Empowering Women through Wisdom

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Health, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health

Opinion

Caryll Tozer* is engaged in social upliftment of women headed-households, and advocates conservation and women and child rights. She is a co-founder of Women In Need crisis center providing refuge for abused women.
 
Soraya M. Deen* is a lawyer, interfaith consultant and award-winning international activist and community organizer. She divides her time between Sri Lanka and Los Angeles and has written extensively on the plight of minorities and minority women.

Credit: Oxfam.org

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Dec 22 2020 (IPS) – During the COVID 19 lockdown in Sri Lanka, seven women from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds came together to deliver Wisdom and their message that women must be empowered and their voices for national unity must be heard through this movement.


We called ourselves the Wisdom Women and named the online program we created, “Wisdom Wednesdays”. The program airs every fortnight and since its inception in March 2020, we have hosted 21 stimulating shows, with thousands of people watching from across the world.

https://youtube.com/channel/UC28pnsQlhE1Y5BtYOSU6ZMQ

As co-founders, a Muslim and a Christian, we are determined to continue with the show until enough number of women stand up and say, “our country and the next generations deserve better and therefore we must speak up as a movement of women and work for national unity and reconciliation.”

A thirty-year bloody war has left Sri Lanka divided. One might expect our governments to move forward with a robust agenda for peace building. But nothing has improved, not even a tourniquet to arrest the bleeding. Successive governments have not spelt a serious agenda,

As conservation and environmental activists, we have worked to co-found an organization to support and eradicate abuse through the organization: One Home at a Time, which has built 17 homes for women-led households and wells for villages that need water. We believe that each individual can make a difference, and we have raised money, built homes, for these women and their family that lack basic housing. We have seen what happens when you support a woman who then can raise her family.

Whether we show up in NE Nigeria, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, women have been dealt a raw hand. Patriarchy and misogyny are institutionalized, structural, interpersonal and intra personal.

An incredible team of powerful women, each one more powerful in their experience and individual body of work comprise the team. The group represents the various ethnicities, religions and gains strength from each other. We have an incredible team.

Along with us there is Selvi Sachithanandam who through her foundation helps peace building and social transformation through spirituality; Kamani Jinadasa who is the founder of a center for troubled youth and works extensively against gender-based violence.

We also have Farzana J. Khan who helps through her foundation supporting education, and works on small and medium enterprise; Ven. Tenzin Leckdron a Bikkuni who belongs to a monastery in Tibetan Buddhism and currently works in remote areas in Australia; and, Ameena Hussein who is engaged in various social work and is a publisher and writer.

All power houses in their own field. Having gone through life’s tremendous challenges and hardships, we know very well what it takes to uplift women and give them the skills to thrive.

Our mission is to educate and inspire women. Teach women some basic skills, but first to let them know they are POWERFUL. The work at Wisdom Wednesdays has just begun.

We are taking our show and our gifts on the road. We have structured workshops to suit one day and residential programs for women. We want to bring them together; inspire them to build power, and organize the community.

Sri Lanka has a female population of 52%, with an abysmal parliamentary representation. Less than 12 % of the representatives are women. COVID has sent a powerful message to the strong-willed women of Sri Lanka. It is a time for reflection and for change.

Women have risen to the challenge to keep their home fires burning, care for their children, face abuse and violence undeterred. Our goal is to tap into that strength and resilience.

We also believe that at a national level, a woman’s voice must be heard at every negotiating table in order to bring in a balanced and cohesive response to issues.

We are subtle activists, not armchair program designers. When we get to the river if we find the water muddy and dirty, we get into the river and clean the water. Our deepest concern now is funding to take this movement to the next level.

Bringing together 35 women to a residential workshop from Friday afternoon to Sunday is costly. But we see something beyond, that when love, expertise and commitment come together, magic can happen. There will be enablers, and there will be minority rights and women’s rights which are in great jeopardy.

The UN has established gender equality as both a stand-alone goal and a central tenet to achieving an inclusive and sustainable development agenda by 2030. We must promote participation. Promoting participation – means recognising we each have something unique and important to contribute to society.

We want to promote two more concepts through our work. Subsidiarity, and ending future conflict. We have not witnessed subsidiarity in the context of social theory, premised upon empowering individuals to resolve issues that affect them without interference from larger, and often more centralised, social, private, religious or government bodies.

Currently, Wisdom Wednesdays is being watched in over 8,000 homes across the world. We receive encouraging comments from diverse audiences. In a divided world hearing a positive message is like a drop of water in the ocean.

There is no good news anymore. People who watch TV know this. Feeding the spiritual is as important as feeding the hungry. People are hungry for hope and a new way forward.

Individual transformation, focused and committed action leads to community transformation. This time we want to mobilize women to take that action. We need women to speak out against divisiveness and bring a stop to racism and bigotry. We want to address these issues through experiences and wisdom of the women. Unified we will be that much stronger.

*Caryll Tozer is a committee member of The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, the third oldest conservation organization in the world. She lives by the premise that “to remain silent when there is injustice makes one culpable”.

*Soraya M. Deen travels across Sri Lanka mobilizing women, men and interfaith groups to understand and explore contextual realities for the problems they face by bringing together like-minded community members to solve – urgent, relevant, winnable action. She is the Founder of the Muslim Women Speakers Movement, inspiring voices of change. Soraya serves as a resource person and women’s outreach coordinator for the Omnia Institute of Contextual Leadership, a think tank in Chicago that addresses religious based oppression, dominance and violence.

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Reduce Military Spending – the Much-Needed Response to Violence Against Women

Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health

Opinion

Maria Victoria (Mavic) Cabrera Balleza is Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders

The United Nations is conducting a 16-day social media campaign from 25 November to 9 December for its 2020 Campaign: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 Days of Activism is a worldwide campaign calling for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence (GBV). Credit: International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)

NEW YORK, Dec 10 2020 (IPS) – The COVID-19 pandemic is NOT the biggest pandemic the world confronts at the moment, despite over 69 million cases and 1.5 million deaths worldwide.1 If it’s not COVID, what is it then? It is violence against women!


Globally, 243 million women and girls aged 15-49 have been subjected to sexual and/or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the past 12 months alone.2 The figure increases by 30 per cent if the violence experienced by women and girls in their lifetime is added.3

These numbers are likely underestimates, since many women do not report sexual and intimate partner violence due to stigma associated with it. The UN Women policy brief on COVID-19 and VAW points out that less than 40 per cent of the women who have experienced violence seek help.

Those who do, often turn to family and friends, and less than 10 per cent report to the police. This perpetuates a culture of impunity as perpetrators go unpunished.

The data clearly shows that violence against women and girls is a global emergency, which requires urgent action. It can take many forms, from human trafficking and sexual slavery, through rape and forced sexual acts, to bettering and sexual harassment—on the street, at workplace, school and online.

Harmful cultural practices – such as female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage are also forms of violence against women and girls. The list goes on.

Gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anytime, and anywhere. However, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable. Some of them are young girls and older women, women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, migrant, refugee and displaced women and girls, indigenous women and girls, women and girls from ethnic and religious minorities, women and girls with disabilities, and those living in situations of conflict and humanitarian crises.

The threat of violence faced by millions of women and men around the world has been compounded by the security, health, and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are trapped at home with their abusers, while women’s shelters and domestic violence hotlines are struggling to meet demands.

As the world grapples with COVID-19, it is also past time to take concrete action to address the shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls.

United Nations response

There is no shortage in UN campaigns, programs, task forces and initiatives that all aim to end violence against women and girls

Groups such as the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls and the Action Coalition for Gender-based violence bring together civil society, Member States, UN agencies, international organizations, and philanthropies provide space for sharing lessons learned, coordinating action and mobilizing resources to end violence against women and girls.

The Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations launched in 2019 has committed a record €500 million to end violence against women and girls.

Advocacy and communications campaigns such as the UNiTE by 2030 campaign managed by UN Women, call on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, young people, the private sector, the media, and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.

There is also the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), all of which have specific but related mandates that address violence against women and girls.

How effective is the UN response to violence against women and girls? The effectiveness of the UN response was put to a major test by the outbreak of COVID-19. The massive increase in the incidence of violence against women and girls is an indication that the response is ineffective—or at best—insufficient.

While one could argue that the weakness of individual Member States both in managing the pandemic and addressing violence against women and girls cannot be attributed to the UN, the shortcomings brought to light by the pandemic beg the question: how can the UN improve Member States’ compliance with and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Labour Organisation’s Violence and Harassment Convention, and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and its supporting resolutions?

All of these are powerful international laws that call on the UN and Member States to take concrete actions on this issue. However, the pandemic has demonstrated that actions taken to date have barely scratched the surface of the complex and pervasive issue of violence against women and girls. An effective and sustainable response requires structural changes, and a re-evaluation of global priorities!

The UN Secretary-General’s call

The current global priorities are most clearly visible if we follow the money. USD $1.9 trillion! This is how much the world spent to run military institutions in 2019, the largest annual increase in military expenditure since 2010.4 Let that sink in!!!

Meanwhile, women’s shelters are underfunded, many women—including victims of sexual violence—do not have access to quality healthcare, including maternal and reproductive health, and many women’s rights organizations are struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To end violence against women, Member States and donors need to put their money where their mouths are. It is not only the right and necessary choice—it is also a smart investment.

According to the World Bank, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—more than double what most governments spend on education.5

UN Women estimates that cost to be approximately $1.5 trillion6 – almost at the level of the record-high military expenditures. Preventing violence against women and girls first and foremost saves lives—but it can also save money.

In his 2020 report on Women and Peace and Security, the Secretary-General drew attention to the stark difference between soaring rates of military spending and the strains in social protection systems including the unavailability of necessary health care that disproportionately impact women and girls. It also underlined how bilateral aid to women’s organizations in fragile or conflict-affected countries has stagnated at 0.2 per cent of total bilateral aid ($96 million on average per year).

The Secretary-General’s report marks the 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325, arguably the most important international law that address violence against women and girls in conflict situations. It presents five goals for the next decade.

It called on the international community to “Reverse the upward trajectory in global military spending with a view to encouraging greater investment in the social infrastructure and services that buttress human security.”

Moreover, the Secretary-General urged Member States to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, control the availability of armaments; to promote the participation of women in all arms control and disarmament processes and forums; and to reduce excessive military expenditures.

The current context calls for renewed efforts to curb military spending, which has been a chief strategic objective of the women’s movement for peace, he further stressed.

Complementing his call for reduced military spending, the other goal presented by the Secretary-General is to galvanize the donor community for universal compliance with a minimum of 15 per cent of ODA to conflict-affected countries dedicated to advancing gender equality, and the remaining 85 per cent to integrate gender considerations, including multiplying by five the direct assistance to women’s organizations.

The reduction of military spending does not only represent the possibility of financial resources that could support women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence as well as predictable core funds to women’s rights organizations.

It is also an opportunity to generate stronger political commitment to disarmament and arms control and eliminate the threats posed by the estimated one billion small arms that are circulating globally. It can also lead to preventing the use of arms to commit or facilitate serious acts of violence against women and girls.

We, in the women, peace and security community as well as all actors working on gender equality, human rights, and the elimination of violence against women and girls must waste no time.

Let us all come together and seize the moment to present our evidence-based analysis, and policy recommendations in order to influence policy outcomes and decisions that divert weapons spending to fund civil society’s initiatives to end violence against women and girls, and COVID-19 response and recovery.

1 Worldometer, “COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic”, Updated 9 December 2020. Accessed from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries
2 UN Women, “COVID-19 and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls”, 2020. Available at: https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/issue-brief-covid-19-and-ending-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5006
3 World Health Organization, “Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women: Prevalence and Health Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Violence”, 2013. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/85239
4 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Global military expenditure sees largest annual increase in a decade—says SIPRI—reaching $1917 billion in 2019”, 27 April 2020. Available at: https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2020/global-military-expenditure-sees-largest-annual-increase-decade-says-sipri-reaching-1917-billion
5 World Bank, “Gender-Based Violence (Violence Against Women and Girls)”, 25 September 2019. Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialsustainability/brief/violence-against-women-and-girls
6 UN-Women, “COVID-19 and ending violence against women and girls”, 2020. Available at: https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/issue-brief-covid-19-and-ending-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5006.

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Lost in Translation? Understanding Relevance of Women, Peace & Security in Arms Control & Disarmament

Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Global, Headlines, Health, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health

Opinion

Renata H. Dalaqua is Programme Lead for Gender & Disarmament at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR)

 
At the core of landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security is the assertion of women’s right to participate in decisions related to war and peace.

 

The United Nations is conducting a 16-day social media campaign from 25 November to 10 December 2020 for its 2020 Campaign: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 Days of Activism is a worldwide campaign calling for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence (GBV). Credit: UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA)

GENEVA, Dec 3 2020 (IPS) – “What does the Women, Peace and Security Agenda have to do with arms control and disarmament?”.

Under varying formulations, this question keeps coming up whenever someone refers to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda as a basis for ensuring that women’s voices and their specific security needs were taken into account in multilateral arms control discussions.


Even for those supportive of bringing gender equality concerns to disarmament fora, the linkages between WPS and arms control were not always clear. To tackle this, UNIDIR’s Gender and Disarmament programme initiated a nine-month research project that resulted in Connecting the Dots, a report that outlines the interconnections between arms control and the WPS Agenda and sets out concrete ideas for further dialogue and collaboration among distinct policy communities.

Shared goals

The WPS Agenda and arms control and disarmament share the broader goal of preventing and reducing armed violence. The current trend towards gender-responsive arms control is strengthening these synergies, highlighting the importance of women’s meaningful participation in discussions related to weapons.

At the core of landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security is the assertion of women’s right to participate in decisions related to war and peace.

Likewise, that resolution acknowledges that conflict affects women and girls differently to men and, therefore, crisis management, humanitarian and development responses need to take account of the specific needs of women and girls.

Renata H. Dalaqua

Since SCR 1325 (2000), the Security Council has adopted ten resolutions on WPS, collectively forming the basis for what is often referred to as the WPS Agenda. It is commonly defined as having four interconnected pillars:

    • • Meaningful

participation

    • of women in decision-making processes at all levels and in all aspects of international security;

Prevention

    • of violence against women and girls and of any violation of their rights;

Protection

    • of women and girls from all forms of violence and from any violation of their rights;

Relief and Recovery

    , that is, ensuring that the voices and concerns of women and girls are accounted for when creating the structural conditions necessary for sustainable peace.

Arms control and disarmament measures can strengthen all those pillars, effectively helping to implement the WPS Agenda. Despite these convergences, multilateral processes on WPS have rarely addressed the governance of weapons.

For its part, initiatives in the field of arms control and disarmament to improve women’s participation and tackle gendered impacts of weapons have not been framed explicitly in connection with the WPS Agenda.

Misconceptions

How do we explain this disconnect? UNIDIR found two misconceptions that hinder the integration of WPS and arms control.

First, is the belief that gender relates primarily or even exclusively to women and girls. This is not the case. Gender is a broad construct that refers to the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society at a given time considers appropriate or a “norm” for women and men, for girls and boys, and for non-binary or gender-fluid people.

Gender norms are socially constructed differences – as opposed to biological differences (sex) – and they function as social rules of behaviour, setting out what is desirable and possible to do as a man or a woman in a given context.

Gender points to a relational view of male, female, and trans categories as contextually and relationally defined. Thus, the way women interact with issues of weapons and armed conflict cannot be addressed by focusing only on women.

For this conversation to be effective, men and masculinities must be part of the Agenda. Moreover, as long as gender-related debates are considered “women’s issues”, their reach will be limited and progress towards the integration of gender perspectives into arms control and disarmament will be slow.

The second misconception is that WPS resolutions only apply to conflict or post-conflict situations and, thus, would not be relevant to multilateral arms control processes, which tend to be seen as instruments negotiated by and for societies considered to be at peace.

But this is not true, as many of the WPS-related activities are relevant in peacetime as well, especially those that deal with prevention of violence in general and of violence against women and girls. Femicides, in which weapons play a role, are particularly visible in areas or countries that are otherwise relatively peaceful.

Moving forward

As the WPS Agenda enters its third decade, states and civil society actors are looking for ways to strengthen its implementation. UNIDIR’s research offers several recommendations to contribute to those efforts.

    • • Go beyond merely adding women. Efforts should be taken to ensure that women, men and persons of other gender identities affected by armed violence can meaningfully participate in arms control and disarmament. This could take participation to the next level, overcoming the simplistic notion that gender equates to women.
    • • In addition to small arms control, the goals of prevention and protection should inform multilateral processes on cybersecurity. After all, online gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious issue and it can turn into armed violence, as we have seen in attacks perpetrated by the so-called

incels

    • • Lessons learned from gender-sensitive victim assistance in mine action should be applied to protocols and agreements dealing with weapons of mass destruction. In view of sex-specific and

gendered effects of chemical, biological

    and nuclear weapons, a gender-responsive approach to assistance under WMD treaties could help states and their populations to become more resilient and recover more rapidly.

Ultimately, the WPS Agenda provides a practical structure for the comprehensive integration of gender perspectives across the whole range of arms control and disarmament processes. Bringing these policy areas closer should be of equal interest to both arms control practitioners as well as WPS advocates.

This piece presents findings from a larger research project. The author is grateful to Dr. Renata Dwan and Dr. Henri Myrttinen for their contribution and insights.

The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network (ELN) or any of the ELN’s members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges.

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20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325: Much Remains to Be Done

Civil Society, Democracy, Featured, Gender, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations, Women in Politics

Opinion

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury was Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN (2002-2007); former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UN (1996-2001); and globally acclaimed as the initiator of the precursor decision leading to the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 as President of the UN Security Council in March 2000.

On October 31 2000, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 (2000) calling for participation of women in the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts. Credit: United Nations

NEW YORK, Oct 30 2020 (IPS) – In 2010, at the opening session of the civil society forum observing the tenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on “Women and Peace and Security”, I had the honor to declare 1325 as “the common heritage of humanity” indicating the wide-ranging nature of the potential benefits which will flow from the landmark resolution’s full and effective implementation by all at all levels.


On 31 October, the world will be observing the 20th anniversary of 1325. The United Nations Security Council held a virtual session with wider participation of UN Member States on 29 October to observe the anniversary.

Today, in Namibia, the country which presided over the Security Council as it adopted UNSCR 1325, President Dr. Hage Geingob is launching the International Women’s Peace Center located in Windoek.

Anniversaries become meaningful when there is a serious stock-taking of the progress and lack of it and thereafter, charting of a realistic, determined roadmap and course of action for the next years. Of course, it is a pity that COVID-19 pandemic has setback our plans and enthusiasm for the observance in a major way.

The core message of 1325 is an integral part of my intellectual existence and my humble contribution to a better world for each one of us. To trace back, a little more than 20 years ago, on the International Women’s Day on 8 March in 2000, as the President of the Security Council representing my country Bangladesh, following extensive stonewalling and intense resistance from the permanent members, I was able to issue an agreed statement [UN Press Release SC/6816 of 8 March 2000] on behalf of all 15 members of the Council with strong support from civil society that formally brought to global attention the contribution women have always been making towards preventing wars and building peace.

The Council recognized in that significant, norm-setting statement that “peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men”, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women in all decision-making levels.

That is when the seed for UNSCR 1325 was sown. The formal resolution followed this conceptual and political breakthrough 31 October of the same year with Namibia at the helm, after tough negotiations for eight months, giving this issue the long overdue attention and recognition that it deserved.

The very first paragraph of this formal resolution starts with a reference to the 8 March 2000 statement identifying the rationale and tracing the history of “Women and Peace and Security” at the Security Council. The inexplicable silence for 55 long years of the Security Council on women’s positive contribution was broken forever on the 8th of March 2000.

Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. We recall that in choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the citation referred to 1325 saying that “It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.”

1325 is the only UN resolution so specifically noted in the citations of the Nobel Prizes. That is the value, that is the essence and that is the prestige of UNSCR 1325 in the global community.

The historic and operational value of the resolution as the first international policy mechanism that explicitly recognized the gendered nature of war and peace processes has, however, been undercut by the disappointing record of its implementation, particularly for lack of national level commitments and global level leadership.

The driving force behind 1325 is “participation”. I believe the Security Council has been neglecting this core focus of the resolution. There is no consideration of women’s role and participation in real terms in its deliberations.

The poor record of the implementation of 1325 also points to the reality of the Security Council’s continuing adherence to the existing militarized inter-state security arrangements, though the Security Council is gradually, albeit slowly, accepting that a lasting peace cannot be achieved without the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives in peace processes.

The Council has also met with women’s groups and representatives of NGOs during its field missions on a fairly regular basis. The first such meeting was held with women’s organizations in Kosovo in June 2001 when I was leading the Security Council mission to that country as the Council President, over the unwillingness of the UN appointed Mission Chief in Kosovo.

My work has taken me to the farthest corners of the world and I have seen time and again the centrality of women’s equality in our lives. This realization has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.

Women’s equality makes our planet safe and secure. When women participate in peace negotiations and in the crafting of a peace agreement, they have the broader and long-term interest of society in mind.

It is a reality that politics, more so security, is a man’s world. Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts.

Women are the real agents of change in refashioning peace structures ensuring greater sustainability.

As the UN adopted the SDGs in 2015, 1325 was about to observe its 15th anniversary and many were wondering why Goal 5 on women and girls and Goal 16 on peace and governance did not make any reference to the widely-recognized 1325. This disconnect between the two main organs of the UN is unacceptable to all well-intentioned supporters of the world body.

That global reality is dramatically evidenced in the fact that the UN itself despite being the biggest champion of women’s equality has failed to elect a woman secretary-general to reverse the historical injustice of having the post occupied by men for its more than seven-decades of existence.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of 1325, I have been invited to speak at many virtual events and interviews from different parts of the world. I am asked again and again what could be done for the true implementation of 1325 to make a difference. In my considered judgment, I have identified four areas of priority for next five years.

One, Leadership of the UN Secretary-General.

What role the Secretary-General (SG) should play? Secretary-General Guterres has done well on women’s parity in his senior management team. It would be more meaningful to expand that parity for the Special Representatives of Secretary-General (SRSG) and Deputy SRSGs, Force Commanders and Deputies at the field levels with geographical diversity.

Many believe there is a need for the Secretary-General’s genuinely proactive, committed engagement in using the moral authority of the United Nations and the high office he occupies for the effective implementation of 1325.

Would it not have a strong, positive impact on countries if their heads of state/government received a formal communication from the Secretary-General urging submission of respective National Action Plans (NAPs)?

Implementation of 1325 should be seriously taken up by the SG’s UN system-wide coordination mechanism. UN Resident Coordinators who represent the SG and UN country teams should assist all national level actors in preparation and implementation of NAPs.

A “1325 Impact Assessment” component with concrete recommendations needs to be included in all reports by SG to the Security Council asking their inclusion in all peace and security decisions taken by the Council.

Gender perspectives must be fully integrated into the terms of reference of peace operations by the United Nations. Improving the gender architecture in field missions and at headquarters; improving gender conflict analysis and information flows; and accountability for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel do need SG’s engaged leadership to make progress.

A no-tolerance, no-impunity approach is a must in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel and its regional partners in hybrid missions. UN is welcomed in countries as their protectors – it cannot become the perpetrators themselves!
1325 implementation has an additional obstacle of overcoming a culture among Council members and within the UN system that views gender issues as an “add-on” component, rather than being one of the central tenets which support conflict prevention and underpin long-term stability. SG should take the lead in changing this culture in a creative and proactive way.

Two, National Action Plans (NAPs)

As we observe the anniversary of 1325, it is truly disappointing that a mere 85 countries out of 193 members of the UN have prepared their National Action Plans (NAPs) for 1325 implementation in 20 years.

It should be also underscored that all countries are obligated as per decisions of the Security Council (as envisaged in Article 25 of UN Charter) to prepare the NAP whether they are in a so-called conflict situation or not.

In real terms, NAPs happen to be the engine that would speed up the implementation of 1325. There are no better ways to get country level commitment to implement 1325 other than the NAPs. I believe very strongly that only NAPs can hold the governments accountable.

There is a clear need for the Secretary-General’s attention for the effective implementation of 1325. Though NAPs are national commitments, it can be globally monitored. SG can also target 50 new NAPs by the 21st anniversary of 1325.

Three, Mobilizing Men for Implementing 1325

Patriarchy and misogyny are the dual scourges pulling back the humanity away from our aspiration for a better world. Gender inequality is an established, proven and undisputed reality – it is all pervasive. It is a real threat to human progress! UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has lamented that “… everywhere, we still have a male-dominated culture”.

Unless we confront these vicious and obstinate negative forces with all our energy, determination and persistence, our planet will never be a desired place for one and all.
Women’s rights are under threat from a “backlash” of conservatism and fundamentalism around the world.

We are experiencing around the globe an organized, determined rollback of the gains made as well as new attacks on women’s equality and empowerment. Yes, this is happening in all parts of the world and in all countries without exception.

Men and policies and institutions controlled by them have been the main perpetrators of gender inequality. It is a reality that politics, more so security, is a man’s world. It is also a reality that empowered women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts.

We need to recognize that women’s equality and their rights are not only women’s issues, those are relevant for humanity as a whole – for all of us. This is most crucial point that needs to be internalized by every one of us.

With that objective, we launched the initiative for “Mobilizing Men as Partners for Women, Peace and Security” on 20 March 2019 in New York with the leadership of Ambassador Donald Steinberg, taking the vow to profess, advocate and work to ensure feminism as our creed and as our mission.

Four, Direct involvement of civil society

Another missing element is a greater, regular, genuine and participatory involvement of civil society in implementing 1325 both at national and global levels. The role and contribution of civil society is critical. I would pay tribute to Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) for making creative and qualitative contributions for the implementation of 1325 for the last two decades.

Civil society should be fully involved in the preparation and implementation of the NAPs at the country levels. At the global level, the UN secretariat should not only make it a point to consult civil society, but at the same time, such consultations should be open and transparent.

We should not forget that when civil society is marginalized, there is little chance for 1325 to get implemented in the real sense.

Let me reiterate that Feminism is about smart policy which is inclusive, uses all potentials and leaves no one behind. I am proud to be a feminist. All of us need to be. That is how we make our planet a better place to live for all.

We should always remember that without peace, development is impossible, and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable.

Let me assert again that observance of anniversaries becomes meaningful when they trigger renewed enthusiasm amongst all. Coming months will tell whether 1325’s 20th anniversary has been worthwhile and able to create that energy.

Let me end by reiterating that “If we are serious about peace, we must take women seriously”.

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Mahatma’s Non-Violence: Essence of Culture of Peace for New Humanity

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Democracy, Education, Featured, Gender, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequity, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, TerraViva United Nations, Women in Politics

Opinion

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations and Founder of The Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP), was the keynote speaker at the observance of the International Day of Non-Violence on the 15th Mahatma Gandhi Day Celebration, organized virtually by the Gandhi International Institute for Peace (GIIP)

Credit: United Nations

HONOLULU, Hawaii, Oct 22 2020 (IPS) – I will begin by presenting to you excerpts from the message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the International Day of Non-Violence.


I quote: “In marking the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, this International Day highlights the remarkable power of non-violence and peaceful protest. It is also a timely reminder to strive to uphold values that Gandhi lived by: the promotion of dignity; equal protection for all; and communities living together in peace.

On this year’s observance, we have a special duty: stop the fighting to focus on our common enemy: COVID-19. There is only one winner of conflict during a pandemic: the virus itself. As the pandemic took hold, I called for a global ceasefire. Now is the time to intensify our efforts. Let us be inspired by the spirit of Gandhi and the enduring principles of the UN Charter.” End of quote

At the outset, let me thank the Gandhi International Institute for Peace (GIIP) and its dynamic President Mr. Raj Kumar for organizing the observance of the International Day of Non-Violence and of the 15th Mahatma Gandhi Day Celebration by the Institute.

The theme of my keynote speech today is “Mahatma’s Non-Violence: Essence of The Culture of Peace for New Humanity”

The Mahatma affirmed that he was not a visionary but a practical idealist. He affirmed that “Non- violence is the law of our species, as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law – to the strength of the spirit.”

It is said that “he was the first in human history to extend the principle of non-violence from the individual to the social and political plane.” He entered politics for the purpose of experimenting with non-violence and establishing its validity.

Ambassador Chowdhury

The Mahatma had said that “Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world. One cannot be passively nonviolent … One person who can express ahimsa in life exercises a force superior to all the force of brutality.” I believe whole-heartedly that Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of nonviolence or Ahimsa has found true reflection in the life of a great son of the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s own struggle for equality and justice.

Dr. King considered his Nobel Peace Prize as “a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the critical political and racial questions of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression without resorting to violence“. I reiterate this mainly to highlight the need for revisiting those words in view of what is happening in many parts of our world, including in this country.

As I have stated on many occasions, my life’s experience has taught me to value peace and non-violence as the essential components of our existence. Those unleash the positive forces of good that are so needed for human progress. Peace is integral to human existence — in everything we do, in everything we say and in every thought we have, there is a place for peace.

It is important to realize that the absence of peace takes away the opportunities that we need to prepare ourselves, to empower ourselves to face the challenges of our lives, individually and collectively. This intellectual and spiritual inspiration is implanted in me through the Mahatma’s life and his words.

The United Nations Charter emerged in 1945 out of the ashes of the Second World War. The UN Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace was born in 1999 in the aftermath of the Cold War. I was the chair of the nine-month-long negotiations from 1998 to 1999 that produced the Programme of Action on Culture of Peace.

For more than two decades, I have continued to devote considerable time, energy and effort to realizing the implementation of this landmark, norm-setting decision of the UN. For me, this has been a realization of my personal commitment to peace inspired by the Mahatma and my humble contribution to humanity.

My work took me to the farthest corners of the world and I have seen time and again how people – even the humblest and the weakest – have contributed to building the culture of peace in their personal lives, in their families, in their communities and in their countries – all these contributing to global peace one way or the other.

The focus of my work and advocacy has been on advancing the culture of peace which aims at making peace and non-violence a part of our own self, our own personality – a part of our existence as human beings. I believe this will empower ourselves to contribute more effectively to bring inner as well as outer peace.

In simple terms, the Culture of Peace as a concept means that every one of us needs to consciously make peace and nonviolence a part of our daily existence. We should know how to relate to one another without being aggressive, without being violent, without being disrespectful, without neglect, without prejudice.

We should not isolate peace as something separate or distant. More so, in today’s world so full of negativity, tension, poverty and suffering, the culture of peace should be seen as the essence of a new humanity, a new global civilization based on inner oneness and outer diversity.

In my keynote address on “Human Security – an Essential Element for Creating the Culture of Peace” at the Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, in August 2007, inspired by Mahatma’s eternal words “Be the change that you want to see in the world,” I underscored that “Peace is a prerequisite for human development.… We all must undertake efforts to inculcate the culture of peace in ourselves. We cannot expect the world to change if we do not start first and foremost with changing ourselves – at the individual levels.”

The objective of the culture of peace is the empowerment of people, as has been underscored by the global leader for peace and Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda. As we say “Peace does not mean just to stop wars, but also to stop oppression, injustice and neglect”. The culture of peace can be a powerful tool in promoting a global consciousness that serves the best interests of a just and sustainable peace.

I am encouraged that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN in 2015 includes, among others, the culture of peace and non-violence as well as global citizenship as essential components of today’s education.

This realization has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people. The Mahatma asserted that “One thing is certain. If the mad race for armaments continues, it is bound to result in a slaughter such as has never occurred in history. If there is a victor left, the very victory will be a living death for the nation that emerges victorious. There is no escape from the impending doom save through a bold and unconditional acceptance of the nonviolent method with all its glorious implications.”

Dr. King had advised us rightly, “… I suggest that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations.”

The last decades of violence and human insecurity should lead to a growing realization in the world of education today that children should be educated in the art of peaceful, non-violent, non-aggressive living.

Never has it been more important for the next generation to learn about the world and understand and respect its diversity. I want to underscore one particular aspect in this context. In the culture of peace movement, we are focusing more attention on children because that contributes in a major way to the sustainable and long-lasting impact on our societies. As the Mahatma’s words highlight, “Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself.”

An essential message that I have experienced from my work for the culture of peace is that we should never forget that when women – half of world’s seven plus billion people – are marginalized, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense.

Women bring a new breadth, quality and balance of vision to a common effort of moving away from the cult of war towards the culture of peace. “Without peace, development cannot be realized, without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is possible.”

I believe the culture of peace is not a quick-fix. It is a movement, not a revolution.

Let us remember that the work for peace is a continuous process. Each one of us can make a difference in that process. The culture of peace cannot be imposed from outside; it must be realized from within.

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The Plight of Domestic Workers in Brazil

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Featured, Gender, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Labour, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Women & Economy

Opinion

Waldeli Melleiro is a project manager at the Brazil Office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and Christoph Heuser is the resident representative at the FES Brazil Office.

On 31 January 2018, the Government of Brazil deposited the formal instrument of ratification with the International Labour Office for ratification of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, 2011 (No. 189) . Accordingly, Brazil became the twenty-fifth member State of the ILO and the fourteenth member State in the Americas region to ratify this Convention. It is estimated that there are about seven million domestic workers in Brazil, six million of them women, and more than in any other country in the world. Moreover, the majority of domestic workers are women, with indigenous peoples and persons of African descent being over-represented in the domestic work sector. But how has the Convention been implemented?. Credit: International Labour Organization (ILO), Geneva

SAO PAULO, Brazil, Oct 21 2020 (IPS) – The inclusivity of Brazilian society is put to the test as the coronavirus pandemic highlights a labour sector ripe with historical and structural inequality: domestic work.


The first death of COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro was emblematic of the country’s inequities: a domestic worker who caught the new coronavirus from her employer. Much has since been written about the Brazilian government and its catastrophic inaction during the pandemic.

But the new normal also highlights a sector that has always been present in Brazil but with little public attention. A sector, in which the historical and structural inequality in Brazil is very much represented: domestic work.

With about 6 million female workers, domestic work is the second-largest occupation for women in Brazil. They are mostly black (about 65 per cent) and many are over 45 years old (46.5 per cent).

They start working sometimes as teenagers or even children, and because they lack access to most labour rights and social protection, even after 50 years or more of continuous work they still do not have the right to retirement and well-deserved rest.

They live far from their workplaces, often earn less than the legal minimum wage of around 200 USD per month, and are nonetheless often responsible (45 per cent of them) for the income of their families.

Among the poorest of these workers (less than 1,5 USD/day), 58.1 percent are heads of household, which gives an indication of the extreme poverty in which their families live.

The lack of labour protection

Domestic workers have long been fighting for recognition of the value of their work and for labour rights. The struggle in Brazil goes back to the 1930s, with the founding of the Professional Association of Domestic Employees of Santos.

In 1988 the new Constitution guaranteed paid leave and a 13th month of salary, among others. But domestic workers continued to have fewer rights than those in other professions.

Several further rights were only obtained in 2013 under the former administration of Dilma Rousseff, including the limiting of working hours to eight per day and 44 per week, the right to recognition of overtime, and paid retirement.

Despite these advances, many female workers are still excluded from many of those rights, which are guaranteed only to those who work at least three days a week in the same job. And even where the conditions are met, many employers persistently fail to respect workers’ rights, while monitoring compliance is difficult.

Those who work for the same employer for one or two days a week, known as day workers, remain completely unassisted by the law and social protection.

Furthermore, the degree of informality in domestic work is very high: In 2018, only 27 percent of women workers had a formal contract, if we are adding those paying individually even without having a formal contract, only 39 percent contributed to social security.

Thus, the vast majority of female domestic workers are not entitled to unemployment insurance, sickness benefit and retirement.

The new normal of work during and after the pandemic

Domestic work is one of the occupations most affected by the pandemic.

Many workers are in high-risk age groups; their working conditions expose them to more possibilities of contamination; they use public transportation over long distances; they care for elderly people or children with unavoidable physical proximity; and they often have to work without proper protective masks, gloves, or alcohol gel.

Or even worse: in order to keep their jobs and limit contamination, some stay for days and weeks on end in the homes where they work, away from their families.

As the pandemic took hold, the government allowed employers of domestic workers to suspend the contract for up to two months, with two months of secure employment after the suspension. It also allowed partial employment.

But this only helped the minority of domestic workers with such a contract. Most have precarious positions and many of those, especially day workers, have been dismissed and left without income and vulnerable.

The government also started paying 600 reals (around 109 USD) per month for those in need, for example informal workers, rising to 1,200 reals (218 USD) per month for some cases, for example single mothers. However, many women had difficulty in registering and accessing this aid.

Despite the pandemic, domestic workers are standing firm in the fight for labour rights. In March 2020 Fenatrad (National Federation of Domestic Workers) launched a campaign under the slogan “Take care of those who take care of you, leave your domestic worker at home, with paid wages.”

According to Luiza Batista, president of Fenatrad, there was good coverage in social networks, but in practice there was little adhesion by employers. Fenatrad has been carrying out an intense programme of denunciation and negotiation.

The group has also campaigned against a controversial measure by some state governments, for example Pará, to declare domestic work as an essential service during lockdown, forcing workers to continue working.

This measure was reversed after pressure from Fenatrad to specify what functions within domestic work are essential. The category was refined to include only nannies, careers for the elderly, and those caring for people with special needs and whose employers are keyworkers, e.g. in the health or security sectors.

Still the question remains: if domestic work is essential why it is not valued? It is fundamental work, but it is marginalized and carries the prejudices of a society in which social rights are not within reach for everyone.

The pandemic stresses the importance of domestic work and at the same time showed its precariousness as well as the inequality within the Brazilian society. It is time to reflect on the need for change in paid domestic work, aiming at a fair and inclusive society.

The new normal should recognize and value domestic work, including adequate labour rights as an important step on the long way to a more just society.

Source: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Brazil

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