Calling On World Leaders to do something now

By Sharon Yendevenge, World YWCA Programme Associate 

“The opportunity to see decent human beings has been robbed away.”

The Human Rights Council (HRC) has brought a wide range of thoughts to my mind. So many negotiations, voting and agreements on consensus. Again it’s all about human rights but I wonder if those countries implement what they are committed to do. No matter how good or developed a country is, one cannot say that one’s country is free from violence. The globe is all full of violence in all forms. Let me share some of my experience of the HRC, the advantages and recommendations.

Having the opportunity to attend and observe at the HRC is a great opportunity and is one of the platforms where so much is digested in a limited time. One of the interesting things was the definition of a family where so much time was spent in defining what a family is. Surely people come from different cultures, traditions, religions and it was very hard to get the family definition being agreed by consensus where it was later voted for yet the violence against women resolution is adopted by consensus. Discussions and arguments vary from places to places and so HRC is a body that all languages are spoken in the same language in terms of Human Rights issues and the laws that govern it. The whole HRC gives a fair idea of what is happening at the international level but despite all the good talks, it takes more time to be implemented and less is actually happening at the country level. The sad thing is that the world’s majority is still facing the worst at the community level.

Sharon Yendevenge

Sharon Yendevenge

People are suffering from all forms of violence and at the same time all these peace talks on high level meetings continue, one very thing that is currently disturbing is the ongoing war between the Israeli and Palestine. When will this end? Calling on the world leaders to do something now as innocent lives are destroyed every day. HRC has also brought many questions as to what my country is doing in terms of people’s rights.

Despite the frustrations, the HRC has become a very good platform for all to express themselves; and to share the realities happening that can never be pointed out in their own countries in terms of fear and repercussions for telling the truth. I appreciate the work of the NGO’s in lobbying the government on certain issues concerning the human rights of people and how to fight these issues. Yet NGO’s were not given enough time to speak during the HRC, which is extremely frustrating. Therefore, I really think that the time given to the NGO’s when speaking must be increased.

It takes a lot of time and money for people to meet yet little is done by governments in protecting its people. It’s good to participate in the international level but each country needs to focus more on the national level. It is important to strengthen the awareness and develop training programmes on specific situations. Different forms of violence need to be tackled by a human rights based approach through gender mainstreaming, which is very challenging.

2014 marks 20 years of the mandate of Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women including its cause since the establishment and we are still talking about this issue. Since we are still faced with the same issues, it is important;

-to continue involve policies including women and girls, children and youths and focus on ways for better implementation in community level.

-that laws should be redesigned to protect and include all people.

-that changing of laws must be accompanied by the level of development.

-to include men and boys in all programmes dealing with women and children so they are also responsible.

-to include UN youth delegates so they represent their countries. (Youths are not involved at many things at the national level).

-to make space for youths to easily have access to ministries within their governments.

In saying that, I would say that though people may argue that HRC is just a waste of time of people meeting and other various reasons, I must say that we must also appreciate the many things they have done, also to those who have been involved in these processes with their tireless efforts fighting for peace, justice and equality all around the world and bringing it to its current state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Counts!

By Mtisunge Kachingwe, YWCA of Malawi.

Mtisunge Kachingwe and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, UNICEF Good Will Ambassador

The Partnership for Maternal, New-born & Child Health (PMNCH) is a partnership of 625 organisations from across seven constituencies: governments, multilateral organisations, donors and foundations, non-governmental organisations, healthcare professional associations, academic, research and training institutions and the private sector. Hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and launched in 2005, the vision of the Partnership is the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with women and children enabled to realise their right to the highest attainable standard of health in the year to 2015 and beyond.

Going into the forum I didn’t not know what to expect as it has been not only an opportunity to learn but one to advocate for the adolescent girl and it has left me inspired to act. Amongst all the leaders present there was unity of thought and it had one common goal – to create a better and healthier world for mothers and new-borns around the world particularly for those who are vulnerable and impoverished.

With approximately 500 days left to reach the targets set by the MDG’s, we must go further – with more decisiveness, more strength and more passion – to accelerate progress in this last push and achieve a better future. It was really inspiring to hear various leaders acknowledge that though the MDG’s set the global development agenda there have been successes but gaps still remains, efforts have been insufficient and unequal.

Currently more than 92% of all the world’s maternal deaths, new-born deaths and stillbirths occur within low and middle income countries. Despite substantial progress towards MDGs 4 and 5, 287,000 women died in 2010 of pregnancy related causes. Of these, about 70,000 were adolescents. Approximately, 16 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 and 1 million girls aged 10-14 give birth every year, accounting for 11% of births worldwide. In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years. For every young woman who dies in childbirth, WHO estimates that, 30-50 others are left with injury, infection or disease. Three and a half million adolescents undergo unsafe abortions every year.Adolescent pregnancy is also closely linked to new-born health. Stillbirths and new-born deaths are 50% higher among infants of adolescent mothers than among infants of women aged 20-29 years and infants of adolescent mothers are more likely to have low birth weight.

Today young people under the age of 30 make up a staggering 40% of the world’s population. As the world continues to deliberate on what happens after the MDG’s one must ask “have young people been involved? And further to this have leaders engaged with youth? Has this been enough?” This year, unlike other years, young people were a part of the discussions and contributions fostered by the forum. The messages I took home with me were; we need to do more as young people to push our governments at a national level so that when member states convene to discuss the post 2015 development agenda our county representatives are carrying our views

As young leaders we need to hold our governments accountable for their commitments launch impressive communications campaigns for sexual and reproductive health and rights and implement projects in our communities. I believe that all community members including young people should be involved in policy, from the ground up. After that first step the process can then expand to involve donors. Let’s all stand up today and say No to the infringement of people’s rights, No to inequity, No to discrimination, No to exploitation, and Yes to a more just and equitable world, built by each and every one of us. Because after all everyone counts.

 

 

UN Women Beijing+20 global campaign

By Jane Lee, Communications & Outreach Associate, YWCA of Queens, USA

jane

YWCA of Queens Delegates

On Thursday, June 26, 2014, several staff and students from the YWCA of Queens attended the launch event of the UN Women Beijing+20 global campaign at the Apollo Theater, New York, USA. Our HSE students were eager to listen to the amazing line-up of speakers and performers, ranging from the UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to noted feminist leader and activist Gloria Steinem. “Our goal is to rekindle the spirit of Beijing to re-energize all of us in our work to advance women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. She added “the vision laid out in Beijing, with 12 critical areas of concern for women, still resonates deeply around the world. It is still unfinished business.” It was truly inspiring to listen to such a range of successful women of all ages from all over the world all advocating for gender equality and human rights.

“Our goal is to rekindle the spirit of Beijing to re-energize all of us in our work to advance women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Rousing the crowds, she added “the vision laid out in Beijing, with 12 critical areas of concern for women, still resonates deeply around the world. It is still unfinished business.” – See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/6/press-release-beijing-20-launch-event-in-new-york#sthash.jQpd7zph.dpuf

Among the topics discussed were education for girls and women worldwide, the issues of rape and domestic violence, employment and wage gap between genders, women empowerment, and the importance of the role of men in our society to eliminate gender inequality. These subjects were discussed in insightful speeches, musical performances, as well as spoken poetry. Tiffany Rodriguez, our HSE student who spoke at the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum was one of the attendees from the YWCA of Queens. She stated, “I was pretty amazed by how everything turned out. It was full of energy and definitely worth coming back to again.”

I enjoyed everything, especially the poetry; it stood out to me the most.” As an organisation that serves underprivileged women from diverse backgrounds, the inspiring messages from this event gave us an extra motivation to keep advocating for the rights of women and elevating our educational and social services that we provide to our community.

Beijing+ who? And 2015 what?

By Kgothatso Mokoena, YWCA of South Africa.

My engagement with the African Union Summit

2014 has been a hectic time, for development activists, with all current development frameworks ending in 2015, noting the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and celebrating 20 years of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. Similarly the international community now is focused on UN mechanisms, Post 2015 development framework and while the African Union (AU) is encouraging member states to align with Agenda 2063 aspirations.

Kgothatso Mokoena

Kgothatso Mokoena

The world is now at the cusp of progress, accountability and inclusion. The tapestry of development language is weaved with the language of human rights. But practice…is NOT! My observations at the African Union and the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) consultation Forum has caused me to be concerned that although we have such good frameworks, our leaders are still hesitant to get their feet wet.

As individuals, communities and countries begin to understand what human rights means to them, it becomes vital to place women and girls at the very heart of all these processes. Twenty years ago at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), member states committed to support sexual and reproductive health rights of all women and girls. The result was a definitive programme of action that would compel countries, for the next two decades to focus on equality, empowerment of women, reproductive health, sustainable development and growth.

As I followed the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and Post 2015 Agenda negotiations, I am frustrated to see governments still arguing without logic that eradication of poverty and unemployment programmes are not constrained by negative reproductive health outcomes. I simply can not comprehend why any country would believe that a population, with a high level of teenage pregnancies and young women and girls who are forced to marry early and are unhealthy or neglected in terms of access to health facilitates would not be considered a major sustainable development issue.

Today, we no longer look at poverty as we did 20 years ago. It’s not just an income figure but a view that any circumstance which deprives one of health, education, and living conditions is poverty. That’s right; health is actually a condition that determines poverty!! In the African region, 3900 child brides live in this dire situation.

Group Photo

YWCA AU Delegation

The post 2015 development agenda must be based on human rights framework; it should commit to the gender equality goal as a standalone and must include clear commitments to young women and girls. This is a non-negotiable for us and billions of women around the world. Indeed women’s agency, voice and leadership are crucial and core to meeting the aspirations of development as stated in the AU Agenda 2063.

In the words of my good friend and youth advocate Ramya Kudekallu, “We want sexual and reproductive health rights to be considered as life itself, because the origin of all human life is (shockingly) sex. The point countless community and health workers, researchers, doctors, activists and civil society organisations are trying to get at is that every aspect of sexual health and well being is deeply connected with a nations’ well being. Sexual and reproductive health rights is allowing people, man or woman, young or old, or any race or any creed to better engage in decisions concerning their bodies, gender and relationships.”

So Beijing+ who? Beijing+20, you! MGD…who? Post 2015 Agenda…..about you! Engage now!

Promoting the Rights of the Child

By Khalea Callender, World YWCA Programme Associate.

The practice of child, early and forced marriage is widespread and occurs in all regions of the world. The World YWCA recognising that it constitutes a violation, abuse or impairment of human rights, it prevents individuals from living their lives free from all forms of violence and it has adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health rights.

According to an UNFPA report, globally, an estimated 1 in 3 young women aged 20 to 24 are married before the age of 18. If present trends continue, an estimated 142 million girls hvhwill be married by their 18th birth day by 2020. Child marriage is an unacceptable violation of the rights of children, particularly adolescent girls with long term negative consequences on their health and wellbeing. It denies these children their childhood, disrupting their access to education, limiting their ability to participate in economic and social spheres, and jeopardizing their health – including increasing the risk of dying from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. It renders girls and young women more vulnerable to intimate partner violence, including sexual violence and can increase the risk of HIV. Child marriage resulting from physical and/or emotional force is a form of violence itself.

Child, early and forced marriages is not limited to Africa and Asia as many may believe. In the Caribbean and a lot of other parts in the world, this human right violation, is associated much with teenage pregnancy. “The State of World Population 2013,” produced by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), notes that out of the 7.3 million births, 2 million are to girls who are 14 or younger, many of whom suffer “grave long-term health and social consequences from pregnancy.” The reality is that teenage pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.

According to UNFPA the rates of teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean were among the highest in the world, with 20 per cent of all females in the region becoming mothers before their 20th birthday, many of them before they are 15 years old. In Jamaica, 45 per cent of all women who are between 15 to 24 years old had their first pregnancy by age 19. Similar statistics are recorded in Belize, Guyana, the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent. With an estimated one-third of Caribbean teenage girls being married before their 18th birthday, many are compelled to do so by unexpected/unplanned pregnancies.

Trinidad and Tobago, with just a population size of about 1.3 million, 2,500 teenage pregnancies is reported annually noting that these are only the figures reported to their Student Support Services, many are still unrecorded. Dr. Tim Gopeesingh, the Minister of Education, speaking in the Senate, said that most teenagers had become pregnant for fathers who were between the ages of 25-40 and that some of the mothers were below the ages of 12. The Education Minister told legislators that research by the Faculty of Medical Science of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago (UWI) showed that by age 19, more than 1,000 young women already had four children. The government of Trinidad and Tobago has though taken further steps to protect the rights of children by establishing a child protection task force. This committee recently submitted a report to the government who is reviewing the recommendation put forward.

The conservative cultures of many parents in the Caribbean region, brings pressure to bear on teenage parents. The YWCA of Trinidad and Tobago (YWCATT), has identified that in order to tackle teenage pregnancy, one must adopt a holistic approach, which does not only dwell on changing girls’ behaviour but seeks to change attitudes in society so girls are encouraged to stay in school, child marriage is banned, girls have access to sexual and reproductive health including contraception, and young mothers have better support systems. The YWCATT has developed programmed to empower young women to increase their decision making abilities. One such program is the “I am worth defending”. This programme was developed for girls between the ages of 12 to 16 years who live in displaced homes across Trinidad and Tobago, teaching them some basic self-defence techniques and while building self-esteem using a human rights based approach.

Child, early and force marriage can only be classified as a human rights violation, it affects the rights of girls and women. It entrenches gender inequalities, it undermines girls’ right to free and full consent to participate in decisions affecting them, to live free from all forms of stigma, coercion, discrimination, violence and exploitation including slavery and servitude. Furthermore, it undermines their rights to an education, health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights and the prospect of living prosperous and fulfilling lives and being able to fulfill their God given destiny.

We all are champions through intergenerational leadership!

By Yadanar Aung, YWCA of Myanmar.

Yadanar

Yadanar Aung

Asia and Pacific Leadership Training was held from 2nd-8th June, 2014 in Yangon Myanmar with the theme of “Intergenerational Approaches to Bold and Transformative Leadership”. There were 30 participants: presidents, general secretaries, mentors, young women and young women leaders from Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri-Lanka, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Solomon Island.

The topics of the training are very interesting: personal leadership journey, monitoring and evaluation, advocacy, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights and rights-based approach. Moreover, we learned about human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights and sexually orientated Gender Identity through this amazing film called “Philomena”.

In addition, together with the participants from Myanmar as Country team, we work together for the monitoring and evaluation for the young women’s leadership training institute project and we discussed about the advocacy action plan for the violence against women, young women and girls. Young Women’s Dialogue is one of the programmes where partner organisations of YWCA of Myanmar attended. The country representatives from Burnet Institute, Help Age International and Women’s Organisation recognise, realise and embrace the skills and abilities of young women. Furthermore, they acknowledge the importance of  meaningful of young women as essential.

After joining training, there are many questions in my head concerning my personal leadership journey, intergenerational approach, rights based approach, envisioning 2035 and advocacy etc. This training is totally a safe space for all to learn, share and express ourselves. As a young woman participant of this training, I feel the sense of intergenerational spirit. No matter what our positions at work, our age, our experiences, we work together as a team, we acknowledge each other, value each other, accept the diversity and find the solutions for  the problems with the solidarity spirit.

Group

Participants from the training

This whole week was a very productive week and it highlighted that “ we all are champions through intergenerational leadership!”

Inclusive youth participation and policy making

By Sarah Choji, YWCA of Nigeria

The world conference on youth was held in Sri Lanka May, 2014, meeting different young people from around the globe was an experience I looked forward to and the excitement of traveling to a continent that I have never been to (Asia) and meeting different people, though a long journey from home (Nigeria) it was worth it. Our coming together as young people to discuss and proffer solutions during parallel sessions that took place on issues that concerns young people was our duty and responsibility. Plenaries, breakout sessions and round table discussions started on Wednesday and everyone got down to business. I was interested in inclusive youth participation in policy making, SRHR and the religious society, which is translated into The Future Young Women Want: A global Call to action put together by YWCA young women and girls across Africa on transformations we want to see in our lifetime and our commitment to achieving it, an aspect of which is focused on access to quality education and how to make informed choices and safety for girls in school. Regional meetings were held for every region that where represented to discuss issues peculiar to their respective member country, and possible solutions on how to go about tackling these issues.

Sarah Choji

Sarah Choji

Inclusive youth participation and policy making at all levels is seen to be very minimal or not even in place in most countries globally, as a result we see an increase rate of unemployed young people, urban migration due to high poverty for those living in the rural areas, absence of youth with entrepreneurial skills, under inclusiveness of marginalised youth in economic participation, zero capacity building and comprehensive knowledge on media and how to harness it to our benefit. Young people should be seen as partners and stakeholders in every society because investing in young people through comprehensive education, policy making and also eliminating some kind of laws and legislation that stereotype or marginalise the young people from contributing to the society will be removed. Stereotypes like years of experience in a particular field before being granted employment. There should be a way to bridge the gap for the young people to enable them job opportunity in any field they desire without discrimination. In terms of policy making, we see different ways and perspective in which young people are being classed as irresponsible, party lovers, and inadequate managers of resources which make it difficult for young people to be included in policy making and governance. A call was also made to young people to learn to be responsible and to live up to expectation and work hard in their field of endeavor. Also bridging the gap on information on ICPD and post 2015 agenda among young people should be increased because there is very low understanding and knowledge of this concept (ICPD).

Youth ministries should be given some degree of freedom to operate, carry out youth based activities and look into issues that concern and affect the young people which can be tackled without waiting for approval from the government. Also in relation to this, countries that do not have youth ministries are encouraged to work with their government to establish one. In summary we advocated for creation of institutions in every country to grant young people the power to participate in decision making for instance creating specific ministries for youth e.g. sports, arts & culture and much more to be put in place with deliberate effort to having young people operate and run the ministry. Establishing check and balance mechanisms in order to secure accountability of government authorities on youth; for instance publishing quarterly, half-yearly, and yearly reports on activities related to youths. This is to ensure that young people are carried along and are in the picture of activities their ministries involved in. also ensure that all young people have access to technology ,the internet, access to free and right information and develop new visa systems that will promote mobility for young people e.g. shorten the visa application process.