Saturday, January 31, 2015


Gender inequality derives from social and cultural socialization processes. In patriarchal societies, girls and women are classified (not always consciously) as less valuable, less strong, economically less attractive, not suitable for public leadership roles, needing protection and control, etc.. Other aspects of identity, such as (dis)ability, HIV status, sexual orientation, race, class, caste, and religion interrelate with people’s biological sex and this can result in multiple forms of discrimination.
 This patriarchal, exclusive ideology is the main cause of the violation of the women’s right to equality. We recognize that for the reasons listed above women often belong to the most marginalized groups and are denied access to resources, justice, and power. We believe that when women and girls face discrimination and injustice, it is both a cause and a result of the inequality that drives poverty. Therefore, we focus on transformative leadership that advances women’s participation, leadership, and rights. 

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Working towards gender justice means:

1. Challenging and changing existing structures, institutions, practices, customs, norms, values, attitudes, and beliefs where these are barriers to the achievement of women’s rights and the rights of all people, regardless of gender or sexual identity. This requires the promotion of agency : possessing the power and knowledge to be able to claim one’s rights.

2. Ensuring the accountability of the institutions which are responsible (legally or morally) for dispensing and ensuring justice, protecting civilians, and guaranteeing and protecting the rights of citizens. These include the State, the judiciary, religious institutions, the community, and the

3. Working towards freedom from all forms of violence and discrimination based on gender identities and sexual identities (woman, man, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex, transgender, and others). Oxfam’s human rights perspective takes into consideration the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993)
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Thursday, January 22, 2015


The high rate of rape and other forms of sexual violence in South Africa has sparked concern and outrage, leading to law reform, parliamentary debates, marches and campaigns. It has also led to a range of policy interventions intended to reduce the number of people who fall victim to these crimes. This policy brief summarises available information about the nature and extent of sexual violence in South Africa. It also describes some efforts to address the problem. However, it does not focus extensively on child sexual abuse – this being a topic in its own right.
In order to combat sexual violence in South Africa, this policy brief makes the following recommendations:
-The quality of the police’s crime statistics should be improved. This will help to show who has access to the criminal justice system and to track trends in these crimes.
-Well-designed community surveys should be conducted in efforts to address sexual violence.
-Barriers to reporting sex crimes should be reduced to strengthen the criminal justice system’s response to rape.
-Efforts to dismantle South Africa’s inequitable gender order should be addressed, in relation to both men and women. All associated programmes and campaigns must be scrutinised for the possibly inadvertent perpetuation of stereotypes of gender inequality.
-The attraction of gangs and drugs in at-risk communities must be reduced, and quality services must be made available to children and their caregivers to prevent the neglect and abuse of children

Authors: Lisa Vetten
Produced By: Institute for Security Studies (2014)
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

For the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on family businesses in Europe

DRAFT OPINION of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on family businesses in Europe


The Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality calls on the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:
A. whereas there is a growing presence of women in family businesses and women are a major resource in terms of their ability to influen ce strategies, decisions and management;
B. whereas family businesses represent an important career opportunity for women;
C. whereas women encounter substantial difficulties in their involvement in family businesses and are subject to ‘vertical’ and ‘horiz ontal’ gender segregation;
D. whereas women often play an invisible role, or act as figureheads, and do not have their job or salary status appropriately recognised, which has serious repercussions in terms of social security contributions, pensions and welfare;
E. whereas women have difficulty in taking over fam ily businesses as successors, given that preference is given to sons and daughters are nearl y always excluded;

1. Calls for measures to protect women to be applied and implemented more effectively, with a view to avoiding horizontal and vertical seg regation, wage and job discrimination (invisibility and ‘figurehead’ treatment), providing both genders with equal opportunities, social rights and access to health;

2. Stresses the need to protect women’s right to su ccession in family businesses, on a par with men, by promoting a culture of fairness between men and women which highlights the entrepreneurial role of women in family businesses, in positions of management, responsibility and leadership;

3. Calls for the ‘mother-entrepreneur’ figure to be promoted, in order to guarantee the right to maternity and to grant financial assistance to women who intend to devote themselves to both their families and businesses;

4. Urges the European Union and Member States to consider and include the protection of women each time they legislate on matters relating to family businesses. 

Rapporteur: Daniela Aiuto

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Friday, January 16, 2015


 During the first cycle of UPR on Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran accepted at least ten recommendations that directly address the State’s duty to protect women and girls’ right to free and informed marriage.[1] Despite its response, the Islamic Republic has failed in its commitment to implement the relevant recommendations.


 Stolen Lives, Empty Classrooms: An Overview on Girl Marriages in the Islamic Republic of Iran[2] and its recent updates, provide statics and gender-based policies that endorse infringements on dignity and autonomy of women and girls, including their right to free and informed consent to marriage at the legal age:

.According to the founding father of the Islamic Republic, sexual intercourse with wives below the age of 9 lunar years is not allowed. However, “other forms of sexual pleasure” including “rubbing penis between the buttocks and thighs… of even… a nursing baby” is permitted.
.Legal guardians can marry off girls below 13 and boys before 15 years of age pending a judge’s approval.
.Article 27 of the Bill of Adopted and Neglected Minors legalises marriage between parents and adopted children. In Iran, every 15 minutes a girl between 10 and 14 years of age faces marriage.
.During the last 9 months of 2013 more than 30,000 girls below 15 years of age were forced to marry.[3]
.Girls who face marriage at an early age suffer from high rates of illiteracy, economic disparity, marital rape, mental, physical and sexual abuse and violence, high rates of chronic medical problems and infant mortality.


Since the Islamic Republic is party to the International Bill of Rights and duty bound to protect and promote equal rights, Justice for Iran recommends that the Islamic Republic:

.Sign the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age For Marriage and Registration of Marriage with no reservation.
.Take effective legal measures to hold accountable the judges directly responsible for the approval of forced child marriage cases as well as other private actors, including the guardian of the adopted child.
.Judicial authorities introduce national codes and laws to prohibit forced marriage and revise existing laws so to prohibit marriage with one’s adopted child.
.Sign the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and take effective measures to eliminate marriage with girls below the age of 18, parents or guardians with their adopted children, and provide reparation for victims of girl marriages.
October 7, 2014 -

[1]Recommendations by Chile, Estonia, Germany, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Austria, Bangladesh, Ireland, Qatar, Indonesia


[3] For more information please see a recent update by JFI available on-line at:

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Goal, purpose, and guiding principles

The goal of the programme is to protect adolescent girls’ rights, in particular delaying age at marriage and childbearing, and empowering the most marginalized girls and elevating their status in communities.
The purpose of the programme is to make targeted investments at scale in 12 countries over 5 years (2013-17) to support thousands of vulnerable girls at risk through interventions that provide opportunities for social participation and leadership, gaining life skills and literacy, and accessing health services including family planning and HIV services. The programme simultaneously strives to create a more favorable environment for adolescent girls at the community and national levels. UNFPA is led by the relevant international conventions, treaties and resolutions related to the human rights of adolescent girls, in particular the ICPD Programme of Action, the CRC and CEDAW. The guiding principles of the work are as following :
Rights-based approach to programming and advocacy - Programmes targeting marginalized adolescent girls require a clear sense of the interplay between gender, culture and human rights. The effective application of a human rights-based approach within the programming process is sensitive to both cultural factors and gender dynamics, will advance equality for and social inclusion of marginalized adolescent girls, and contribute to the alleviation of poverty and the realization of their human rights.
Equity focus with the goal of reaching the marginalized adolescent girls - The initiative will focus on
equity and reaching the marginalized as critical step to achieve the MDGs.
Country-owned and country-driven development - The initiative will promote national and sub-national ownership and capacity building in line with the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid
Effectiveness. A particular emphasis will be laid on community engagement in all stages of the
programme from its inception to implementation and evaluation.
Holistic and intersectoral approach - The initiative will put an emphasis on comprehensive, multisectoral, community-led, and girl-centered approach that can be scaled up for national impact.
Interagency collaboration through existing mechanisms - The initiative will strive to work under the
principles of ‘Delivering as One’ and pool where possible its expertise and resources for more
effective programme delivery.
Adolescent girl participation at all stages of the programme - The initiative will ensure that adolescent girls are the key stakeholders in the programmes, and that programmes reflect their inputs, and respond to their needs.
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Monday, January 12, 2015

Opportunities for a focus on girls

Adolescence as a window of opportunity - Research shows that the essential decisions that shape the
course of girls’ lives are made during adolescence. In addition, data indicate that delaying marriageand childbirth, and investing in girls’ education and their opportunities to earn income, yield high returns in terms of girls’ health, and the socioeconomic well-being of their families. For example, an educated girl will use 90% of her future income towards her family, while boys re-invest only 35%9
. Transforming unequal gender relations that are reinforced during this period, and promoting equal opportunities and outcomes for girls and boys in clearly defined, measurable ways will help pave the way for a social transformation. Adolescent girls will know and enjoy their rights, participate in public life, and have the agency to use their capabilities, resources and opportunities to make strategic decisions about the course of their own lives.
Reaching development goals with equity - Reaching the marginalized and excluded is an integral part
of the work of UNFPA whose mandate is rooted in the principles of universality and non- discrimination that underpin the United Nations Charter and Declaration of Human Rights. With the MDG deadline only a couple of years away, it is becoming ever clearer that reaching the poorest and most marginalized girls is pivotal to the full realization of the goals. Consequently the United Nations strengthened its commitment to refocus support to countries, communities and families who are most in need. 10 This renewed attention to the equity agenda provides an opportunity to reorient programming to more closely target and meet the needs of the most deprived and marginalized adolescent girls as a vector for greater progress for all.
Broad support for the girls’ agenda - Although girls receive a disproportionately small share of the total development assistance invested globally each year, the international community has responded positively to evidence on the overwhelmingly positive results of investing in girls in all levels and sectors of development work. The fact that the "Girl Child" resolution in 2011 received broad support demonstrates that the international community recognizes that there is a need to maintain a focus on the challenges girl in underserved communities face in benefiting from appropriate health care, quality education and training, social protection services and child protection policies. There is an emerging consensus that investing in girl’s education, health, protection from violence, and empowerment yields a higher return in reducing poverty and improving the local economy than any other type of investment. Public-private partnerships are emerging around the topic of adolescent girls, and help create awareness and demand for action by the international community including the United Nations and its member states11.
 Campaigns such as the ‘Girl effect’ supported by the Nike Foundation as well as an increased awareness and interest in issues affecting girls in particular such as nutrition, the HPV vaccine, international trafficking, and violence generate further support for girl-focused programming.

10 United Nations . 2010. Millennium Development Goals Report 2010. New York
11 For example, in 2011, the Clinton Global Initiative fostered discussion on the types of investments in and solutionsfor girls and women that would accelerate progress. The Coalition for Adolescent Girls brings together more than 30 international organizations that design, implement and evaluate programs that benefit girls throughout the developing world. The Elders launched in 2011, Girls Not Brides, a partnership made up of non-governmental organizations working all over the world to end child marriage, support child brides and raise the profile of this neglected problem
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Friday, January 9, 2015

Challenges in girls-centered programming

Girls are left behind: Many national development frameworks fail to recognize the profound discrimination girls face and to appreciate them as valuable resource for their countries’ development. Indeed in many countries adolescence is a stage when life opens for boys yet closes for girls. Girls continue to lack the same opportunities as boys, especially in education, economic and social empowerment and training. More so girls are burdened by gender discrimination and inequality and are subject to multiples forms of violence. In 2010 the Secretary General insisted that ‘attention must be focused on the special needs of the most vulnerable and the large and increasing inequalities in various economic and social dimension including (…) sex (and) age if the Millennium Development Goals are to be reached8
Girls are not seen: The young girls, especially the most marginalized are often ‘invisible’, not reflected in survey or statistics, they are ‘’ the forgotten ones’’ living at the margins of society in families, subsisting on less than one or two dollars a day.
Programmes do not reach them: Despite the evidence that investing in adolescent girls’ health, education, and skills has a direct impact on the transmission of poverty to the next generation, many existing national programmes and ‘traditional’ youth programmes tend to overlook the specific needs of adolescent girls in particular the most marginalized. Country studies assessing the coverage and reach of youth-serving programmes have shown that “better-off” youth – those that are older, more educated, male, and urban – are accessing such programmes. Such results underscore the need to reorient existing programmes to better target the girls most in need (very young adolescents, married girls, girls not in school, etc).

8 Secretary General of the United Nations. 2010. Keeping the Promise, New York
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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Situation of adolescent girls

There are over 500 million adolescent girls currently living in developing countries. “Young people are the fastest growing segment of the population in both poor and middle income developing countries, and their welfare is fundamental to achieving key economic and social objectives - including a competitive labour force, sustained economic growth, improved governance, and vibrant civil societies. Yet adolescent girls in developing countries face systematic disadvantagesaccording to a wide range of indicators, including health, education, nutrition, labour force  participation, and the burden of household tasks”2
Each year, 1 in 3 girls in developing countries, an estimated 14.2 million, are married before the age of 18. 1in 9 girls are married before the age of 153. While marriage would normally be the occasion to celebrate the union of two people, for millions of girls, marriage is anything but a reason for celebration. It is a human rights violation that denies girls their childhood.
Every year in developing countries, 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 give birth. Babies born to adolescent mothers account for roughly 11% of all births worldwide, with 95% occurring in developing countries. For some of these young women, pregnancy and childbirth are planned and wanted, but for many others they are not. Childbirth at an early age is associated with greater health risks for the mother. In low- and middle-income countries, complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in young women aged 15–19 years.4
The Secretary General’s report on the girl child highlighted in 2011 that girls are barred from the, bound by social norms that contravene their rights, endanger their health and limit their opportunities. Nearly 36 million girls at the primary level and over 39 million girls at the lower secondary level remain out of school.5

Supporting girls and young women to stay in school, preventing pregnancy and marriage in childhood, building capital assets and promoting employment in the formal sector are critical actions for governments to ensure the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights and help them to become healthy and productive members of society.6
In many poor countries, investment in girls is small in comparison to their potential contribution to global goals in public health and education, to social stability and to economic growth. Yet less than two cents every international development dollar is spent on an adolescent girl7 .
Adolescence is not only a time of great vulnerability, especially for adolescent girls, but also a time of great opportunity, a highly adaptive stage in human development, when girls develop heightened creativity and interest in social engagement. By ensuring that adolescent girls are equipped with the agency, knowledge and skills they will need, girl-centered programmes can contribute to young people’s and governments’ efforts to break inter-generational poverty, illiteracy, ill health, and gender inequality.

2 Girls Count. 2010. A Global Investment & Action Agenda, Coalition for Adolescent Girls
3 UNFPA. 2012. Marrying too young: End child marriage. New York.
4 WHO. 2011. WHO guidelines on preventing early pregnancy and poor reproductive health outcomes among adolescents in
developing countries. Geneva
5 Secretary General of the United Nations. 2011. Report on the Girl Child . New York
6 World Bank. 2009. Adolescent Girls’ Initiative: Alliance for Economic Empowerment. Washington
7 The Girl Effect,
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Monday, January 5, 2015

Egypt – Continuing Challenge of Female Genital Mutilation

Perfectly healthy parts of, sadly, many girls' genitals are still mutilated/cut by FGM because of obsession with female virginity.

Egyptian government figures put the rate of female genital mutilation among women ages 15 to 49 at 91 per cent. Among teenagers 15 to 17, it is 74 per cent. Unicef estimates that of the 125 million women worldwide who have undergone genital cutting in the 29 countries where it is most prevalent – mostly in Africa and the Middle East – one in five lives in Egypt.

I am a 47-year-old Egyptian woman. And I am among the fortunate few of my countrywomen whose genitals have not been cut in the name of “purity” and the control of our sexuality.

Other than the tireless Egyptian activists who for years have fought to eradicate it, very few talk about a practice that brings nothing but harm to so many girls and women. In her books, the feminist Nawal El Saadawi has long documented her own cutting at the age of 6 and her tenacious campaign against a practice that is carried out by both Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

But why aren’t other prominent women speaking out by sharing their own experience of surviving genital cutting? The silence comes at a great cost.

Many international treaties designate female genital mutilation a violation of the human rights of girls and women. On October 30, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced a global campaign to end it within a generation.

Egypt first banned the practice in 1959, and then permitted it again in some forms. When Egypt hosted the 1994 United Nations Population Conference, it was embarrassed by a CNN report that showed a cutting procedure, despite official claims that it was no longer practiced. 

The government then allowed “medical” genital cutting – in which the procedure is carried out in a medical environment or by a medical professional – until 2008, when a universal ban was imposed after a 12-year-old girl died the previous year during a procedure in a clinic.

The practice is sometimes erroneously referred to as circumcision. According to the World Health Organisation, it “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for nonmedical reasons.” 

The procedure has no health benefits. We hack away at perfectly healthy parts of our girls’ genitals because we’re obsessed with female virginity and because women’s sexuality is a taboo. This cutting is believed to reduce a girl’s sex drive. And families believe their daughters are unmarriageable unless they are cut.

In a BBC report broadcast to coincide with the current trial in Egypt, a traditional midwife boasted that despite the ban, she had a waiting list of mothers who wanted their daughters to be cut. The Guardian reported that many in the village where Soheir al-Batea lived believed that genital cutting was prescribed by Islam. 

The grand mufti of Egypt pronounced it un-Islamic in 2007, but some local imams persist in attributing the practice to a saying of the Prophet Mohammad. Across Africa, Christians and animists follow the custom as well.

The 2008 Egyptian ban, which imposes sentences of up to two years in prison or fines of up to 5,000 Egyptian pounds (about $700), has done little to curb the practice.
“Medicalised” cutting is at 77 per cent – up from 55 per cent 20 years ago. 

When I interviewed a 53-year-old survivor of the practice in Cairo for a BBC radio documentary about women in the Middle East, she told me, “It must be carried out, because that’s the way to maintain the purity of girls, to make sure that the girl is not out of control. We don’t care if it’s against the law or if they’re trying to stop it. We know doctors who are willing to continue and have done so.”

Laws not enough

Laws are not enough. Countries that have succeeded in lowering the rate of female genital mutilation, like Senegal, have used varied methods: alternative rites of passage into womanhood, campaigns in which brides and bridegrooms state that they both reject the custom, and the involvement of clerics and priests.

Higher education levels, family relocation to big cities and sometimes the death of the family patriarch can make a difference. Some of these factors helped my own extended family end the practice. Mothers must not bear the blame alone. 

They subject their daughters to the same harm and pain that they themselves experienced because they understand what is required of their daughters in order to be married. Our society must learn to stop brutalising girls in the name of controlling their sex drive.

We need nothing short of a recognition that ending female genital mutilation is part of the “social justice and human dignity” revolution that we began in Egypt in January 2011. We can better protect our girls when we recognise that those chants of our revolution are essentially demands for autonomy and consent – for all. 
Mona Eltahawy -  Dec. 23, 2014

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Education, Science, Technology and Innovation : Transformation for All; Recommendation 9

a)      Fulfil every woman’s and girl’s right to safe, quality free education including primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational and non-formal education.

b)      Promote the importance of girls’ education, providing incentives to encourage communities in vulnerable situations to send their daughters to school, and eliminate discrimination against children from minority ethnic and social groups.

c)      Include human rights education in school curricula at all levels to promote of culture of peace, inclusion, respect for diversity and women’s rights.

d)      Use Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to increase access to quality education and build platforms for cooperation and networking to facilitate advancement of women.

e)      Ensure use of ICTs in schools, include STI in curricula, enhance girls' awareness and involvement in STI, hence increasing the digital and scientific literacy of women and girls.

The Geneva NGO Forum appreciates the extensive volunteer support and contributions of women’s and feminist organizations and individuals, as well as all the partners that supported the Beijing+20 NGO Review especially the Governments of Switzerland, the State of Geneva, the City of Geneva, Canada, the Netherlands, and the USA, among others. We deeply extend our gratitude to the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) and UN Women for their collaboration. The forum was convened by the NGO Committee on the Status of Women (CSW), Geneva. Further information is available on
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