Solar Energy Useless Without Good Batteries in Brazil’s Amazon Jungle

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Energy

Solar panels with a capacity to generate 30 kilowatts no longer work in the Darora Community of the Macuxi people, an indigenous group from Roraima, a state in the far north of Brazil. The batteries only worked for a month before they were damaged because they could not withstand the charge. CREDIT: Boa Vista City Hall

Solar panels with a capacity to generate 30 kilowatts no longer work in the Darora Community of the Macuxi people, an indigenous group from Roraima, a state in the far north of Brazil. The batteries only worked for a month before they were damaged because they could not withstand the charge. CREDIT: Boa Vista City Hall

BOA VISTA, Brazil, Jan 25 2023 (IPS) – “Our electric power is of bad quality, it ruins electrical appliances,” complained Jesus Mota, 63. “In other places it works well, not here. Just because we are indigenous,” protested his wife, Adélia Augusto da Silva, of the same age.


The Darora Community of the Macuxi indigenous people illustrates the struggle for electricity by towns and isolated villages in the Amazon rainforest. Most get it from generators that run on diesel, a fuel that is polluting and expensive since it is transported from far away, by boats that travel on rivers for days.

Located 88 kilometers from the city of Boa Vista, capital of the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil, Darora celebrated the inauguration of its solar power plant, installed by the municipal government, in March 2017. It represented modernity in the form of a clean, stable source of energy.

A 600-meter network of poles and cables made it possible to light up the “center” of the community and to distribute electricity to its 48 families.

But “it only lasted a month, the batteries broke down,” Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar da Silva Homero, 43, a school bus driver, told IPS during a visit to the community. The village had to go back to the noisy and unreliable diesel generator, which only supplies a few hours of electricity a day.

“The solar panels were left here, useless. We want to reactivate them, it would be really good. We need more powerful batteries, like the ones they put in the bus terminal in Boa Vista.” — Lindomar da Silva Homero

Fortunately, about four months later, the Boa Vista electricity distribution company laid its cables to Darora, making it part of its grid.

“The solar panels were left here, useless. We want to reactivate them, it would be really good. We need more powerful batteries, like the ones they put in the bus terminal in Boa Vista,” said Homero, referring to one of the many solar plants that the city government installed in the capital.

Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar Homero of the Darora Community is calling for new adequate batteries to reactivate the solar power plant, because the electricity they receive from the national grid is too expensive for the local indigenous people. Behind him stands his predecessor, former tuxaua Jesus Mota. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Tuxaua (chief) Lindomar Homero of the Darora Community is calling for new adequate batteries to reactivate the solar power plant, because the electricity they receive from the national grid is too expensive for the local indigenous people. Behind him stands his predecessor, former tuxaua Jesus Mota. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Expensive energy

But indigenous people can’t afford the electricity from the distributor Roraima Energía, he said. On average, each family pays between 100 and 150 reais (20 to 30 dollars) a month, he estimated.

Besides, there are unpleasant surprises. “My November bill climbed to 649 reais” (130 dollars), without any explanation,” Homero complained. The solar energy was free.

“If you don’t pay, they cut off your power,” said Mota, who was tuxaua from 1990 to 2020.”In addition, the electricity from the grid fails a lot,” which is why the equipment is damaged.

Apart from the unreliable supply and frequent blackouts, there is not enough energy for the irrigation of agriculture, the community’s main source of income. “We can do it with diesel pumps, but it’s expensive; selling watermelons at the current price does not cover the cost,” he said.

“In 2022, it rained a lot, but there are dry summers that require irrigation for our corn, bean, squash, potato, and cassava crops. The energy we receive is not enough to operate the pump,” said Mota.

A photo of the three water tanks in the village of Darora, one of which holds water that is made potable by chemical treatment. The largest and longest building is the secondary school that serves the Macuxi indigenous community that lives in Roraima, in northern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

A photo of the three water tanks in the village of Darora, one of which holds water that is made potable by chemical treatment. The largest and longest building is the secondary school that serves the Macuxi indigenous community that lives in Roraima, in northern Brazil. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Achilles’ heel

Batteries still apparently limit the efficiency of solar energy in isolated or autonomous off-grid systems, with which the government and various private initiatives are attempting to make the supply of electricity universal and replace diesel generators.

Homero said that some of the Darora families who live outside the “center” of the village and have solar panels also had problems with the batteries.

Besides the 48 families in the village “center” there are 18 rural families, bringing the community’s total population to 265.

A solar plant was also installed in another community made up of 22 indigenous families of the Warao people, immigrants from Venezuela, called Warao a Janoko, 30 kilometers from Boa Vista.

But of the plant’s eight batteries, two have already stopped working after only a few months of use. And electricity is only guaranteed until 8:00 p.m.

“Batteries have gotten a lot better in the last decade, but they are still the weak link in solar power,” Aurelio Souza, a consultant who specializes in this question, told IPS from the city of São Paulo. “Poor sizing and the low quality of electronic charging control equipment aggravate this situation and reduce the useful life of the batteries.”

The low quality of the electricity supplied to Darora is due to the discrimination suffered by indigenous people, according to Adélia Augusto da Silva. The water they used to drink was also dirty and caused illnesses, especially in children, until the indigenous health service began to chemically treat their drinking water. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The low quality of the electricity supplied to Darora is due to the discrimination suffered by indigenous people, according to Adélia Augusto da Silva. The water they used to drink was also dirty and caused illnesses, especially in children, until the indigenous health service began to chemically treat their drinking water. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

In Brazil’s Amazon jungle, close to a million people live without electricity, according to the Institute of Energy and the Environment, a non-governmental organization based in São Paulo. More precisely, its 2019 study identified 990,103 people in that situation.

Another three million inhabitants of the region, including the 650,000 people in Roraima, are outside the National Interconnected Electricity System. Their energy therefore depends mostly on diesel fuel transported from other regions, at a cost that affects all Brazilians.

The government decided to subsidize this fossil fuel so that the cost of electricity is not prohibitive in the Amazon region.

This subsidy is paid by other consumers, which contributes to making Brazilian electricity one of the most expensive in the world, despite the low cost of its main source, hydropower, which accounts for about 60 of the country’s electricity.

Solar energy became a viable alternative as the parts became cheaper. Initiatives to bring electricity to remote communities and reduce diesel consumption mushroomed.

But in remote plants outside the reach of the grid, good batteries are needed to store energy for the nighttime hours.

Part of the so-called "downtown" in Darora, which has lamp posts, houses, a soccer field and a shed where the community meets. A larger community center is needed, says the leader of the Macuxi village located near Boa Vista, the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Part of the so-called “downtown” in Darora, which has lamp posts, houses, a soccer field and a shed where the community meets. A larger community center is needed, says
the leader of the Macuxi village located near Boa Vista, the capital of the northern Brazilian state of Roraima. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

A unique case

Darora is not a typical case. It is part of the municipality of Boa Vista, which has a population of 437,000 inhabitants and good resources, it is close to a paved road and is within a savannah ecosystem called “lavrado”.

It is at the southern end of the São Marcos indigenous territory, where many Macuxi indigenous people live but fewer than in Raposa Serra do Sol, Roraima’s other large native reserve. According to the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai), there were 33,603 Macuxi Indians living in Roraima in 2014.

The Macuxi people also live in the neighboring country of Guyana, where there are a similar number to that of Roraima. Their language is part of the Karib family.

Although there are no large forests in the surrounding area, Darora takes its name from a tree, which offers “very resistant wood that is good for building houses,” Homero explained.

The community emerged in 1944, founded by a patriarch who lived to be 93 years old and attracted other Macuxi people to the area.

The progress they have made especially stands out in the secondary school in the village “center”, which currently has 89 students and 32 employees, “all from Darora, except for three teachers from outside,” Homero said proudly.

A new, larger elementary and middle school for students in the first to ninth grades was built a few years ago about 500 meters from the community.

Water used to be a serious problem. “We drank dirty, red water, children died of diarrhea. But now we have good, treated water,” said Adélia da Silva.

“We dug three artesian wells, but the water was useless, it was salty. The solution was brought by a Sesai technician, who used a chemical substance to make the water from the lagoon drinkable,” Homero said.

The community has three elevated water tanks, two for water used for bathing and cleaning and one for drinking water. There are no more health problems caused by water, the tuxaua said.

His current concern is to find new sources of income for the community. Tourism is one alternative. “We have the Tacutu river beach 300 meters away, great fruit production, handicrafts and typical local gastronomy based on corn and cassava,” he said, listing attractions for visitors.

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Thoughts for 2023: Promoting Innovation & New Technologies

Civil Society, COVID-19, Development & Aid, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Patients seeking treatment at the Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Credit: World Bank/Dominic Chavez

 
The UN agency devoted to ending AIDS as a public health threat has called on top politicians and governments across the world to ensure the right to quality healthcare is upheld, and not just a privilege to be enjoyed by the wealthy.

NEW YORK, Dec 20 2022 (IPS) – Promoting innovation and technology to promote inclusive development means using new technologies to enhance equal access to services, eliminate discrimination, increase transparency, and create a stable and just future for all – especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.


Obviously, the rule of law is a key driver of inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development, and empowers people from all strata of life to seek and obtain justice. Doing more with less is posing a challenge here. We are operating in an increasingly connected yet complex global and national settings and fiscally fragile environment.

Our traditional structures, systems and processes are proving to be inadequate to deal with new developmental challenges, pandemics, inaccessibility and exclusions, conflicts, and humanitarian crisis. Our governance and justice systems are not the most transparent and data friendly domain. Bringing that information to light is no easy task.

Barriers to Governance and Rule of Law

As indicated before, there are many barriers to accessing public services and ensuring accessible public health, rule of law, especially where there are high levels of poverty, marginalization, and insecurity. Governance institutions – formal and informal – may be biased or discriminatory. Public governance systems may be ineffective, slow, and untrustworthy.

In the last 3 years of pandemic, we also realized our public health system is often crippled by lack of investment, inclusive and accessible initiatives, and innovation. Discriminatory decision making and exclusivity further complicated the situation at all levels. People may lack knowledge about their rights.

Often legal assistance and consumer protection are out of reach, leaving people with little recourse to formal mechanisms for protection and empowerment. There may be a culture of impunity for criminal acts, unacceptable level of tolerance for exclusionary practices.

Other discriminations, injustices, and abuses in the family, or through deprivation and labour exploitation, may go unaddressed. Despite all these, more can be done to ensure that they benefit from the inclusive governance and public health work, and, rule of law practices, which expand their opportunities and choices.

Quest for New Ideas …

Despite all these, more can be done to ensure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups benefit from inclusive public health, legal empowerment, and access to justice, which expand their opportunities and choices.

We need fresh ideas, resources, and unconventional ways of collecting and analyzing data, such as using micro-narratives or innovative, accessible public hearings, targeted consultations, to complement traditional mechanisms including surveys. But innovation is rapidly becoming the new buzzword, so I would be careful in applying it here:

    • Innovation is not cost-free and takes time so it should be mainstreamed:
    • Innovation is both science and arts. And it should be seen as a standalone practice. one of the biggest problems that public sector innovation faces today is that governments have de facto created a ‘class of innovators,’ rather than making innovation an inclusive process that is open to anyone who has the motivation and capacity to influence change. This must change.
    • Repackaging or reproduction is not innovation unless it caters to the specific needs of vulnerable and marginalized communities which are not supported by existing mechanisms and services.
    • What is innovative in Bangladesh, Turkey, and Tanzania may not be so in India, Turkmenistan, Senegal, or Mexico;
    • Big data is important but harnessing it for the right cause should be central consideration. Linking it with better evidence base is of critical significance. The COVID-19 challenges amply demonstrated it.
    • Going beyond social networking is key – while Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media outlets play an admirable role in connecting people, these are not enough to solving a protracted problem and sustaining a solution. We must also be mindful of the recent trend of using social media to silence public defenders, journalists, and whistle blowers. The twitter is a case in point (December 2022).
    • Innovative ideas, while refreshing, need to be pragmatic so that they can be implemented. They mast be part of a solution, not the overall problem.
    • Evidence of impact is more important than the novelty factor.

Innovation and New Technologies for Solutions

My own take is that ideas do not need to be always transformational or revolutionary. Our platforms can replicate or even recycle what already works by introducing successful models to new actors and environments.

Even seemingly ordinary things can become innovative in different terms, approaches, or settings. linking inclusion to innovation is not only about looking at how it can advance policies and create better impact for governments, but also about giving people, public servants, and citizens alike, the self-efficacy, power, and freedom to direct change in the way they see necessary. This contributes directly to the making of inclusive development.

New technologies are changing the lives of people around the world. In the same way that they make daily tasks simpler, they can make official and routine interactions with government institutions, service providers easier and can provide innovative solutions to a host of public sector governance, public health, and rule of law challenges.

Technology has an immense untapped potential to strengthen inclusive practices for governance including public health governance, and the rule of law. Technological innovation must provide equal access to services, help to eliminate discrimination, and assure more transparency and accountability. They must not be used to silence voices, deny human rights, or create justifications for maladministration, inaccessibility, and exclusions.

As we are approaching 2023 in a few days, let us hope for a more inclusive and diverse public sector governance rooted in human rights values and practices.

Dr. A.H. Monjurul Kabir, currently UN System Coordination Adviser and Global Team Leader for Gender Equality, Disability Inclusion/Intersectionality at UN Women HQ in New York, is a thought leader, political scientist and senior policy and legal analyst on global issues and regional trends. For policy and academic purpose, he can be contacted at monjurulkabir@yahoo.com. He can be followed in twitter at mkabir2011

IPS UN Bureau

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Biodiversity Agreement Historic But Difficult to Implement

Biodiversity, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Finance, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, Sustainable Development Goals

Biodiversity

Government delegations celebrate the close of the historic negotiation at COP15 of the New Global Framework on Biodiversity in the early hours of the morning on Monday Dec. 19, at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal, Canada. CREDIT: Mike Muzurakis/IISD

MONTREAL, Dec 19 2022 (IPS) – The pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus), which takes its name from its shape, is found throughout the Caribbean Sea, but its population has declined by more than 80 percent since 1990. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed it as “critically endangered” due to the effects of the human-induced climate crisis.


Its fate now depends on the new Kunming-Montreal Global Framework on Biodiversity, which was agreed by the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on Monday Dec. 19, at the end of the summit held since Dec. 7 at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal.

Now, the world’s countries must translate the results into national biodiversity strategies, to comply with the new accord. In this regard, David Ainsworth, spokesman for the CBD, in force since 1993 and based in Montreal, announced the creation of a global accelerator for the drafting of national plans, with the support of U.N. agencies.

COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity approved a new program to protect the world's natural heritage for the next 10 years during the summit held in the Canadian city of Montreal. The picture shows a statue of a polar bear, whose species is threatened by melting ice and habitat loss, on a street in Montreal. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity approved a new program to protect the world’s natural heritage for the next 10 years during the summit held in the Canadian city of Montreal. The picture shows a statue of a polar bear, whose species is threatened by melting ice and habitat loss, on a street in Montreal. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The menu of agreements

COP15, whose theme was “Ecological Civilization: Building a shared future for all life on earth”, approved four objectives on improving the status of biodiversity, reducing species extinction, fair and appropriate sharing of benefits from access to and use of genetic resources, and means of implementation of the agreement.

In addition, the plenary of the summit, which brought together some 15,000 people representing governments, non-governmental organizations, academia, international bodies and companies, agreed on 23 goals within the Global Framework, for the conservation and management of 30 percent of terrestrial areas and 30 percent of marine areas by 2030, in what is known in U.N. jargon as the 30×30.

This includes the complete or partial restoration of at least 30 percent of degraded terrestrial and marine ecosystems, as well as the reduction of the loss of areas of high biological importance to almost zero.

Likewise, the agreement reached by the 196 States Parties at COP15 includes the halving of food waste, the elimination or reform of at least 500 billion dollars a year in subsidies harmful to biodiversity, and at least 200 billion dollars in funding for biodiversity by 2030 from public and private sources.

It also endorsed increasing financial transfers from countries of the industrialized North to nations of the developing South by at least 20 billion dollars by 2025 and 30 billion dollars by 2030, and the voluntary publication by companies for monitoring, evaluation and disclosure of the impact of their activities on biodiversity.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) will manage a new fund, whose operation will be defined by the countries over the next two years.

With regard to digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources, the Global Framework stipulates the establishment of a multilateral fund for benefit-sharing between providers and users of genetic resources and states that governments will define the final figure at COP16 in Turkey in 2024.

The Global Framework also contains gender and youth perspectives, two strong demands of the process that was initially scheduled to end in the city of Kunming, China, in 2020. But because that country was unable to host mass meetings due to its zero-tolerance policy towards COVID-19, a first virtual chapter was held there and another later in person, and the final one now took place in Montreal.

The states parties are required to report at least every five years on their national compliance with the Global Framework. The CBD will include national information submitted in February 2026 and June 2029 in its status and trend reports.

With some differences, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples gave a nod to the Global Framework, but issued warnings. Viviana Figueroa, representative of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, and Simone Lovera, policy director of the Global Forest Coalition, applauded the agreement in conversations with IPS, while pointing out its risks.

“It’s a good step forward, because it recognizes the role of indigenous peoples, the use of biodiversity and the role of traditional knowledge,” said Figueroa, an Omaguaca indigenous lawyer from Argentina whose organization brings together indigenous groups from around the world to present their positions at international environmental meetings.

“It has been a long process, to which native peoples have contributed and have made proposals. The most important aspects that we proposed have been recognized and we hope to work together with the countries,” she added.

But, she remarked, “the most important thing will be the implementation.”

Goal C and targets one, three, five, nine, 13, 21 and 22 of the Global Framework relate to respect for the rights of native and local communities.

Lovera, whose organization brings together NGOs and indigenous groups, said the accord “recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and of women. It also includes a recommendation to withdraw subsidies and reduce public and private investments in destructive activities, such as large-scale cattle ranching and oil palm monoculture.”

But indigenous and human rights organizations have questioned the 30×30 approach on the grounds that it undermines ancestral rights, blocks access to aboriginal territories, and requires consultation and unpressured, informed consent for protected areas prior to any decision on the future of those areas.

Discussions at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit intensified in the last few days of COP15 and ran late into the night, as in this session on health and biodiversity. But in the end, agreement was reached on a new Global Framework on Biodiversity, which will be binding on the 196 states parties. CREDIT: IISD/ENB

Discussions at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit intensified in the last few days of COP15 and ran late into the night, as in this session on health and biodiversity. But in the end, agreement was reached on a new Global Framework on Biodiversity, which will be binding on the 196 states parties. CREDIT: IISD/ENB

Major challenge

While the Global Framework has indicators and monitoring mechanisms and is legally binding, it has no actual teeth, and the precedent of the failed Aichi Targets casts a shadow over its future, especially with the world’s poor track record on international agreements.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets, adopted in 2010 in that Japanese city during the CBD’s COP10 and which its 196 states parties failed to meet in 2020, included the creation of terrestrial and marine protected areas; the fight against pollution and invasive species; respect for indigenous knowledge; and the restoration of damaged ecosystems.

Several estimates put the amount needed to protect biological heritage at 700 billion dollars, which means there is still an enormous gap to be closed.

In more than 30 years, the GEF has disbursed over 22 billion dollars and helped transfer another 120 billion dollars to more than 5,000 regional and national projects. For the new period starting in 2023, the fund is counting on some five billion dollars in financing.

In addition, the Small Grants Program has supported around 27,000 community initiatives in developing countries.

“There is little public funding, more is needed,” Lovera said. “It’s sad that they say the private sector must fund biodiversity. In indigenous territories money is needed. They can do much more than governments with less money. Direct support can be more effective and they will meet the commitments.”

The activist also criticized the use of offsets, a mechanism whereby one area can be destroyed and another can be restored elsewhere – already used in countries such as Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

“This system allows us to destroy 70 percent of the planet while preserving the other 30 percent,” Lovera said. “It is madness. For indigenous peoples and local communities, it is very negative, because they lose their own biodiversity and the compensation is of no use to them, because it happens somewhere else.”

Figueroa said institutions that already manage funds could create direct mechanisms for indigenous peoples, as is the case with the Small Grants Program.

Of the 609 commitments that organizations, companies and individuals have already made voluntarily at COP15, 303 are aimed at the conservation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems, 188 at alliances, and 159 at adaptation to climate change and reduction of polluting emissions.

The summit also coincided with the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the 4th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits from their Utilization, both components of the CBD.

Images of the planet’s sixth mass extinction reflect the size of the challenge. More than a quarter of some 150,000 species on the IUCN Red List are threatened with extinction.

The “Living Planet Report 2022: Building a nature-positive society”, prepared by the WWF and the Institute of Zoology in London, shows that Latin America and the Caribbean has experienced the largest decline in monitored wildlife populations worldwide, with an average decline of 94 percent between 1970 and 2018.

With a decade to act, each passing day represents more biological wealth lost.

IPS produced this article with support from InternewsEarth Journalism Network.

 

Pandemic Aggravated Violence against Women in Latin America

Active Citizens, Civil Society, COVID-19, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Gender Violence

This article is part of IPS coverage of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25.

"Not one woman less, respect our lives” writes a Peruvian woman on the effigy of a woman in a park in front of the courthouse, before a demonstration in Lima over the lack of enforcement of laws against femicides and other forms of violence against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

“Not one woman less, respect our lives” writes a Peruvian woman on the effigy of a woman in a park in front of the courthouse, before a demonstration in Lima over the lack of enforcement of laws against femicides and other forms of violence against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Nov 24 2022 (IPS) – Violence against women has failed to decline in the Latin American region after the sharp rise recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, while preventing the causes of such violence remains a major challenge.


This is what representatives of the United Nations, feminist organizations and women’s movements told IPS on the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25.

“We attack the problem but not its causes. I have been talking for 30 years about the importance of preventing violence against women by fostering major cultural changes so that girls and boys are raised in the knowledge that it is unacceptable in any form.” — Moni Pizani

This date, established in 1999 by the United Nations, was adopted in 1981 at the first Latin American and Caribbean feminist meeting held in Colombia to promote the struggle against violence against women in a region where it continues to be exacerbated by high levels of ‘machismo’ or sexism.

The day was chosen to pay tribute to Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, three sisters from the Dominican Republic who were political activists and were killed on Nov. 25, 1960 by the repressive forces of the regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

The date launches 16 days of activism against gender violence, culminating on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, because male violence against women and girls is the most widespread violation of human rights worldwide.

“It is not possible to confirm a decrease in gender violence in the region at this post-pandemic moment,” said Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of the region’s leading experts on women’s rights. “I could say, from the information I have gathered and empirically, that the level has remained steady after the significant increase registered in the last two years.”

Pizani, who retired from the United Nations, currently supports the UN Women office in Guatemala after a fruitful career advocating for women’s rights. She was twice representative in Ecuador for UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, then worked for East and Southeast Asia and later opened the UN Women Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama City as regional director.

“Before the pandemic we used to talk about three out of 10 women having suffered violence, today we say four out of 10. The other alarming fact is that the impact is throughout the entire life cycle of women, including the elderly,” she told IPS in a conversation in Tegucigalpa, Honduras during a Central American colloquium on the situation of women.

UN Women last year measured the “shadow pandemic” in 13 countries in all regions, a term used to describe violence against women during lockdowns due to COVID.

Seven out of 10 women were found to have experienced violence at some time during the pandemic, one in four felt unsafe at home due to increased family conflict, and seven out of 10 perceived partner abuse to be more frequent.

The study also revealed that four out of 10 women feel less safe in public spaces.

Pizani said the study showed that this violation of women’s human rights occurs in different age groups: 48 percent of those between 18 and 49 years old are affected, 42 percent of those between 50 and 59, and 34 percent of women aged 60 and over.

Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of Latin America's leading experts on gender issues, with a long career at UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, takes part in a Central American colloquium in Tegucigalpa on sustainable recovery with gender equality in the wake of the COVID pandemic. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Venezuelan lawyer Moni Pizani, one of Latin America’s leading experts on gender issues, with a long career at UN Women and its predecessor Unifem, takes part in a Central American colloquium in Tegucigalpa on sustainable recovery with gender equality in the wake of the COVID pandemic. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

According to the same study, unemployed women are the most vulnerable: 52 percent of them experienced violence during the pandemic.

And with regard to mothers: one out of every two women with children also experienced a violation of their rights.

The expert highlighted the effort made by many countries to adopt measures during the pandemic with the expansion of services, telephone hotlines, use of new means of reporting through mobile applications, among others. But she regretted that the efforts fell short.

This year, the region is home to 662 million inhabitants, or eight percent of the world’s population, slightly more than half of whom are girls and women.

The level of violence against women is so severe that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) cites it as one of the structural factors of gender inequality, together with gaps in employment, the concentration of care work and inequitable representation in public spaces.

Governments neither prevent nor address violence

Peru is an example of similar situations of gender violence in the region.

It was one of the countries with the strictest lockdowns, paralyzing government action against gender violence, which was gradually resumed in the second half of 2020 and which made it possible, for example, to receive complaints in the country’s provincial public prosecutors’ offices.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office Crime Observatory reported 1,081,851 complaints in 2021 – an average of 117 per hour. The frequency of complaints returned to pre-pandemic levels, which in 2020 stood at around 700,000, because women under lockdown found it harder to report cases due to the confinement and the fact that they were cooped up with the perpetrators.

Cynthia Silva, a Peruvian lawyer and director of the non-governmental feminist group Study for the Defense of Women’s Rights-Demus, told IPS that the government has failed to reactivate the different services and that the specialized national justice system needs to be fully implemented to protect victims and punish perpetrators.

Lawyer Cynthia Silva, director of the Peruvian feminist institution Demus, poses for a picture at the headquarters of the feminist organization in Lima. She stresses the need for government action against gender violence to include not only strategies for attending to the victims, but also for prevention in order to eradicate it. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Lawyer Cynthia Silva, director of the Peruvian feminist institution Demus, poses for a picture at the headquarters of the feminist organization in Lima. She stresses the need for government action against gender violence to include not only strategies for attending to the victims, but also for prevention in order to eradicate it. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

She stressed the importance of allocating resources both for addressing cases of violence and for prevention. “These are two strategies that should go hand in hand and we see that the State is not doing enough in relation to the latter,” she said.

Silva urged the government to take action in measures aimed at the populace to contribute to rethinking socio-cultural patterns and ‘machista’ habits that discriminate against women.

Based on an experience they are carrying out with girls and adolescents in the district of Carabayllo, in the extreme north of Lima, she said it’s a question of supporting “deconstruction processes” so that egalitarian relations between women and men are fostered from childhood.

On Nov. 26 they will march with various feminist movements and collectives against machista violence so that “the right to a life free of violence against women is guaranteed and so that not a single step backwards is taken with respect to the progress made, particularly in sexual and reproductive rights, which are threatened by conservative groups in Congress.”

Adolescent women and men in Lima, the Peruvian capital, wave a huge banner during the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated such violence in Latin America. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Adolescent women and men in Lima, the Peruvian capital, wave a huge banner during the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated such violence in Latin America. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

An equally serious scenario

Argentina is another example of gender violence – including femicides – in Latin America, the region with the highest levels of aggression against women in the world, the result of extremely sexist societies.

This is in contrast to the fact that it is one of the regions with the best protection against such violence in national and even regional legislation, because since 1994 it has had the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.

The problem is that these laws are seriously flawed in their implementation, especially in the interior of the countries, agree UN Women, regional organizations and national women’s rights groups.

Rosaura Andiñach, an Argentine university professor and head of community processes at the Ecumenical Regional Center for Counseling and Service (CREAS), said it is worrying that in her country there are still high rates of femicide, despite the progress made in terms of legislation.

Between January and October 2022, there were 212 femicides and 181 attempted gender-based homicides in the country of 46 million people, according to the civil society observatory “Ahora que sí nos ven” (Now that they do see us).

She said the government still owes a debt to women in this post-pandemic context, as it fails to guarantee women’s rights by not adequately addressing their complaints.

“We do not want the same thing to happen as with a recent case: Noelia Sosa, 30 years old, lived in Tucumán and reported her partner in a police station for gender violence. They ignored her and she committed suicide that afternoon because she did not know what else to do. We are very concerned because the outlook is still as serious as ever in terms of violence against women,” Andiñach said.

It was precisely in Argentina that the #NiunaMenos (Not one woman less) campaign emerged in 2015, which spread throughout the region as a movement against femicides and the ineffectiveness of the authorities in the enforcement of laws to prevent and punish gender-related murders, because femicides are surrounded by a very high level of impunity in Latin America.

Moni Pizani, from UN Women, stressed that the prevention of gender violence should no longer fall short in the region.

“We attack the problem but not its causes. I have been talking for 30 years about the importance of preventing violence against women by fostering major cultural changes so that girls and boys are raised in the knowledge that it is unacceptable in any form,” she underlined.

This strategy, she remarked, “involves investing in youth and children to ensure that the new generations are free from violence, harassment and discrimination, with respect for a life of dignity for all.”

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Peruvian Women Still Denied Their Right to Abortion

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health

Women’s Health

Yomira Cuadros faced motherhood at an early age, as well as the obstacles of a sexist society like Peru’s, regarding her reproductive decisions. In the apartment where she lives with her family in Lima, she expresses faith in the future, now that she has finally started attending university, after having two children as a result of unplanned pregnancies. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Yomira Cuadros faced motherhood at an early age, as well as the obstacles of a sexist society like Peru’s, regarding her reproductive decisions. In the apartment where she lives with her family in Lima, she expresses faith in the future, now that she has finally started attending university, after having two children as a result of unplanned pregnancies. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Nov 18 2022 (IPS) – No woman in Peru should have to die, have her physical or mental health affected, be treated as a criminal or have an unwanted pregnancy because she does not have access to abortion, said Dr. Rocío Gutiérrez, an obstetrician who is the deputy director of the Manuela Ramos Movement, a non-governmental feminist center that works for gender rights in this South American country.


In this Andean nation of 33 million people, abortion is illegal even in cases of rape or fetal malformation. It is only legal for two therapeutic reasons: to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious and permanent health problem.

Peru thus goes against the current of the advances achieved by the “green wave”. Green is the color that symbolizes the changes that the women’s rights movement has achieved in the legislation of neighboring countries such as Uruguay, Colombia, Argentina and some states in Mexico, where early abortion has been decriminalized. These countries have joined the ranks of Cuba, where it has been legal for decades.

“I didn’t tell my parents because they are very Catholic and would have forced me to go through with the pregnancy, they always instilled in me that abortion was a bad thing. But I started to think about how pregnancy would change my life and I didn’t feel capable of raising a child at that moment.” — Fatima Guevara

But Latin America remains one of the most punitive regions in terms of abortion, with several countries that do not recognize women’s right to make decisions about their pregnancies under any circumstances. In El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti it is illegal under all circumstances, and in some cases draconian penalties are handed down.

In the case of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Venezuela, meanwhile, abortion is allowed under very few conditions, while there are more circumstances under which it is legal in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Ecuador.

“In Peru an estimated 50,000 women a year are treated for abortion-related complications in public health facilities,” Dr. Gutiérrez told IPS. “This is not the total number of abortions in the country, but rather the number of women who reach public health services due to emergencies or complications.”

The obstetrician spoke to IPS from Buenos Aires, where she participated in the XV Regional Conference on Women, held Nov. 7-11 in the Argentine capital.

Gutiérrez explained that the cases attended are just the tip of the iceberg, because for every abortion complicated by hemorrhage or infection treated at a health center, at least seven have been performed that did not present difficulties.

Multiplying by seven the 50,000 cases treated due to complications provides the shocking figure of 350,000 unsafe clandestine abortions performed annually in Peru.

The doctor regretted the lack of official statistics about a phenomenon that affects the lives and rights of women “irreversibly, with damage to health, and death.”

Gutiérrez said that another of the major impacts is the criminalization of women who undergo abortions, due to mistreatment by health personnel who not only judge and blame them, but also report them to the police.

Obstetrician Rocío Gutiérrez (C), deputy director of the feminist Manuela Ramos Movement, stands with two fellow activists holding green scarves – representing the struggle for reproductive rights - during the XV Regional Conference on Women held this month in the city of Buenos Aires. CREDIT: Courtesy of Rocío Gutiérrez

Obstetrician Rocío Gutiérrez (C), deputy director of the feminist Manuela Ramos Movement, stands with two fellow activists holding green scarves – representing the struggle for reproductive rights – during the XV Regional Conference on Women held this month in the city of Buenos Aires. CREDIT: Courtesy of Rocío Gutiérrez

Under article 30 of Peru’s General Health Law, No. 26842, a physician who attends a case of presumed illegal abortion is required to file a police report.

Gutiérrez also referred to the fact that unwanted pregnancies have numerous consequences for the lives of women, especially girls and adolescents, in a sexist country like Peru, where women often do not have the right to make decisions on their sexuality and reproductive health.

Healing the wounds of unwanted motherhood

By the age of 19, Yomira Cuadros was already the mother of two children. She did not plan either of the pregnancies and only went ahead with them because of pressure from her partner.

In 2020, according to official data, 8.3 percent of adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 were already mothers or had become pregnant in Peru.

Cuadros, whose parents are both physicians and who lives in a middle-class family, said she never imagined that her life would turn out so differently than what she had planned.

“The first time was because I didn’t know about contraceptives, I was 17 years old. The second time the birth control method failed and I thought about getting an abortion, but I couldn’t do it,” Cuadros told IPS.

At the time, she was in a relationship with an older boyfriend on whom she felt very emotionally dependent. “I had made a decision (to terminate the pregnancy), but he didn’t want to, he told me not to, the pressure was like blackmail and out of fear I went ahead with the pregnancy,” she said.

Making that decision under coercion hurt her mental health. Today, at the age of 26, she reflects on the importance of women being guaranteed the conditions to freely decide whether they want to be mothers or not.

Peruvian activists go topless to demand the right to legal abortion, during a demonstration in the streets of the capital on Mar. 8, 2018. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Peruvian activists go topless to demand the right to legal abortion, during a demonstration in the streets of the capital on Mar. 8, 2018. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

In her case, although she had the support of her mother to get a safe abortion, the power of her then-partner over her was stronger.

“Becoming a mother when you haven’t planned to is a shock, you feel so alone, it is very difficult. I didn’t feel that motherhood was something beautiful and I didn’t want to experience the same thing with my second pregnancy, so I considered terminating it,” she said.

Finding herself in that unwanted situation, she fell into a deep depression and was on medication, and is still in therapy today.

“I went from being a teenager to an adult with responsibilities that I never imagined. It’s as if I have never really gone through the proper mourning process because of everything I had to take on, and I know that it will continue to affect me because I will never stop being a mother,” she said.

She clarified that “it’s not that I don’t want to be a mother or that I hate my children,” and added that “as I continue to learn to cope, I will get better, it’s just that it wasn’t the right time.”

She and her two children, ages nine and seven, live with her parents and brother in an apartment in the municipality of Pueblo Libre, in the Peruvian capital. She has enrolled at university to study psychology and accepts the fact that she will only see her dreams come true little by little.

“Things are not how I thought they would be, but it’s okay,” she remarked with a newfound confidence that she is proud of.

Gutiérrez said more than 60 percent of women in Peru have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives, and argued that the government’s family planning policies fall far short.

The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics reported that the total fertility rate in Peru in 2021 would have been 1.3 children on average if all unwanted births had been prevented, compared to the actual rate of 2.0 children – almost 54 percent higher than the desired fertility rate.

“There are a set of factors that lead to unwanted pregnancies, such as the lack of comprehensive sex education in schools, and the lack of birth control methods and timely family planning for women in all their diversity, which worsened during the pandemic. And of course, the correlate is access to legal and safe abortion,” said Gutiérrez.

She lamented that little or no progress has been made in Peru in relation to the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights, including access to safe and free legal abortion, despite the struggle of feminist organizations and movements in the country that have been demanding decriminalization in cases of rape, artificial insemination without consent, non-consensual egg transfer, or malformations incompatible with life.

University student Fátima Guevara decided to terminate an unwanted pregnancy when she was 19 years old. Four years later, she is sure that it was the right decision, in terms of her plans for her life. The young woman told her story at a friend's home, where she was able to talk about it openly, in Lima, Peru. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

University student Fátima Guevara decided to terminate an unwanted pregnancy when she was 19 years old. Four years later, she is sure that it was the right decision, in terms of her plans for her life. The young woman told her story at a friend’s home, where she was able to talk about it openly, in Lima, Peru. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

The obscurity of illegal abortion

The obscurity surrounding abortion led Fátima Guevara, when she faced an unwanted pregnancy at the age of 19, to decide to use Misoprostol, a safe medication that is included in the methods accepted by the World Health Organization for the termination of pregnancies.

“I didn’t tell my parents because they are very Catholic and would have forced me to go through with the pregnancy, they always instilled in me that abortion was a bad thing. But I started to think about how pregnancy would change my life and I didn’t feel capable of raising a child at that moment,” she told IPS in a meeting at a friend’s home in Lima.

She said that she and her partner lacked adequate information and obtained the medication through a third party, but that she used it incorrectly. She turned to her brother who took her to have an ultrasound first. “Hearing the fetal heartbeat shook me, it made me feel guilty, but I followed through with my decision,” she added.

After receiving proper instructions, she was able to complete the abortion. And today, at the age of 23, about to finish her psychology degree, she has no doubt that it was the right thing to do.

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Public Development Banks Can’t Drag Their Feet When It Comes to Building a Sustainable Future

Civil Society, Climate Action, COVID-19, Democracy, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Gender, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequality, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Civil society organisations at the Finance in Common Summit. Credit: Noel Emmanuel Zako

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast , Oct 21 2022 (IPS) – A coalition of civil society organisations is demanding public development banks (PDBs) to take radical and innovative steps to tackle human rights violations and environmental destruction. No project funded by PDBs should come at the expenses of vulnerable groups, the environment and collective liberties, but should instead embody the voices of communities, democratic values and environmental justice.


The demands, part of a collective statement signed by more than 50 civil society organisations, come as over 450 PDBs gather in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from October 19th, for a third international summit, dubbed Finance in Common.

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate emergency, coupled with human rights violations and increasing risks for activists worldwide, is bringing the need to change current practices into even sharper focus. While public development banks may drag their feet on addressing intersecting and structural inequalities, civil society organisations are taking actions aimed at creating dignified livelihoods by embedding development with concrete affirmative measures towards climate, social, gender, and racial justice.

PDBs cannot be reluctant to act. They need to hit the target when it comes to supporting the transformation of economies and financial systems towards sustainability and addressing the most pressing needs of citizens worldwide – from food systems to increasing support for a just transition towards truly sustainable energy sources. PDBs must recognise that public services are the foundation of fair and just societies, rather than encouraging their privatisation and keep austerity narratives alive.

9 out of 10 people live in countries where civic freedoms are severely restricted, and with an environmental activist killed every two days on average over the past decade, development banks have an obligation to recognize and incorporate human rights in their plans and actions, following a “do not harm” duty.

Civil society organisations at the Finance in Common Summit. Credit: Noel Emmanuel Zako

Communities cannot be left out of the door. They need to be given the space to play the rightful role of driving forces in the answers to today’s global challenges, without them PDBs will move backwards rather than forward – and this means more environmental degradation, less democratic participation, and to put it bluntly an even greater crisis than the one we are facing today. And nobody needs that.

The recommendations in the collective civil society statement emerge from a three-year process of engagement and exchange, involving civil society networks in an effort to shape PDBs policies and projects. You can find some of their words and messages below.

As the call for accountability grows, the Finance in Common summits are an opportunity for PDBs to show moral leadership and help remedy the lack of long-term collaborations with civil society, communities and indigenous groups, threatening to curtail development narratives and practices.

Here’s the messages from civil society organisations from around the globe directed at public development banks.

Oluseyi Oyebisi, Executive Director of Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) the Nigerian national network of 3,700 NGOs said: “The Sahara and Sahel countries especially have been facing the most serious security crisis in their history linked with climate change, social justice and inequalities in the region. Marked by strong economic (lack of opportunities especially for young people), social (limitation of equitable access to basic social services) and climatic vulnerabilities, the region has some of the lowest human development indicators in the world – even before the covid pandemic. Access to affected populations is limited in some localities due to three main factors: the security situation, the poor state of infrastructures and difficult geographic conditions. PDBs must prioritise civil society organisations and Communities initiatives supporting state programs of decentralization, security sector reforms and reconciliation. This will help reduce the vulnerability of populations and prevent violent extremism.”

Mavalow Christelle Kalhoule, Forus Chair and President of Spong, the NGO network of Burkina Faso said: “Development projects shape our world; from the ways we navigate our cities to how rural landscapes are being transformed. Ultimately, they impact the ways we interact with one another, with plants and animals, with other countries and with the food on our plates. The decisions taken by public development banks are therefore existential. Such responsibility comes with an even greater one to include communities directly concerned by development projects, those whose air, water and everyday lives are affected for generations to come. For this to happen, public development banks must reinforce their long-term efforts to create dialogue with civil society organisations, social movements and indigenous communities in order to fortify the democratic principles of their work. We encourage them to listen, to ask and to cooperate in innovative ways so that development stays true to its original definition of progress and positive change; a collective, participative and fair process and a word which has a meaning not for a few, but for all.”

Tity Agbahey, Africa Regional Coordinator, Coalition for human rights in development said: “Many in civil society have expressed concerns about Finance in Common as a space run by elites, that fails to be truly inclusive. It is a space where the mainstream top-down approach to development, instead of being challenged, is further reinforced. Once again, the leaders of the public development banks gathered at this Summit will be taking decisions on key issues without listening to those most affected by their projects and the real development experts: local communities, human rights defenders, Indigenous Peoples, feminist groups, civil society. They will speak about “sustainability”, while ignoring the protests against austerity policies and rising debt. They will speak about “human rights”, while ignoring those denouncing human rights violations in the context of their projects. They will speak about “green and just transition”, while continuing to support projects that contribute to climate change.”

Comlan Julien AGBESSI, Regional Coordinator of the Network of National NGO Platforms of West Africa (REPAOC), a regional coalition of 15 national civil society platforms said: “Regardless of how they are perceived by the public authorities in the various countries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) contribute to covering the aspects and spaces not reached or insufficiently reached by national development programmes. Despite the undeniable impact of their actions on the living conditions of populations, NGOs remain the poor cousins of donor funding, apart from the support of certain philanthropic or charitable organisations. In such a context of scarce funding opportunities, aggravated by the health crisis due to COVID-19 and the subsequent economic crisis, Pooled Finance, which is in fact a paradigm shift, appears to be a lifeline for CSOs. This is why REPAOC welcomes the commitments made by both the Public Development Banks and the Multilateral Development Banks to directly support CSO projects and programmes in the same way as they usually do with governments and the private sector. Through the partnership agreements that we hope and pray for between CSOs and banks, the latter can be assured that the actions that will be envisaged for the benefit of rural and urban communities will certainly reach them with the guarantees of accountability that their new CSO partners offer”.

Frank Vanaerschot, Director of Counter Balance, said: “As one of this year’s organisers of the Finance in Common Summit, the EIB will brag about the billions it invests in development. The truth is the bank will be pushing the EU’s own commercial interests and promoting the use of public money for development in the Global South to guarantee profits for private investors. Reducing inequalities will be second-place at best. The EIB is also co-hosting the summit despite systemic human rights violations in projects it finances from Nepal to Kenya. Instead, the EIB and other public banks should work to empower local communities by investing in the public services needed for human rights to be respected, such as publicly owned and governed healthcare and education – not on putting corporate profits above all else.”

Stephanie Amoako, Senior Policy Associate at Accountability Counsel said: “PDBs must be accountable to the communities impacted by their projects. All PDBs need to have an effective accountability mechanism to address concerns with projects and should commit to preventing and fully remediating any harm to communities”.

Jyotsna Mohan Singh, Regional Coordinator, Asia Development Alliance said: “PDBs should have a normative core; they should start with the rights framework. This means grounding all safeguards into all the various rights frameworks that already exist. There are rights instruments for indigenous people, the elderly, women, youth, and people living with disability. They are part and parcel of a whole host of both global conventions and regional conventions. Their approach should be grounded in those rights, then it will be on a very firm footing.

Asian governments need to support, implement, and apply strict environmental laws and regulations for all PDBs projects. The first step is to disseminate public information and conduct open and effective environmental impact assessments for all these projects, as well as strategic environmental assessments for infrastructure and cross-border projects.”

IPS UN Bureau

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