An International Look at Women’s Rights

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Until recently, the human rights of half the world’s population – women – were not universally protected, nor accepted in most parts of the world. In 2014, the United Nations (UN) released a publication, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” to further the international understanding of women’s human rights. The framework outlines key areas of women’s rights that must be addressed by all states around the world.

In 1948, the UN established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human rights applied to both men and women, using inclusive wording that eliminated the question of human rights applying only to men. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and other human rights treaties followed suit to be more inclusive of women in both its wording and the rights it guarantees (i.e. marriage rights, maternity and child protection, etc.). An official declaration of women’s rights was officially adopted in 1967 by the UN titled the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, proclaiming discrimination against women as a barrier to “the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity”.

Out of the fact that women’s rights are indeed human rights, women’s rights have become more widely understood as inalienable and of utmost priority for international development.

There are several key priorities toward the advancement and inclusion of women globally:

  • Identifying and citing private party violators of women’s rights, (i.e. individuals, small organizations, businesses, etc.)
  • Standardizing women’s rights – regardless of culture and traditional customs and practices
  • Ending discrimination that neglects women and prohibits their decision making influence, as well as their social and economic empowerment

Advocacy has a huge role to play in the achievement of gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is to assure we “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, specifically targets several ways in which we can end gender inequality. We must end discrimination against all women, eradicate violence against women, ensure the opportunity for women to be leaders and decision-makers, protect all women’s right to reproductive and sexual health, guarantee women’s economic rights, and certify that the legal systems in place can protect these rights. Below are eight human rights that must immediately be achieved in each country to ensure the achievement of gender equality internationally.

  1. Education – Barriers to universal education must be eliminated. This includes child marriage, teen pregnancy, child labor, discriminatory policies, poor access to schools, and cultural tendencies.
  2. Political Roles – Women should not only have the right to vote, but also be constitutionally allowed to run for government office. (See SDG 5.5)
  3. Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – A women should be able to receive sexual and reproductive health care wherever she lives, including family planning and informative services. This care must also be provided by trained and safe providers. (See SDGs 3.7, 3.8, & 5.6)
  4. Adequate Standards of Living – Women must have access to basic resources such as food, clothing, and housing. These resources ultimately affect a woman’s economic prosperity, lifelong health, and her social capital. A food security system and economic opportunities must be in place to achieve adequate standards of living.
  5. Prevent and End Violence Against Women – Often occurring from entrenched patriarchy, violence against women further burdens vulnerable and impoverished populations. Victims of domestic abuse, female genital mutilations (FGM), and rape suffer severe psychological and health repercussions that can hinder development advancements. States must prioritize preventing violence against women and girls. (See SDG 5.2)
  6. Immigration and Displacement Protection – States involved in the origin, travel, and destination of migrant and displaced women should all be held accountable for protecting women against harm. Migrant and displaced women are at a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, depression, forced prostitution, and unacceptable working conditions due to their citizenship status.
  7. Protection in Conflict and Crises – Conflict can normalize and amplify the mistreatment of women, who are “often used as a tactic of war”. Woman are more vulnerable to rape, sexual violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations in these situations. Legal action and victim protection must be available and effective to protect women in these situations.
  8. Access to Legal Assistance and Justice – To achieve gender equality, we must have effective and accessible law and justice procedures to protect women at the local, national, and international level. Justice systems must be non-discriminatory, accessible to all women, and states must make it a priority to educate both women and law officials on the rights women are entitled to. (See SDG 5.c)

Women are capable of lifting their families, communities, and countries out of poverty. They have the ability to change the world if their human rights are recognized as not only important, but inalienable. We must ensure that humans rights are inclusive of women globally and that they enable women reach their full potential as agents of change.

To learn more about the SDGs, click here.

Image courtesy of UN News Centre.

Top 5 Takeaways from the SDSN Guidebook “Getting Started With The SDGs”

Let the work begin! The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a Global Initiative of the United Nations, has released a guidebook  “Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) to help all stakeholders understand and implement the Post-2015 development agenda. The year 2016 marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the official launch of the Post-2015 SDGs to be achieved by year 2030. Listed below are key takeaways from the guidebook on how to embark on this collective agenda efficiently:

1. Execute Goal-Based Planning  

Having a goal and target framework like the SDGs is beneficial because it provides a shared narrative of the complex, yet important challenges that must be addressed and understood. For example, the guidebook explains that evidence from the MDGs dealing with public health shows that communities were able to mobilize around time-bound goals.

“The shared focus on time-bound quantitative goals will spur greater mobilization, promote innovation, and strengthen collaboration within epistemic communities or networks of expertise and practice.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 9)

2. Implement Locally-Focused Development

For the SDGs to be  implemented at the local level, local authorities and communities must take responsibility for leading initiatives. For example The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy  unites 5,000 to 15,000 people in a cluster of villages to create an “epicenter” where communities are mobilized to lead their own initiatives around their basic needs.

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Source: Gender-Focused, Community-Led Developing in Rural Africa: The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy

 “A bottom-up approach can be successful in achieving transformational sustainable pathways through direct contact with communities, which informs national-level policy decisions” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg.11)

To learn more about these strategies and alike, check out the Movement for Community-Led Development that was recently launched at a side event for the 70th Session of the UN’s General Assembly.

3. Prioritize the implementation of the SDGs

These 17 audacious, yet achievable goals and 169 targets provide a framework for future development initiatives. As a side note the UN’s Inter-agency Expert Group (IAEG) on SDG Indicators plans to confirm most indicators for the 169 targets by  March 2016 for use by Member States and development actors. The Hunger Project and its advocacy partners such as CONCERN, World Vision, Save the Children and Action Against Hunger have been advocating for specific indicators to accurately measure community advancements in nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Given this feat, stakeholders should take stock of where their respective country, sector, or community stands in regard to the 17 SDGs. As shown in Table 1 below The Global Reporting Initiative, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Global Compact has developed a set of key performance indicators with which businesses, as well as, civil society, faith-based groups,and  knowledge institutions can utilize to determine their contribution to each of the 17 SDGs.

“A quick ‘temperature check’ of the key dimensions of sustainable development, including economic development, social inclusion, and sustainable environmental management, can help develop a shared understanding of priorities for implementation.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 13)

Table 1: Indicators for a quick assessment of a country or region’s starting position with regards to sustainable development
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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg .14

4. Prepare to Monitor Progress on SDGs and Strengthen Statistical Systems

The SDGs cover a wide range of cross-sector challenges which present a need for demographic, economic, social, and environmental data. For data to be useful in influencing policy and decision-making, it must be timely. Table 2 depicts key data sources for monitoring the SDGs to build and modernize the statistical systems that capture the data.

“As one impressive example [of geo-referenced data], the Nigerian Senior Special Advisor to the President on the MDGs, with support from the Earth Institute’s Sustainable Engineering Laboratory, developed the Nigeria MDG Information System, an online interactive data platform. Using this system, all government health and education facilities as well as water access points were mapped across Nigeria within a mere two months” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 28)

Table 2. A toolkit of data instruments for monitoring the SDGS
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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 27

5. Build Goal-Based Public-Private Partnerships

Evidence from the MDGs suggests that a diverse range of partnerships can emerge from international collaboration such as bilateral partnerships between states and combinations of public, private, and multilateral actors. It is key to note that effective partnerships are not centrally planned and they do not require one actor to oversee all operations. Each sector has a variety of capabilities, therefore the partnerships will vary depending on the engagement. To that regard, Figure 2 illustrates seven core processes identified by the SDSN that depicts the basis of goal-based partnerships.

“As outlined in the document Goal-based Investment Partnerships: Lessons for the Addis FfD Conference[3.14], each sector has unique features and requirements for success, so there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to building global public-private partnerships.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 29)

Figure 2. Core components of goal-based partnerships
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Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 29

 

Great progress has been achieved through the MDGs, however  much more has to be done. Now in the era of the  Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals there is a call for more innovate approaches to finishing the fight …for people, prosperity and the planet”  by 2030.  This is a call for building the capacity within local communities to transform the world we live in, from within, starting with the strategies in these takeaways.

Inter-Epicenter Exchanges to Strengthen Local Leadership

THP-SenegalThe Hunger Project-Senegal has initiated an approach associated with The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy. Senegal was the first African country of intervention for The Hunger Project, starting in 1991. THP-Senegal continues to build sustainable community-based programs using the Epicenter Strategy. The strategy was devised in Africa, by Africans, and for Africans. To date, it has been applied to all eight program countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, reaching 1.6 million people across Africa.

For more than 20 years, the Epicenter Strategy has proven to be an effective, efficient and replicable model to achieve sustainable development. The program takes approximately eight years over four phases: 1) training to mobilize communities to commit to creating positive change, 2) construction of the Epicenter building, 3) implementation of community programs, the implemented programs address the needs of the community, like health, food security, education, agriculture, and household finance and; 4) transition to self-reliance.

THP-Senegal added an Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit to increasingly advance local leaders’ capacities. The initiative will serve as a liaison for Epicenter leaders to exchange practices and various techniques with other Epicenter leaders to obtain knowledge and ideas at the same time rectify faults and dysfunctions perpetrated as they sustain for the accomplishment of their goal.

The Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit is composed of two phases: 1) participants welcome the words and presentation of distinguished leaders from other Epicenters, 2) participants attend a thematic workshop specifically about important issues  and programmatic components of THP-Senegal such as mobilization and leadership, health and nutrition, food safety, environment and sanitation, monitoring and evaluation, microfinance, income generating activities, and gender and women empowerment.

Leaders that participated in the exchange visits have expressed that they have learned a lot from discussing activities of their partner Epicenters in the many workshops. It has also spawned discussion among Epicenter leaders to exchange agricultural products such as millet, groundnuts, rice, and cowpeas,  between Epicenters of the north and center. They believe this would strengthen partnership linkages between communities of partner Epicenters in THP-Senegal and help to expand local economies and subsequent opportunities

The greening of Epicenters initiative was another lesson assimilated by the leaders generated from the environment and sanitation workshops. They have agreed to the tree planting initiative by Epicenters Ndéreppe, Dinguiraye and Coki to continue the tree planting efforts to their respective communities.

Leaders strongly acknowledged the importance of sanitation and latrines, especially in consideration of community members’ comfort in hosting visitors. The leaders also realized the CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) approach appeared to be simple and accessible to the communities.

The leaders expressed that the Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit was a strong moment of sharing and cooperation with partner Epicenters. With all the information exchanged from one leader to the other, they hope to follow and implement the lessons they have assimilated during the visit, and as they wait for the following gathering at the end of the year, they are committed to advance their respective communities’ capacities with respect to the Inter-epicenter Exchange Visit initiative.

The Development of communities is not a one-size fits all philosophy therefore it is not imperative for communities to replicate the activities and strategy of its partner communities, but exchange of ideas opens the door of possibilities and opportunities for communities to grow. One community’s insight could foster advanced inputs and innovation to other communities.


THP-Senegal’s Inter-epicenter initiative would be a great practice to pilot in other program countries because it promotes stronger partnerships between communities. The leaders who have participated in the initiative have also testified that the meeting renewed their interest and alleviated their drive for progress and innovation. The practice of exchanging information with other communities also highlights gaps or hindrances that possibly jeopardizes progress, therein safeguarding progress and ensuring sustainability from activities.

UNICEF Calls for Innovation

Screenshot 2015-11-12 at 4.08.31 PMThis year’s State of the World’s Children Report has been published and it is calling for innovation. While it is a fact that remarkable progress has been done towards the protection and promotion of children’s rights, an unfortunate amount of children still exist whose rights are continuously violated and are regularly experiencing the tragic repercussion of poverty and malnutrition. The State of the World’s Children Report – Reimagine the future: Innovation for every child, expresses the need for cooperation from the global community to find advanced and unconventional ways to address the age-old problem that is still affecting the lives of the innocent children all over the world, which is poverty and malnutrition.

(See table at the bottom of this post with a quick summary of statistics in Hunger Project program countries.)

Poverty begins prior to the birth of the child, increases across the life course and onto the succeeding generation. It is a cycle of deprivation. A child living in poverty does not only mean being deprived from an access to material goods, it is also a deprivation of life, health, cognitive development, education and opportunities. While an adult may experience poverty temporarily, for children, the consequence can last a lifetime.

Poverty is associated with malnutrition. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s children are twice as likely as the richest 20 per cent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday. Stunting is one of the many manifestations of malnutrition. It is a form of growth failure. Stunting commence prior to the birth of a child. Poor maternal nutrition, inadequate feeding practices, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, non-exclusive breastfeeding and clinical and subclinical infections or diseases are causative agents of stunting. Not only poverty has an awful repercussion to a child’s health, it also deprives a child’s fundamental right to life.

Poverty also plays a huge role when it comes to a child’s cognitive development. Children living in poverty are most likely to encounter learning disabilities and developmental delays. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, nearly 9 in 10 children from the wealthiest 20 per cent of households in the world’s least developed countries attend primary school – compared to only about 6 in 10 from the poorest households. Children who are stunted are most likely to have poor performance in school and have higher chances of dropping out. They are unable to reach their full potential because of the procured learning impediment. Some children choose to drop out of school and prefer to start working at a very young age for the reason that they are able to contribute to their family’s income.

Poverty persists to be a driving force of child marriage. Seldom families get their daughters to marry before 18 because it reduces the family expenses. Many communities also practice economic transactions like “bride price,” where the family receives money or livestock in exchange for their daughter. This practice often results to girls not being able to obtain an education. UNICEF reported that for every 100 boys in secondary school, only 76 girls are enrolled. The cycle of poverty is an often product of child marriage. Because of early marriage and pregnancy, girls are forced to drop out of school, making it harder for them to escape the awful consequences of poverty.

The Hunger Project recognizes the significance of nutrition for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. At the Hunger Project’s epicenters, health care professionals explain the basics of nutrition for both children and mothers and the importance of pre- and postnatal care to women. Women also have access to antenatal care services in the epicenter and children also have access to the epicenter nursery schools and are guaranteed to a full nutritious meal every day they are in attendance. The Hunger Project also partners with more than 100 organizations representative of governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and the research community dedicated to the eradication of malnutrition and poverty.

Others fail to see the correlation between nutrition and poverty. To some, it is mere financial inequity. They fail to see the bigger picture of how one factor leads to the other. Children who are living in poverty are much more likely to be in poverty later in life and is likely to shepherd the next generation to go through the same vicious way of life. Not unless the cycle is being cut, helpless and innocent children are relentlessly punished of this deprivation.

According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, all children must have an equal chance to make the most of their potential. The report features people across the world who went the extra mile and applied unorthodox approaches to further the progress. The global community must prioritize the children and fully dismantle the numerous hindrances to achieve innovation and ultimately achieve a future in which children from all corners of the world can enjoy their rights.

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805 Million Still Suffering from Hunger: The 2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World

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Image courtesy of FAO

United Nations2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2014) Report confirmed that there are still 805 million people – more than half of whom are in Asia – suffering from chronic malnourishment.This report is published annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). According to the report, one in nine people are severely undernourished; in Sub Saharan Africa the ratio is higher at more than one in four.

However, the report notes that there has been a decrease in the number of people suffering from chronic undernourishment by 200 million since 1992. Most progress has been made in Latin America and the Caribbean Islands, whereas Oceania has made only modest improvement. Overall, this indicates a positive trend in the fight against hunger.

This year’s report consists of case studies on the following seven countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malawi and Yemen. The case studies explain trends of food security based on internal efforts and external economic, political and environmental events.

The report states, “to date, 63 developing countries have reached the MDGs target for hunger, and six more are on track to reach it by 2015.” Halving the proportion of undernourished people by 2015 might be possible if measures are fueled up.

The complex nature of food insecurity requires a multi sectoral approach that engages CSOs, and public and private organizations. The report recommends an “enabling environment and an integrated approach.” Specifically, the following should leverage combined public and private investments:

  • agricultural productivity
  • access to land, services, technologies and markets
  • measures to promote rural development
  • social protection for the most vulnerable
  • strengthening resilience for conflicts and natural disasters.

Lastly, the report also stresses the fundamental importance of nutrition programs to address micronutrient deficiencies of mothers and children under five.

Further discussion will be held on the findings of the report by governments, civil society, and private sector representatives at the 13-18 October meetings of the Committee on World Food Security at FAO headquarters in Rome. The Hunger Project is among the organizations taking part in the meetings.