Friday, March 27, 2009

Women and education

In poor countries girls often miss out on the education received by their brothers. When setting up education programmes we make sure that women as well as men are consulted.
As a result, education for girls and women has become a priority. Literate women have greater access to information about healthcare, and are better able to assert their families' interests.
Both ActionAid's Reflect adult learning programme and Access project - which makes a basic education available to poor children - include a specific focus on helping girls and women.
Reflect literacy circles help women to learn to read and write and discuss village concerns by using their own local maps and diagrams.
The circles have become a means for women to address practices that place them in positions of powerlessness and even physical danger.
"I am Nafisa, I am 45 years old, and have always wanted to read and write. Before joining the Reflect circle my life was a routine of looking after the household without knowing what is going on outside that domain.
"I wanted to read newspapers like my daughter and son, and I wanted to organise the household budget in my own way.
"Sometimes I would pay the wrong amounts to the shopkeeper and this made me feel embarrassed when he returned the money back to me. I wanted a change in my thinking.
"I am now mobilising resources from the neighbourhood to make a sandouq (revolving fund) for the production of food that will be sold for the benefit of the women in the quarter. The facilitators are good for socialisation of the community and can guide us well.
"I now feel that I am ready to play a larger role in leading the community.
Nafisa is a member of a Reflect circle in Sudan.

Women's rights

Women around the world are more likely to live in poverty, simply because they are women. Women’s unequal position in society means they have less power, money, protection from violence and access to education and healthcare. Despite these injustices, women everywhere are standing up to claim their rights and to fight poverty - and ActionAid are there to help them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Women for Women International Holds Policy Briefing on Women in Conflict-Affected Areas

Washington, DC – Speaking on helping women in the midst of an ongoing conflict, Christine Karumba, Women for Women International Country Director in DR Congo, says, “Rape has been used by everybody in our country and devastated the whole community. ‘Peace,’ ‘negotiations,’ and ‘reconstruction’ are words that are disappearing from our vocabulary.” Despite the ongoing violence Women for Women currently supports 7,800 women in the country through direct assistance, training, and livelihoods opportunities. During the recent violence, many women were not able to reach Women for Women facilities, and are still reported missing from the program.

Women for Women country directors from six countries shared their experiences of overcoming conflict, destruction, and poverty in some of the most challenging environments around the world.

At a policy briefing hosted by Dominick Chilcott, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy and moderated by Tony Gambino, a prominent Africa scholar, the country directors spoke about how to put women at the center of development and encourage active participation in local and national decision-making.

Dominick Chilcott said in his opening remarks, "It's a fact that over half the worlds population are women and if their full potential is not realized the Millennium Development Goals to which the British Government is very attached will not be met by 2015."
Sweeta Noori, who runs Women for Women International’s Afghanistan program, highlighted the country’s progress through implementing laws and policies that protect women’s rights. Considerable obstacles remain, including security threats and at times misguided foreign interventions. “I see an island of peace where international forces are providing some security, but in many areas women are still not well off,” Noori says. “Women are still treated as property and families marry their daughters off to pay debts with the dowry.” Despite pervasive poverty among socially-excluded women and their families, many donors and local politicians are failing to include women’s voices both at the political and grassroots level into their decision-making processes.

Entrenched patriarchal attitudes and seemingly out-of-touch politicians often inhibit women’s participation in economic opportunities traditionally reserved for men. In South Sudan, an underdeveloped area with chronic food insecurity and a fragile peace agreement, country director Karak Mayik and her team have just launched a large-scale women’s commercial farming project that will fight poverty and hunger by training 3,000 women over the next three years to grow and market commercially viable crops. “We were all used to receiving food from the World Food Program, but now I think we might be able to give some back,” she says, adding that women in her area have started to understand the long-term value of education and skills development over cash handouts.

“We have come a long way. We learned how to dig up money from the ground.”

Women for Women International provides over 50,000 women around the world with direct financial aid, emotional support, life- and vocational- skills training and employment opportunities in sustainable income generation projects. Women are educated about their rights and graduate equipped with new skills that enable them to make a living for themselves and their families. Each of these women is laying the groundwork for a stable community, and each of them has turned from a victim of war to a builder of peace.

Strong Leadership. Strong Women. Strong World: Equality

In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on member states to proclaim a day for women's rights and international peace. Following the United Nations' lead, Canada chose March 8 as International Women's Day.

Each year at this time, Canadians celebrate progress toward equality for women and their full participation, reflect on the challenges and barriers that remain, and consider future steps to achieving equality for all women, in all aspects of their lives.

Over time, International Women's Day has grown into a week-long series of commemorative events and activities across the country. International Women's Week 2009 begins on Monday, March 2 and wraps up with International Women's Day celebrations on Sunday, March 8.

We encourage all Canadians - women and men, girls and boys - to promote International Women's Day / International Women's Week. Better yet, why not organize your own IWD/IWW event in your community, organization, workplace or school?

The theme reflects the government's firm belief that increasing women's participation and access to leadership roles and opportunities will help women and girls thrive, reach their full potential and fulfill their dreams, and help build a more prosperous Canada.

For Canadians, equality means women and men sharing in the responsibilities and obligations, as well as in the opportunities and rewards, of life and work. In Canada, leadership is key across society - from the private sector, to governments, to the general public - for people of all origins, generations and backgrounds to participate fully in our country's economic, social and democratic life, and ultimately, in improving the state of the world.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why Women's Day ?

Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world's women?

The United Nations General Assembly, composed of delegates from every Member State, celebrates International Women's Day to recognize that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women, and to acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security.

For the women of the world, the Day is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development.
You might think that women's equality benefits mostly women, but every one-percentile growth in female secondary schooling results in a 0.3 percent growth in the economy. Yet girls are often kept from receiving education in the poorest countries that would best benefit from the economic growth.
Until the men and women work together to secure the rights and full potential of women, lasting solutions to the world's most serious social, economic and political problems are unlikely to be found.
In recent decades, much progress has been made. On a worldwide level, women's access to education and proper health care has increased; their participation in the paid labor force has grown; and legislation that promises equal opportunities for women and respect for their human rights has been adopted in many countries. The world now has an ever- growing number of women participating in society as policy-makers.
However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men.
The majority of the world's 1.3 billion absolute poor are women.
On average, women receive between 30 and 40 per cent less pay than men earn for the same work.

And everywhere, women continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where are the women?

Although women make up 51 percent of the world’s population, they hold only 16 percent of parliamentary and congressional seats worldwide.
Their presence in corporate and civic leadership positions remains limited by entrenched gender bias. Women’s civic and political participation is essential to the achievement of open and democratic societies.
As economies across the globe have become more interconnected than ever, women's increased participation in the labor force outside the home has permitted families and countries to adapt and compete in the world economy.
Women are essential to economic development in every sense.
Yet, despite the fact that women constitute approximately half the population, women constitute a much smaller percentage of political representation in democracies across the world.
In response, many countries have adopted laws to guarantee a certain level of representation in their legislatures, either by reserving seats in the legislatures for women, or by requiring parties to present a certain percentage of women candidates.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) statistics, from 1945 to 1995 the percentage of women MPs worldwide has increased four-fold.
There are more women in government today than ever before but their numbers are not enough to change public policy and resource allocation patterns which are instrumental in bringing real benefits to women.
But still political parties often fail to adequately respond to significant barriers encountered by women standing for parliament.
These barriers have been summed up as the “four C’s” of confidence, culture, childcare and cash.
1. Tori Crawford from Switzerland wrote:
Women generally end up in politics as a result of campaining for change, and it tends to be a logical and resulting route to follow. Often they have been 'community' campaigners. Perhaps if girls at school, right from a young age, were encouraged more to talk about leadership opportunities and had powerful role models to inspire them, then maybe we would see more girls actively choose to enter the world of politics at a younger age - and thus rise to the top levels of governments around the world.

Historic milestone predicted - more working women than men

Women may become more than 50 percent of US employment if the recession continues long and severe and this is something that historians will analyse considerably for many years.

In 1950 about one in three women participated in the US labor force. By 1998, nearly three of every five women of working age were in the US labor force. Among women age 16 and over, the US labor force participation rate was 33.9 percent in 1950, compared with 59.8 percent in 1998. As more women are added to the labor force, their share approaches that of men. In 2008, women made up about 48 percent of the US labor force and men 52 percent.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and until this recession, women remained less than 49 percent of the US work force. However, that percentage has now passed 49 percent and may cross the 50 percent threshold for the first time. If the pundits are right that this recession will be long and severe, then women may gain the 0.9 percentage points from November 2008 that would push them past the 50 percent employment milestone and this is something that historians will certainly note for years to come.

Education is key to employment so it is interesting to note that the number of women graduating from Iran's universities is overtaking the number of men, promising a change in the job market and, with it, profound social change. Well over half of university students in Iran are now women. In the applied physics department of Azad University 70% of the graduates are women - a statistic which would make many universities in the West proud.

One profound social change ocurring is that young women who do have careers are now beginning to think twice about getting married. This is a very complex issue in certain cultures like under Iranian law where a woman still needs her husband's permission to go to work.

Working mothers are a relatively new phenomenon in Iran but attitudes are changing among the younger generation of working women, many of whom will no longer accept a husband who does not share the workload at home. Many believe Iranian women who have worked hard to overtake Iranian men will be the ones to bring about social and political change.

Many women say it is preferable for women to work while they are raising a family, however a significant majority think most women are conflicted about raising a family and working. Many women believe that it was due to the women’s movement and continuous campaigning for equal rights that massively helped improve the lives of working women.

But all is still not equal in the boardroom however there is good news for those organisations who maintain a diverse group of directors. Companies with the highest percentage of female corporate officers on average experience, a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those with the lowest percentage of female corporate officers.