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Women & SDG

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The world can be a peaceful and better place when all forms of gender inequality are totally abolished through women empowerment. Empowering women in all spheres of life like their men folks will create an atmosphere for better development in our societies.

For instance, increasing women and girls’ education, will contribute to the higher economic growth and personal development. Research in some part of Africa has shown that, on average, women with secondary education have three fewer children than those with no education at all. Owing to these merits, as well as the imperativeness of ensuring that the rights of women are upheld, the UN has made women empowerment a pertinent part of sustainable development goals.

In order to enhance women empowerment in Africa, there are few practical ways that will aid the restoration of dignity and create educational and economic opportunities for women.

Abolition of Early/Child Marriages

World Bank statistics have stated that approximately 15 million girls worldwide are married off before the age of 18. Early marriage causes not only negative personal development but economic issues in the lives of women as well.

The effect is human rights violations- young girls are disempowered and often abused. Because many drops out of school and are unable to find employment, lack of education and poverty are other effects. Statistics have shown incidents of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, as well as high risks to contracting HIV/AIDS. Child marriage hinders both the personal development and economic empowerment of women, which is why abolishing this practice is, included as part of the sustainable development goals to uphold the human rights of women and girls.

The quest to eradicate child marriages in Africa has gathered momentum, as seen by the work done by Malawian chief Theresa Kachindamoto. The data disclosed by UNICEF states that this Chief in 2016 had annulled over 800 child marriages over a 3-year period in one of the Malawian district near Lake Malawi. The aim was to ensure that children go back to school to get educated, as well as minimize abuse and health risks associated with early child marriage. By doing so, children are ensured to have a better chance of living a healthy life. In order to achieve desired goals, enforceable laws were made, much to the apprehension of traditionalists, and to lobby with the Malawian government to change the marriageable age from 18 to 21.

Different measures were applied to ensure the cultural and economic empowerment of children, especially girls, includes paying their school fees or finding sponsors for them and ensuring that children stay in school through a network of appointed mentors.

Protection of Women Rights

In Africa, there are so many cultures, customs, and traditions that infringe on rights of women and children by subjecting them to abuse, as well as political and economic exclusion. Abolishing those customs in order to give girls a better future has been the work of Malawian gender rights activist Memory Banda, who has been working with the Girls Empowerment Network to stop the prevalence of child marriage and some prejudicing customs. This custom is considered to be sexual initiation by older men on girls to initiate the girls into adulthood. Forceful marriages pose a lot of risks for girls, including contracting HIV/AIDS, falling pregnant and being forced to drop out of school, and developing health complications associated with early pregnancy.

This philanthropist’s work on women empowerment and the Girls Empowerment Network led to an alliance with community leaders in a district in southern Malawi to develop bylaws that penalize men who engage in the practice of child marriage. The advocacy also led traditional authorities to increase the legal marriage age from 18 to 21.

Enlightenment of women via Social Media

The media (social) has evolved from merely being a space for friends to share their lives with each other, to be a space for enlightenment and inclusion. So far, the world has shown slow attitude to change in the views on equal rights for women, social media communities can provide much-needed support as women band together to talk about their issues and institute change in their lives at the grassroots level.

 ‘Female in Nigeria’ Facebook group is an example of such an educative platform. “It’s a safe place for a woman who has something to say” according to its founder Lola Omotola. She started the group after the kidnapping of more than 200 girls from Chibok in northeastern Nigeria in 2015. “When you grow up in a place where a woman’s voice is not even valid, everything reinforces the idea that we’re not good enough,” she claimed as the reason of motivation for starting the group.

The group is adjudged a safe haven for women to share their life experiences and seek advice from each other where they feel necessary. Concerns such as marriage, gender discrimination, and domestic abuse are just some of the experiences shared by women in the group.

Nigerian women find themselves in a society that is slow to change its view on women’s rights and gender discrimination, FIN provides a platform and a voice to women who have been silenced by cultural customs and societal expectations.

Empowerment via Small Businesses

Empowering women through small businesses is a positive strategy which will also benefit all the members of the society by providing jobs and opportunities for franchises. Bee farming in Africa has been one of many prime examples of how small businesses can empower women.

The practice of bee farming in Ethiopia is largely traditional; however, modernizing the sector has had a positive influence in attracting women to the area. Women have also been encouraged to join the sector through assistance in accessing funding and land for their business ventures. Their main source of income has come from selling products, like honey, locally at markets, which accounts for approximately 90% of all sales.

In Kenya, Bee farming has attracted approximately 50% of women. This can be attributed to a high demand for Bee products from the East African nation and affordable access into the sector- farmers don’t need large capital or land to enter into bee farming.

Another good sector is the poultry farming which helps in providing opportunities for empowerment through job creation for women. One of the prime businesses making strides in poultry farming is AKM Glitter Company, formed by businesswoman and head of African Women in Agribusiness chapter in Tanzania, a Graça Machel Trust initiative, Elizabeth Swai.

Elizabeth Swai’s Company specializes in poultry farming and has a number of hatcheries that provide day-old chicks and fresh eggs to market. Through her business, she has created a network of more than 100 farmer groups. In these groups, she provides training and support so that farmers are equipped to start rearing their own chickens. In return, she buys eggs from these farmers and sells them at markets. Many businesses have grown as a result of this collaboration, empowering business owners to sell their own produce.

She stated that her work was her passion and also a huge part of her life. “I wanted to develop a model that could have a positive effect on Africa and to empower our young women and youths in general”.

Living an indelible mark on the lives of rural communities has been one of her biggest motivators. “Their household health and their education are improved through our work, and some of the profits are being used to help develop rural areas so children have clean water, classrooms, toilets, and access to basic facilities.”

Women Empowerment via Technology and Energy

Sequel to fourteen countries across the continent with affordable solar power being funded by African-American singer Akon and Morocco leading the way in solar power with the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, innovations in technology and energy are gaining momentum across Africa.

 Eunice Ntobedzi, a businesswoman and an innovator in the energy sector has also employed women electrical engineers to support the development of projects in Botswana. She supported the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) movement in the country.

Owing to her company’s prowess, communities that are often unreachable now have reliable and affordable access to power, while increasing the sharing of renewable energy in the Southern African Development Community. With many women having direct access to energy, Eunice believes that there will be significant health improvements. Additionally, by focusing on educating women in the STEM field, which is sought after both on the continent and across the world, women will have better access to educational and economic opportunities. Access to these opportunities will help women lift themselves sustainably out of poverty and in turn help in promoting economic development in their societies and continent at large.

The empowerment and acceptance of women in all spheres of the society are therefore very sacrosanct. This will not only enlighten the women but will go a long way in sustainable development in African societies.

Source: UN Report

 

Globalisation in the context of women’s economic empowerment reminds me of the modern colloquial term “frenemy” where you are not so sure if someone close to you has good or bad intentions. You cannot completely avoid them and you may actually need them but at the same time, you also know you need to be careful in your interactions due to some bad experiences.  Globalisation has positively shaped women’s work yet it has also arrived with its own patterns that are venomous to the women’s movement itself.

 What is globalization? Friedman (2005) defines globalization as the inexorable integration of markets, transportation systems, and communication systems to a degree never witnessed before – in a way that is enabling corporations, countries, and individuals to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before, and in a way that is enabling the world to reach into corporations, countries, and individuals farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before.

To begin with, globalization has meant the proliferation of different technologies all over the world ad this has had a positive effect on working women’s economic participation. The presence of women in the male-dominated sector of technology has increasingly been felt with some of these women becoming successful tech entrepreneurs. Functions such as networking, advocacy, dissemination and exchange of information, and creative e-commerce have also helped women to market their products globally. 

The capitalist nature of globalization has resulted in the removal of economic barriers in the form of the inflow of capital, firms and industrial growth that creates more employment opportunities for women thus enabling them to earn some income. Distance-related work also means more flexibility in location and hours of employment and thus removing some of the constraints facing women.

Globalization has played a huge role in the shifting of perceptions about the working woman from negative to positive. Evidence has also shown that the capitalist drive of globalization has resulted in a greater appreciation of women’s rights. The result has been an increase in the economic participation of women.

Women now, thanks to globalization, have gained better control of their lives and have more power over the choices in their personal lives. Most importantly women now pose greater negotiation power in terms of their reproductive rights. They can choose when to have children and plan their careers more effectively.

However, globalization like all major changes comes with its own pitfalls and does not address all present societal problems.  Many women despite globalization have continued to be excluded from the industrial growth process; with some constituting a large proportion of the non-industrial labour force and this phenomenon is more acute in the developing world.

According to Schwab (2017), the fourth industrial revolution comes with grave concerns as it may create new inequalities and this is true for n women as they may be disadvantaged has also made working conditions for all workers, but especially women, more stressful and demanding. Women have consequently been finding themselves having to upgrade their skills in order to be able to work with new technologies or risk joining the race to the bottom.

Another negative trend that is likely to affect women’s future work is that due to globalization women are becoming more independent due to the resulting changes in family life. According to Kynastone (1996) there now exists a double burden where women now have the struggle to meet demanding chores at home, cooking, cleaning and, crucially, caring for children and at the same time be working in the informal and formal sector to provide for their families. According to Kynastone (1996) Coping with a new baby and caring for children as they grow are never easy demands for anyone living in poverty.

Although migration comes with greater career opportunities for women, sadly migrant from the continent are increasingly victim to trafficking, especially for the purpose of modern slavery and exploitation. Due to the lack of effective international mechanisms that regulate and protect the rights of labour moving across national borders both legal and illegal migrants can fall victim to human rights abuses. The social consequences are also dire as these and women are more than often forced to be separated from their families and children as they are employed abroad.

Globalisation is indeed a double-edged sword for women at work in both the formal and informal sectors hence there is need to continue discussions on the global gender agenda to ensure better working conditions for women.

By Karen Whitney Maturure

 

 

There has been a lot of attention on women’s maternal health, not least because of the MDG targets, and this has continued with the SDGs. But how much of this work should be focused on bringing men into the world of maternal health?  At one level, men are often the ones who control women’s access to health seeking and health care. At another level, women’s maternal health remains a domain, which is intimately based on their bodily integrity and laden with social significance, such that some argue that women should exert exclusive power.

In Bangladesh, some mHealth activities have sought to recognize the roles of men as gatekeepers to women’s health. Instead of only sending SMS messages to pregnant women, they also send them to husbands or other significant men who have been identified by the women. This seems to play two roles: it encourages men to take women’s maternal health seriously and makes it harder for these men to block women from using maternal health services. But does it also play a role engaging men in maternal health?  Does it also give men maternal health information which they find interesting and useful?  Is it helpful at all, or potentially harmful (i.e. does it increase their power over women)?

This leads us to ask: is there an inherent tension in involving men in maternal health – are we, in fact, increasing male authority in a domain that was at least partly in women’s control? Brazilian feminists have argued for a long time against the ‘maternal infantilization’ of women, i.e. that women should still have primary authority about what happens to their health and bodies, including when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. When we seek to engage men in maternal health, we need to ask whether it is done in a way that would be considered unethical or would, in fact, inhibit women’s autonomy (e.g. encouraging forms of community surveillance that take away women’s right to privacy).

Questions that need to be asked include: when is it acceptable to share health records of one person with another and what are the gender dimensions involved? Under what conditions should men be encouraged to actively participate in women’s maternal health?  Are there ways to involve men, to promote gender equality and sustain women’s autonomy? What kind of services and support mechanisms do we need to navigate this?

This is not to say that engaging men is necessarily counterproductive. In India, an experience shows that the framework which guides such engagement is what matters – it should not be instrumental, i.e. should not engage with men because they are “decision makers”/ “gatekeepers” and can affect service uptake, but as partners who have a responsibility to share the burden of contraception, childbearing, and rearing, and who have a responsibility and interest in advancing gender equality. Rather, that the basis of engagement aims to foster a recognition of, and discussion around, men as fathers and male privilege. As feminists have long known, men must be involved in the dismantling of structures and harmful social norms that jeopardize women’s well-being – norms such as early marriage, early childbearing, violence, restriction of mobility and so on. Even then, there is a temptation to persuade men to support women’s health and empowerment through an easier route by making utilitarian appeals like “if your daughter is well educated, she will be a good mother”. While this may help to convince the community to not force their girls to drop out of school, will it not further essentialize women’s roles as mothers?

What is the role of health systems researchers in addressing this issue? Health system researchers are in a unique position to support policy champions and bridge the gap between research and policy by linking appropriate policy audiences in developing research, disseminating research findings effectively to different stakeholders, and supporting a policy community to work on issues informed by research. A recent review, critically examining the emerging evidence base on interventions that engage men in maternal and newborn health, has found important gaps in how male involvement is conceptualized and recommends more research to document the gender transformative potential of these interventions.

Building on this, it is important to call on health systems researchers to investigate the context-specific gendered determinants of maternal health and be aware of how interventions interact with these contexts. Such informed investigations would ensure that evidence-based approaches to engage men to keep gender equality, women’s autonomy and rights at the center, rather than focusing instrumentally on health outcomes alone. There is a need for efforts that engage policy makers and implementers in supporting long-lasting change, rather than superficial measures that further involve men in maternal health in ways that may not be helpful and indeed in some instances be harmful.

 

By Sana Contractor, A.S.M. Shahabuddin, Linda Waldman, Asha George and Rosemary Morgan

Source: internationalhealthpolicies.org

 

I was speaking to a friend of mine whose mother is a farmer, and as one discussion led to another we found ourselves talking about how a bag of fertilizer mean so much to her mother than a piece of brand new wrapper.

I was stunned because I used to know that women in the villages cherished their traditional attires more than many other things you could mention, so when did that change?

Then it was clear, it changed when a bag of fertilizer became more expensive than five pieces of native wrapper put together.

This is outrageous seeing that about 75 percent of the world’s low-income earners reside in the rural areas, and a large number of them are dependent on agriculture as means of livelihood, so the question goes; how do they survive since one bag of fertilizer is about $30?

Fertilizer is a synthetic or natural supplement used by farmers on soils and plant tissues to add nutrients to the crop and help them grow amidst environmental challenges. This is a kind of sustainable agriculture, practiced by most farmers in order to produce food without affecting the environment as well as the surrounding ecosystem.

Fertilizer is as important in farming as the seed that is to be planted, and as we continued further in our discussion my friend mentioned that her mother has more than seven farmlands and each land consumes nothing less than two bags of fertilizer then I paused for a second to do a gross calculation in my head on how many bags she will be needing in total.

I was shocked knowing that the family may not be able to afford it. In the same vein, there are about 500 million smallholder farms in the world, and most of them grow their crops on less than two hectares of land, therefore following the global demand of food crops, sustainability level for farmlands must be at its peak.

However, we do not see that necessity becoming a priority all we see is minimum attention paid to the importance of subsidizing the amount of fertilizer all over the world and especially in low and middle-income countries.

This should be more than a priority considering the fact that women constitute the large percentage of the world’s total number of farmers and majority of these women are from the rural areas. The role of women in agriculture is fundamental and can never be overemphasized; any attempt to undermine the role of women in the sector is equal to hunger and starvation. Globally, they make up over 40 percent of the sector’s labor force.

This is significant even though their participation differs across and within countries and regions, from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent in parts of Africa and Asia. However, their inputs and achievement have catapulted the sector’s competitiveness into a higher pitch. But the bottom line remains that small-scale women farmers are still constrained by various limitations that restrict them from making equal inputs.

One of these is the high price of fertilizer.The constraint of the cost of fertilizer for small-scale women farmers is faced at the early stage of cultivation.

This stage is crucial because it determines the output. Having had access to lands and seeds to plant, the woman-farmer must help the plant to grow well in order to avoid low output. But when she is limited by some unavailability that makes her effort futile, it makes the whole system deteriorate.

My candid solution is simple; the government should subsidize the price of fertilizer thereby making it as affordable as a packet of sweet.

Why is this important? It is important because the whole world must feed, and if the world must eat, the woman in agribusiness must succeed. Therefore, it is important for the government and private investors to begin to look into reducing the price rate of fertilizer for the woman in agribusiness.

So as to:

  • Increase the amount of food supply in the world.
  • Increase the income of rural women farmers.
  • Encourage more women to join the agribusiness.
  • Raise the standard of living of every woman in agribusiness.
  • Prevent erosion problems and avert environmental decadence.
  • Reduce farmland nitrogen losses and increase its efficiency.
  • Boost the global agriculture sector.

The Sustainable Development Goal that is focused on “ending poverty in all its forms everywhere” may seem unachievable if the prices of essential commodities to the poor are inaccessible.

Women cannot be empowered when stifled by pain, physical, emotion or psychological trauma. An action that impedes on women empowerment hinders the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is considered one of such action that impedes on women empowerment in certain areas of life. We are taking the time to consider the Psychological and physical impediments of FGM to the empowerment of SDGs in the lives of many affected women.

Have we considered the Psychological effect of fear on a woman who is suffering from shock, having experienced the process of her genitals being cut off at a tender age? Such woman will constantly live in fear and curtailment because she is not bold enough to dare the unknown; this is a type of impediment to the achievements of SDGs.

Women can only be empowered if and only if they are ready to face the requirements of empowerment, these women may not necessarily avoid empowerment, but they are restrained by some invisible and Psychological forces like fear.

According to WHO, one of the health risks of FGM is Shock, which comes from the pains, infection and/or haemorrhage, experienced during the process of genital mutilation. There are no health benefits to the ritual of FGM; it rather leads to various health dangers for women whose traditional practices it as a norm.

For some women, the shock or fear ceases after a while, but others continue to live with the problem for life. The fear and shock are aside other health risks that may occur as a result of FGM, which WHO classified into two types, the short-term and the long-term risks.

The Short-Term Risk Includes:

Severe pains: which is as a result of the injuries acquired during cutting of the nerve ends and sensitive genital tissue causes, and even though the healing periods (that is if the child or woman was not infected) the person continues to feel severe pains until the wounds have healed.

Excessive bleeding or haemorrhage: may occur if the clitoral artery or other blood vessel is affected during the process, which is a great danger to the health and wholeness of the child or woman.

Genital tissue swelling: this is also bound to happen if the part is infected.

Infections: this is also expected to happen in careless situations when contaminated instruments are used during the cutting process and the healing period.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): note that FMG does not cause HIV, but the use of contaminated and unsterilized instruments during the process may lead to HIV.

Urination problems: This may happen due to tissue swelling, pain or injury to the urethra, causing urinary retention and pains when urinating.

Impaired wound healing: can lead to pain, infections and abnormal scarring.

Death: can be caused by infections, including tetanus and haemorrhage that can lead to shock.

Psychological consequences: due to physical force by those performing the procedure the patient is thrown into the trauma of fear and shock.

In considering the long-term risks, there are some short-termed risks that may eventually become a stigma if the problem remains permanent, such as the pains caused as a result of tissue damage and scarring that may result in trapped or unprotected nerve endings. As well as Infections such as:

Chronic genital infections: with consequent chronic pain, and vaginal discharge and itching. Cysts, abscesses and genital ulcers may also appear.

Chronic reproductive tract infections: May cause chronic back and pelvic pain.

Urinary tract infections: If not treated, such infections can ascend to the kidneys, potentially resulting in renal failure, septicaemia, and death. An increased risk for repeated urinary tract infections is well documented in both girls and adult women.

Painful urination: due to obstruction of the urethra and recurrent urinary tract infections.

Other long-term risks include:

Female sexual health, Obstetric complications, Obstetric fistula, menstrual problems, Keloids, and Perinatal risks, as explained by WHO.

Going through the health risks caused by FGM to a woman’s health both physically and emotionally, it is advisable that proper solutions should be proffered towards healing the already affected persons plus the total elimination of FGM tradition, in order to have a healthy and whole women society ready to be empowered.

Therefore, all Authorities, NGOs, and organizations must work towards achieving first the sanity of women whose tradition engages in such practices, so as to stop the continuity of the ritual because girls who grow up in such tradition want a continuation of FGM in the next generation when they become parents.

The danger of FGM is too great an effect for a girl-child because it causes them to grow abnormally in terms of health and their minds.

If elimination of FGM is achieved, sustainable development goals for women could be achieved.

“Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible.”  
– By Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury Fmr. Under-Secretary General of the UN

The exemption of the role of women in an ongoing development process is often a risk that goes against attaining progress. There are no options or second choices to the role of women in achieving sustainable development goals even when it has to do with peacebuilding. This is because women are and would always remain agents of change.

The former under-secretary-general and high representative of the Bangladeshi ambassador to the UN Anwarul Chowdhury, once said that “Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible.”

Key findings report that when women participate in peace processes, a peace agreement is more likely to be reached and implemented. According to World bank data  women account for 49.6% of the total world population  which is almost half the world’s population, therefore, the participation of women is critical to the success of any peacebuilding process because if this half of the world’s population is removed or suffers disparity then it will be impossible to achieve peace

Women are the most vulnerable and affected group in many global conflicts, and they make up a majority of displaced and refugee populations, but on the contrary, they are largely or never the causes of these problems.

Women and girls suffer hunger, diseases, loss of their children and pregnancies, drop out from school and even death when crisis emanate. This remains a valid point to why it is essential to include the participation of women in peacebuilding, peacekeeping, conflict prevention and mediation processes in any part of the world.

In many cases, women have led peace movements and driven community recovery after a conflict, however, they are very little records or report about women in many peace negotiation processes. These exemptions have led to limitations in achieving recovery, justice and total peace in many conflict areas.

Based on the ravaging conflicts and disaster that is spreading around the world, there is a dying need to allow for the participation and influence of women in decision-making processes that are targeted towards preventing and resolving conflicts. Governments and authorities should push for the inclusion of women in all aspects of peacebuilding, which is one key factor to achieving gender equality and ending violence in many conflict zones.

Conflicts are effectively prevented through women’s meaningful participation because women are better users of anti-conflict tools so they should be engaged with programmes that educate them and prepares them for conflict.

All around the world, women groups play important roles in determining the end to violence and proffering sustainable solutions to the conflict.

One of the reasons why women have been neglected in peace processes is because they are often perceived as not having the necessary skills, knowledge or social status needed to bring about change in post-conflict environments. But this is not correct because often times it is always recorded in the news, of how women campaign, organize prayers and take certain steps to avert problem that arises in their countries. They are naturally built with a unique disposition that allows them to push for peace and harmony. This is another reason why they should be given the chance to express such inherent characteristics in any global peacebuilding process.

Powerhouses and policymakers MUST move beyond pursuing gender mainstreaming and start putting words into practice.

Peacebuilding is key to sustainable human security and equitable development in countries emerging from conflict and it can never be achieved without the conscious inclusion of women.

It has been evidently revealed that gender mainstreaming can only be effective when accompanied by strong empowerment structures, which includes allowing the voice of women to be heard in the public sphere especially when it has to do with human development priorities, therefore, authorities must consider this.

By: Miracle Nwankwo

 

The increased report of maternal mortality in many parts of the world especially in developing countries in recent times calls for the attention to more solutions to the problem.

Maternal mortality has become unbearably high as everyday women and infants die of Pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. In as much as countries have directed their agendas to key developmental areas, it is also important to put into consideration the critical role of Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health to the global Sustainable Development Goals.