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Morocco has been making progress on women’s rights and that’s drawn positive attention from Ivanka Trump, the daughter of United States President Donald Trump and the public face of the U.S. Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP).

“We applaud the Moroccan government for this important step towards the adoption of inheritance law amendments, and look forward to supporting their full implementation,” said Ivanka Trump in a Twitter message on Monday. “W-GDP will continue to support women’s land rights and I appreciate the strong leadership of HH Princess Lalla Joumala.” The princess serves as ambassador to the U.S.

Morocco has in recent weeks adopted draft land rights legislation with an eye toward more equality for women, in keeping with reforms promised by King Muhammad VI. Other reforms on citizenship, family law and workers’ rights have come as part of the king’s vision for a modern and influential Morocco.

The U.S. announced the launch of the W-GDP in February, with a goal of reaching 50 million women across the world by 2025.

“When women are free to thrive, they bring national stability, as well as more jobs and economic growth,” said Ivanka Trump. “Expanding women’s economic participation has the potential to boost global economic output by an additional $12 trillion by 2025.”

The U.S. is committing an initial $50 million to a new fund at USAID, the government’s international development arm, but the W-GDP represents a coordinated effort across U.S. agencies and partners.

Source: Africa Times

The United Nations’ family planning agency has urged the United States to reinstate its funding, which has been cut for the third year over abortion rules, to help protect the lives of millions of women and girls.

The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) said the United States has withheld funding for the third year over its work in China despite denying accusations that it was involved in “coercive abortion” as part of China’s population control programme.

The cuts came after Donald Trump’s administration in 2017 reinstated a policy known as the “global gag rule” that requires NGOs receiving U.S. family planning funds to certify they do not provide abortions or abortion advice.

“It was a big blow for us to lose this funding,” said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, a pediatrician and epidemiologist from Panama before she took the post in 2017.

“The United States funding is very precious to UNFPA and we continue a dialogue in the hope they would return to the funding picture,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview over Skype.

The agency, which works in more than 150 countries on family planning as well as maternal and child health, has foreshadowed that it faces a shortfall of $350 million over the next three years due in part to the U.S. fund cut.

UNFPA – which also works to end child marriage and female genital mutilation – said the cut impedes its work but Kanem pledged not to fail the 200 million plus women and girls globally that have no access to contraception.

“Even now we have been defunded … we have persevered,” she said, adding the group was hoping to get countries to support its efforts at a global summit on sexual and reproductive rights in Kenya in November.

The Nairobi meeting is aimed at renewing political and financial support from countries 25 years after they adopted a set of actions to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and end gender-based violence.

“Any time you talk about sexual and reproductive health, there are controversies from the standpoint of, for instance, religion,” said Kanem. “Sex everywhere is kind of a taboo, but it can kill you if you don’t talk about it.”

Reproductive health rights groups have raised concerns that the reinstatement of the “global gag rule” has forced the closure of health clinics, outreach programmes and refugee services by charities, risking the health of millions of women.

The budget cut comes at a time when the world looks set to miss a target to boost the number of women using modern contraception by another 120 million by 2020, according to a study by the global advocacy group FP2020 last year.

U.N. agencies such as the UNFPA are funded by governments voluntarily. The United States was the fourth largest voluntary donor to UNFPA in 2015, giving $75 million.

Source: Peninsular Qatar

The authorities of Saudi Arabia have announced its decision to permit women and grown up girls to travel without the approval of their guardian.

This decision was recently enacted following the Saudi Government’s Vision 2030 which seeks the inclusion of women’s participation in the development of Saudi Arabia.

The removal of male guardian approval is not the only milestone achieved by the middle east country who last year began permitting women to drive, after a decades-old driving ban was lifted. Prior to that time, Saudi Arabia was the only country left in the world that disapproves women from driving and families had to hire private chauffeurs for female relatives.

Under the new reforms, Saudi women under the age of 21 can get approval from their mother, as opposed to another male relative, in cases where the father is deceased. They are also allowed to be able to apply for a passport by themselves upon turning 21.

The changes, detailed on the website of Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports on Monday, spell out how a major policy change earlier this month – which allowed women over 21 to leave the country without a male relative’s permission from the end of August – will work in practice.

The ones who are under 21 would not be needing any permission in case they are married or travelling for study purposes on a government scholarship programme or going overseas for some official reasons.

They also granted women for the first time the right to register childbirth, marriage or divorce and to be issued official family documents and be eligible as a guardian to children who are minors.

Riyadh has lengthy confronted worldwide criticism over the standing of Saudi girls. They can now also be the legal guardian of their children, a position hitherto reserved for men.

The reform comes after high-profile attempts by women to escape alleged guardianship abuse despite a string of reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including a landmark decree past year that overturned the world’s only ban on women drivers.

While the new amendments may erode part of the guardianship system, women still require permission for numerous aspects of life – including enrolling in school, receiving treatment at a hospital, or being admitted to a shelter for abuse victims.

One step forward, two steps back. Recently in California, a conservative activist group called Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the implementation of Senate Bill 826 (SB 826)— a law mandating that California corporations include at least one woman on their board of directors by 2019, and two to three by 2021. The defendant, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, “support[s] the underlying goals of SB 826″ and “will respond in court,” a spokesperson stated.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of three California taxpayers, claiming it violates Article I, Section 31 of the California Constitution which prevents gender discrimination. Furthermore, the plaintiffs say it’s illegal under California law to spend taxpayer funds and resources to enforce SB 826, calling it a “gender quota.” Governor Jerry Brown publicly acknowledged SB 826 has “potential flaws” when he signed it into law late last year; however, he thought it was a step in the right direction given today’s political climate.

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), co-writer of SB 826 with Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), said in response on August 9: “While I certainly respect the constitutional right of anyone to challenge the law in our courts, it is disappointing that this conservative right wing group is more invested in spending thousands of dollars on a questionable lawsuit than supporting policy that improves business’ profits and boosts our economy.”

Numerous studies have shown a strong positive correlation between female executives and company success: A 2016 study by Credit Suisse reported that annual growth rates have jumped as much as 10.3 percent when women contribute to senior leadership. Yet for some reason, the number of board seats held by women in California, 17.3 percent, is slightly below the national average of 17.7 percent, according to Russell 3000 Index. Since California is often considered a progressive leader, this seems unusually low. Additionally, CBS News found nearly 100 companies that didn’t have any women at all in 2018.

Jackson stated, “While the courts consider this challenge, many companies have already voluntarily complied. Just last month, the last all-male board of the S&P 500 added a woman to its ranks, showing that diversity is within our grasp and that women are highly qualified and eager to step up.” Atkins adds she’s “confident the courts will see through this thinly veiled attempt to block highly qualified women from serving on the boards of our publicly traded corporations.”

Source: Independent

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) has launched a directory of female members with qualifications and experience to be corporate directors to promote gender diversity in join company boardrooms.

Professional services firms have progressed faster than corporate in achieving gender diversity, said Aruni Rajakarier, chairperson of the CA Sri Lanka Women Empowerment and Leadership Development Committee. 

“Many men say that there is no talent pool among women, but this directory shows that there is actually a talent pool and this talent pool could be greater if we accept that there are gender differences and help women stay in,” she said. 

The directory is an important initiative aimed at supporting the country’s vision to have 30% women on boards by 2020, a statement said. 

CA Sri Lanka said it is trying to break gender barriers in boardrooms with its ‘Board Ready Female Members Directory’ which promotes more female representation across boards in corporate Sri Lanka.  

Harsha Basnayake, Ernst & Young Asia Pacific Transaction Advisory Managing Partner, said educated and smart women have been waiting in the sideline due to social and power biases which many have been conditioned to practice. 

“As leaders we have a significant capacity to change all of this and the efforts to go beyond billboards and social media proclamations. You and I have a real challenge in this regard to be the advocates and leaders who break the barriers,” he said at the launch of the directory.

Basnayake said that the failure to engage and develop talented women within an organization leaves half of the company’s potential behind. 

More than half of university entrants in Sri Lanka are women which means there is a large talent pool of women who can greatly add to the workforce not in terms of gender but in the range of experience and competencies which they can bring to an organization, he said. 

Quoting a study conducted by Peterson institute in collaboration with Ernst & Young, Basnayake said 30 percent of women representation on boards could add up to 16 percentage points to its net margin. 

“We have validated this at Ernst & Young by experimenting with our teams and quantified profitability of projects we carried out between diverse teams and homogeneous teams which is all male, and we recorded an 8 percent advantage with the team which is mixed and diverse,” he said. 

“Diverse boards and corporate leadership teams are less prone to group thinking and more prone to embracing new approaches to meet future threats and opportunities.” 

He said that studies have shown that greater level of gender diversity can have a positive impact on corporate performance and economic growth. 

Jagath Perera, CA Sri Lanka President, said although women are highly involved in economic related activities across the globe, their presence in leadership positions is relatively low.

Source: ECONOMY NEXT

Qatar is the only Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country still implementing male guardianship laws for female travel after Saudi Arabia lifted its restrictions on Friday. Saudi Arabia announced it would now allow both male and female citizens over the age of 21 to travel without a parent or guardian’s permission. While the rest of the GCC countries are working to protect and empower women’s rights, Qatar seems to lag behind.

According to the Qatari Interior Ministry’s website, guardianship laws require females under the age of 25 to travel abroad with a male parent’s consent. These measures restrict women who may need to travel abroad out of necessity, for education, visiting a relative or for medical needs.

According to the Saudi news agency Al Arabiya, Qatari men can – and do – apply to the courts in order to prevent their wives from traveling.

“Married women are entitled to travel without permission irrespective of their age,” it states on the Qatari Interior Ministry’s website. “In case the husband doesn’t want her to travel, he has to approach the competent court to prevent her journey.”

The same rules, however, do not apply to the men. According to the ministry’s website, men are allowed to travel freely once they reach the legal age of 18: “No permission is required for those who are 18 years old or more as they have reached the legal age of puberty.”

Furthermore, the Qatar official e-government portal Hukoomi’s instructions for citizens’ passport renewal specify that only Qatari males over the age of 18 can apply for a passport on their own. It also states that those same people may apply for renewal on account of unmarried daughters, sisters and nieces.

Saudi Arabia’s new decree, as of Friday, grants women who are of age the right to apply for and renew their passports themselves. Their recent changes also allow women to register independently for marriage, divorce or a child’s birth, and to receive family documents. The new decree also establishes that either the mother or father can act as a child’s legal guardian.

According to NPR, it was not too long ago that Saudi Arabia attempted to silence women’s rights activists and punish those who had political dissent, thus increasing the amount of female asylum seekers such as Rahaf Mohammad Alqunum and Samah Damanhoori, who actually succeeded in finding asylum abroad. In 2017, both Saudi men and women made a total of 817 asylum claims.

Neither Bahrain nor the United Arab Emirates implement guardian systems for female travelers, and Kuwaiti women gained the right to travel without a guardian’s approval back in 2009.

According to Amnesty International, Qatar acceded to international human rights treaties concerning migrants and women, but included reservations that limit their effect. Thus, their legal developments for women’s rights in general are slow.

The Qatari government, according to Amnesty, recently rejected Article 3 of their International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on “the equal right of men and women in the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights.”

Source: Jpost

EY has appointed Nancy Muhoya Nganga as managing partner of its Kenyan practice and leader of the East Africa cluster, the first time a woman has held the roles

She takes over from Gitahi Gachahi who has managed the firm since 2010 and is due to retire later this year.

Muhoya, a Kenyan certified public accountant, has been with the firm for 16 years and has served in a number of senior roles. Most recently, she led assurance services in EY East Africa and was responsible for an unprecedented expansion in its business.

Welcoming her appointment, Gachahi described the growth on her watch as “phenomenal”. “With her experience, business acumen, exposure and global mind set, our business is poised for a take-off to the next level,” he added.

Muhoya’s rapid rise to the top has not gone unobserved. In 2016, she was picked as one of Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40 Women, an annual award that recognises exceptional young businesswomen both as game changers and inspirational role models for future generations.

“It’s truly an honour to be appointed EY East Africa cluster leader,” she told economia. “I look forward to engaging with our highly talented teams across East Africa and continuing to inspire trust and confidence in how we serve our clients in this digital age.”