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The Liberia National Rural Women Structure (LNRWS), which has a membership of over 77,000 across the country, has agreed to support the National Traditional Council of Liberia in order to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

FGM, or female genital cutting, as practiced in Liberia, was customarily practiced by most ethnic groups prior to the outbreak of civil war in late 1989 and has continued since.

Some estimates are that in rural areas, approximately 50 percent of the female population between the ages of 8 and 18 had undergone this procedure before the civil war began. It was practiced within some but not all of Liberia’s ethnic groups.

At a recent press conference in Monrovia, Madam Kebbeh Mengor, president of LNRWS, said it is important that the international community has finally taken the right path to work with key players in order to end the practice of FGM across the country.

Madam Mengor said her organization has promised to work with the Traditional Council, to carry on awareness about the danger that FGM poses to the future of women and girls.

She said if people are really educated about the dangers of FGM, they will put an end to the harmful practice.

“Those that are involved in this harmful traditional practice are using it as a means of livelihood for their families. So if the international community must succeed in ending it, they must be willing to replace FGM with other life skills training programs, business development and educate the children about how to read and write so as to change their minds, like Mama Toma Village in Brewerville,” she said.

Madam Mengor said rural women have more knowledge on how to engage traditional zoes, along with the traditional council, because they are also members of the society.

In the observance of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), members of the National Traditional Council of Liberia (NTCL) on Wednesday, February 6, committed themselves to end the practice of FGM.

FGM has been defined by the World Organization (WHO) as all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Source: Liberian Observers

Professional services firm Deloitte said it will provide education and skills training to 10 million girls and women in India with an aim to equip them to find a meaningful work.

The exercise will be carried out under its global initiative World-class, Deloitte said in a statement.

The initiative aims “to support 10 million girls and women by 2030 through education and skills development,” it said.

It said that globally, the World-class initiative seeks to prepare 50 million people to be better equipped for the future of work, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Deloitte’s World-class programme in India will focus on improving girls’ retention rate in school, higher educational outcomes, and skills development for women to access employment, it added.

Under the initiative, partnerships will be launched with organisations such as Katha and Pratham. These organisations are working to improve the learning outcomes of millions of children and young people in schools and communities across India.

Our goal with WorldClass is to empower 50 million people globally by 2030, by providing them access to the education and skills required to find meaningful work in the new economy,” Punit Renjen, Global CEO, Deloitte said.

The world is on the brink of a seismic shift with the emergence of the Industry 4.0 wave, and to thrive in it, “we must work together so that no one is left behind, he said.

Across India, he said, almost 40 per cent of girls aged 15-18 years drop out of school and college, and only 26 per cent of women are employed.

As one of the emerging economies on the world stage today, India’s demographic dividend forms an integral component of its growth story. The task of harnessing its power has to be fueled by the private sector,” a Deloitte India spokesperson said.

Source: Economic Times India

Saudi Arabia on Saturday (Feb 23) named a princess as its first woman ambassador to the United States, a key appointment as the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder tests relations between the allies.

Princess Rima bint Bandar replaced Prince Khalid bin Salman, the younger brother of the powerful crown prince who was appointed Vice Defence Minister  in a flurry of late-night royal decrees announced on State media.

The reshuffle comes as Saudi Arabia seeks to quell an international outcry over Khashoggi’s murder last October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which strained relations with its key ally Washington.

After initially denying they knew anything of Khashoggi’s disappearance, the kingdom finally acknowledged that Saudi agents killed him inside the consulate, but described it as a rogue operation.

Princess Rima faces hostile US lawmakers who have threatened to take tough action against Saudi Arabia over the brutal killing amid claims that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the de-facto ruler who also serves as the defence minister – was personally responsible.

The Saudi government has denied he had anything to do with the murder of Khashoggi, a royal insider-turned-critic who was a columnist with the Washington Post.

“The appointment of a new envoy signifies an attempt by Riyadh to try and re-set relations with Washington and draw a line under the Khashoggi affair, however unlikely that may be in practice, at least with Congress,” Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute in the United States, told AFP.

Princess Rima, the daughter of a former long-time ambassador to the United States, has been a leading advocate of female empowerment in the kingdom, which has long faced criticism over its treatment of women.

The princess previously worked at the kingdom’s General Sports Authority, where she led a campaign to increase women’s participation in sports.

 

‘DIFFICULT PORTFOLIO’

Prince Khalid, a son of the king who served as ambassador since 2017, had been expected to leave Washington for some time – particularly after the global outcry over Khashoggi tarnished the kingdom’s reputation.

His new appointment as deputy defence minister comes as a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia remains bogged down in a four-year conflict in neighbouring Yemen.

It comes around a year after the crown prince, who also serves as the defence minister, announced a military reform plan and a dramatic overhaul of top defence commanders.

“As the Yemen war drags on and the military reform programme continues to move painstakingly slow, Prince Khalid is gaining a difficult portfolio but one that is critical to his father, brother and the kingdom,” Becca Wasser, a policy analyst at the US-based RAND Corporation, told AFP.

“Prince Mohammed has struggled to delegate authority within this file which has rendered some efforts -? Chiefly military reform – stagnant, and Prince Khalid’s appointment may be an attempt to reinvigorate these initiatives.”

Khashoggi’s killing has refocused attention on the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen, which is gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this month, the US House voted overwhelmingly to end American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war effort in Yemen, dealing a rebuke to President Donald Trump who has publicly thrown his support behind the crown prince.

US lawmakers this month also said they were probing whether Trump was rushing to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia to please corporate supporters who stand to profit handsomely.

The House of Representatives committee has voiced fears that Saudi Arabia could convert US expertise into making a nuclear bomb, heightening already severe tensions with regional rival Iran.

Source: Channel News Asia

Billion Dollar Fund for Women, a global initiative that aims to increase investment in women-founded companies, has arrived in Canada to recruit local venture firms.

The launch was announced by Lally Rementilla, the fund’s Canada lead and president of Quantius, a Toronto intellectual-property lender and one of the fund’s early supporters.

Rementilla told PE Hub Canada that the fund is looking to spread awareness in Canada about the gender financing gap.

It also offers a plan of action involving pledges by VC firms to invest a portion of their capital in tech startups created by female entrepreneurs.

Established in 2018 at the annual meetings of the IMF/World Bank, Billion Dollar Fund asks for pledges from VC firms, typically ranging $1 million to $100 million, with the goal of reaching US$1 billion in all.

The goal itself is nominal, as pledges essentially commit investors to deploying the amounts independently by financing women-founded companies. Once signed up, they have until December 2020 to follow through.

“Fundamentally, it’s about the intent,” Rementilla said, noting that the fund has so far raised US$650 million in pledges, mostly from small and midsized VC firms worldwide.

Along with Quantius, Canadian investors that have pledged to the fund include Cycle Capital Management, Ecofuel Fund, Marigold Capital, Pique Ventures and StandUp Ventures.

In addition to securing specific dollar commitments from VC firms, Billion Dollar Fund seeks to make investment processes more receptive to women-founded companies, Rementilla said.

Pledges ask investors to account for female entrepreneurs in their deal sourcing and ensure opportunities are highlighted to investment committees. VC firms are also encouraged to reinvest in women-founded companies.

On top of this, investors are asked to provide constructive feedback to female entrepreneurs after pitches, including if opportunities are declined.

Rementilla says this approach enables practical changes in dealmaking processes, helping pledging VC firms “set themselves up for success.” For some, this may eventually include bringing on a female principal.

While female entrepreneurs are gaining profile in the VC market, data show the dollar flows remain heavily skewed to men. The fund cites Pitchbook data showing only 2 percent of disbursements going to women-founded companies in 2017.

Rementilla is working with a network of regional leads to introduce Billion Dollar Fund to Canada’s venture industry.

They include Andrée-Lise Méthot, managing partner of Cycle Capital, who is the Montréal lead, and Jonathan Hera, managing partner of Marigold Capital, who is the Toronto lead.

Rementilla’s career includes roles as a tech executive and angel investor.

Prior to joining Quantius in 2015, she was vice president of finance and administration at Nulogy, a supply-chain software provider. Before then, she held the same role at Lavalife, an online dating services provider, sold in 2004 to MemberWorks for $152 million.

Source: Pehub

A NEW breast cancer drug shown to significantly reduce the risk of cancer recurrence is being made available to women in Singapore from today via a Special Access Program.

The drug, NERLYNX (neratinib) is an oral medication taken by women with HER2+ breast cancer who have completed adjuvant trastuzumab-based therapy.

NERLYNX has been shown to significantly reduce the ongoing risk of recurrence in HER2+ early breast cancer patients.1 The greatest benefit was observed in women who were also hormone-receptor positive (HR+) and treated within 12 months following completion of trastuzumab-based adjuvant therapy. Their five-year risk of recurrence or death was reduced by 42%. In these patients, invasive disease-free survival (iDFS) was 90.8% in the patients treated with neratinib, compared with 85.7% in those receiving placebo (hazard ratio = 0.58; 95% CI: 0.41−0.82; p = 0.002).

ST Asia Chief Executive Officer Mr. Carlo Montagner said a formal registration decision was not expected by Singapore’s HSA before 2020, although he noted that NERLYNX is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

“Data from the pivotal clinical trial tells us that the greatest benefit is seen in women who commence therapy as soon as possible after their adjuvant trastuzumab-based treatment has been completed,” he said.

“Therefore, it is critical that women in Singapore who have recently completed adjuvant trastuzumab-based therapy or are about to complete adjuvant trastuzumab-based therapy, are provided access now to NERLYNX while the registration process is underway.”

International breast cancer authority Professor Arlene Chan was the lead investigator and primary author in the pivotal Phase III trial of NERLYNX, ExteNET.2

Professor Chan said its availability in Singapore and other regions would be “a huge step forward” to further reduce the risk of cancer recurrence in local women diagnosed with HER2+ early breast cancer.

“Despite the clear proven benefit of standard of care chemotherapy and trastuzumab therapy, women diagnosed with early-stage HER2+ breast cancer are still at risk of disease recurrence,” Professor Chan said.

“This drug provides women with an opportunity to remain disease-free who may otherwise have had a recurrence.”

Singapore health data shows that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the country, accounting for almost 30% of all cancer cases. It is estimated that one in 15 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before age 75.3

NERLYNX is made available in Singapore by Specialised Therapeutics Asia, under exclusive license from Puma Biotechnology, Inc.

About NERLYNX

NERLYNX (neratinib) is an irreversible tyrosine kinase inhibitor that blocks signal transduction through the epidermal growth factor receptors, HER1, HER2 and HER4.4,5

NERLYNX is the first HER2-targeted medication approved by the FDA as extended adjuvant treatment for early-stage HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancer, for patients who have previously been treated with trastuzumab following surgery (i.e., adjuvant trastuzumab-based therapy).4 NERLYNX is also the first anti-HER2 treatment to be EC-approved as extended adjuvant therapy for early stage HR+ / HER2-positive breast cancer following adjuvant trastuzumab-based therapy.5

Extended adjuvant therapy is the next step of treatment that follows adjuvant therapy (treatment after surgery) to further reduce the risk of breast cancer returning.

NERLYNX is an oral tablet and works by binding to multiple receptors inside the cancer cell, blocking signals that tell cancer cells to grow and multiply.

About HER2+ Breast Cancer

Approximately 15−20% of breast cancer tumours over-express the HER2 protein. HER2+ breast cancer is often more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, increasing the risk of disease progression and death. Although research has shown that trastuzumab can reduce the risk of early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer returning after surgery, over 25% of patients treated with trastuzumab experience recurrence.6                                               

About the ExteNET Study,2, 7

The ExteNET trial was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, Phase III trial of neratinib versus placebo after adjuvant treatment with trastuzumab in patients with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer.

The ExteNET trial randomized 2,840 patients in 41 countries with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer who had undergone surgery and adjuvant treatment with trastuzumab. After completion of adjuvant treatment with trastuzumab, patients were randomised to receive neratinib or placebo for a period of one year. Patients were then followed for recurrent disease, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or death for a period of five years after randomisation.

The primary endpoint of the trial was invasive disease free survival (iDFS). The trial demonstrated that after a median follow up of 5.2 years, treatment with neratinib resulted in a 27% reduction of risk of invasive disease recurrence or death versus placebo (hazard ratio = 0.73, p = 0.008). The 5-year iDFS rate for the neratinib arm was 90.2% and the 5-year iDFS rate for the placebo arm was 87.7%.7

An additional five-year sub-group analysis demonstrated a 42% risk reduction in women who were HR+ and who had commenced neratinib therapy within 12 months of completing treatment with trastuzumab.7

Puma is conducting a Phase II CONTROL study investigating various prophylactic anti-diarrhoeal regimens for the first 1-2 cycles of neratinib therapy. Emerging data suggest that prophylactic management reduces the incidence, severity and duration of neratinib-associated diarrhoea as compared with events observed in ExteNET.

About Specialised Therapeutics Asia

Headquartered in Singapore, Specialised Therapeutics Asia Pte Ltd (STA) is an international biopharmaceutical company established to commercialise new therapies and technologies to patients throughout South East Asia, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. STA and its regional affiliates collaborate with leading global pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies to bring novel, innovative and life-changing healthcare solutions to patients affected by a range of diseases. Its mission is to provide therapies where there is an unmet need. The company’s broad therapeutic portfolio currently includes novel agents in oncology, haematology, neurology, ophthalmology and supportive care.

Source: PR Newswire

Efforts to empower Saudi women by absorbing them in the job market have been successful, according to a top official of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

Nawal Abdullah Al-Thabian, assistant director general of the ministry’s branch in Makkah province, has said some 600,000 Saudi women have already joined the job market.

The women workforce is not only productive but also creative despite the many obstacles and challenges that they experience, Al-Thabian said.

Delivering a lecture at a conference titled “Empowerment of Saudi Women in Light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030” at King Abdulaziz University, she said ministry had initiated 68 schemes to facilitate employment opportunities for women in the Kingdom.

Many successful Saudi women participated in brainstorming sessions and panel discussions over

two days of the conference, which was inaugurated by Prince Mishal Bin Majed, governor of Jeddah.

Al-Thabian said Labor Ministry had been introducing exclusive programs to empower women in the context of nationalization in the retail sector and the transportation project for workingwomen came as part of such efforts.

Al-Thabian revealed that ministry was concentrating on day care facilities to take care of workingwomen’s children through the QARA scheme. She said the ministry was covering the cost of day care for up to four children. So far, 13,516 workingwomen benefited from the scheme, she said.

Al-Thabian said the ministry was granting charitable and cooperative societies licenses to operate such day care centers and nurseries as part of measures to support workingwomen.

Sahar Bint Hassan Khayat, professor of economics at KAU, said a total of SR344 billion had been invested in the Kingdom in 2018 through 499 licensed projects that had huge potentiality for women empowerment.

She said there was a significant growth in foreign direct investment in the Kingdom in recent years and vast opportunities awaited the women workforce.

Prominent businesswoman Nashwa Tahir said the private sector had played a crucial role in the empowerment of Saudi women by giving them a variety of options to choose jobs according to their skills.

Describing 2008 as a turning point in women empowerment in Saudi Arabia, she said women were allowed to enter the real estate and contracting sector during the year.

Tahir recommended mooting programs for systematic empowerment of women in the private sector as well as in social life through a dedicated ministry for women and child welfare.

Professor Raja Al-Qahtani said women empowerment started in the Kingdom in the 1960s itself when the first schools for women opened in the country.

Professor Huda Amal shed the light on Princess Noura University’s experience in empowering women while Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education Dr. Haya Al-Awad briefed the audience about various initiatives by educational institutions in the Kingdom to empower women by offering quality education.

Al-Alwad said the Education Ministry established centers to enhance the academic experience of women in English, science, mathematics and engineering support for specialized fields.

She said the ministry also launched vocational education for women in the Kingdom.

Noted health professional Samia Al-Amoudi explained Saudi women’s achievements in the healthcare field. She said from nursing to various rare medical specializations Saudi women proved their excellence. “Saudi women health professionals were recognized in regional and international levels,” she added.

Source: Saudi Gazette

A non-profit organisation has joined forces with Bank of America and the Department of Rural and Community development to introduce a €1.8 million fund to enhance the economic mobility of women.

Social Innovation Fund Ireland, along with its two partners, established the fund to support charitable and social enterprise organisations that invest in groups providing training, upskilling, education and other services directly to disadvantaged women.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show female participation in the labour force is 14 per cent lower than men, despite the fact that women make up more than half of third-level graduates in Ireland.

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“Our aim is to support women who find it hard to access the labour market into decent and sustainable work by supporting relevant organisations to empower women by improving their skills, enabling them to seek higher quality, more challenging, and more fulfilling long-term employment,” said Deirdre Mortell, the chief executive of Social Innovation Fund Ireland.

The organisation intends to help 1,000 women to find secure employment across Ireland over the next three years.

“The €1.8 million fund has the potential to create a lasting impact and transform the lives of the women involved and add value to our society,” said An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Source: The Irish Times