The study, published on Wednesday in The Lancet – an influential peer-reviewed science journal – was carried out in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria, and found that 42 percent of the 2,016 women observed had experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigma or discrimination during labour and childbirth. 

According to WHO, quality support, particularly from midwives for women in labour, can make the difference between life and death. Midwifery has been shown to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirth rates, by over 80 per cent, and reduces pre-term labour and birth by 24 per cent. Yet, more than 800 women still die every day during the process. 

Younger, less-educated women were found to be most vulnerable to mistreatment, in the form of stigmatization, discrimination, undergoing medical procedures without consent; the use of force in procedures; or abandonment or neglect by health workers.  

Some 14 percent of women experienced physical abuse in the form of being slapped, hit or punched, while others experienced non-consensual caesarean sections, and episiotiomies (surgical cuts to the vagina during childbirth) and vaginal examinations. 

Interviews were also conducted with 2,672 women after giving birth, which indicated similar levels of mistreatment. 

Researchers observed 35 cases of caesarean births conducted without the mother’s consent, along with 190 of 253 episiotomies reported, and 2,611 vaginal examinations, comprising 59 per cent of the total. 

Some 752 (38 per cent) of the women in the study experienced some form of verbal abuse, whether being shouted at, scolded or mocked. Eleven women were targets of discrimination or stigma, on the basis of their race or ethnicity. 

Strategies for prevention

The health agency recommends a framework of strategies to ensure women are treated with compassion and dignity – from holding health systems accountable, to ensuring enough resources are available for quality health care and clear policies on women’s rights: 

  • Designing labour wards bearing in mind the needs of women. 
  • Improving the informed consent process around medical interventions. 
  • Up scaling mentorship and support to health workers to foster quality care. 
  • Allowing all women the right to a companion during labour and childbirth. 
  • Building public demand for quality maternity services, which does not tolerate mistreatment or abuse. 

WHO has urged professional associations to partake in promoting and supporting quality care among maternity providers, from obstetricians to midwives.  

Last year the agency put forward recommendations on intrapartum care, highlighting the importance of a woman-centered approach in optimizing expecting mothers’ childbirth experiences. 

An integral part support in fast-tracking progress toward achieving universal health coverage (UHC) is the quality design of maternal and newborn health, in line with SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 3, the target to ensure healthy lives and well-being for all. 

Source: UN News

Beyond the overarching pursuit of gender equality, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has started the active monitoring of disbursed loan to women on the continent through its newly introduced initiative, the Women Financing Index (WFI).

According to the President of the bank, Akinwunmi Adesina, the index is to take note of African countries that accord women a priority in loan disbursement. Nations that perform well according to data obtained would benefit more from financing from AfDB.

“WFI, which is currently under development, will rate banks and financial institutions who apply for loans from the African Development Bank, against the amounts they have lent or are lending to women,” Adesina said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

The bank’s chief further explained that institutions will be rated by their development impact which is based on the rate and volume at which they lend to women. “Top institutions will be rewarded with preferential financing terms from the African Development Bank,” he added.

Over the past decade, the number of women entrepreneurs in Africa has grown substantially. AfDB’s Africa Gender Equality Index shows that female entrepreneurship on the continent is the highest in the world and they make a sizeable contribution to Africa’s economy.

Across steel manufacturing companies in South Africa, Ethiopia’s textile and clothing designing, high-tech development in East Africa and agribusinesses in West Africa, female entrepreneurs are taking their place in the business landscape.

However, access to finance for African women in business is still seriously impeded. As of 2018, estimates showed that the financing gap for African women in business was as large as $42 billion.

WFI is part of a broader strategy the AfDB is employing to ensure women get the financial help they need. The bank’s goal is to mobilize up to $3 billion – through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative – to bridge the financing gap for women on the continent.

The AFAWA program, launched at the 2016 Bank’s Annual Meetings, aims to provide available, accessible and affordable financial services to women in business through selected financial institutions.

Apart from the financing index, AfDB also tracks the development of gender equality in African countries through its Gender Equality Index, which was launched in 2015.

The instrument is an assessment of the state of gender equality on the continent, examining the role of women as producers, economic agents, in human development, and as leaders in public life. It helps inform policymaking to further mainstream gender, which will lead to more inclusive growth.

“There is no doubt that Africa’s economy could grow even faster when women are empowered,” Adesina said in a speech last year citing a McKinsey study that says if all countries reached gender equality, the global gains in economic growth would be as much as 26 percent. Africa stands to gain up to 12 percent of the potential rewards.

Source: Ventures Africa

By Miracle Nwankwo

The participation of women in the political life of a country is very pivotal to its development. In light of this, the recently held Women in Politics dialogue forum, organized by Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ was targeted towards discussions that will promote the participation of women in politics in Nigeria.

Speaking at the event moderated by Kadaria Ahmed, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said that the country cannot achieve political dependence based on the rights of the Nigerian people to choose their leaders in a free and fair election without interference and imposition and yet argue for the imposition of quotas in elective offices.

The Speaker, who says he owes his political achievements to his mother who he said encouraged his participation in politics, established that he wants to be remembered as someone who contributed positively to the promotion of women courses in the political life of the country.

“My participation in politics is a legacy of my mother and I owe my achievements in this arena to her. Now, I am a father of daughters for whom I hold the highest ambitions.”

“At the end of my career in politics, it is my hope that I would have contributed constructively to the achievement of a society where my daughters and all our daughters can live up to their highest aspirations, freed from discrimination on the basis of their gender, and protected from the worst consequences of our patriarchal society,” he said.

Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani, represented by director in the ministry of women affairs and social development said that women must support each other in the course of political movements so as to get into the mainstream leadership circle and seat properly.

Hon. Gbajabiamila, went on to announce his intention to propose the creation of a special Women Victory Fund to support the next National Executive Committee meeting of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), this is to recruit more women who will contest elections on the platform of the party.

The forum which gathered together women with great interest in politics held on the 12 October 2019, at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton, Abuja Nigeria had other panel discussions on the sidelines.

WIMBIZ, a non-profit organisation started out resting on a sole vision; to be the catalyst that elevates the status and influence of women and their contribution to nation building. The organization which began 18 years ago, focused on having women in the private sector as well as business. However, there was need to have women in politics to push the course of women in every sphere. This idea did not sink until the kidnap of the Chibok girls which pushed the organization into women in politics. Launching out into politics, the organization had its first town hall meeting titled “Chibok and beyond” in 2014.

WIMBIZ is the first Nigerian NGO rated by NGO Advisor and ranked as 428 worldwide. It is also the only African/Nigerian affiliate partner and representative of the International Women Entrepreneurship Challenge (IWEC) Foundation.

Leaving behind the White House battles over border walls and tax returns, Ivanka Trump is visiting Ethiopia and Ivory Coast in pursuit of a very different goal — advancing a global women’s program she hopes will outlast an administration better known for “America First” isolationism.

The president’s daughter and senior adviser arrived in Africa on Sunday on a commercial flight, opening a four-day swing to advocate for an initiative that aims to boost 50 million women in developing countries by 2025. Her plans include visiting with women working in the coffee industry and touring a female-run textile facility, as well as meeting with dignitaries and appearing at a World Bank policy summit.

But even thousands of miles from Washington, Trump is sure to be shadowed by her father’s efforts to cut international aid, as well as his past disparaging comments about the continent. While she has drawn praise for taking on this project — and for making this trip — the contrast between her priorities and those of many others in the White House was evident.

On the continent, reactions to the visit reflected the contradictions of her role.

Activist Marakie Tesfaye, who founded a group in Ethiopia for women, welcomed the attention, saying: “I think she’s coming genuinely to empower women and it’s good that she’s coming because she will push forward our agenda.”

Ethiopian journalist Sisay Woubshet was more skeptical, citing President Donald Trump’s past comments and adding: “I don’t think people will have a good feeling about his daughter’s visit this time around to promote her global initiative towards women.”

For Ivanka Trump, those challenges come with the territory.

She has spent two years promoting a family-friendly agenda in an administration focused on hardline immigration tactics and protectionist trade policies. To questions about international aid spending, she has previously said the administration strives to be generous in a “fiscally responsible way,” and has argued that investing in her project — which builds on previous White House efforts — is a way to promote security in developing countries. During her travels, Ivanka Trump will be accompanied by Mark Green, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The textile facility they are to visit got started with funding from USAID and Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which provides loans, loan guarantees and political risk insurance, funding projects that stretch across continents and industries.

While in Ethiopia, they will be joined by OPIC Acting President David Bohigian. OPIC is set to announce a new initiative in Africa.

Ivanka Trump was also expected to announce additional support for businesses. And she was to meet with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

From Ethiopia, Ivanka Trump was headed to Ivory Coast, where she was to visit to a cocoa farm, as well as participate in a meeting on economic opportunities for women in West Africa. The gathering is part of the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative — a program Ivanka Trump pushed the bank to introduce. The first daughter will be joined in the Ivory Coast by a congressional delegation that will include Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of the White House.

Ivanka Trump’s trip comes not long after first lady Melania Trump did a solo tour of the continent with a focus on child well-being. Like her stepdaughter, Mrs. Trump faced many of the same questions about the priorities of the president, who was roundly criticized last year after his private comment about “s—hole countries” in Africa became public.

The Trump administration put out an Africa policy late last year that largely sought to counter what it called the “predatory” practices of China and Russia in the region. It was viewed with skepticism by some critics, coming two years into his administration and following his disparaging comments about the continent. So far, the president has made no plans to travel there himself.

The new global women’s initiative involves the State Department, the National Security Council and other U.S. agencies. It aims to assist women in developing countries with job training, financial support and legal or regulatory reforms. Money for the effort will come through USAID, which initially set up a $50 million fund using dollars already budgeted. The president’s 2020 budget proposal requests another $100 million for the initiative, which will also be supported by programs across the government as well as private investment.

Experts praised the government wide approach, which will incorporate new and existing programs, though some stressed that it was still early in the process. The investment comes as the president is proposing cuts to foreign aid, and as the administration is expanding a ban on U.S. aid to groups that promote or provide abortions.

“The part of the proposal which is around looking at laws — that is a good thing to focus on,” said Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, referencing the initiative’s support for changing laws, regulations and customs that create barriers preventing women from fully participating in the workforce. But he said the abortion-related ban could have a negative economic impact, saying that “I think one of the most powerful tools for women’s economic empowerment is the ability to choose when and how many children they have.”

Daniel Runde, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Ivanka Trump was strategically building on the work of past administrations, calling her an effective “goodwill ambassador” for the issues, and a smart emissary to send to Africa.

“Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton provided high-level attention to these issues,” said Runde, who previously worked for the USAID and is an informal adviser to the administration on development policy. “Ivanka Trump is playing a similar role to the role that Secretary Clinton played.”

Most women in Zimbabwe are earning a living through trade which is conducted in places that do not have adequate safety and hygiene.Women entrepreneurs also fear violence in public spaces as they commute to their workplaces.“We are being targeted by thieves who know that we will be having large sums of money from the flea market sales”, said residents of Epworth, the fifth-largest city in Zimbabwe by population and located 15km east of the capital city Harare.

A tour of Epworth Overspill Market, Zimbabwe held on the 29thof August 2019 was undertaken by stakeholders that included the Director for Small to Medium Enterprise Development in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, Community and SME Development, Francis Gondo, who said they are working with UN Women in mobilizing investments to increase safety and economic viability of public spaces.

We have taken our stakeholders around to the market, so they appreciate and gather the experiences from the vendors. This input will now be incorporated into the design of the market by the Epworth local board.” Francis Gondo said.

Violence in public spaces infringes upon the rights and freedoms of women and girls as equal citizens and as such the safe market model aims at strengthening the capacity of local authorities. This model involves UN Women working with non-governmental organizations in building the capacity of local governments to invest in engendering urban planning, including public infrastructure, such as markets.  

Epworth Local Board is working on one of the three pilots ‘Safe Public Spaces Projects’ and the Director of Works Engineer Bernard Wiridzai said they are working to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence. “We are looking forward to creating an environment where women traders as well as other traders work in a clean environment free from litter and with proper ablution facilities. We are working with UN Women who are assisting us in implementing this project so that we come up with a marketplace that is that is gender-sensitive and listening to their concerns we will also have a safe play center for the kids.”

UN Women is also implementing the Spotlight Initiative which aims at ending violence against women and girls by deploying targeted and large-scale investments to improve the lives of women and girls. The strategy also involves implementation of the Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Flagship Programme to bring change through increased recognition of SGBV in public spaces and its impact.

Culled from UN Women

Sport is one of the most powerful platforms for promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls and Asian women are poised to make their mark in women sports.

On Sunday the 29th of September 2019, Indian women held their host Great Britain to a 1-1 draw in the second match of their Tour of United Kingdom.

India’s Lalremsiami scored the equalizing goal in the 32nd minute after Great Britain had taken an early lead in the match. India was out of the blocks quicker, and earned a couple of penalty corners within the first two minutes. Britain’s custodian Maddie Hinch was at hand to ensure India didn’t get an early lead though.

Soon it was Great Britain, who reciprocated, winning a penalty corner from a swift counter.

Despite a smart save by the Indian defence, an infringement meant the hosts were awarded a penalty stroke, which was duly converted in the 8th minute, giving them a 1-0 lead. It was that slender lead they took into the first break.

Much like the first quarter, it was India again, who took the initiative early in the second period, winning another short corner and Hinch pulled off another save.

In the third quarter, India finally restored parity after Lalremsiami finished off a counter attack to draw the scores level. With both teams locked at a goal apiece and all to play for, the game opened up. Neither the defence caved though as the teams went into the final quarter tied at 1-1.

Indian women are scheduled play their third game on Tuesday, October 1 and all eyes are on Lalremsiami.

The welfare ministry is considering crafting a new law to strengthen the protection of women, including school girls, from sexual exploitation, according to sources.

The law would provide the legal basis for prefectural consulting centers for women, a role currently played by a law that deals primarily with prostitution.

According to the sources, the change would allow the centers to provide more flexible support to a wider range of girls and women, such as those coerced to appear in adult videos. It would also be aimed at high school girls, or joshi kōsei in Japanese, exploited in the so-called JK business to entertain men.

The ministry hopes to introduce the bill during the next ordinary Diet session, which will start early next year, the sources said.

The law against prostitution defines the centers as places to protect and rehabilitate women who may prostitute themselves.

A panel of experts set up by the ministry has called for a review of that narrow definition, saying the current system doesn’t fit the needs of women suffering from other forms of sexual exploitation.

Women being tricked or coerced into appearing in adult videos and schoolgirls being lured into the JK business are seen as major social problems. Starting in 2017, the government has carried out a campaign against sexual exploitation each April.

The prefectural consultation centers for women already provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and many other problems.

The definition “no longer fits the current realities,” a ministry official said.

Under the planned law, the definition of the centers would be rewritten to make it easier to deal with a wider range of exploitation as well as other problems.

The law is expected to include provisions to ensure that the centers work closely with municipalities, public welfare and child consultation centers and nonprofit organizations so they can reach victims unaware of the public assistance available.

Source: Japan Times