the US is currently engaged. These three actions on the International Day of Peace would not change the world in a day, but they would be steps in the right direction that could be built upon during the other 364 days of the year.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

source: National Youth Parliament e-group, Gambia

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Political parties vow to elect women

Described by many political analysts as a move in the right direction, political parties vying for the 2011 presidential, parliamentary and local government elections have vowed to elect women to top political positions so as to ensure equal political representation at decision-making levels.

Remarks were made by all representatives of Gambian political parties, including the ruling APRC, UDP, NRP and PDOIS during presentations at a day-long sensitization forum for political parties organized by the Female Lawyers Association of the Gambia (FLAG) and the Inter-party Committee.

The forum, on the theme: “Temporary special measures to ensure women’s political participation”, brought together political party leaders, as well as a cross section of civil society organizations.

Presenting for the ruling APRC party, Samba Gagigo – First Administrative Secretary of the party, underscored the role of women in the socio-economic development of the country, noting that the ruling APRC recognizes that no national development programme would be successful without the effective participation and full support of the country’s women.

Women, he said, are indispensable partners in Gambia’s development process. According to him, the APRC shall pursue its deliberate policy of empowering women by appointing qualified and capable women in positions of authority and decision making.

“The APRC after coming to power appointed the first female Vice President, female ministers; the first accountant general was a female, secretary general and head of civil service and many other permanent secretaries were appointed,” he said, adding that this clearly demonstrated that the APRC has put women in top positions of decision-making.

He stated that the party would continue to encourage women’s political participation to the highest level, and that special opportunities would be accorded to women in decision making positions

Presenting for the United Democratic Party, Dr. Borro Susso, chairman of the Policy Committee of the UDP, noted that since its inception, his party categorically expressed its belief in the equality of sexes in matters of rights and privileges of citizens.

“This was consigned in the constitution of the party as one of the beacons of our policy. The development of the party from formation up to the present time has been made with the full participation of our members. The UDP women’s policy contained in its policy document of which the party manifesto for the forthcoming elections form part of, addressees women’s rights in all sectors with due recognition of their potential role in the socio-economic development of the country,” Dr Susso stated.

Presenting further, Dr Susso explained that the UDP intends to diagnose discrimination against women in various sectors of the economy, and address the problems they are confronted with. He added that the UDP party has adopted a document as its policy with regard to women.

According to him, the UDP shall address the empowerment of women in the education sector. He said empowerment of women requires their transformation from cheering leaders to decision makers.

“The UDP shall ensure the increasing participation of women in the decision- making process at district, regional and national levels. Participation must be from the decision-making level right down to implementation. Access to political decision-making must be secured at both local and national levels,” he added.

Also presenting was Samba Baldeh, Administrative Secretary of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP), who told the gathering that, as a political party, the NRP has adequately provided special measures to ensure women’s participation in politics and decision-making bodies.

This, he said, is clearly spelt out in the party’s manifesto, which they are working tirelessly towards achieving.

According to Baldeh, it is very clear to all that the role of Gambian women is wide- ranging, and very important to the socio-economic and political development of this country.

However, he noted that the NRP is of the view that there is still considerable room for improvement with regard to women’s empowerment in the country.

“There cannot be any meaningful development without the full participation of women in all aspects of development life,” the NRP administrative secretary opined.

He stated that as part of his party’s future policy, the NRP will seek to make it possible for Gambian women to obtain the highest possible education with training in their profession commensurate with their abilities.

Baldeh further stated that it is his party’s belief that behind every successful man, there is a strong woman. He noted that to comply with the legal obligation, NRP shall endeavor to put up as much candidates as possible in all coming elections.

Renown gender activist, Amie Sillah, who presented for the Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) said her party is of the view that a strategic vision is needed to guide the formulation of policies and programmes that are designed to enhance greater parity in representative institutions.

According to Amie Sillah, PDIOS’s aims is to establish a democracy which would finally lead the people to exercise full control over the affairs of their society; a democracy based on a non-parasitic and responsive system of representation.

She stated that PDOIS sees the need to transform the party into a school for nurturing the sovereign woman, who is matured and conscious of her rights.

In her view, PDOIS stands for gender parity in appointing the members of all oversight institutions such as the IEC, the office of Ombudsman and National Council for Civic Education. She concluded that the party also stands for gender parity in filling the posts of president and vice president, among others.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

entertainment industry for the Gambians

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Fatou C Malang

Thursday, August 4, 2011

One Poor Woman Who Feeds Thousands

By Marcela Valente

The endeavour gave a deeper meaning to her life and turned her into an internationally recognised community organiser. Nevertheless, the real wish of Margarita Barrientos is that there would be more need for soup kitchens for the hungry, like the one she founded in the capital of Argentina.

"This shouldn't have to exist," Barrientos told IPS at the Los Piletones soup kitchen, which she runs. "What there should be is decent work, so that every man and woman could go out and earn a living. But until that is possible, we'll have to keep this going."

The soup kitchen and the rest of the installations of the Margarita Barrientos Foundation are in Villa Soldati, a poor district in the south of Buenos Aires where the Los Piletones slum is located. The Foundation is reached by pitted, muddy dirt roads full of piles of garbage.

The 49-year-old Barrientos came to Buenos Aires alone when she was just 11 years old, from the northern province of Santiago del Estero where she was born into a Toba indigenous family. In the city she lived and worked on the streets and often went hungry. When she was 14 she met the man who is now her husband. They have 12 children – 10 biological sons and daughters and two children "of my heart," she says.

In 1996, in response to the hunger and dire poverty she saw around her, Barrientos starting distributing among her neighbours leftover bread and baked goods that a bakery donated to her husband along his daily route collecting cardboard and other waste products to sell for recycling.

Solidarity, not politics
Since she opened her soup kitchen, Margarita Barrientos has received 40 prizes and honours from the city, non-governmental organisations, and different churches, as an "exemplary citizen", "woman of the year", or "distinguished citizen."

Mauricio Macri, the centre-right mayor of Buenos Aires who was re-elected Sunday Jul. 31, invited her to run as a candidate for the national legislature in the October elections – a post she would stand a real chance of winning. But she was not tempted.

"I turned him down immediately," she says. "I never thought about going into politics. That's just not me. I believe in the people who help me with donations to keep this going, and they believe in me. If I were to accept a political position, I would be letting them down."

Barrientos only made it to third grade. Her husband is disabled – he lost one of his arms in an accident – one of their sons has a drug abuse problem, her family lives in Los Piletones, and she faces nearly all the same difficulties as the people she helps.

"You often feel discouraged. Living in the slum isn't easy. But with hard work and sacrifices, you can do anything in life," says Barrientos, who was named as one of the "women who change the world" by the Spanish NGO Mundo Cooperante.

Within a short time, she was cooking whatever she and her husband managed to scrounge up, for 15 people from the neighbourhood. But her budding project grew, and today 30 women work alongside her, providing cooked meals to 1,600 people a day, including 1,000 children, and offering other services as well.

The Buenos Aires and Argentine governments supply part of the food, and the rest is covered by private donations: of food, mattresses, clothing, blankets, furniture, computers, books, building materials and medicine.

"Los Piletones" serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but most of the guests don't eat there – they show up at the specified time and pick up pots or plastic bowls of food, which they take home to their families.

One woman standing in line with her four young children tells IPS that they are from Paraguay, and that her husband found a job and she was able to register their kids in school but that they do not yet have legal residency papers. She stays home to raise the kids, she says.

In the kitchen, three huge pots are steaming. A young woman stands on a high stool to stir the food with a large wooden paddle, using both hands. Other women are busy cutting up chicken, peeling potatoes, or mopping the floor.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census, 9.9 percent of Argentina's 40 million people live in poverty, and 2.5 percent in extreme poverty. But trade unions and other independent bodies say the poverty rate is at least twice that high.

Across the street from the soup kitchen are the Foundation's other installations: a health centre that offers dental services, medical checkups, and gynaecological and pediatric services, and a well-stocked pharmacy.

"People can pick up condoms here without asking," Barrientos says, pointing to a box in the waiting room. The nurse is a volunteer, and the doctors serve the Foundation through an agreement with two private universities.

There is also a pasta factory and a day care centre for children between the ages of seven months and five years. The nine teachers are paid by the city government, and the cook and cleaning woman are local volunteers.

Many of the children are raised by mothers on their own, some of whom work outside the home. "Women have the resiliency to handle things on our own," Barrientos says, laughing.

Next door is the library, computer room, and day centre and dining room for the elderly, which has a knitting corner and large TV set that is turned on but has no picture. "They cut off our cable service because we were behind on the bills, but now we're all caught up and I don't know why they haven't come to connect it again," she says, apologising to the people there.

Raúl Cabrera, 58, comes every day from González Catán, ten train stations away on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. "I've been coming for eight years. I have lunch and take dinner home with me," he tells IPS.

He has seven grown-up children, and takes advantage of his day trips to Villa Soldati to visit the ones who live in this neighbourhood. Cabrera, who lives alone, manages to earn a few coins fixing bicycles.

"Food is so expensive. One kilo of bread costs 12 pesos (three dollars) now, and a kilo of beef is 30 pesos (seven dollars)," Cabrera says. He worked in the construction industry and as a garbage picker collecting and selling cardboard. Now he has neither a job nor a pension.

Barrientos says the Universal Child Allowance (AUH) has done a great deal to improve conditions for poor families in the area.

The AUH is a monthly cash transfer from the government that covers children up to the age of 18 of unemployed parents and informal sector workers, rural workers and domestics with incomes below the minimum monthly wage. The allowance is around 55 dollars per child, up to a maximum of five children, and is conditional on school attendance and up-to-date vaccinations.

But Barrientos does not see cash transfers as an effective tool, in the long run. "Nearly all of the people who come to the soup kitchen receive the AUH and take food home, but if they get everything for free, they won't understand what it means to make sacrifices and they won't have incentives to work," she argues.

She says this despite the fact that her Foundation asks for nothing in exchange for the assistance and services it offers. "A pregnant 15-year-old, who already receives the AUH for herself – why would she think of working?" she comments.

But the 30 women who help Barrientos run the soup kitchen clearly know the value of hard work. Although they do not receive cash wages, they benefit broadly from the donations.

"Women are much more socially-oriented than men, who won't work if they aren't paid. Women like to take things on their shoulders and bring food home, and help their communities. These women are an example," she says, visibly moved.

One of the soup kitchen workers is Isabel Benítez, a 38-year-old widowed mother of four. When her husband was in the hospital and her family was barely surviving, her oldest daughter came here every day to pick up meals for the whole family.

"I didn't know Margarita, but my daughter brought home meals, blankets, mattresses. We didn't have anything, not even food. One day my daughter said 'mamá, there are women working there, why don't you go?' So I came," she tells IPS.

Benítez explained her situation to Barrientos, who told her: "Bring an apron tomorrow and you can start." She has been working in the soup kitchen for four years now, and says she receives "huge support."

"What I bring home is more than what I could earn, and I feel useful helping people who are worse off than me," she says. "We learn so much from Señora Margarita, who does the impossible to make sure no one leaves with empty hands."

source:ips news

Women Seeking Justice Face Archaic Rules and Discrimination

By Nyarai Mudimu

The four armed robbers who gang raped her may be serving time for their crimes, but six years later justice has turned out to be a myth for Mildred Mapingure.

"No post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV was administered to me and there was no ‘morning-after pill’ to prevent pregnancy. I was tossed from office to office, meanwhile I was silently praying I was not pregnant," Mapingure told IPS from her rural home in Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe.

It is illegal to terminate a pregnancy in Zimbabwe unless the ‘pregnancy endangers the life of the mother and/or is a result of unlawful penetration (rape)’, according to the Termination of Pregnancy Act. And abortion is only allowed in the first trimester.

When Mapingure realised the inevitable had happened two months after being raped, prosecutors rushed the application for a termination of pregnancy order through the Chinhoyi regional magistrate’s court in Mashonaland West.

But long court delays resulted in the order being granted when she was eight months pregnant. Mapingure had no option but to give birth.

Four years later, and with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), she has sued government for 52,000 dollars for wrongful birth and child maintenance.

"Until now, I am still waiting to hear the outcome of my case. And as my boy is growing up, his needs are also increasing. I am unemployed and not married but am still expected to provide for him. I haven’t paid this term’s school fees," said Mapingure.

She declined to discuss her feelings for her son at length, insisting she loved him despite the circumstances surrounding his conception.

But Mapingure’s case is not the only one of failed justice in this southern African country.

Director of ZWLA, Emilia Muchawa, told IPS that for anyone to access justice in Zimbabwe, resources and family support are paramount.

"In any jurisdiction, adequate finances are key for one to access court justice. In Zimbabwe, it is even more difficult for women to access justice because women neither have those resources nor do they have access to free legal aid. Courts are far-spaced making it worse for women seeking to get justice for whatever wrong they have suffered," she said.

She said the few brave women who have approached the courts for justice are hardly represented, while the men they seek justice against have legal representation because they can afford to hire lawyers.

"Court procedure and court language are a hindrance to women in Zimbabwe, the majority of whom are less educated than men. We have received reports of women who have been turned away at the entrance, before they have even lodged their cases, by mere court guards," Muchawa said.

Women are required to go to a magistrate’s court for maintenance order applications, the distribution of a deceased’s estate, custody and guardianship of minor children, and protection orders. Divorce and property distribution is done at the High Court

"After being turned away for simple things like court dress code (for wearing jeans, slacks, short dresses), most women never come back again. And because the courts are far removed from the general populace, bus fare becomes a hindrance," said Muchawa.

She said a woman’s family had to be supportive but, because of cultural beliefs and a conservative upbringing, most women face resistance when they seek justice through the courts.

In May a law officer in the Attorney General’s office, Wallen Chiwawa, accused his wife (whose name cannot be published because of a court order) of infidelity and physically tortured her.

However, ‘after a dialogue between their families’ she withdrew the charges.

"The case of Chiwawa’s wife is a good example of how women are pressurised by their families or communities to let culprits off the hook. Because of the docility of women, cultural pressures have presided over injustices they suffer mostly from these same families," said Muchawa.

Deputy Minister for Women’s Affairs Fungayi Jessie Majome, who is also a member of parliament and practicing lawyer, told IPS that court procedures and court officials who "carry patriarchal baggage remain a challenge for women who use courts to seek justice."

"Babies and children are not allowed in court. And most women who seek justice at the courts have suckling babies or toddlers whom they can’t leave alone," the deputy minister said.

She said she once represented a physically abused woman who ran away from her husband with her twin 10-month-old babies.

"She was not allowed in court with her babies as she sought a protection order. And this is just one woman who had me as a lawyer. What happens to the rest of the women like her?" asked Majome.

Besides that, women are required to pay administration fees to obtain protection orders in Zimbabwe. And in a country where, according to the World Bank, 96 percent of people are unemployed, this is difficult.

A protection order application form consists of 17 pages and an applicant is required to make four copies of it. The cost of photocopying that document and the additional five-dollar duty stamp ensures that legal protection for abused women remains a pie in sky, said Majome.

She said some court officials, including magistrates, are also a hindrance to women seeking justice.

"In early 2000 I handled two cases of a teenage girl and middle aged woman who had been raped and fell pregnant. The magistrates who heard the cases separately kept delaying granting (the) termination orders.

"The Termination of Pregnancy Act gives magistrates exclusive discretionary powers to order termination and I think sometimes these powers are abused to serve personal beliefs and convictions at the disadvantage of the affected women," she said.

But she said government plans are at an advanced stage to set up a family court that would be sensitive to women.

Director of women’s rights organisation Musasa Project, Netty Musanhu, said despite receiving training some court officials are gender insensitive.

"You will hear the presiding officer chastising a woman during a (domestic violence) trial (saying) ‘I have no time for tears.’ That alone can ensure women don’t come to court seeking justice," said Musanhu.

Research conducted by Women and Law Southern Africa (WLSA), an organisation dealing with human rights, showed that women are frustrated by financial, geographical, cultural and social factors in using the higher echelons of the courts.

"Problems emanate from the structure and nature of (the court) system in its form. Maintenance matters, domestic violence and administration and distribution of deceased estates remain the major points where women seek justice," said WLSA national coordinator Slyvia Chirawu.

source: ips news

Agreement with Yolocamba was to sensitise women circumcisers, says Dr Touray

Thursday, August 04, 2011
Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director of Gamcotrap, yesterday told the court that Gamcotrap’s agreement with Yalocamba Solidaridad of Spain was to sensitise women circumcisers to abandon the practice of FGM and to protect the girl-child.
Dr Touray was continuing his defence testimony in the trial involving her and Amie Bojang-Sisoho, program co-ordinator of Gamcotrap, at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court before acting-Principal Magistrate Alagba.
The two women’s rights activists were alleged to have, in 2009 in Banjul and diverse places in The Gambia, jointly stole 30,000 Euros being money provided by the YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD of Spain to Gamcotrap.
Continuing her testimony, Dr.Touray told the court that she and her team used the same Gamcotrap computers to prepared ID “A”.
She said that exhibit B was the document that was submitted by Suci from YOLOCAMB SOLIDARIDAD in Spain.
“Gamcotrap had the record of Suci’s visit to The Gambia. This was when the Yolocamba Solidaridad team visited The Gambia from January 29 to 6 February 2009,” Dr Touray added.
She said exhibit B9 was a binding document between Gamcotrap and Yolocamba Solidaridad, adding that after it was prepared they shared among the staff and a copy was given to Suci.
At that juncture, defence counsel Amie A.A. Bensounda applied to tender the document in evidence, which was admitted as exhibit B10.
She said the second document was the appraisal report, when they visited Gamcotrap project sites together with Suci at the villages of Brikama-Ba and Koina.
Dr Touray said Gamcotrap prepared this appraisal report in February 2009, when they came from visiting their project sites, and the said appraisal report was also tendered in evidence as an exhibit.
She said the other documents were the minutes of their meetings with Suci, adding that there was no agreement between Gamcotrap and Yolocamba about micro finance.
“It’s even reflected on our activities that micro finance was not part of the project agreement,” she continued.
“Gamcotrap had agreement with Yolocamba to sensitise women circumcisers in the community in order for them to abandon the practice of FGM and protect the girl-child,” Dr. Touray told the court.
The case at that juncture was adjourned till 9th August 2011.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Women Shield Children From Extremism

By Mehru Jaffer

When Farah’s 16-year-old son began to disappear for several nights a week without saying where he went, she was naturally worried. After he returned one day and shattered the television screen in their Peshawar home, the mother of three decided it was time to quit her job as a teacher and to find out what was making her youngest child so angry.

To her horror, the schoolteacher - who requested that her real name not be published - discovered that her son was spending time in the company of people belonging to terrorist groups in Pakistan’s Swat Valley where Farah’s family originally comes from. The boy’s newly found friends were teaching him that it is a sin for his mother to leave home to work everyday and for his sister, a medical student, to talk to friends on the phone.

The teenager, whose name is also withheld for security reasons, was made to believe that it is a sin for good Muslims to watch television as it can distort their way of life and religion. He was being groomed to protect Islam - even if it meant with his life.

"This happened two years ago and I still don’t have the entire story from him," Farah told IPS. Farah was here along with six other mothers from Egypt, Yemen, Nigeria, Israel and Palestine to participate in Mothers MOVE (Mothers Oppose Violent Extremism), a panel presentation hosted by the Vienna-based Women Without Borders (WWB).

"Farah is a perfect example of how educated mothers can act as an early-warning signal to stop radicalisation in its tracks," Edit Schlaffer, founder and head of WWB told IPS.

Farah agrees that more women must be educated to ensure that they are able to creatively guide their children away from dangerous influences. At present the literacy rate of women in Pakistan is 45 percent, in comparison to 69 percent amongst the male population of the country.

Farah appeared at the open house panel presentation in a veil that revealed little else but her eyes, and she told the audience that she would not reveal her real name as she does not want to attract the attention of those she has successfully stopped from brainwashing her son.

What is common amongst Farah and the other women who also shared their experiences with terrorism is the conviction that the personal is political, and that peace starts at home.

"These women are a glowing example of the potential of mothers to counteract the allure of violent extremism in the family. It is the right and the duty of us women, of us mothers, to be engaged actively in the public arena to ensure the security of the future generation," Schlaffer said.

Farah was able to save her child by taking the change in his personality seriously - early enough. Her son had turned aggressive and secretive and she wanted to know why. Farah feels that because she is a teacher, because she is an educated mother, she was perhaps better equipped to deal with the problem.

"He fought with me and his sister for not veiling ourselves and for driving a car," Farah explained. "He objected to us talking to anyone except to female members of the family."

After discussing with her husband, a medical doctor, both decided to resign from their respective jobs in Peshawar. Their neighbours and friends were told that they were moving abroad.

Farah then moved with her family to another part of the city. Farah and her husband devoted a year to spend time with the teenager - explaining to him what they knew about Islam.

They checked his mobile and discovered that he was called from countless different numbers - when they dialled those same numbers there was no response. To this day the parents don’t know where the child had gone and whom he had met.

Farah told IPS that each time she tries to find out the names of the people he had met and the place he had visited, her son tells her that it is all over, and in the past. He has made it clear to Farah that he does not want to talk about the incident.

After having missed a year of school he is now back in college. That is the good news. The bad news is that he is now introverted and often depressed.

"He likes to write and I encourage him to do so. But he writes the most heart breaking verses that are full of pain and pessimism," says Farah who prays that like her son has been returned to her, happiness too will return to him one day.

According to the U.N., an estimated 103 million Pakistanis, or 63 percent of the population, are under the age of 25. However due to difficult economic conditions the future of the majority of youth in Pakistan seems bleak.

In Swat the Pakistan Army and Taliban have been fighting for control for over a decade. Militants are forever on the lookout to recruit youngsters like Farah’s son to train them to become suicide bombers.

source:ips news

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Maternal Meltdown From Chernobyl to Fukushima

By Whitney Graham and Elena I. Nicklasson*

On this day 25 years ago, a massive explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine released clouds of radioactive particles into the atmosphere across Russia and Europe. The catastrophe had lasting effects on people’s health, particularly on women and their unborn children. On this sober anniversary, we look back at Chernobyl and the lessons learned to ensure the health of Japanese women as the Fukushima disaster unfolds.

Although slow to address the crisis, the Japanese government recently raised the alert level of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants from a 5 to a 7, the highest rating possible and on par with the only nuclear disaster of this magnitude: Chernobyl. By raising the level to 7, the government acknowledged the grave situation before Japan. What it hasn’t done, however, is delineate clear protocols for how people should protect themselves against radiation, particularly the most vulnerable: pregnant women and their unborn foetuses.

Women of reproductive age are at significant risk from the effects of radiation on their bodies and reproductive systems. Studies show women’s exposure to radiation may harm her future ability to bear children and can cause premature aging. The U.S. Center for Disease Control warns pregnant women that, in the event of exposure to radiation, even at low doses, the health consequences for unborn foetuses "can include stunted growth, deformities, abnormal brain function, or cancer that may develop sometime later in life."

No one understands the implications of radiation on women’s health better than the Russian women who survived the Chernobyl nuclear holocaust. The amount of radiation levels released into the atmosphere was comparable to 500 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

In the two decades after Chernobyl, approximately 200,000 people died. Women living in highly contaminated areas in Ukraine and Belarus were affected by chromosome disorders, leukaemia, psychological trauma, depression, and multiple birth defects in their children. Among women who lived in the affected area, medical studies detected high levels of thyroid and breast cancer. Unfortunately, the former Soviet Union failed to provide timely and continuous information about the effects of radiation on human health.

In light of the unique risk to women’s health caused by exposure to radiation, the Japanese government and international agencies must take immediate action. Yet neither the World Health Organisation nor the International Atomic Energy Association - the two international bodies that monitor health and nuclear security respectively - have provided any information about the effect of radiation exposure to women’s bodies. Even a simple google search on the impact of radiation on women does not yield much, nor are there steps that women can take to mitigate the impact on her health and her children.

Although the transition to safer energy sources is a long road, what can and must be immediately done is the proactive outreach to women. The Japanese government must address the gender-specific health risks posed by its nuclear crisis by encouraging women to have medical evaluations and providing them with available resources on the implications of nuclear radiation on their health and strategies to reduce their exposure.

Our recommendations for women affected by the unfolding nuclear crisis are: first get a medical evaluation, and avoid foods produced locally, including lettuce, milk, berries and mushrooms. Pregnant women, specifically those in their first or second trimesters, must be especially vigilant about what they consume, as radiation passes through the umbilical cord to the unborn fetus.

Most importantly, women in Japan should reach out to the local authorities, contact their representatives, and send inquiries to the state-level medical authorities requesting informational materials about measures to protect women’s health and how the Japanese government is ensuring women’s health rights are protected. They should speak out if they feel misinformed, if their health concerns are dismissed (including continuous fatigue or psychological trauma), or if they are discriminated at a work place or hospital as it relates to them being affected by the nuclear crisis. The right to health and the wellbeing of future generations should be of paramount importance and vigilantly protected.

"It wouldn't have been so annoying for us to die had we known our death would help to avoid more ‘fatal mistakes’," Chernobyl survivor and Ukrainian poet Lyubov Sirota wrote about the Chernobyl disaster. Unfortunately, Japan has not learned the "fatal mistakes" of Chernobyl, and the ones who will pay the heavy price are women and future generations.

*Whitney Graham and Elena I. Nicklasson work with the Asia/Oceania and Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States regional teams at the Global Fund for Women.

Training Gives Domestics Hope of Escaping Their Lot

By Brahima Ouédraogo

Emeline Djigma, a twenty-year-old domestic worker, is preparing for the entrance exam to the National Teachers' College this year. She hopes she'll make it, having finally obtained her secondary school certificate thanks to five years of evening classes.

"I only want to succeed to show the way to others and to tell them that by working hard at it, they can move mountains," said Djigma. She spent five years at Ouagadougou's Ouassongdo Centre (the name means "come and help me" in the local language, Moré), managing to attend classes while working as a domestic.

Life for domestic workers in Burkina Faso is hard, IPS heard from Pulchérie Nanan, another young woman studying at the Centre.

"I get up at five in the morning, I sweep the courtyard and clean the house before I go to the market to do the cooking; in the evening, it's more or less the same thing all over again," she said. Nanan earns just 5,000 CFA francs (11 dollars) a month, but hopes to open a hair salon at the end of her apprenticeship.

Rosalie Boutoulegou, another girl at the centre, can finally read and write her name - at the age of 18. "When the sister came to see my cousin in order to free up a part of my day, I didn't believe that I would learn to read and write one day," she told IPS. "I wasn't even getting paid because I lived with my cousin."

Come to me for help

The sister she refers to is the formidable Sister Edithe, the nun who serves as president of the Ouassangdo Centre. Sister Edithe criss-crosses the main roads and back streets of Ouagadougou to convince employers to allow the young women - sometimes just girls - who do their domestic work to come to the centre, where they spend part of the day learning to sew, cook or how to read.

According to Sister Edithe, many domestic workers are badly exploited, often under the pretext that they are being given a place to live and food to eat.

"But we can't simply take girls out of the homes of their employers, or where will they go?" says Sister Edithe.

The work of Sister Edithe's centre is complemented by a campaign to end exploitation of domestic workers carried out by the Burkina Faso Red Cross in partnership with mobile phone companies. The campaign periodically sends SMS messages to selected subscribers, targeting local authorities, traditional chiefs, teachers, and restauratant owners.

"Employers, domestic workers are your family helpers; they have the same rights as your children. Avoid submitting them to bad poor wages, abuse, heavy workloads or sexual violence," says one such message. The SMS's are sent out three times a year, according to Naba Wangré, head of the project.

Wangré says domestic workers with no formal skills or training earn between 3,000 and 6,000 francs CFA (between $6.50 and 13 dollars) a month. She has received numerous complaints from domestic workers who have been assaulted, abused or survived sexual abuse.

Sister Edithe, who has welcomed some 500 girls in her centre since 2002, believes that some domestic workers are paid 25,000 CFA (about 55 dollars) or more. "When there's someone backing them, people pay better and respect the rights of the girls," she says.

"It's a type of work which remains hidden and indistinct because there is exploitation. There is also silence because it is a sensitive sector and difficult to control, especially when the girls work in the families," explains Wangré.

Raising awareness of domestics' rights

Domestic workers in Burkina Faso are typically teenaged or younger girls from rural areas in the country; sometimes sent to work for their own relatives in a semi-formal employment relationship. Nearly 80 percent of Burkinabé girls between the ages of five and 17 are compelled to do household work, according to the National Inquiry Into Child Labour, carried out in 2006 by the Ministry for Labour and Social Security.

The time spent on household activities averages 15.6 hours, spent on tasks such as gathering firewood, doing dishes, cleaning, laundry and looking after children, the inquiry found.

"Domestic work is one of the worst forms of work because the domestic rises at five in the morning, sweeps, does the cooking and only gets back to sleep after midnight," says Sister Edithe.

In the absence of laws dealing specifically with such domestic work in Burkina, it's legislation dealing with child labour that is awkwardly applied. According to convention 182 of the International Labour Organisation, it is considered dangerous work for children if the nature and conditions of the work endangers their health, security or morals of a child.

"We are trying raise public awareness of domestic work, particularly for employers and the girls themselves," says Wangré.

Stella Somé, who directs efforts against child labour at the Labour Ministry believes that only awareness and training can reduce cases of exploitation of domestic workers. "The main difficulty is that this work passes for household duties; it's not easy to send an agent to see who is working in people's homes."

Confronted with the size of the problem, Somé's ministry initiated a forum in 2010 to raise awareness on this question in the regions where Burkina Faso's domestic workforce comes from: in the centre-west, southwest, and centre-east of the country, and other regions.

W.A.S.H. Keeps Communities Clean

By Naimul Haq

DHAKA, Apr 23, 2011, One sunny afternoon, 19-year-old Sufia Aktar presides over a courtyard gathering of housewives discussing the use of safe water, a hygienic environment, and personal cleanliness. It is the last of such gatherings for Sufia, who will soon leave, knowing it was "mission accomplished."

Sufia is a full-time programme assistant for WASH, short for "water, sanitation and hygiene," a campaign to get people to adopt hygienic practices, ensure their access to safe drinking water, and bring their homes under sanitation coverage.

Over a period of five years since the programme started in May 2006, Sufia has been attending six meetings every day, six days a week. She has covered 33,000 cluster meetings for housewives, 600 for adolescents and 300 for children.

"Everyone shows tremendous enthusiasm as they experience the benefits of the discussions," said Sufia, sitting next to a clay home in Kholapara village in Kaliganj sub-district, about 50 kilometres north of Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

WASH was designed by the world’s biggest non-government organisation, the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee, referred to simply as Brac. It comes to an end this month, achieving close to 98 percent coverage in sanitary latrine and access to safe drinking water in the 150 sub-districts or upazilas selected for inclusion in the programme.

In Kaliganj, the programme succeeded in altering people’s sanitation and hygiene behaviour. Before WASH, people got drinking water from contaminated sources like ponds and lakes. There were those who even defecated in the bushes, creating an unsanitary environment that bred diseases.

WASH managed to change that by employing what is considered Brac’s unique method: it trained community leaders of various ages to get people to listen, involving and convincing the community on the wisdom of regular hygiene practices.

"The idea is a bottom-up approach. No one, not even from Brac or the government imposes or forces anyone to obey anything. The changes in improvement in the village environment, better sanitation and higher drinking water coverage come as a result of better sense of understanding," said Mohammed Shafiuddin Mirza, a local mosque imam and also one of the key members of the Village Wash Committee (VWC) in Kaliganj.

WASH worked with different segments of the population, such as those Sufia has been meeting with. The groups are known as clusters, with different categories catering to different age groups. There are "male clusters" for heads of households, "female clusters" for housewives, and separate clusters for adolescent boys and girls as well as children.

Meanwhile, a group of 11 men and women form one VWC for every 50 to 300 households, and ensure improvement in coverage of sanitation and access to safe drinking water by recommending hardware and loan support where needed.

Each VWC is represented by all classes of people from the community - teachers, religious leaders, local NGO representatives, school girls, young women, and even very poor individuals who have never before been recognised as potential leaders.

"Before we begin working in any selected areas we first conduct a survey with the help of local government. Such a joint initiative enables us to understand the real needs of the community," said Aminul Islam, WASH upazila manager in Kaliganj.

WASH leaders encouraged people to invest their money in hardware that would translate to cleaner environments. Before WASH, less than 37 percent of households in Kaliganj used sealed and properly installed latrines. After five years, that number has grown to 93 percent, translated to more than 50,000 households.

Before WASH, only 55 percent of Kaliganj was covered by safe and clean water. Now, that number has risen to 87 percent, with tube wells installed throughout the Kaliganj. There is roughly one tubewell for every three or four families.

"When we visit door to door to inspect progress after certain number of cluster meetings, house owners themselves often show appreciation for having changed their lifestyle," said Shahabuddin Ahmed, chairman of local government council in Kaliganj.

"Many poor families would have never invested in buying a latrine set but since their better sense of understanding, people now realise the need for a healthy environment," he added.

The programme targeted a population living below the poverty line and already, some 38.5 million such poor and hardcore poor have benefitted from this programme. WASH is considered the single largest sanitation programme among the developing nations.

"WASH programme’s biggest strength is its mobilisation strategy where we act as catalyst while the real beneficiaries play vital roles," said Subash Barai, one of thousands of WASH programme organisers who worked relentlessly to achieve the programme’s targets.

Due to low literacy in villages, it is still very hard to convince people why they should invest in healthy living. Traditionally, rural people still believe that it is the government’s responsibility to provide latrines and tube wells for free.

It is the VWC leaders who help break the barriers, convincing the community of the need for healthy lifestyle and environment.

Affluent members of society are expected to improve access to drinking water and sanitation on their own. For the majority of the poor and hardcore poor, WASH coordinates to offer interest-free loans of 1000 taka or 13.5 dollars to each poor family capable of repaying loans.

So far, 157,824 poor families have received loans worth 1.798 million dollars. A total of 3,350,748 traditional latrine sets have been installed throughout the 150 sub-districts. Individual households have installed some 24,500 deep and shallow tubewells while 1,622 water points have been constructed from five major community-based piped water supply systems.

After this month, Brac will be handing over the WASH programme to the local government, with local NGOs continuing the work that Sufia and other WASH advocates have started.

source: ips

Women Key to Greening the Economy

By Aline Cunico

Earth Day celebrated its 41st year Friday with the slogan ‘A Billion Acts of Green’. The grassroots demonstration is said to have inspired the modern environmental movement, and continues to inform and promote green economic policies worldwide, while attracting over a half billion people every year.

This year, one of the main elements of the Earth Day campaign is the Women and the Green Economy (WAGE) campaign focusing on engaging women leaders in the advancement of a global green economy.

Originally launched in December 2010 at the 16th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Cancun, Mexico, the WAGE Campaign intends to promote leadership amongst women, in order to create a sustainable green economy and alleviate climate change.

"Women are on the frontline of climate change and other environmental crises. It makes sense to see them spearheading the effort to solve our environmental problems and jumpstart the clean energy economy," Jenny Powers, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told IPS.

"Earth Day events give us a chance to celebrate progress, but also to roll up our sleeves and start solving today’s problems," Powers said. "People from all walks of life have embraced green solutions, and environmental stewardship has become more pervasive than even the Earth Day founders could have imagined," she added.

"Being disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of climate change throughout the world, women are influential, as home makers and community organisers," says Katherine Lucey, executive director of Solar Sister, an initiative that supports women and girls in rural Africa by providing access to dependable solar energy. "It is critical that they are full participants in the creation of a sustainable green economy."

According to the Earth Day Network, educating women about environmental issues is essential, not only because women constitute more than half of the world’s population, but also because they are responsible for over 85 percent of all consumer choices.

"We are creating the next generation of environmental leaders," Andrea Delgado, senior policy analyst at the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC), told IPS. "Women have a critical role and make most of the decisions at home. It is critical to empower them with choices that are good for the environment," she added.

"In order to move forward and fight climate change, we need to address the vulnerabilities of women in this fight. Empowering them will play a critical role in shaping environmentally sustainable behaviours and policies within households, communities, nations and beyond," Delgado said.

"We need to empower women, while improving the environment," John Coonrod, executive vice president of The Hunger Project, told IPS. He said that simple initiatives could help women escape hunger and poverty in developing countries. "Small-scale farmers - most of whom are women - are perfectly positioned to apply the kind of intensive methodologies needed to achieve goals on a sustainable basis," he added.

It's 'Shock and Awe' for Women, the Middle Class and the Poor

Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill

April 19, 2011

Watch out -- the war being waged on women, the middle class and the poor just took another dark turn. Those connecting the dots will recognize the progression from the calamitous shock to the economy perpetrated by Wall Street to the systematic looting of public assets and families' pocketbooks by conservative lawmakers in Washington and various states.

We must ask whether political calculation motivated Standard and Poor's (S&P) to announce its negative outlook for the U.S. yesterday. Right-wing legislators wasted no time jumping on the announcement as 'proof' that the U.S. must cut Social Security benefits, voucherize Medicare, block grant Medicaid, and target a host of other social programs that disproportionately serve and employ women -- not just family planning but also assisted housing, student loans, Head Start, nutrition, prenatal and infant care and hundreds of other important programs.

Women rely on these programs especially because the recovery, which is anemic to begin with, is leaving them behind. While women accounted for one-third of the jobs lost in the recession, men have picked up almost 90 percent of the job gains. The wage gap -- women on average are paid only 77 cents on the dollar paid to men -- makes it even harder for women to make ends meet. And women of color, subjected to race-based as well as gender-based wage discrimination, are at particular risk.

But conservative politicians and their corporate backers are oblivious to these realities. No surprise there -- this is the same crowd who converted the federal budget surplus to a massive deficit in the Bush/Cheney administration. They were the cheerleaders when the U.S. was led into unnecessary and catastrophically costly wars. They engineered the huge tax breaks on the wealthiest, and then deregulated Wall Street, which soon went out of control and drove the U.S. economy off a cliff, creating the worst unemployment crisis this country has seen in generations.

We hear repeatedly that the 'serious' approach to reining in the U.S. deficit and lowering this nation's debt is to slash spending. But that ignores the revenue side of the budget, conveniently drawing attention away from the need to require multimillionaires and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and to generate income-tax-producing jobs. This is not rocket science: Jobs mean income; income means income tax; income tax means revenue to pay down the deficit. Seriously, who doesn't get this?

But the forces at work here don't give a hoot about lowering the debt or creating jobs. They are too busy making the ridiculously rich even richer while decimating government programs that give women and other disadvantaged people a chance at a decent life.

NOW calls on our elected leadership to stand up for our nation's most admirable principles -- those of fairness, equality and opportunity. Women will support those who do.


For Immediate Release
Contact: Lisa Bennett w. 202-628-8669, ext. 123, c. 301-537-7429


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Argentina: Banking On Women's Experience

by (Buenos Aires)Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Argentina's president is a woman, Cristina Fernández, and the country has one of the highest percentages of women lawmakers in the world. But women also have other leadership roles, outside the political system.

Natalia Garabano, the coordinator of a research project that created a novel Experience Bank, told IPS that 'identifying and drawing attention to the valuable experiences of women who are leaders of their social organisations was one of the project's goals.'

In a recently published report on this research, 87 women leaders of civil society organisations share their experiences of working for the rights to housing, sexual and reproductive health, education, non-discrimination and non-violence.

Garabano, of the Latin American Justice and Gender Group (ELA), said: 'In order to legitimise democracy and make it more robust, it is necessary to promote women's political participation, but in a broad sense, not just through political parties.'

Wider participation is not achieved only by increasing access to political office, but also by boosting women's participation in civil society. This broader concept of participation led ELA to develop the LIDERA (Lead) project, which has three components.

First, there is the research project titled 'Mujeres participando en ámbitos locales. Banco de experiencias' (Women Participating in Local Communities: Experience Bank), consisting of in-depth interviews with women who are leaders of social organisations in six Argentine cities.

At the same time, a study was carried out on 'Sexo y poder' (Sex and Power), about women's participation in decision-making posts in different public spheres, which has not yet been published. The results were disappointing. Women occupy only 15 percent out of 13,627 decision-making posts in over 4,000 institutions, Garabano said.

The third cornerstone of the project was investigating the track records of women lawmakers at national and provincial levels, to find out more about them: how they came to be elected, what their educational background is, what proposals they are making, and how they manage to reconcile work and family responsibilities.

ELA presented the first component, the Experience Bank, in the lower chamber of Congress on Mar.31. 'Women's participation in the local sphere must be strengthened so that their leadership is built and grows on solid foundations and in contact with their social base,' Garabano said.

'Raising awareness about these 'ways of getting things done' may inspire action and strategies in different contexts, and spread knowledge about determining factors and ways of overcoming obstacles, making the most of opportunities and networking,' she said.

The organisations headed by women that were selected for this project were in the city of Buenos Aires itself, in the municipality of Morón, in the west of the metropolitan area, and in cities in the provinces.

The provincial cities were San Salvador de Jujuy, 1,800 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, 1,050 kilometres west of the capital, Neuquén, 1,156 kilometres to the southwest and Rosario, 300 kilometres to the northwest.

source:Inter Press Service

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gamcotrap Officials’trial resumes

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The criminal trial involving Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director of the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP), and Amie Bojang-Sosoho, Programme Co-ordinator of the same organisation, Monday resumed at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court.
However, the case was supposed to proceed with the ninth prosecution witness,  but could not proceed due to the lack of a Fula interpreter. 

The two prominent women’s rights activists are being tried before acting-Principal Magistrate Alagba for allegedly stealing 30,000 Euros, being money provided by the YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD of Spain to GAMCOTRAP. When the trial resumed, the prosecuting officer, Superintendent Sainey Joof, told the court that the prosecution was ready to proceed with their ninth witness. The witness told the court that she could only understand the Fula language, and the court then suggested for someone to volunteer to interpret for the court.

The prosecuting officer then told the court that the witness came with a relative, who can speak both Fula and Wolof, and that she would be able to help the court to translate what the witness said.
But the lead defence counsel, Amie Bensouda, told the court that the interpretation can only be interpreted from one local language to English, but not from one local language to another before being interpreted into English. She added that the defence did not know how capable the relative was, and they could not assess his interpretation skills.

Counsel Bensouda further said that the prosecution should, in fact, close their case, because this particular witness would come to say the same thing like other female circumcisers.
The case was subsequently adjourned till 20 April 2011 for hearing. Meanwhile, in the separate trial of lawyer Moses B. Jonhson Richards, charged with giving false information and sedition, the case was also adjourned till 30 March 2011, for cross-examination.

Women Turn Spotlight on Haiti's Silent Rape Epidemic

By Cléo Fatoorehchi

Some 14 months after Haiti's earthquake, activists say there is an ongoing epidemic of rape and gender-based violence (GBV) in the country's more than 1,000 squalid displaced persons camps, where nearly a million people are still awaiting permanent housing.

According to Annie Gell, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux's coordinator of the Rape Accountability and Prevention Project in Port-au-Prince, "The lack of lighting, the lack of patrols, the inability of women to lock their doors" contribute to the "incredibly insecure situation for women and girls" in the camps.

She accused MINUSTAH, the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, of "generally (staying) on the perimetre of camps," instead of going into the areas where women's lives are actually at risk, especially at night.

According to a March 2011 survey conducted by the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law, "an alarming 14 percent of households surveyed reported that, since the earthquake, one or more members of their household had been victimised by rape or unwanted touching or both."

Marie Françoise Vital Metellus, a gender unit officer with MINUSTAH, told IPS the peacekeeping force has created a trained unit - the UNPOLs - to patrol in the camps and provide specialised assistance to women victims of GBV.

But she acknowledged that the number of camps is huge, and most of them are overcrowded. That makes the UNPOLs' work, along with the National Haitian Police's, particularly difficult.

"We're seeing more women coming forward to report rapes and GBV," Gell told IPS that adding, "a lot of people are moving out of camps because they're so insecure, so dangerous."

Grassroots groups take the lead

"Grassroots groups have the expertise of what needs to be done on the ground, because they live and work in the camps," Lisa Davis, human rights advocacy director with the women's group MADRE and an adjunct professor of law for the International Women's Human Rights Clinic at CUNY Law School, told IPS.

Among these groups is KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims), a Haitian organisation founded in 2004 by rape survivors to provide assistance to others, which recreated itself in the camps after the earthquake.

On Mar. 25, women activists from MADRE, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, CUNY School of Law and Women's Link Worldwide testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington about the severe problems in the camps.

Three Haitian women - Malya Appolon-Villard, Marie Eramithe Delva and Jocie Philistin – attended the hearing to convey the reality of life in the camps, a "nightmare", according to Gell.

But "their voices (of grassroots movements) are being excluded from the planning sessions," Davis told IPS.

She said that while the United Nations GBV cluster should bring together all the actors dealing with sexual violence in Haiti, "(it) is not working with the grassroots groups."

"We're (thus) hoping … that the commission will reinforce that the grassroots groups' voices must be included in planning sessions to end sexual violence," Gell said.

The decision the IACHR will take after all the hearings – likely in a week or two - is "binding on Haiti in a sense that Haiti is a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS), and the Commission is a body that interprets the treaties and laws" signed under the OAS, Gell explained to IPS.

But the government itself was crippled by the earthquake, and lacks the capacity to fully address the issue of gender- based violence. Despite the existence since 1994 of a Ministry of Women's Affairs and Women's Rights (MCFDF, Ministère à la Condition Féminine et aux Droits des Femmes), its programmes are weak due to a lack of resources, Vital Metellus of MINUSTAH told IPS.

She nevertheless stressed that "the state is the key actor", adding, "In its current state, it needs the support from women's groups and U.N. agencies."

As Gell noted, "It's not necessarily that they (the Haitian government) don't want to help women and girls, it's that they don't have the capacity or the will right now to do that."

The organisations hope that donor countries will provide more funding to target the GBV problem, Davis told IPS.

According to Gell, that requires "mak(ing) not only the government of Haiti but the world aware (of the) epidemic of violence against women and girls."

"(In order to) reinforce the capacity of the government's action to be effective in protecting women and girls," emphasised Gell, the organisations are using the petition and the hearings before the IACHR as a way to put pressure on the Haitian government and at the same time on the international community, particularly the donors.

She also stressed to IPS "the need for supporting domestic mechanisms for prosecution," since the attackers usually go unpunished.

source: ips news

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Statement: H.E. Mr. Garen Nazarian Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women

Commission on the Status of Women 
55th  session 
22 February to 4 March 2011 
H.E. Mr. Garen Nazarian 
Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women 

Opening remarks  
Deputy Secretary General, President of the Economic and Social Council, Under-Secretary-General,
Distinguished delegates,

 I am honored to welcome you all to the 55th  session of the Commission on the Status of  Women. I extend a special welcome to representatives from Capitals and in particular to Ministers  and senior Government officials, to the large number of non-governmental organizations and to the entities of the United Nations system that have joined us for this important gathering.

 We meet at a moment of tremendous expectations, excitement and promise.  
 In 2010, achieving the goals and commitments  for gender equality, development and peace
was the central objective of a number of review sessions, commemorations and summits.  
 Member States and other stakeholders strengthened the basis for real change for gender
equality, women’s rights and empowerment.  It is  now our responsibility to see to it that these
commitments are turned into reality for girls and women in all parts of the world.  
 The establishment of UN  Women has created an unprecedented momentum for action
towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. UN Women will be a key partner in all our
efforts.    It gives me very great pleasure to welcome UN Women, and its Executive  Director, Ms.
Bachelet, to the United Nations family.  

Distinguished delegates,  One of the key tasks of the Commission on the Status of Women is to monitor progress achieved and  problems encountered in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.   The annual sessions are the occasion where we focus on a specific theme in an in-depth manner, and identify good practices, lessons learned and results achieved.  It is also the occasion where we resolve to accelerate implementation of previous commitments and make additional  action-oriented recommendations  addressed to States and other  stakeholders.

We review the status of implementation of previously agreed commitments, highlight new
and emerging issues of concern, and exercise a catalytic role in promoting gender mainstreaming.  
This year, the main focus of our work will be on the role of education, training and science
and technology, and the transition of women from education into the world of work.  While much
progress has been, and is being made, inequalities between women and men persist in all parts of the

There will be ample opportunity for dialogue to share experiences and exchange views on
good practices and lessons learned in high-level roundtables and interactive expert panels.  
The Commission’s deliberations should result in a set of agreed conclusions on the priority
theme that are focused, practical and action-oriented, so that they can effectively guide the different
stakeholders towards implementation.   The Commission’s discussions should also result in a renewed effort to eliminate all forms of  discrimination and violence against the girl child, which is the topic of our review theme.  And they  should raise the visibility of gender perspectives in the preparatory process for the 2012 Conference  on Sustainable Development.   Many parallel events organized by Member States, United Nations entities, nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders will further enrich our work.  I look forward to  two weeks of dedicated work with concrete outcomes that will improve the lives of women and girls  globally.

8th Annual World Educational Tour Launches

LOGO 2011 WT 

Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) is launching its eighth annual World Educational Tour from California, USA this year.  From there it circles the globe to countries including Bangladesh, Belgium, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Thailand. This year's tour will increase the availability of YHRI educational materials to youth around the world and highlights the ongoing United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).
Knowing the importance of meeting with people in their own countries to observe the issues and challenges they face and to encourage their efforts, YHRI founder and president Dr. Mary Shuttleworth has personally led the World Tour team each year since 2004. "Youth are the heartbeat of our future. When they do not know their rights, they are vulnerable and easy prey for ill-intentioned individuals," explained Dr. Shuttleworth. "Youth who know that they have rights and responsibilities can defend against or report abuses, and strive to reach their full potentials." 
The Tour presents the YHRI human rights education programs to youth and educators in universities, schools, youth groups, juvenile detention centers and orphanages, as well as to dignitaries including kings, heads of government and officials of the United Nations and Commonwealth of Nations. The annual YHRI World Tour has reached 6 continents, more than 70 countries and hundreds of thousands of youth.

YHRI educational materials include the multi-award winning music video,UNITED, the 30 Public Service AnnouncementsThe Story of Human Rightsvideo, the educator's handbook and the What are Human Rights? booklet. YHRI audiovisual products have reached more than 500 million around the world in 17 languages, with local, national and international media coverage in print as well as radio and television.

The purpose of YHRI is to teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and inspire them to become advocates for tolerance and peace. As a nonprofit organization, YHRI collaborates with like-minded individuals, groups and organizations. Through their support and that of thousands of volunteers, YHRI has expanded to hundreds of affiliated chapters, groups and clubs in more than 100 countries around the world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Set on Fire – New Form of Sexist Violence in Argentina

By Marcela Valente
Fátima Catán and her mother, Elsa Jerez, in a photo from the family album. / Credit:Courtesy of Catán Jerez family
Fátima Catán and her mother, Elsa Jerez, in a photo from the family album. 
Credit:Courtesy of Catán Jerez family

 "I knew he beat her but I never imagined that she would end up like this," Elsa Jerez told IPS, talking about her 24-year-old daughter Fátima Catán, a victim of domestic violence in Argentina who died of severe burns to her body.

Catán's partner, Martin Santillán, was not arrested. Twice he has sent someone to threaten to set his mother-in-law's house on fire. The courts are investigating a double homicide, because Fátima was pregnant, but he has only testified as a witness.

The young woman's death five months ago was one of 260 "femicides" -- a term coined for misogynist or gender-related murders of women -- documented in 2010 by a special observatory of La Casa del Encuentro, an Argentine civil society association, which has produced an annual report on gender-related murders since 2008.

The 2010 total represents a 12.5 percent increase from 2009 in this South American country of 40 million people.

Victims of femicide in Argentina are stabbed, strangled, shot, drowned, beaten to death -- and more recently, set on fire.

In 65 percent of the cases of femicide, the murderer is the woman's partner or ex-partner. And many of the killings occur after the courts have ordered the partner to leave the home or have issued a restraining order to keep him away from the victim of domestic violence.

Last year "we saw a veritable epidemic of women who 'accidentally' caught on fire," Fabiana Tuñez, who heads La Casa del Encuentro, told IPS, pointing out that the number of cases rose from six in 2009 to 11 in 2010.

Tuñez said that after a famous musician allegedly doused his wife with alcohol and set her on fire in February 2010, "a copycat effect occurred."

Domestic abuse hot-lines have reported that they have lately received more and more calls from women saying their partners or ex-partners have threatened to burn them alive, douse them with gasoline, or set them on fire -- threats that are often accompanied by the tag-line "like Wanda."

According to Tuñez, the case set a terrible precedent. The former drummer of the Argentine rock group Callejeros, Eduardo Vázquez, was not arrested after his wife, 29-year-old Wanda Taddei, was admitted to the hospital with burns over 50 percent of her body.

After Taddei died 11 days later, Vázquez was arrested and an investigation was launched. He is now in prison awaiting trial.

But the impunity he initially enjoyed may have encouraged others to follow in his footsteps, Tuñez said.

Catán's mother said her daughter had repeatedly been beaten by her partner in the past, and that several reports were filed with the police. "You nasty old bag, they called the cops on me," he complained to his mother-in-law at the time.

After Catán and Santillán separated briefly, he managed to persuade her to get together again. "She told me she wanted to give him a chance," Jerez said. "But I told her: 'He's not going to stop until he kills you.' I think he killed her because she was pregnant."

She saw her daughter, beaten and badly burnt, in the intensive care unit after Santillán took the young woman to the hospital. "I think he beat her really badly, and thought he had killed her, which his why he set her on fire," she said, in her heartrending attempt to comprehend what happened.

Catán died five days later, without ever being able to explain what occurred.

In the meantime, the apartment where she and Santillán lived in Villa Fiorito, a shanty town on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, had been cleared of all evidence, Jerez said.

Santillán said Catán had been using alcohol to clean CDs while smoking a cigarette, and accidentally set herself on fire. The story was similar to the account given by Vázquez when his wife Wanda Taddei was admitted to the hospital. According to the musician, his wife was cleaning a shelf with alcohol.

Tuñez said that funds are lacking to implement an ambitious law passed in March 2009 to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women. She also said a clear political message from the government and the justice system is needed, to begin changing attitudes towards sexist violence.

The Supreme Court's office on domestic violence acknowledged the magnitude of the problem in 2010, when it reported that 40 percent of murders of women were the result of domestic abuse.

But in late 2010, the Public Defender's Office presented the study "Discriminación de Género en las Decisiones Judiciales" (Gender Discrimination in Court Verdicts), which concluded that discrimination "ensures impunity" for the perpetrators of gender-based crimes.

Gabriela Boada, executive director of Amnesty International in Argentina, told IPS that the law is complex, and that a great deal of coordination is necessary between different ministries and jurisdictions. She said the legislation has not yet been fully put into effect.

"The law is not reality yet, and it does not clearly show, with evidence, what difference it has made in addressing and preventing the violence suffered by at least one out of three women at some point in their lives" in Argentina, she said.

Boada described the law, which takes into account physical, psychological and economic violence, as "a major stride forward," but said that "we know that there are huge gaps between the law and its implementation."

Tuñez said that what is needed is "a sustained, comprehensive policy for assistance to victims and an autonomous, specific legal classification of femicide, as already exists in Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Spain.

"Another basic problem is that many women are not financially independent, which makes it even more difficult for them to leave," she said. "That's why we believe there should be subsidies for housing and food, and that education on these issues is necessary at all levels."

Tuñez underscored two positive aspects of the new law: its definition of violence against women is broad and not just limited to physical abuse, and it stipulates the creation of an observatory to compile specific official statistics on the phenomenon, although this has not yet begun to function.

"Awareness-raising campaigns are also necessary, not only on symbolic dates, but permanently, in the media, the schools, everywhere -- and funds are needed for that," Tuñez said.

Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.