Newsroom Archive: May 2014
21 May 2014
Women market traders in the Solomon Islands will benefit from a new initiative announced this week to create safe markets as part of a region-wide initiative to support women’s economic empowerment. The AUD$11 million Markets 4 Change (M4C) project is a six-year initiative covering Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
M4C officially launched in Fiji in April and will start in Vanuatu over the next few weeks.
It is a core component of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program at UN Women in the Pacific and builds on research that shows that improving the economic status of women leads to increased economic activity in communities and positive ripple effects for the whole nation.
Between 75 and 90 percent of vendors working in Pacific markets are women and their earnings are often significant to the incomes of poor households. Markets may seem small-scale, but they are significant contributors to the national economy.
However, vendors, especially women, face numerous day-to-day challenges – the hours are long, the profits are low and violence against women is widely reported.
Despite the high number of women working in marketplaces, it is often men who run marketplaces and control decision-making. This means that market-level activities engage women and men at the frontline where political marginalisation impacts on women’s economic potential, highlighting the importance of engaging with both issues at the same time. Markets, therefore, are ideal places to engage both with women’s economic marginalisation and their political exclusion.
Building from experience gained from through UN Women’s Partners Improving Markets pilot projects implemented from 2009-2012, as well entry points for change identified in local initiatives the M4C Project will be working with stakeholders, service providers and market vendors to:
• build and support organised representative vendor groups;
• deliver services, training and interventions to vendors
• support market management to ensure women’s voices are heard and taken into account at the policy and decision-making level;
• and to improve physical infrastructure and operating systems to make markets more sustainable and resilient to disaster risks and climate change.
The Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women, Julie McKay, says that the project represents a cost-effective and inclusive way to support women’s empowerment and local political leadership:
“The M4C initiative is a perfect example of effective development,” she explains. “The inclusive planning behind this initiative means that women’s needs are at the centre of program design and implementation. For every dollar invested in this scheme, there will be a significant return both in terms of actual increases to household revenue as well as indicators such as a reduction in violence, increased access to education and acceptance of women’s important role as political leaders.”
1 May 2014
On the night of 14th April, 230 12 to 17 year old girls were abducted from their school hostel in Chibok, Borno state, Nigeria. On the 17th, the following joint statement was released by UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui.
We are extremely concerned by the recent abduction of some 100, 12 to 17-year-old girls who were taken from their school hostel in Chibok, Borno State, in Nigeria on the night of 14th April. Attacks against the liberty of children and the targeting of schools are prohibited under international law and cannot be justified under any circumstances.
We urge those who are responsible for their abduction to release them unharmed, and return them safely to their families, where they rightfully belong.
Schools are and must remain places of safety and security, where children can learn and grow in peace. Girls and young women must be allowed to go to school without fear of violence and unjust treatment so that they can play their rightful role as equal citizens of the world. Women and girls have the right to live free from intimidation, persecution and all other forms of discrimination.
We stand with the Nigerian people, especially the parents and families of the abducted girls.
Violence against women in politics is rampant in South Asia according to a new study conducted by the Centre for Social Research and UN Women. The study, ‘Violence against Women in Politics’ revealed that the insufficient implementation of laws, lack of support from police and judiciary, the socio-economic divide and current power structures are the major reasons for violence.
The study was conducted in India, Nepal and Pakistan and analyses incidents of violence that occurred from 2003 to 2013. It was conducted to address the nature, extent and reasons for violence that inhibits women’s political participation.
Approximately 800 respondents were interviewed including election commission officials, police, contestants, and families in urban and rural areas.
The study finds that while the percentage of female voters and women candidates fielded by political parties has increased in all three countries, the percentage of female representatives in national bodies has decreased. The study also finds that more than 60 per cent of women do not participate in politics due to fear of violence.
“From our comprehensive review of laws on violence against women, it is clear that none of the three countries has legislation that deals strictly with offenders to prevent violence against women in politics. We know that where laws are in place, prevalence tends to be lower and fewer people think that violence against women in justifiable,” says Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women’s Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women, Julie McKay says that the Report highlights that political disenfranchisement exists on all levels for women. “Women are not just being excluded from political office, or the upper echelons of government. Women are also being denied the right to cast their vote and participate in local government and decisions which immediately affect them, due to family pressures and gender discrimination.”
“Violence, and threats of violence against women are never acceptable, and should not be used as a method of control to prevent women from participating in political life.”
Key findings of the Report:
- Almost 50 per cent of respondents felt that the decision on a woman’s participation in electoral politics should be taken by her family.
- 90 per cent of respondents felt that violence against women within a family increases when women are unable to fulfil domestic responsibilities.
- 60 per cent of respondents felt that police do not respect women’s rights and most cases go unreported, leading to a higher number of cases of violence against women.
- While physical violence, verbal abuse and threat of violence are higher for India, character assassination is seen as a greater threat in Pakistan and Nepal.
- 45 per cent of women candidates in India faced physical violence and threats in comparison to only 21 per cent and 16 per cent in Nepal respectively.
- Denial of the right to vote was commonly experienced by women voters, while women candidates were denied their right to join a political party or to contest elections.
Key recommendations of the Report:
- Law-making: expand political reservations for women, with an extension of a minimum 33 per cent reservation at all levels.
- Political parties: should also include more women party members in central and selection committees and in parliamentary committees.
- Law-implementation: the Election Commission needs to take steps to recognize, protect, promote and institutionalize women’s participation in politics.