Friday, April 13, 2018

Reducing Sexual Violence through Technology and Crowdsourced Data

The CSW 62 parallel event was jointly hosted by the Red Dot foundation, Safe City, Vital Voices, Red Elephant and Voices against Violence.

Crowdsourced data, as the name suggests, is data pulled through the cooperation and support of the public, without revealing the information of the person sharing the story or incidence. Safe City is a platform that provide technological support to its partners who work towards collecting data from the survivors of sexual or gender-based violence.

Different techniques are used to encourage people in coming forward and sharing their stories. One example is the use of ‘talking boxes’. Boxes are placed in schools, where children are free to write and drop a note or letter in the box. The data from these talking boxes is entered into Sahas, which is an app for the purpose of recording such information. This information is analysed and knowledgeable people from the local community in question are consulted about the issue in question, especially to see if it’s a growing problem or just a one-off case.

In a recent issue logged by a girl, she complained about not wanting to go to school because there would be boys on the way who would put her against the wall and feel her body. The case was studied by a woman representative of an NGO who was familiar to that school’s district. The woman spoke to the local mosque’s imam/leader and requested his help in dealing with these boys. After the Imam had a conversation with the boys and explained to them how wrong it was in their religion, the boys stopped doing that. This incident proved how technology enabled to reduce sexual harassment. But it also proved the need to engage men and boys in talks about gender-based violence.

 Recently Harvey Davidson organized a bike tour of male corporate leaders in South Africa, where these senior leaders went around the community and talked about the issue of gender-based violence.

Today there is no other data set like this in India, where many rape cases have taken global attention. World Bank is interested in using this data for its future projects in India.

Family Caregiving in Taiwan

A detailed research was presented in one of the parallel events of CSW 62 about Taiwan’s policy around “Family caregiving” where the government is concerned about the declining fertility rate.

The presentation started by presenting a rising Human Development Index for Taiwan, implying the potential to improve the declining fertility rate. It is also true that if a country has strong family care policy then the birth rate can be raised. As found, generally people in Taiwan want to get married and have kids, but the family care burden discourages them from having kids even if they marry.

Taiwan government has strived to provide solutions to this problem in several ways. The government of Taiwan has established a Gender Equity office. The office has developed a family care policy which has formulated several working policies like; Mother to-be policy, Mother/Father or Parental policy, childcare and support policy, Nanny support program, and After school programs.

In the policy analysis it is noted that the framework is centred around parenting empowerment which provides the facilities as well as programs like financial assistance, child development program, and skill building program.

It is the conclusion of the presented policy analysis document that no single policy can change the fertility rate. It is also important to note the issue of gender equality, example the imbalance of housework by working hours. There might be a need to develop a more woman-centred policy that not only provides the women child care support, but also flexibility in their working hours. 

Singapore is one success story, where the global city is recorded to have the longest working hours, making it more likely to have low fertility rate. But Singapore used its family care policy with a combination of various other government support programs, subsidies, incentives and promotions to improve the small island country’s birth rate.

Strengthening Women’s Political Participation and Representation in Pakistan

Heinrich Boell Stiftung (Pakistan) sponsored this session as a parallel event in CSW 62. The panellist representing the organization, presented a research report by Rabeea Hadi, which studied the manifestos of Pakistan’s major political parties. The research focused on two components; (1) Gender Violence, and (2) Representation of Women in Politics. The results indicated that women who were in politics only represented parties and did not have any say.

The research studied presence or absence of three key areas in the manifestos:

1)      Women specific legislation and policy making in the areas of: Violence against women, Health, Education and Economic roles.

2)      Education of the girl child and the transgender. No party mentions any objectives around education for young girls or the transgender community.

3)      Representation of the disabled.

Only Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which is led by a former cricketer Imran Khan, has developed a disability wing for its party.

The research shows reduced empowerment of women in the local government over time. During the period when General Musharraf was ruling the country, the quota for women was 33% in local governments. Lately, all local level governments have assigned their own quota which is lower than 33%. The quota is filled forcefully by assigning chosen women in those places. Recently, the grassroot women have started to respond actively, with examples of such women taking positions in the parliament. In the 1990’s elections the representation of women was 0.9%.

Besides representation of the women, none of the parties talks about capacity building program in the political arena, be it for men or women. According to the political parties, there is no budget for capacity building. However, recently an organization has been developed for the purpose, called “Parliament Institute of Capacity Building”. 

The provincial government of Punjab have taken a step forward by introducing “Inheritance rights Laws” in the province, thus serving a major issue where women are often at the losing end.

There is need to review the party manifestos and address issues like those mentioned above as well as Child marriage, Capacity Building and concern for the Displaced Persons.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Всеобщий Союз Суданских Женщин (ВССЖ)

Всеобщий Союз Суданских Женщин (ВССЖ)

На данной сессии присутствовали члены ВССЖ и представители негосударственных организаций в сфере защиты и поддержки прав женщин из Судана.

Участники конференции в своей презентации рассказали о примерах, когда женщины благодаря грантовой поддержке смогли добиться успехов. Основная масса проектов связаны с сельским хозяйством. По словам выступавших скотоводство и земледелие положительно влияют на развитие всего сообщества.

Когда женщины добиваются успехов в бизнесе и могут оказывать существуют поддержку своим семьям, их мужья и общество начинает менять свои взгляды и отношение к женщинам, они видят в них поддержку и начинают более уважительно к ним относиться.

К сожалению, несмотря на все усилия общественных организаций положение женщин в Судане все еще в очень плачевном состоянии. Судан занимает самое последнее место в списке стран с самыми высокими показателями гендерного неравенства.

Роль общественных радиовещательных организаций в предоставлении женщинам из сельской местности возможности выражать свое мнение.

Роль общественных радиовещательных организаций в предоставлении женщинам из сельской местности возможности выражать свое мнение.

То, как радио может помочь усилить голос и влияние женщин в современном мире обсудили участники из разных стран на данном дискуссионном форуме. Первой выступила основатель фонда “ЭМПАУЭР ХАУС” из Дании, Бригитт Джалов. Она также является признанным экспертом в области радиовещания. Более 30-ти лет она работает с радиостанциями в различных общинах для их развития и обеспечения позитивных социальных перемен. Фонд провел работу в 70 странах и запустил более 300 проектов с данной целью. Бригитт считает, что радио является очень эффективным инструментом, который позволяет донести важные идеи до людей в самых отдаленных уголках планеты и дает им возможность быть услышанными в то же время.

“Люди говорили, что эпоха радио закончилась и оно выходит из моды, но я каждый день получаю информацию, в частности из Лондона, в которой говорится что оно все еще является мощным механизмом, который дает возможность женскому сообществу говорить о проблемах, с которыми они сталкиваются ежедневно”, говорит Бригитт Джалов.

Аршана Капур добавила, что, предоставляя возможность выражать свои мысли радио способствует расширению прав и возможностей женщин. Аршана является кинопродюсером, издателем новостного журнала и активистом по защите прав человека. Также, она является владельцем радиостанции, которая занимается поддержкой и решением проблем округа Меват в Индии который находится за чертой бедности. “Мы не просто даем микрофон людям, мы даем им возможность для распространения своих идей", говорит Аршана.

Далее выступила Шейла Катсман. Шейла является специалистом в области планирования, разработки и запуска программ которые способствуют позитивным переменам в обществе. Шейла получила большое количество наград за миротворческий вклад во время ее работы на радио в Сьерра-Леоне.

“В своем радио я использовала музыку, потому что музыка — это опиум. Каждые пять минут мы вставляли послание, и я должна вам сказать, что если люди помнят музыку, то они обязательно запомнят послание”, - говорит Шейла. Шейла также озвучила интересное предложение создать радиостанцию для детей, которые были мобилизованы и готовились для военных действий.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Successful Stories in Rural Women Empowerment: March 23rd

Sponsored by: The Sudanese Women General Union

This panel was centered on the experiences, challenges and triumphs of Sudanese women. Sudan is just about two years post-conflict and is in the process of recovery and development. The women explained that they now lived in a peaceful, quiet country and were grateful to the NGOs and UN agencies for supporting some of their efforts for women.

First, I would like to focus on a comment made about sanctions. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Sudan in order for the country to address human rights violations and terrorism in the country. In 2017, parts of that sanction were lifted. During the panel, one Sudanese woman talked about being grateful for the partial lift of the sanctions; she explained that they were mostly affected women and children. Although she did not go into more detail, I found it really important. When tragedy hits, it seems to affect women and children the most. Government officials tend to not consider the impacts of sanctions on women. The panelist described the situation as "getting better," now that the sanctions have been removed somewhat.

Second, the Ambassador for Sudan was at the discussion. He gave a quick talk at the end of the panel, and I found his quote important: "Women have the right to thrive, not just exist." Not only does he want basic comfort for women in the Sudan, he also hopes for great success for women. Overall, the Sudan is still post-conflict and is trying to develop female rights, while also rebuilding and reestablishing their society.

Community Media Broadcasters: March 23rd

From this panel, Archana Kapoor (SMART, India) was the most powerful for me. She talked about how the word empowerment can take on several meanings, based on context. She joked that she had the power because she was speaking into the microphone and her voice could be heard in the room. She also gave examples of ability/possibility to change and the ability to speak freely were important forms of empowerment.

"Women have the right to voice. If we don't use it, we are voiceless. And, people have been muted." 

Kapoor works for SMART in rural areas in India; she talked about the challenge of working in India, where language and dialects change every 50m. With this in mind, she explained why community radio was so important. In India, it gives each "pocket" of people (with different languages, practices, etc.) the ability to speak in their native language and to have their voice be heard. Kapoor talks about the use of community radio as a form of empowerment, to have your voice be heard. She also noted that radio is low cost, high impact. In a country where women have to bargain to be heard, community radio gives them voice and a platform to share their experiences. Kapoor notes that, although life hasn't changed yet for most women, at least their voices are being heard and they feel like they're making a difference. 

Community radio is: 1) local, 2) cost-effective, 3) empowering and 4) powerful. 

What Works to Tackle Early Child Marriage & Empower Rural Women and Girls?: March 12th

This session, on March 12th, was divided into two parts: understanding the prevalence of forced childhood marriage & learning about interventions that have been tested. In this blog post, I will focus on the latter of the two.

First, I learned that vocabulary matters with this topic. Around the world, the word "young" is disputed--when is a child too "young" to get married? For the purposes of eradicating forced childhood marriage, the word "forced" replaces the word "young."

The following research study was presented as an intervention to forced childhood marriage:

  • 460 communities were studied (2007-2010)
  • 40,000 girls were involved 
  • 4 Groups for the study, based on a lottery 
    • Girls empowerment program
    • Conditional Incentives (Cooking oil each month for delaying marriage)
    • Empowerment Program + Incentives
    • Received Nothing 
  • This study was conducted to see whether an empowerment program or incentives were more influential in keeping young girls out of forced early marriages. 
When the cooking oil was offered as a reward for keeping out of a young marriage, the number of marriages decreased by 21%. I was shocked by this number! Although the empowerment programs did not have quite the effect of the incentives, follow-up research showed that the girls who did the empowerment program were 50% more likely to be making income by the age of 23. This research shows that incentives, based on community needs, can be really powerful in protecting women on several platforms. 

Can We Achieve Gender Equality in a Context of Criminalization?: March 12th

Sponsored by Amnesty International

I would like to start this post with my main take-away:
                                 The criminalization of an action is the easy way out. 

In this panel discussion, I learned about how women are criminalized for their womanhood; for instance, a pregnant woman who does drugs will be criminalized. Instead of being given the rehabilitative resources to stop drug use or even the contraception to avoid pregnancy, they are criminalized for their bodies. This is just one example that came up during this deep panel discussion.

The discussion blossomed into thinking about how women want to see change, and government often appeases the desire for "change" by implementing policy. This type of route makes more and more things criminal. (There was also discussion about how not all implemented laws are followed). However, the talk opened my eyes to how policies are most of the time not effective. They do not help or change the issue, they just give the illusion of change.

Additionally, there was talk about how criminalization can marginalize an entire community; it can break community. And, criminal justice is limiting in nature; laws may remove some crime, but it doesn't change the experiences of women. In order for a community to realize true change for women, there needs to be rehabilitative efforts to change society as a whole--laws alone cannot refocus society to support women.

Measuring Women's Empowerment: March 12th

Anne Marie Goetz: Clinical Professor (USA)
Winrose Alyaguthi Mwangi: Groots, Kenya
Alison Holder: Director of Equal Measure 2030

Sandra Pepera

How do we really know if women are being empowered? How do we measure women's empowerment?

One of the stand-out moments from this discussion was Alyaguthi-Mwangi spoke to the fact that most data is collected by "higher ups." Then, that data is manipulated and used to create policy. She called for the local community-guided collection of data; the community could tell you what is happening for women much more accurately than a data-collector from the government. Her hope is that locally-driven data will reflect the actual situations for women, which will lead to more helpful policy and decision-making at the government level.

Dr. Goetz also spoke to the fact that the empowerment of women needs to be measure in more ways than one; data shows simple data and does not help us to understand the roles and lives of women in diverse ways. Women can and should be empowerment through different facets, and those types of empowerments should be recorded. For instance, Goetz suggests collecting data on the following questions to start: "How powerful are [women] at home? How many men do unpaid labor? How do you feel climate change affects women in your community? Etc."

Overall, I learned that data on women needs to be collected in order to better help women, but that the data collected is oversimplified or does not represent the voices of the actual women.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

“Break the Silence! MENA Media Platforms Negate Women’s Narratives”

The titles event was held in cooperation by women representing Middle Eastern and African countries like Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, etc.

The women who spoke in this event were passionate and represented past and current affiliations with advocacy, media of journalism, and news reporting. They described how there are always dedicated sections in print media for women, but the material is only limited to beauty, cooking fir household related subjects. There is no space that is dedicated for women’s issues like harassment, domestic violence or women’s rights. Recently women who are well known in the media circles have stepped forward and initiated their own television shows as anchors. These shows portray talk about problems faced by women in Middle East and Africa regions. Recently a young girl dies while female genital mutilation was performed, and this was given as a front-page news. Just getting this story to the front helped in raising awareness about the issue of female genital mutilation in Africa.

The speakers stressed that it is important for media to cross all boundaries. While there is a positive change in media today about awareness on women’s issue, but women are still represented as a commodity by the media. It is reproducing women as victims rather than survivor, making the position of woman as inferior.

In the MENA region, social media mostly back lashes against feminism and women’s rights. Feminists are attacked, they are called corrupt, and all the blame is placed on the victim of the attack.

Media has discourses images to the young generation and emphasized that violence against women is okay. Media is way behind development on women’s rights, and there is no support in this area by the government. In 2005 and 2014 again, advocates convinced the national convention in Morocco to sign a bill about improving women’s images in the media but to-date no plan has been adopted by the government. Apparently, the MENA region has a long way to go in the area of women’s image created and discoursed by the media.

"Women, Natural Resources and Climate Change"

I chose this session with interest to learn more about the W+ standard. This was a parallel event cosponsored by multiple NGOs focused on gender mainstreaming in the area of climate change and natural resource conservation.

The session was lead by the founder of WOCAN, along with other Washington D.C based organizations. Wocan has been successfully working in the rural areas connecting rural women to professional women within their communities. The W+ standard has been adopted by World bank as well, and Wocan aspires to promote W+ to measure and certify outcomes at community level. W+ is a framework that can help to measure, quantify and monetize the social capital created by the rural women. By quantifying the social capital, it is possible to reward the women who are contributing towards this objective. The W+ measures women’s empowerment in six domains: Time, Income & Assets, Health, Leadership, Education & Knowledge and Food Security. It produces quantified women-benefit units that contribute towards post 2015 Sustainability Goals (SDGs), Climate Financing or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) targets.

The director explained the vision of Wocan, stating that the main purpose of the organization is to advance women’s empowerment and encourage collective action to tackle climate change and poverty with enabling environments. Besides the W+ standard developed by Wocan, the organization has multiple projects taking place globally, trains people in leadership and gender, and organizes women leadership circles in agriculture and natural resource management. Wocan also provides incubation for innovation and has seen recent success in Nepal.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Media Portrayal of Intimate Partner Violence

This CSW parallel event Media Portrayal of Intimate Partner Violence was sponsored by the NGO Committee on Mental Health and co-sponsored by International Psychoanalytical Association, American Psychiatric Association and Dianova International. This session focused on mental health, especially for victims and survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). The session started with the experience of Alicia, a survivor of sexual and physical violence from both her father and first husband. Alicia, who had a childhood steeped in violence, poverty and neglect was raped at the age of 14 and became pregnant at the age of 15 by a forty- something year old man. Despite the abuse suffered at the hands of this man, she was forced into marriage with him and saw this as her escape from her sexually abusive father. During her first marriage, she was continually beaten, even when she was pregnant. A chance for escape presented itself after childbirth and she took it but was unfortunately unable to take her child with her and Alicia has not seen her son in 10 years. Alicia has been able to transform her narrative from victim to survivor with the support of friends, her social worker and psychiatric intervention. Alicia’s story is one of many that tells of the horrific effects of intimate partner violence on the victim, family and society as a whole.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) refers to any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to anyone in a relationship. IPV is a global problem and this is addressed by a myriad of health organizations such as WHO and CDC. According to the CDC, in 2012, 1 in 2 homicides of women were by intimate partners or family members. More than 1 in 10 women have experienced forced sexual acts globally. 41 percent of women who were sexually violated experienced it before age 18 and there is a multitude of negative impacts such as feeling fearful (62%), concern for safety (57%) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, 52%).

IPV has adverse consequence on the individual, the family and society as a whole. With IPV comes psychological issues for the victim but also for the children who are exposed to a hostile home environment which could disrupt development. There are also economic costs of IPV. The costs are significantly severe in low-to-middle income countries.

Country estimates of IPV costs
US- $5.8- $12.6 billion
UK- ₤23 billion
France- €2.5 billion
Globally, IPV takes up 5.2% of the global GDP. This ranks it higher than civil war which takes up 0.25%. Therefore, IPV is a situation that needs to be addressed globally. This can be done through a variety of interventions and preventive measures such as inclusion of men and boys in the war against IPV, teaching healthy relationship skills, creating protective environments with zero-tolerance for violence, providing economic support for families and launching media awareness campaigns. With these measures in place, we can tackle risk factors for IPV.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Community Media Broadcasters: Building Capacities for Amplifying Voices of Rural Women

       Conducted at the UN Headquarters in New York City, this panel was broken up into four panelists all from different parts of the world.  Despite the different contexts they all come from, they all discussed the same thing: using radio to empower women.  The speakers provided representation from Denmark, Sierra Leone, the Philippines, and India. 
       Birgitte Jallov, from Denmark, set the stage by discussing the difference between community radio, commercial radio, and public service radio.  She said that at this panel, they would be talking specifically about community radio, which is a form of radio that is of, for, by, and about the community.  She explained that community radio is “of” the community because it’s part of the community; it’s “for” the community because it’s made for the community; it’s by the people, because it’s produced by the community; lastly, it’s about the community, because, simply, it’s about the community.
       The next speaker, Shelia Katzman from Sierra Leone, talked about her rich radio experience in her country.  She gave a tip to aspiring radio hosts by explaining that they should speak about what they care about; oftentimes in rural communities, rural women may feel like that have little to no voice.  This message was closely aligned with the message of Archana Kapoor (from India).  Archana explained that giving the microphone to a person empowers them, and creates a space for them to distribute their ideas.
Shelia went on to explain that by telling their stories on the radio, women have been able to decrease violence against women, help men to see women as partners, and increase harmony in families.  She explained that the benefit to creating local radio, versus using radio channels from afar to deliver messages, is that people trust local radio channels more and speaking in the native language.
       Lastly, the speaker from the Philippines, Grace Uddin, spoke about a program in the Philippines teaching children how to be radio hosts.  The idea behind this is that radio is a widely used form of distributing news, and teaching children how to broadcast will help create future radio hosts.  By the end of this program, children receive the chance to conduct an actual broadcast.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Break the Silence!

The CSW parallel event- Break the Silence! MENA Media Platforms Negate Women’s Narratives was sponsored by Nazra for Feminist Studies and co-sponsored by The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa. This session focused on the violence and stereotypes perpetrated about women in the media in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with a focus on North Africa. The panel consisted of three women who are involved in the media in North Africa- one from Morocco and two from Egypt. One consensus among all panelists was that to properly address the issue of gender-based violence in media, the most important question to answer is: “Are there female leaders in media?” To this question, all panelists answered NO. The panel members stated that it is difficult to get real issues concerning women into the media outlets because of a lack of female representation in leadership positions.

In Egypt, the only sections of the newspapers that are dedicated for women are for fashion, beauty, motherhood and cooking which often perpetuates untrue stereotypes and when real issues are addressed, it is called a corruption of the women’s section of the newspaper. This serves as a battle for the Women Human Rights defenders as they are not only up against the media and a patriarchal society but also against private companies who have a vested interest in continually perpetuating these demeaning stereotypes of women in order to keep up their sales of cosmetic, fashion and beauty products. In Morocco, women are championed as being equal and included but are portrayed in the media as commodity which is a paradoxical situation that reinforced patriarchy among the younger generation and shifts the focus away from gender based violence.

However a battle has been won with the aid of local, regional and international feminist activists who provide journalists with the data needed to compel editors-in-chief to publish these important issues as there are facts and figures to back up the need for this information. In Egypt, Ms. Raneem has taken it upon herself to create a safe space for Egyptian women, especially rural women who experience worse forms of violence to tell their stories from a different perspective than that of the traditional media outlets who blame the victims of sexual terrorism. She created this space because as a professional in the media, she had experienced firsthand how women were portrayed as commodity, the lack of female leadership in media and the portrayal of sexual violence in the media. She uses alternative media outlets to ensure that the voices of women are heard with the hope that these efforts in the media will serve as a tool to change the culture.