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Mauritius is currently holding a Gender mainstreaming workshop, focusing on empowering women through cooperatives at the National Cooperative College.

Gender mainstreaming conform to the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council formally defined concept, “Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels.”

During his workshop opening speech earlier today, Minister of Business, Enterprise and Cooperatives, Soomilduth Bholah, lauded the contribution of women to the country’s economic development. He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to promote economic empowerment of women, while encouraging development and growth of women entrepreneurs. He noted that several measures and incentives have been put in place to support cooperatives.

“According to Statistics Mauritius, women make up more than 50 percent of the country’s population compared to the male population,” said Bholah, adding there are only 75 women cooperative societies. He encouraged women to fully tap their potential and avail themselves for schemes and incentives provided by government to become entrepreneurs and set up cooperative societies.

“One of the latest schemes pertains to the grant of financial assistance by the Development Bank of Mauritius ,by way of no guarantee loans up to a ceiling at a fixed interest rate of three percent to assist women to start a business.”

The Minister further pointed out that the Mauritius Women Entrepreneur Cooperative Federation Ltd, acts as a facilitator in helping women to improve their skills and aptitudes in entrepreneurship and encouraging women to engage in the cooperative movement in Mauritius.

Source: African Daily Voice

British couples will be able to include their mothers’ names on their marriage certificate under a change in law hailed as a step forward for women’s rights on Wednesday.

Church of England leaders also praised the change, which passed into law this week, saying the previous system demeaned women and was out of step with modern times.

Previously, marriage certificates in England and Wales only included space for fathers’ names.

“We have finally achieved tangible progress towards the equal treatment of both parents,” said the Bishop of St Albans in a joint statement with Caroline Spelman, a lawmaker who works closely with the church and had campaigned for the change.

“Only fathers’ names were formerly recorded when marriages were registered, a custom unchanged since 1837,” she said.

“This clear and historic injustice reflected the time when children and wives were considered property of men and it is high time for this to be corrected.”

The system had long attracted protest from women’s rights activists, who said it symbolised a system that treated women as second class citizens.

“A country’s laws set the tone for how it treats its people,” said Niki Kandirikirira, the head of programmes at women’s rights group Equality Now.

“Something like this may seem like a small legal inequality but in reality it is part of a much wider pattern of inequality rooted in patriarchy and discrimination against women.”

The new act will also open up civil partnerships – previously only open to same-sex couples – to heterosexual couples by the end of the year.

That move followed pressure from some women who felt that traditional marriage had patriarchal connotations.

“We have achieved equality for all couples in relationships,” said Martin Loat, the chairman of Equal Civil Partnerships, in a statement.

Source: WEFORUM

U.S. Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan honored Ms. Stella Saaka, from the Talensi district in the Upper East Region, with the U.S. Embassy’s 2019 Ghana Woman of Courage Award during a breakfast ceremony hosted at the Ambassador’s residence. Like the U.S. Secretary of State’s annual International Women of Courage Award, this award recognizes a Ghanaian woman whose efforts have exemplified exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk.

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Cynthia Morrison, attended the event, as did Chiefs of Mission and High Commissioners or their representatives from 16 diplomatic missions.  

The International Women of Courage Award is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to emerging women leaders worldwide, in the manner that the U.S. Embassy’s Woman of Courage Award recognizes emerging women leaders in Ghana.

Stella Saaka is a powerful force for women’s rights in the Talensi District in northern Ghana. She is the Regional Organizing Secretary for the Women in Agricultural Platforms (WAPs), a key component of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Northern Ghana Governance Activity. In addition to spearheading agricultural income-generating activities for women, Ms. Saaka continues to break barriers in the male-dominated political and traditional authority system prevalent in northern Ghana, convincing the Talensi political leadership to include women in the district’s development and decision-making process.

While presenting the award to Ms. Saaka, Ambassador Sullivan said; “Stella’s actions actively empower the women in her community by helping them to access productive resources and to ensure their voices are heard by decision makers. Her students call her a role model and the women she represents call her a woman of courage. I hope that all Ghanaian women and girls learn about her story, so they can craft their own journey to make a difference.”

Accepting her award, Ms. Saaka said, “I am happy that my work with women in rural Talensi has been recognized by the U.S. Mission in Ghana. I dedicate this award to all my hard working women in Talensi and to all women working hard to empower themselves economically to take care of their families and homes in Ghana.” In describing her approach to working with the local authorities on behalf of women, Stella said, “I come in peace but I mean business.”

Ms. Saaka has distinguished herself among USAID’s Northern Ghana Governance Activity participants, who aim to address the broad issue of access to land in one of the most densely populated districts in the region per square area. Foreseeing an opportunity for women to gain access to land, she was the only woman who successfully addressed long-held traditional customs by involving local chiefs and generating the conversation on why it is important for women to have access to land to generate economic development. This is significant because land tenure consists of a layered system of traditional tribal ownership that has historically disenfranchised women.

Ms. Saaka’s determination and persistence were rewarded when the Chief of Tongo allocated 29 acres of land to 30 women in the district. She and the women started working on post-harvest processing and income-generating activities with sweet potatoes, peanuts, and other agricultural products. Ms. Saaka started processing sweet potatoes in 2014, and the women use the income they generate to support their children’s education. As a means of alternative income generation, they produce a range of products from the orange sweet potato, including drinks, snacks, and flour for making pastries. Due to these efforts, more women are finding ways to contribute to the economy in the district, which has led to a decrease in female migration during the dry season.

Another area where Ms. Saaka stands out is in her civic engagement. Specifically, she convinced the Talensi traditional leadership to include women in the district’s development and decision-making process. As a result, she and her WAP colleagues represent their district at the assembly’s Medium Term Development Planning sessions, which affords these women an opportunity to contribute to their own advancement. Because of their advocacy, the district assembly and traditional and political authorities have now prioritized land tenure security for women, the provision of a tractor for women, and training for female tractor operators.

Ms. Stella Saaka wears many hats in her community: she is a mother, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a women’s leader, and a community icon. Her lifetime achievements exemplified by her resilience and courage set an example for all Ghanaians, especially women and girls.

Source: Africanews

China will continue to support UNESCO in empowering more women and children to embrace a brighter future via platforms created by the development of the Belt and Road, said Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi Jinping.

Peng, UNESCO special envoy for the advancement of girls’ and women’s education, made the remark at a special session on girls’ and women’s education held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Tuesday. She was accompanying Xi on a state visit to France.

Peng said promoting education of girls and women is a lofty cause that deserves attention, support and dedication from more people.

After some laureates of the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education gave brief remarks on their understanding and promotion of the undertaking, Peng said she appreciated the efforts made by the United Nations body and the prizewinners.

In discussing her work in this field over the past five years, Peng referred to the Spring Bud Project, a program launched by China Children and Teenagers’ Fund to both help female school dropouts return to the classroom as well as improve teaching conditions in impoverished areas.

Knowledge and skills are two great forces that can change the lives of women, and with equal and quality education, they all have the opportunity to be outstanding, she added.

In the meeting with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay before the special session, Peng said China firmly supports the UN body and her work, and she hopes China and UNESCO will continue to deepen cooperation to jointly promote world peace and prosperity as well as the progress of human civilization.

Azoulay said that China has made great achievements in the past 70 years, including progress in the development of education and women’s rights.

UNESCO highly values the cooperation with China and the support from China is of great importance under current circumstances, she said.

In an interview with Xinhua News Agency, Azoulay spoke highly of Peng as a UNESCO special envoy.

“Peng is particularly committed to the central role of teachers in gender equality,” Azoulay said, adding that UNESCO appreciates the contribution of Peng to educating girls and women, as well as the long-term partnership with China in helping ensure that access to quality education for all becomes a reality.

Peng was nominated as a UNESCO special envoy on March 27, 2014. Since then, Peng has worked closely with UNESCO to promote equal rights for women in education, self-development and in achieving success, Azoulay said.

Supported by the Chinese government, the UNESCO prize directly contributes to the attainment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those dealing with education and gender equality.

Source: China Daily

The Pennsylvania Commission for Women held a Female Veterans Day ceremony yesterday in which two Lebanon County women were among those recognized for their military service and selfless sacrifice to Pennsylvania and the nation.

Dana Boyer and Danielle Watkins were among the sixteen women total recognized, given Lebanon County an unusually high percentage of the overall list. (Needless to say, it helps that Fort Indiantown Gap lies within the County, the nation’s busiest National Guard training site.)

“The 16 women who we honor today represent the patriotism and commitment to country that more than 60,000 Pennsylvania female veterans have demonstrated through their military service,” said Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Dana Boyer

“Major Dana Boyer enlisted as a private in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1996. In 2004, she commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Quartermaster Corp. She deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon her return home, she was selected to be the commander for the 131st Transportation Company, which she led in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. As a result of her deployment to Afghanistan and the loss of three fellow soldiers, Major Boyer is currently organizing to have a Fallen Hero Memorial built at Fort Indiantown Gap, slated to break ground this spring.”

Danielle Watkins

“Chief Warrant Officer 3 Danielle Watkins enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard in March 2001 while attending nursing school, and was assigned to the 131st Transportation Company as a tractor trailer driver. In 2003, she deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. Upon graduating from nursing school, Danielle became employed with the Lebanon VA Medical Center and worked on a medical-surgical unit. She was then selected to serve as the nurse case manager on the Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom Team, and was responsible for care coordination and outreach for returning veterans. After nine years of enlisted service, Danielle attended Warrant Officer Candidate School and Army Rotary Wing Aviation School – and went on to become a Blackhawk pilot. She deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. She continues to serve, and is currently on a military leave of absence from the VA, serving an AGR tour at Fort Indiantown Gap.”

Source: Leb.town

In the spring of 2018, Chinese diplomats strong-armed United Nations bureaucrats into blocking a prominent ethnic Uighur activist from entering U.N. headquarters on unsubstantiated charges of terrorism, but Kelley Eckels Currie wasn’t having it.

Currie, then a senior appointee at the United Nations under U.S. President Donald Trump, tracked down the activist, Dolkun Isa, marched him to the U.N. entrance, and demanded he be allowed into the building for a conference on indigenous peoples. When U.N. security still barred his entry, Currie got Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time, to take her case directly to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who granted Isa a grounds pass for the day.

“If Mr. Isa were in fact an actual terrorist … do you seriously think we would be inviting him into this country and giving him free rein to travel about?” she would later tell a gathering of former diplomats, including one from China. “Give me a break!”

Currie’s uncompromising stand didn’t surprise those who know her well. The Georgia-born diplomat has built a reputation as a fierce, and principled, critic of human rights abusers, goading China’s diplomats and confronting Myanmar’s generals for committing mass atrocities against their country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Currie, who served as U.S. representative to the United Nations for economic and social affairs until Feb. 15, earned respect from colleagues and career diplomats for her grit and tough advocacy of U.S. interests. They paint a profile of Currie as a feisty diplomatic brawler unafraid to take principled stands.

But there’s another side to Currie: the agile political player who has found it necessary to align with the Trump administration’s decidedly conservative approach to women’s rights, especially on gender and sexual health issues. And now, her pending nomination as the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues presents her with the toughest test yet of her reputation as a rights crusader: Can she apply the same fervor she has challenging Asia’s autocrats to championing the rights of women on behalf of a president who has often demeaned them and has largely handed over policymaking to evangelical Christians striving to curtail sexual and reproductive rights and women’s health services?

Those who have worked with Currie characterized her as conflicted: a passionate diplomat who wants to do what she believes is right but is also all too aware of the political constraints in an administration characterized by broken decision-making structures and volatile backroom power struggles.

Currie’s background spans the public and nonprofit sector. Educated at the University of Georgia and the Georgetown University Law Center, where she received her law degree, Currie served as a policy advisor to Rep. John Porter, an Illinois Republican, from 1995 to 1999, when she also worked concurrently on the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. During the George W. Bush administration, Currie was a policy advisor on Asia for Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky. She has also worked as a senior advisor to the International Committee of the Red Cross, as the director of government relations at the International Campaign for Tibet, and as the deputy director for Asia at the International Republican Institute.

But it was during a stint as a senior fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank focused on Asia, that Currie found her voice as a sharp critic of Beijing, writing frequent opinion pieces denouncing the Obama administration for failing to confront Hu Jintao’s “lawless Chinese regime” for widening a crackdown on dissidents, journalists, and other independent voices.

On one hand, Currie’s admirers include notables from the other side of the aisle, such as Melanne Verveer, a close associate of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was the first-ever ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues under President Barack Obama and now heads Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace, and Security. “She has been deeply committed to human rights,” Verveer said. “She tried to create consensus and worked on humanitarian issues and other issues in a way that was useful.”

But detractors dismiss Currie as a faithful foot soldier in the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back human rights protections at the U.N., defending its decision to withdraw from the Human Rights Council and its support of initiatives backed by conservative religious groups.

“She was the Trump administration’s mouthpiece for regressive policies; she was instrumental in the U.S. government decision to weaken the [U.N.] Human Rights Council,” said Shannon Kowalski, the director of advocacy and policy for the International Women’s Health Coalition. “She represented the U.S. position faithfully when it came to sexual reproductive health and rights, and opposed references to reproductive health or sexual rights in U.N. resolutions.”

Source: Foreign Policy

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has called out the Morrison government for failing to sign on to a United Nations International Women’s Day statement calling for better abortion access for women. The motion was proposed by Finland and Mexico and broadly called for greater accountability for human rights violations against women and girls. The statement proposed greater implementation of ‘policies and legislation that respect women and girls’ right to bodily autonomy’.

This included guaranteed universal protection of women’s sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sexuality education and access to safe abortion. The HRLC says Australia was not one of the 57 countries who signed on. The centre’s Legal Director Edwina MacDonald was at the session in Geneva. She’s called the decision ‘extremely disappointing’. No government can truly support gender equality and human rights without supporting access to safe abortions and reproductive rights.

Australia was elected to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, amid criticism of its offshore processing system and treatment of Indigenous Australians.

Just last month, Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the UN that ‘gender equality’ was one of five guiding principles for Australia’s time on the council. When asked for comment, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said Australia consistently advances gender equality across a numbers of areas.

“This includes strongly defending sexual and reproductive health and rights language in the Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly, through the UN Commission for the Status of Women, and the UN Commission for Population and Development.” 

The Human Rights Law Centre says this is another example of Australia failing to live up to it’s UN promises.

“The Morrison Government holds a really important role on the Human Rights Council, it should be using its voice at the UN to stand up for the rights of women all around the world,” says MacDonald.

Instead we get hollow words here in Geneva and a failure to lift its game back home. Australian abortion laws vary state by state (and with varied conditions) – it’s still technically illegal in New South Wales. As a way to force the hands of state government, federal Labor last week announced that it’ll make providing free abortions at public hospitals a condition of federal funding, if it wins government.

Legal abortion

Labor made it easier for women to access medical abortions. So why are less than 5% of GPs providing them? When asked to comment on the policy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticized the opposition for ‘politicizing the issue’. “I don’t find that debate one that tends to unite Australians and I certainly am not going to engage in the political elements of that discussion, because I frankly, I don’t think it is good for our country.”

Source: SBS