Eliminate violence against women, the most widespread, pervasive human rights violation

Eliminate violence against women, the most widespread, pervasive human rights violation

According to the UN, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is not only one of the worst forms of discrimination but also remains the most widespread and pervasive human rights violation in the world, 11 UN entities said on Friday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

One in three women are thought to experience gender-based violence in their lifetime, according to a statement launching the “UNiTE! Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls campaign.”

Moreover, that last year, nearly one in five 20- to 24-year-old women had been married before turning 18 and less than 40 percent who experience violence sought the help of any sort.

Violent triggers

At the same time, global emergencies, crises, and conflict have further intensified VAWG and exacerbated the drivers and risk factors.

The statement reads, “Since the beginning of COVID-19, 45% of women reported that they or a woman they know has experienced a form of VAWG.”

Combatting the scourge

While ending gender-based VAWG might seem unimaginable, the UN underscored that “it is not”.

The statement continued, “Significant reductions in violence against women can be achieved through intensive feminist activism and advocacy along with evidence- and practice-informed multisectoral action and investment.”

Citing evidence suggesting that “strong and autonomous feminist movements” as being “the most critical factor” in ending VAWG, UN Women and its sister agencies are calling upon governments and partners to “act now to end violence against women and show their solidarity to women’s rights movements and activists”.

Taking steps, making a stand

The UN is requesting more long-term funding and support for women’s rights organizations working to prevent and address VAWG through the UNiTE campaign.

It is also advocating for resisting the rollback on women’s rights; amplifying the voices of women human rights defenders and feminist women’s movements; mobilizing more actors to join movements to end VAGW globally; and promoting the leadership and participation of women and girls in political, policy making, and decision-making spaces.

The statement also underscores the need to strengthen protections to prevent and eliminate violence, harassment, threats, intimidation, and discrimination against women human rights defenders and women’s rights advocates/activists.

AU, UN Women Renew Commitment to Advance Gender Equality in Africa

AU, UN Women Renew Commitment to Advance Gender Equality in Africa

The African Union Commission’s Women, Gender and Youth Directorate (WGYD) in collaboration with UN Women Eastern and Southern Africa and the UN Women Liaison Office to the AU agreed on drafting a joint Framework aligned with the African Union and the UN Women strategic gender priorities for Africa, Official press release confirmed.

The AU’s press release states that the Framework will take into account both UN Women’s expertise and mandate as the world’s leading advocate for women and girls, as well as the AU’s special positioning and access to African policymakers at the highest levels across the continent.

It is aligned with both organization strategies on gender equality, in particular the WGYD Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy and the UN Women Agenda 2030.

The participants also agreed on five key areas that should be included in the new ‘AU-UN Women Collaborative Framework’, particularly: Programmatic support on GEWE; Challenges at the Operational Level; Resources; Support, and Opportunities.

According to the official press release, the three-day meeting served as a platform for the AUC and UN Women to strengthen their strategic partnership on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa over the course of the next five years.

UN Women and ILO hold the 4th annual meeting of the regional Joint Strategic Coordination Committee for the Work for Women programme

Cairo – Within the framework of the Joint Programme[1] “Promoting Productive Employment and Decent Work for Women in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine” (Work4Women), generously funded by the Government of Sweden and the Swedish International Development Agency, UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States and the ILO’s Regional Office for the Arab States jointly held the fourth Joint Programme Strategic Coordination Committee (JPSCC) on Wednesday, 23rd November 2022, in Cairo, Egypt.

Hosted by the National Council for Women and the Ministry of Manpower in Egypt, the meeting of the regional JPSCC was convened to share knowledge between governments, development partners, workers’ and employers’ organizations, civil society organizations and UN agencies in the three countries. The meeting provided a forum for updates and discussions on the programme’s progress and results achieved to date in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine, including a variety of research produced by the programme that can facilitate decision-makers’ development of effective policy solutions. The meeting highlighted the need for deeper engagement to understand and address women’s economic empowerment issues among all partners.

The JPSCC is considered as the highest body for strategic guidance and coordination within the JP. It is also regional in its remit, covering all three participating countries in the programme, and is responsible for ensuring that all of the JP’s objectives are met as defined in the programme’s documents, and that the programme ultimately meets the needs of all stakeholders.

The meeting was attended by H.E. Dr. Maya Morsy, President of Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW); H.E. Håkan Emsgård, Ambassador of Sweden to Egypt; Ms. Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, Regional Director of UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States, and Mr. Eric Oechslin, Country Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for Egypt and Eritrea, and the Decent Work Team for North Africa.

The Ministry of Manpower confirmed that by participating in the programme to “Promoting Productive Employment and Decent Work in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine”, and by supporting the Gender Equality Unit, the Ministry’s plan was accordingly further expanded and amplified to cover directorates in the governorates of Egypt. The institutional capacities of the Unit’s personnel and branches, as well as labour inspectors, have been upgraded, and trainers have been prepared to cover the training needs of provincial directorates. Additionally, the Ministry is also supporting the issuance of the Gender Sensitivity Inspectors’ Manual, and is collaborating in the establishment of a website for the Equality Unit that should be launched soon.

Dr. Maya Morsy, said that “the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030, approved by H.E. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt in 2017, includes the pillar of women’s economic empowerment, aiming to develop their capacities to expand their employment options, achieve equal opportunities in the employment of women in all sectors and increase their participation. NCW has developed policies supporting the role of women in the labor market such as the “Closing Gender Gap Accelerator” in cooperation with the Ministry of International Cooperation, the first model of its kind for public-private cooperation in Africa and the Middle East region. Facilitating women’s active participation in the economic life is an urgent priority on the national agenda, which requires well-formulated legislation and policies, innovative solutions and sustainable partnerships, as well as a shift in the general culture of institutions and in the mentality of both men and women.”

Speaking on behalf of UN Women, Ms. Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen highlighted that “by adopting a holistic approach to the programme’s implementation, UN Women builds on its expertise and global leadership for gender equality, and particularly within the area of women’s economic empowerment in the Arab States. In 2022, women’s employment and income-generation opportunities continue to be negatively affected by the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19: women have borne 41% of job losses in the Arab world even though they constitute less than 20% of the workforce on average. Advancing women’s employment, inclusion and economic access is considered a necessity and a critical steppingstone towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Concurrently, Mr. Eric Oechslin said “I am very pleased with the Joint Programme’s results, which prove how joint coalitions between UN offices that are guided by the support of our national partners and tripartite constituents are essential to promoting social justice and gender mainstreaming in workplaces. This joint effort presents itself as an opportunity to benefit women and men equally, and therefore inequality is not perpetuated. Essentially, and in return, the programme’s agenda will ultimately contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitment of “leaving no one behind”, which is relevant to the Organization’s social justice mandate and standard-setting agenda.” In his word, Mr. Oechslin emphasized that through this successful partnership, the ILO aligns itself with the needs and demands of constituents, as reflected in the gender-transformative interventions that aim to deliver structural and institutional changes needed in the world of work.

H.E. Håkan Emsgård, underscored that “Women represent 40 percent of the global labour force. Holding back gender equality simply means holding back development and prosperity”.

The Work4Women programme aims to achieve three interlinked and mutually supportive pillars of results; which are gender responsive labour laws and related policies that are in place and effective; a supported gender responsive private sector that attracts, retains and promotes women; and challenging gender stereotypes about women and men’s responsibilities concerning unpaid care and household work.

[1] The UNW/ ILO Joint Programme advocates for gender responsive labour laws and policies, a gender responsive private sector and the elimination of stereotypes around unpaid care and household work.

Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Talks share corporate best practices on women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan

Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Talks share corporate best practices on women’s empowerment in Kazakhstan

According to the UN Women, at a networking event in Almaty on November 4, organized by UN Women Kazakhstan in partnership with the AlmaU University, representatives of the private sector shared national and global best practices on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in business and adhering to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

“We stand for equal opportunities and have zero tolerance for any discrimination against our employees, including discrimination based on gender,” said Adil Mukhamedjanov, Deputy Chairman of Baiterek, at the WEPs Talks event. He stated that women make up 20% of the Board of Directors and 13% of the Management Board of the holding and its subsidiaries.

Among Schneider Electric’s Kazakhstan operations, the number of women employees has almost doubled in the past seven years, reaching 50 people – one-third of the company’s staff across the country.

Last year, Kazakhstan updated its Family and Gender Policy, and one of the objectives became raising women’s participation at the decision-making level, including the quasi-state sector, to 30 per cent by 2030. These positive changes are the result of joint efforts by the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the Presidency, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, and the Ministry of Information and Social Development, together with civil society organizations, all supported by UN Women.

More than 8,000 Kazakhstani women have visited the Centers for Women’s Entrepreneurship Development (CWED) since the beginning of this year, with half of them receiving training to start their businesses. Turkestan’s first centre opened last year. There are now 17 of them throughout Kazakhstan.

“Nineteen per cent of our women applicants live in rural areas. Women from socially vulnerable categories make up 30 per cent of our service recipients, and a majority of them are mothers with many children,” said Nazira Dzhakipbayeva, Head of the CWEDs operated by the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs.

New report highlights the private sector response to promoting gender equality in the Arab States

Cairo – In partnership with the UN Global Compact and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States published the Bridging the Gap in the Arab States report on emerging private sector response and recovery measures for gender equality, a companion piece to the global publication of UN Women and IFC ‘Bridging the Gap – Emerging Private Sector Response and Recovery Measures for Gender Equality amid COVID-19 (2020)

The report provides examples of good practices from a growing number of businesses in the Arab States that are taking gender-responsive action to ensure the economic inclusion and social well-being of their employees, customers, and suppliers, as well as local communities. By adopting a holistic and intersectional approach, the report presents the good practices of private sector companies across six diverse thematic pillars that can ultimately contribute to achieving better business outcomes, lowering turnover and absenteeism rates in the workplace, and increasing productivity levels in the workplace.

The six thematic pillars are: promoting well-being and mental health; providing flexibility and family-friendly policies; enabling equal access and use of digital technologies and platforms; ensuring equal access to financial and non-financial services; strengthening inclusive supply chains and support for women-led businesses; and addressing, preventing and mitigating gender-based violence.

Welcoming the release of the report, the Regional Director for UN Women in the Arab States, Ms. Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, said “the economic crisis as result of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted different regions, countries, and populations differently. However, we do see one common thread, namely that women have borne the brunt of job losses and increases in unpaid care, as well as exposure to violence. We know from the evidence that women’s economic inclusion and increased labour force participation can significantly impact and accelerate the region’s socio-economic recovery, and hence address the negative consequences of the economic crisis. Therefore, UN Women emphasizes the importance of partnerships with the private sector to advance and promote gender equality in the workplace, marketplace, and communities. We are pleased to see that a growing number of companies in the region share this commitment, and applaud the more than 350 companies that have already signed the CEO Statement of Support to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), forming part of a global platform of close to 6,500 members that are taking action towards women’s economic empowerment.”

“Ensuring women have a seat at the table is not just the right thing to do, it’s good business,” said Khawaja Aftab Ahmed, IFC’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. “With the private sector facing uncertainty around the world, instilling workplace policies that address the gender gap will support businesses while promoting the sustainable growth of the global economy.”

Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General & CEO of the UN Global Compact said “while we are all navigating uncharted waters with the current converging crises of the world, one thing is for certain: to build forward better, we must build forward in a more gender inclusive way. Together, we can disrupt gender stereotypes and ensure that women and girls are empowered in business and beyond.”

The report makes a regional call to action for business leaders to introduce and implement necessary gender-sensitive policies and measures to address the gender gap. A gender-responsive business environment will translate into sustainable and inclusive development that will be more resilient to potential future socio-economic shocks.


Across the world, women are climate solution-makers

Through their discussion on policy measures for gender-equal climate policy at COP27 in Egypt, the Nordic ministers and African leaders expressed how climate policy will eyewitness the transformative influence that women’s equal involvement is going to have on international climate negotiations.

As a result of hosting the COP27 in Africa, the ongoing climate negotiation in Egypt is currently referred to as “Africa’s COP”. The continent is considered the least contributor to climate change, and the most affected by it.

Representatives from the Nordic governments, the African Union, and UN Women explored new methods to attain better equitable leadership, due to the significant portrayal of gender equality in the present climate negotiations.

Head of the UN gender equality body UN Women, Sima Bahous, noted “Globally, little funding is targeted at gender equality and women’s climate action. Moving forward, government action, including from African and Nordic leaders, must improve access to funding for gender-equal climate solutions.”

A policy guaranteeing gender equality across the board in areas of agriculture, higher education, transport and fishing needs to be reinforced, in view of the huge effect green transition is expected to have on all aspect of the society.

“On our continent, it is women who take care of the lion’s share of agriculture and who must now adapt food production to climate change. We need embark a highly attractive, climate- and gender-smart agricultural policy for the new generation of food producers,” stated Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, the commissioner responsible for agriculture and sustainable environment in the African Union.

Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, represented Nordic countries joined by Hanna Sarkkinen, Finland’s Minister of Social Affairs and Health; they both pointed out that the climate policy in Nordic countries are relatively “gender-blind” to this day, in an attempt to push gender-equality to be higher up on the climate agenda, on a national international level.

Hanna Sarkkinen added “I’ve read the African Union’s climate action plan and learnt a lot. The Nordic countries have made a joint commitment to put all the relevant knowledge on the table and to integrate gender equality in all the policy areas affected by the green transition. I’m working hard to implement this commitment in Finland.”

Evidentially, African women face higher risks and more dramatic consequences regarding climate change, and the direct link between gender equality policies and climate didn’t go over their head.

Praised by Head of UN Women, Sima Bahous, for being “Solution-makers”, African women continue to discover new ways to combat and adapt to climate change and diminish its negative effect on their families and children.

“Educating girls is a good way of building a society that is resilient in the face of climate change.” Said Kenya’s Director of Climate Change and Forestry, Pacifica Ogola, stressing the need for well-educated women in the process of implementing climate policy.

United Nations “UN” Women goodwill ambassador for Africa intensifies efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, Jaha Dukureh, announced her upcoming visit to Liberia from the 19th to the 27th of this month, to advocate against female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, and support the country’s attempts in the matter.

As a Gambian survivor of both FGM and child marriage, Ms. Dukureh was elected for the position of UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for Africa in February 2018, to share her support of eliminating FGM, a brutal and extremely harmful act against women of all ages and child marriage as well.

Following the youth mobilization and campaigning in Gambia, she worked side by side with women’s organizations and civil society, and played a part in the FGM ban, enforced by the Gambian Government in 2015.

Moreover, she partook in former president, Barack Obama’s investigation on FGM in the United states, in addition to the following summit to end FGM at the United States Institute of Peace.

Coincidentally, her visit will correspond with the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign, which will take place from 25 November to 10 December, under the global theme, “Unite, Activism to end violence against women and girls” and national theme, “With one voice, let us unite to end violence against women, girls and children.”

Ms. Dukureh’s visit comes after Liberia’s sign up to the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Gender Based Violence in 2021, aspiring to lend a helping hand to the country’s efforts towards the elimination of FGM through multi-stakeholder engagements and high-level advocacy and social mobilization, according to a quote by Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Liberia Country Representative.

A public screening of “Jaha’s Promise”, a biographical documentary film about the life and advocacy efforts of Jaha Dukureh, will be among the highlights of her visit, along with engagements with various stakeholders including traditional and religious leaders, followed by a solidarity walk to end gender based violence in Liberia, and of course the launch of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based violence, as well as the launch of a Vocational and Heritage centre in Sonkay Town, Liberia, one of four vocational and heritage centers established by UN Women under the framework of the European Union and UN Spotlight Initiative, which will presumably offer alternative economic livelihood programs to former traditional practitioners of FGM in Liberia.

We expect, the goodwill ambassador is going to engage with a diverse group of change makers, which includes diplomatic community, civil society, government officials, women’s organizations, traditional leaders, and the media, along with raising awareness on the depth, scale, and the brutal repercussions of FGM, and reinforce the overall public knowledge.

Back in February 2022, the national Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia joined by the Government of Liberia, declared the prohibition of FGM for three consecutive years, 2022-2025.

Unfortunately, this didn’t change the absence of an FGM criminalizing law in Liberia, among three West African countries, even after signing regional and international human rights instruments, including the Maputo Protocol that seeks to outlaw FGM, and condemns the practice as a human rights violation.

The Liberian government’s efforts to put an end to all gender-based violence, through the global Spotlight Initiative pursuing the elimination of violence of all forms against women and girls, including FGM and other harmful practices, are strongly supported by UN women.

Three Asks on Gender Equality to COP27

By Ms. Sima Bahous, Executive Director, UN Women

According to our research, we are falling 300 years behind on achieving sustainable development’s fifth goal. Equal participation and the complete involvement and leadership of women and girls in all their diversities are essential to our strong determination and rapid actions towards saving our planet. We can’t attain climate justice, until we achieve gender equality first. And in order to accomplish all our grand goals, which include 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, the Agreed Conclusions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the Paris Agreement and subsequent COP outcomes, and the collective commitments of Generation Equality, we must first fulfill the vital missing link, gender equality.

COP27 presents us with the opportunity to acknowledge women and girls and magnify their role in presenting modern solutions for climate change issues, in addition to comprehending the reasons behind limiting their participating and putting an end to it.
We must also come up with reliable policies and effective plans for dealing with impacts of the climate change, including immediate and long-term effects of the crisis.

The climate crisis, not unlike any other disaster, poses a more substantial threat to women, as they have to face its consequences and endure its instant and future risks on their livelihood, that is why we need to prioritize women when we take climate actions.

Significant actions are taken by women, in terms of adapting and mitigating the effects of the climate crisis, as they take the lead on environmental and climate justice movements and present their fresh and innovative outlook on ways to promote sustainability and agroecology, which is crucial in protecting local ecosystems. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the devastating injustice and imbalance in the decision-making process. These injustices can be seen across all the sectors in charge of adapting to the climate change, and that includes, agriculture, infrastructure, energy, water and education above all.

Executive director of UN Women displays the UN climate conference’s obligations needed to achieve gender equality. She has three particular demands for the COP27, regarding gender equality.

My first ask to COP27 is to take special measures, including quotas, to increase women’s and girls’ full, equal, and meaningful participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making, and to address inequalities including in their access to and control of productive resources such as finance, technology, and land, especially women from poor and marginalized communities.

We must also address all factors constraining women and robbing their opportunity to voice their concerns and innovative solutions, participate in the process of decision making and have equal opportunities as men, regarding the nearly 24 million new jobs in green sectors worldwide.

Furthermore, we must use the COP27 as a chance to highlight and put a stop to the neglected dangers women face on daily basis, including domestic abuse, trafficking, child marriage, silencing and attacking those who attempt to achieve human rights and stealing women’s rights to have proper education, jobs needed to be effective members in our society and be able to contribute to climate action.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, women were forced to do over 500 billion of unpaid extra hours, and many of them where let go and never returned to their positions. The climate emergency is making women’s situation and livelihood even worse and that needs immediate attention.

My second ask to COP is therefore to support a just transition for women through an alternative development model. 

This model aims to increase gender-responsive public services, women’s social protection, health and care systems, and provide the means to prevent violence against women and girls in general within climate actions, in addition to supporting them and guaranteeing them a safe living environment and decent jobs.

UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) stated the need to consider gender perspective within funding, implementing, monitoring and evaluating all national climate actions. They went on advising member states and stakeholders to take immediate action in expanding gender-responsive funding, with the help of the UNFCCC’s gender action plan.

Barely 0.01% of global official development assistance advocate women rights in parallel with the climate change, and that needs to change soon. Intentional global investments are required to support women’s organization and encourage their leadership actions in response to the climate crisis.

My third ask is that COP’s decisions on global investments, especially for women and girls in developing countries, intentionally and directly amplify and foster women’s skills, resilience and knowledge, ensure that women’s organizations, including young women, are supported and protected, and include specific investment to remove critical barriers for women and put protections in place.

Gender equality is our best weapon in the battle against climate change, and it’s what we must achieve in order to have global solidarity and better chance of survival.

Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls in the Context of Climate Crisis and Environmental Degradation

Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental protection, and disaster risk reduction policies and programs was the major theme of the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), which was held in 2022. This was a significant opportunity to build on the knowledge and advancement made on these links in climate change decision-making venues over the past few decades and marked the first time CSW focused a primary focus on gender and climate change linkages. Additionally, CSW66 offered a chance to draw greater attention from a global perspective to new subjects and problems, such as the mounting body of evidence demonstrating the catastrophic effects of and connections between climate change violence against women and girls (VAWG).

The program focuses on the integration of VAWG and climate change linkages into the CSW66 agreed conclusions and recommended actions, and it addresses major opportunities derived from illustrations of effective methods and flexible resources for putting them into practice. A crucial step toward advancing and fostering cooperation between decision-makers and practitioners involved in ending VAWG and climate action is the inclusion of the relationship between VAWG and climate change issues as part of the accepted conclusions.