Advances, challenges and ways forward

The review of the ICPD in Asia Pacific kicked off with a civil society (CSO) forum; Advances, Challenges and Ways Forward: Asia Pacific CSO forum on ICPD beyond 2014,  in advance of the Sixth Asia- Pacific Population Conference (APPC). Below Yadanar and Sureka share their experience:

Asia Pacific CSO forum on ICPD beyond 2014 was organised by the United Nations Economic Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) from 12-13 Sep, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Sureka from YWCA of Sri Lanka and Yadanar from YWCA of Myanmar participated as World YWCA representatives for this forum.

Sureka is the youth co-ordinator of YWCA Sri Lanka and the project co-ordinator of the young women lead change.” My vision for young women is to be more educated about the Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and according to the vision and the strategic frame work of the world YWCA which empowers the young women throughout the world, especially the excluded communities.”

Yadanar is the young women’s coordinator from the National YWCA of Myanmar. “My vision for young women is that we are equipped with leadership skills, have the opportunity to grow, our voices are heard, our sexual and reproductive health and rights are respected.”

Asia & Pacific CSO

Yadanar and Rajini Sureka

 13 organizations from 5 regions participated in the forum. Among the 120 participants, 30% are youths.

During the forum, we actively discussed about SRHR, education, comprehensive sexuality education, access to safe and legal abortion, poverty reduction and sustainable development, ageing and migration. The participants are grouped according to the regions and have to map and prioritize issues, obstacles and challenges in each region and share evidence based best practices in addressing the challenges in policy making and other advocacy efforts and then all the participants have to discuss about developing the CSO statement and recommendations to 6th Asia Pacific Population Conference.

50 young leaders from Asia and the Pacific gathered in Bangkok on 14th -15th September 2013, prior to the 6th Asia Pacific Population Conference, and formed the regional platform to ensuring that the rights of young people are met, respected, and protected. The young people came up with recommendations for five thematic areas: (1) Education, (2) SRHR’s for adolescents and young people, (3) Comprehensive Sexuality Education, (4) Abortion, and (5) Young people and Migration.

After these 2 forums, the draft statement and recommendation is done to submit for 6th Asia and Pacific Population Conference which will be held from 16-20 Sep, 2013. We really look forward that the statements and recommendations are accepted with significant change for the future.

Our gratitude goes to World YWCA for giving this wonderful opportunity to participate in these forums, make new networks and share our experiences. We are really looking forward to and determined to make significant change for young women in our country and for our countries.

Challenging Barriers: Living with Disabilities

BY INUNONSE NGWENYA, Project Worker from the YWCA of Zambia.

“For whatever reason, it happened to and it can happen to anyone else.  By being disabled I will not condemn myself to suffer for the rest of my life. I believe this information can inspire many who are in the same difficult situations in their lives. People give up in life because the lack inspiration never should a persons living with disabilities give up because along the way they will meet amazing people who will make their dark day bright.” – A young woman living with disabilities from Zambia.



Persons with disabilities remain amongst the most marginalized in every society. In every region in the world, in every country in the world, persons with disabilities often live on the margins of society, deprived of some of life’s fundamental experiences. They have little hope of going to school, getting a job, having their own home, creating a family and raising their children, enjoying a social life For the vast majority of the world’s persons with disabilities, shops, public facilities, transport, and even information are largely out of reach.

Zambia Federation of disability organizations (ZAFOD) was formed by 11 member NGOs in Zambia. Under ZAFOD, the Zambian civil society, including YWCA, envisions a society where persons with disabilities, enjoy equal rights and opportunities that are generally available in society and are necessary for the fundamental elements of living and development, including education, employment, health, housing, financial and personal security, family life, participation in social and political groups, religious activity, sports, access to public facilities and freedom of movement.

So far, there is an uphill task by CSOs for realizing such a vision. The good news however, is that some private companies have began to take heed and have employed chefs that are deaf in their restaurant. Secondly Ms. Patricia Jere, a woman living with disabilities was appointed the permanent secretary in the ministry of Justice back in 2011. She is one the highest qualified Women Lawyers in Zambia. These cases encourage YWCA Zambia and other CSOs in Zambia to deliver programmes for young women living with disabilities. Pick n Pay stores for instances employed some people living with disabilities as cashiers. It is our call, as YWCA Zambia to call all key stakeholders to join and expand such bold initiatives by government and private sector to create such opportunities to empower young women living with disability.

Gender issues in disability

Women with disabilities have got equal rights as women without disabilities and should be treated at par with those without disabilities. They also have equal rights with men with disabilities. Zambia’s environment still perpetrates unfair treatment and discrimination of women with disabilities hence violating their human rights. YWCA Zambia’s programmes are attempting to addresses this on a general programming level.

Under the new five year strategic plan (2013-18), YWCA Zambia places women’s empowerment as one of  5 strategic priorities.

  • Youth,
  • Disability,
  • Gender balance
  • Sports and Recreation

YWCA Zambia subscribes to the position that sporting and recreational facilities should be accessible to all disabled people more so, the young people as a matter of right as opposed to just leisure.  Although there are commendable attempts to provide various sporting and recreational activities to young people in Zambia, YWCA Zambia has observed that most of these facilities are not user-friendly with young people living with disabilities. Civil Society needs to takes up cases of inaccessibility to such facilities to the duty-bearers so that the affected youth can enjoy their rights. Notable challenges faced by young people with disabilities in Zambia includes; inaccessible infrastructure and denial of entry.


Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women

By Laurie Gayle, Board member of the YWCA of Great Britain shares your experience of the 55th CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women).


Laurie Gayle

To paraphrase a lady who’s been getting quite a lot of press in Britain this Summer[1], it is a truth universally acknowledged that Government will always fight its corner…even if the room they find themselves in is round.

Such was the case in July, when I attended the 55th CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women) session and the UK examination at the United Nations in Geneva on behalf of YWCA Great Britain. To the casual observer, only a troglodyte of a country would not comply with the treaty which many have labeled the International Bill of Rights for women. Of course, the devil is always in the details and the cause of concern for the United Kingdom, whilst less overt than that of the country which had been examined the previous week (Democratic Republic of Congo), is marked by subtlety and intersection.

The examination came after a year of immense struggle. Recent policy changes, namely the introduction of the Equality Act, austerity measures and the Welfare Reform Act have had a regressive effect on the rights of girls and women in the UK.

Even more unsettling are members of the current government, led by Theresa May, Minister for Women and Equalities, stating that they are currently looking at options to repeal the Human Rights Act and also leave the European Convention on Human Rights. Seeing that CEDAW is the Human Rights treaty for women, the above directly contradicts the Government’s repeated statements during CEDAW55 that they take the treaty ‘very seriously’.

The Government was asked over 100 questions and participated in the dialogue with the United Nations for the better part of 6 hours. By UN standards, the examination was a damning one and the formal recommendations proposed by the UN and published at the end of July solidified this.

No bones about it, the UK CEDAW report card isn’t great for a country which has always considered itself ahead of the proverbial curve where women’s rights are concerned. The Committee did not prevaricate where recommendations were urgently needed. Issues borne out of the Universal Credit system (one of the major elements of recent Welfare Reform Act), were exposed as not having undergone a gendered assessment and as such, the Committee urged the Government to adopt measures to prevent manipulation of the system by abusive male partners. Further recommendations related to economic policy focused on ensuring that government spending reviews continuously and wholly focus on balancing the impact of the austerity measures on women’s rights.

And it wasn’t just benefits that felt the brunt of the war on welfare. Access to legal aid was cut as well and here, the UN strongly rebuked the Government and implied that reforms must be looked at again to assess the impact on how women are protected.

Further to this, the Committee requires the UK to now unequivocally provide access to justice and healthcare to all women, regardless of their immigration status or nationality whilst they’re in the United Kingdom. Part and parcel of this, the UN also want to see the establishment of a framework to nationally address trafficking and urges the ratification of the Istanbul Convention to criminalise forced marriage – both of which are rife in the UK.

But the recommendations that were most localised to the UK context revolved around the more subtle nature of patriarchy and sexism at work in the country. The Committee now calls for measures to work with media outlets to eliminate stereotyping and objectification of women in the media, with express emphasis on the advertising industry. On top of this, they’re calling for implementation of a regulator to intervene in matters such as this and of discriminatory, sexist reporting. This is a first.


UN UK reporting

In all, the UN’s full recommendation list is 11 pages, and interestingly is largely based on the direct input from the NGOs involved in the process.[i]  Proving again that NGO participation is crucial for a democratic process like CEDAW to be more than just two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

For the process to work further, those who want to hold the Government’s feet to the fire must to do the following (as individuals or as part of an organisation):

  • Contact their MPs and ask what they are doing to address the CEDAW recommendations in your constituency
  • Use CEDAW ‘language’ in any lobbying or advocacy materials
  • Raise general awareness about CEDAW with your networks and encourage them to share with theirs
  • Embolden others to get involved in shadow reporting  for the next examination

The UN now requires the UK Government to report on their progress within a year’s time as well as the year following. By then – July 2015 – an election will have taken place in Britain and we’ll know if the Government really takes its obligations under International Law seriously or if they just know how to take a punch.

Young Women’s Voices Taken to Heights


Madam Amina J. Mohammed, special advisor of the Secretary- General on the Post-2015 development planning and Kgothatso Mokoena

By Kgothatso Mokoena, World YWCA Programme Associate.  Kgothatso recently attended the consultation meeting on the High Level Panel 2015 held at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Below she shares her experience. 

A Discussion on the Post -2015 Agenda on High level Panel Report

In partnership with the Post -2015 Development planning team of the Secretary General , UN –non-governmental liaison services is facilitated a   civil society consultation in Geneva to  take a critical analysis  from their  perspective on four reports submitted to the  UN Secretary General;

1.    High level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post -2015 Development agenda (Post-2015 HLP)
2.    UN Sustainable Development Solutions network (SDSN)
3.    UN Global compact (UNGC)
4.    UN development Group (UNDG) “ The global Conversation begins”

These reports will serves as the Secretary General’s input to the UN Secretary report to the September 2013 General assembly special event on the Millennium development Goal (MDG’s) and the Post -2015 Development agenda. It was thus an official platform for civil society to provide analysis of the findings of these reports and to propose alternative approaches.

World YWCA was part of this consultative meeting on the HLP 2015 , which discussed the following issues intensively
•    Allocation of Resources
Questions : the participants raised  questions about the  heavy focus on private sector and how will  the new development agenda be financed given the  on-going global economic crisis  . Another question was the criteria for resource allocation and implication for regions such as sub Saharan  Africa, where 90% of poverty is anticipated, and who   have limited access to global markets. The last was a concern about the increasing reliance of the UN on High Level Panel which don’t include CSO , making the  inter-governmental processes  out of reach for  marginalised and excluded groups..
•    Private Public Partnerships.
Civil societies were encouraged to strengthen their linkages between the Private Business sector and  the development  agenda, and though the  various  initiatives exist ,  to develop a coherent strategy for including all as the  slogan for process is leave no one behind.. It was suggested there’s  a urgent need for good innovative programmes which can influence PP partnerships contribute ahuman rights perspective to the post-2015 agenda. A specific  intervention would be the strengthen and expand work being  done ,  with a particular focus  on  social accountability and  increasing opportunities of employment and investment for all citizens in economically unequal countries  .
•    Climate Change
Various questions were raised on how  to  combat climate  change.  It was also noted that  social and environmental  indicators  were weak and there was no direct link to their implication  for peace ,in countries where conflicts are driven by  limited access to resources such as water and carbon fuels.

The answer was there is commitment  for capacity building of CSOs in these contexts to be more involved in linking peace building to sustainable development . There will be a conscious allocation of resources to an ecosystem based approach to disaster management and investment in local adaptation capacities to counter climate change and conflict driven by social exclusion from natural resources.

Being one of the very few young women in the meeting, I was rather disappointed that less was said on Women’s human rights  and nothing on youth , in particular young women in poor urban settings,  rural  villages and conflict zones . I had hoped that at this stage HLP report will put emphasis on;
•    Investing in young women’s education and training particularly the over 15 million that are out of school and already married.
•    Measures to be taken to protect the  economic and social rights  of these young women , particularly  rights to  identity and property , without which they cannot vote , open a bank account or own land , this defeats the  objective  of the HLP  Report of  ensuring  that no one goes hungry no more.
•     Climate change and  environmental  degradation has a profound impact on these young women as they are responsible for  providing water  and fuel for the household , and are often  caught up  in the conflict  for natural resources ,  raped and abducted  forced to be wives of combatants .
•     Efforts must be made to include their voices in any discussion on sustainable development, peace building and climate change.

The UN Women paper advocating for a transformative stand-alone goal on  gender equality, women ‘s rights and women’s empowerment   was  as key resource for the Post-2015 HLP report 2013, and provided critical content for the gender goal , which highlights the importance of ending child marriages , but in  conclusion  I believe that much still needs to be done before September, to include the needs and voices of all young women  and particularly those  who are already married or are in difficult  circumstances and socially excluded  at community  level.

I felt it was my responsibility as an activist and Young women Champion to share on the World YWCA “the Future Young Women Wants” document , which captures the voices of young women from our movement  which is in 120 countries and reaches young owmen in over 22,000 communities, I highlight some of the key  recommendations  suggested for inclusion in  the Post-2015 agenda:
•    Women access to land/ Natural Recourses
•    Women and young women participation in decision making
•    Recognition on the roles and responsibilities of women participating in Peace processes
•    Women and young women’s role in development and policy review dialogue
•    Youth development:  employment, training and education opportunities.
•    Special attention to be given on Climate change and Justice Issues.

Copy of the “Future Young women wants” was then handed to Madam Amina J. Mohammed, special advisor of the Secretary- General on the Post-2015 development planning.

Would like to thank the World YWCA for their continuum efforts to provide  spaces for young women to participate  in such high  level policy making platforms and their commitment to support care and nurture for  us as future Leaders

The Thin Line Between Violence and Art

World YWCA Programme Officer Communications, Marcia Banasko Marcia addresses the exploitation of women in advertisements and mass media. Her veiws are taken from the original publiciation on Girls Globe 

When it comes to sexualisation in the media, often people respond with – “sex sells.” Although sex may sell, I often wonder at what cost? Who is footing the bill? The answer: everyone.

Sexual exploitation in advertisements affects the whole of society in one way or another.

However, women bear most of the costs and, as a result, our mental health and well-being suffers. Although much has been said on the sexualisation of women and girls in the media, sexual violence, particularly in fashion advertising, must be addressed.

In 2007, Dolce and Gabbana (D&G) published the advert below:


Image Courtesy of

Many women’s rights groups and advertising watchdogs have argued that the advertisement above clearly symbolises gang-rape. Held down against her will, the woman in the image falls victim to her male oppressor while an additional three men look on eagerly, seemingly awaiting their turn. Gang-rape is a horrifying and grotesque human rights violation from which no one should ever have to suffer. Why then, is it perfectly acceptable to normalise gang rape and use it as a concept in advertisements and marketing campaigns? In response to the global public outrage, D&G withdrew the advertisement from all its publications. However, D&G insisted the image was not meant to be controversial but simply represented an erotic dream.

The fashion industry continues to push the boundaries of what is new, edgy and original. Some argue that fashion advertising is art and therefore should not be taken literally, yet I beg to differ. Take this 2012 winter collection titled ‘Shameless’ from the Dutch company Suit Supply:


Image Courtesy of

The advertisements above suggest that, by buying a Suit Supply suit, women will allow men to do whatever they desire, including sex, touching and groping and peering at our vagina’s. Suit Supply’s advertisements not only represent women as sexual slaves, but also imply that men buy suits to enhance their sexual appeal solely to women, thereby ignoring the entire homosexual population.

Some advertisements are ridiculous, stupid and extremely offensive, others are indescribable:


Considered ‘fine art’ by the fashion world, marketing executives marvelled at the degrading advertisements.

 Studies show that such violent images negatively impact adolescents’ self-esteem and confidence. The continuous bombardment of violent  images on television, magazines and the internet reinforce negative gender stereotypes and normalise violence and the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

Whether deemed fine art or fashion, it is wrong and unacceptable.