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 RufaĆ­ (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

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.