Monday, April 27, 2015


We, human rights advocates, women human rights defenders and concerned people of different nations, add our voices to the urgent appeal of the Filipino people and the rest of the world calling on Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo to stop the execution of Mary Jane Veloso.
Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year-old Filipina and mother of two children, was sentenced to death by the Indonesian Supreme Court in April 2010 for drug trafficking. Veloso’s case was submitted for judicial review, but her appeal was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court last March 26, 2015.
The Indonesian government has transferred Mary Jane from the city of Yogyakarta to the maximum security prison in Nusakambangan Island of Central Java to await execution by firing squad. The notice for execution was served on April 25, 2015, and according to Indonesian laws, the said decision will be implemented after 72 hours.
Veloso was a domestic worker in Dubai from 2009 to 2010. She left Dubai and came back to the Philippines after her employer attempted to rape her. On April 22, 2010, she was illegally recruited by the daughter of her godfather to work as a domestic worker in Malaysia. When she arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the same person told her that the job was not available anymore and that she would instead be transferred to Indonesia. Upon her arrival at the Jogjakarta airport, Veloso was apprehended by customs officials. It was there that she found out that she was tricked into carrying luggage containing 2.6 kilos of heroin.
Hidden inside Veloso's luggage was 2.6 kilograms of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil, with an estimated street value of US$500,000. She had been set up as a drug mule and was arrested by the police.
Mary Jane was not provided a lawyer or translator by the Philippine embassy upon her arrest in 2010. During her trial, the court-provided interpreter was not a duly-licensed translator by the Association of Indonesian Translators. Her lawyer during the course of her trial was a public defender provided by the Indonesian police. The Phil. government did not provide a lawyer during the crucial period of her 6-month trial. Mary Jane was convicted after a very brief trial period – on October 2010, just six months after she was arrested. Public prosecutors asked the court to sentence Mary Jane to life imprisonment but the judges handed down a death sentence. Based on the timeline provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Phil. Embassy in Indonesia appealed the trial court sentence to the Indonesia Court of Appeals in October 2010. The embassy-hired lawyer filed a final appeal to the Supreme Court in February 2011. [i]
We note the views of human rights organisations in the Philippines that the Philippine government’s appeal for clemency for Mary Jane since 2011 was a passive and perfunctory effort, with no further attempts of such after the moratorium against executions was lifted by then newly-elected Indonesian president Joko Widodo. Phil. Pres. Benigno Aquino III only intervened more than a year after Veloso had already been sentenced to death, through a request for clemency with then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono who imposed a moratorium on executions during his term. This was later rejected by new President Joko Widodo, who lifted the moratorium as soon as he took office.
For five years, the Philippine government and its Department of Foreign Affairs did not actively initiate contact and worked with the Veloso family, nor provide regular updates on the status of her case. According to Mary Jane’s parents, Cesar and Celia, and her sister, Maritess, they learned of Mary Jane’s imprisonment not from the government but from a phone call from Mary Jane herself, and a few days later from her alleged recruiter, Kristina Sergio. The Philippine government had not done anything to arrest, investigate or even just invite for questioning Mary Jane’s alleged recruiter and trafficker.
Veloso's execution was deferred by the Indonesian government in February 2015 following a formal appeal from the Phil. Department of Foreign Affairs. Veloso claims she did not have a capable interpreter during her trial. Last month, the Indonesian government allowed her family — her mother, sister and two children — to see her in prison.
On March 3 to 4, a two-day trial was held in Sleman to determine whether there was new evidence in Mary Jane’s case. Lawyers argued she deserved a case review because she wasn’t given a capable translator. The head of the foreign language school in Yogyakarta testified that the translator at the time was indeed their student. To support Veloso’s case, her lawyers cited as precedent the Supreme Court’s decision in 2007 commuting the death sentence of another convicted drug smuggler, Thai national Nonthanam M. Saichon, also because of the translator issue. But on March 26, the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the case review request.
We acknowledge the statements of UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon[ii], UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings/Summary Executions Christof Heyns[iii], and the UN Human Rights Committee[iv] on the dire lack of fair trial and due process in the case of foreign nationals on death row, especially that of Veloso, in Indonesia.
Veloso’s case is indeed indicative of several violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[v] and the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families[vi], wherein both Indonesia and Philippines are State parties, including the right to appear in court with qualified translators in the State of employment, legal representation at all stages of the judicial process, consular support of State of origin for foreign national defendants throughout the judicial process, inconsistencies in sentences for similar cases, and the application of the death penalty in drug-related cases[vii].
Mary Jane Veloso is the eighth migrant worker put on death row under Pres. Aquino’s watch. Seven have already been executed before her, earning for the Aquino regime the stature of having the most number of executions of overseas Filipino workers since the Philippine Labor Export Policy was hatched in 1970.There are at least 125 more OFWs on death row in other countries where capital punishment is also imposed.
We stand with the Filipino people and the rest of the world as one voice to save Mary Jane Veloso from death row. She is a victim of human trafficking. She was betrayed, neglected by the Philippine government and from then on, suffered grave injustice and violations to her rights.
We join our voices with the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who have appealed to the government of Indonesia to refrain from carrying out the execution.
We share the thoughts of Jose Ramos-Horta[viii], former Timor Leste President, who believes that Mary Jane is innocent and is one of the thousands of women who are forced to leave their beloved country to work overseas.

We call on fellow women, human rights advocates and defenders of life, human dignity and justice, to hear the plea of Mary Jane and the Filipino people. We echo her plea as to hear the plight of Filipino migrant workers who are forced to work outside the country because of poverty and social injustices that continue to this day in Philippine society.


[i] Migrante International, Case Profile: Mary Jane Veloso, Migrante International, 6 April 2015, available at
[ii] UN Secretary General Statement, April 25, 2015, New York, available at
[iii] Statement of UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings/Summary Executions, February 13, 2015, available through:
[iv] Statement of UN Human Rights Committee, April 2, 2015, Geneva, available through:
[v] UN General Assembly (23 March 1976), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 2.3(b), 6, 9.2, 14, available at
[vi] UN General Assembly (18 December 1990), International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families, Articles 9, 16, 18, 23, available at
[vii] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment on Article 6, para 7.4.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

With girls, for girls

Girls’ rights play a critical role in realizing a transformative development agenda. When the rights of girls are recognized, their needs met, and their voices amplified, girls have the potential to drive change in their local communities, nations, and the world. Investing in girls is smart economics1, catalyzing sustainable development, enhancing productivity, and building more representative institutions and policies. In looking ahead to the Post-2015 Agenda, empowered girls are central to every sustainable solution.
The Working Group on Girls at the United Nations (WGG) is a coalition of 80 international organizations working directly with girls around the world. In the Post-2015 Agenda, the WGG:
Affirms the consensus on goals related to girls in the UN reports2 that emerged from global consultations contributing to the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda,
Supports the report published by UN Women3 advocating specific gender targets in the Post- 2015 Agenda, and
Welcomes the attention to girls issues in the Secretary Generals Report to the UN General Assembly, A Life of Dignity for All: Accelerating Progress Towards the Millennium Development Goals and Advancing the United Nations Development Agenda Beyond 2015.4
The WGG calls for a stand-alone goal for girls, and proposes the following targets and indicators:
GOAL: EMPOWER GIRLS AND ENSURE GIRLS’ RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY Target 1: Implement the full spectrum of girls’ human rights
a) Guarantee girls rights according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Section L The Girl Child of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
b) Eliminate discrimination against girls in political, economic and public life.
c) Facilitate girls participation and decision-making on issues that affect them. d) Ensure the equal rights of girls to inherit property and open a bank account.
Target 2: Eradicate violence and the root causes of violence against girls
a) Challenge discriminatory social norms and attitudes, and establish violence prevention programs.
b) Eliminate domestic violence against girls.
c) Create laws that reject the commodification of girls bodies by the media and local socialization.
d) Monitor law enforcement response to crimes of rape and domestic abuse against girls.
e) Change laws that allow child, early and forced marriage.
f) Support governments and communities to put an end to female genital mutilation. g) Eliminate crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honor.
h) End the trafficking of girls, and provide protection and assistance to victims. i) Abolish girls heavy and unpaid work burden.
j) Eradicate poverty.
Target 3: Provide quality education and lifelong learning
a) Enforce universal birth registration, particularly for girl children.
b) Ensure the access and completion of girls education from primary through secondary, and provide equal access to tertiary education and career training.
c) Ensure the quality of all education (including science, technology, engineering, and math)
by proper teacher training, girls safe travel to school, and provision of sanitary facilities.
d) Guarantee that girls access to schools is facilitated by necessary infrastructure and funding mechanisms (such as investments in a rights-based social protection floor).
e) Free girls from undue responsibilities for household labor.
f) Create venues that allow girls to prepare themselves for effective participation in family and community life.
Target 4: Ensure Healthy Lives
a) Eliminate sex selection.
b) End preventable infant and under age 5 deaths by providing access to clean drinking water, nutritious food, sanitation and access to community based quality health services
c) Ensure the universal vaccination of all children, including girls.
d) End girls maternal mortality by ensuring that girls are not forced into early marriage, and that a birth attendant assists every mother.
e) Reduce the burden of disease from HIV/AIDS by universal provision of ARV drugs.
f) Prioritize accessibility of medications to prevent polio, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases, including medical attention for non-communicable diseases.

In addition to the issues above, particular attention should be paid to:
I. Girls in conflict zones, refugee camps, in transit during migration
We call for an end to the impunity, which prolongs rape as a weapon of war, and the impunity that results in human trafficking and rampant abuse of refugee and migrant girls, especially domestic workers. Laws
must be implemented; funds allocated for prevention, and law enforcement needs specialized training to recognize girls in these instances.
II. Girls who are heads of households
Families who have suffered HIV/AIDS deaths of parents or other medical emergencies, which result in the need for adult long term care often leave girls as heads of households. While there are many instances
of remarkable resilience and leadership of girls in these situations, they are in need of support and a life of childhood to the extent that is possible.
III. Girls with differing abilities
Any persons with “disabilities” are valuable human beings and deserve a life of dignity. It is incumbent that they be provided with medical care, education, and decent work to the extent that this is possible.

Copyright © WGG March 2014

1 World Bank, “Investing in Girls and Women for a More Prosperous World”
2 High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (Post-2015 HLP); UN Sustainable Development
Solutions Network (SDSN); UN Global Compact (UNGC); UN Development Group (UNDG): The Global Conversation Begins
3 A Transformative Stand-Alone Goal on Achieving Gender Equality, Women’s Rights and Women’s Empowerment:
Imperatives and Key Components

4 A/68/202
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Let's stop this reality !!

 According to data from 106 countries, more than 20% of adolescents aged 13 to 15 stated they have
experienced bullying at least once in the past couple of months.
• 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18.
• 1 million children are coerced, kidnapped, sold and deceived into child prostitution or child
pornography each year.
• It is estimated that up to 10 million children are victims of child sexual exploitation. 43% of victims are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, which is an illegal activity estimated to be
worth between US$7 and US$19 billion a year.
• 320,000 young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9% of all deaths in that age group.
• 100 million children live or work in the streets facing daily discrimination, violence and exploitation.
• Around 120 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labor.
• Only 46 States have introduced a comprehensive ban on corporal punishment.
• An estimated 13.5 million children – most of them girls – will be married before they turn 18. About 4.4 million of them will be married before they turn 15.
• In 2012, almost 1 billion children between 2 and 14 were subjected to physical punishment.
• About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
• It is estimated that at least 1 million children are deprived of their liberty worldwide.
• As many as 150 million girls and 73 million boys worldwide are raped or subject to sexual violence
each year, usually by someone in their family circle.
• Children with disabilities are 3-4 times more likely to be victims of violence.
• An estimated 250,000 children are being recruited and used by diverse armed forces/groups.
• In, 2012 the International Association of Internet Hotlines received 37,404 reports of child abuse
material, 76% involving prepubescent children and 9% involving very young children.
• Between 80 and 100 million girls are ‘missing’ from the world’s population – victims of gender-based infanticide, feticide, malnutrition and neglect.
• 1 in 4 of the world’s children show stunted growth. In developing countries this figure can be as high as 1 in 3
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Getting rid of the glass ceiling and glass walls

Many women report they do not want to be the subject of special treatment or quotas, but what they do need are flexible solutions to manage work and family time commitments. This is also increasingly true for men who want to spend more time with their families. Others point to the pressures of social and cultural norms. Yet, again others call for a closer examination of “corporate culture” in terms of how inclusive it is of women. They also suggest an overhaul of internal processes, procedures and structures of companies as well as accountability to shareholders in relation to recruitment and promotion in order to eliminate subjective and gender-biased appointments and decisions. It is also pointed out that differences in generations play a significant role in addressing gender equality. 
Young men and women alike are often well-prepared and ambitious and have high expectations of work-life balance. There is no doubt that in addition to the sheer force in numerical and qualitative terms of women’s talent entering the labour market there has been an intensification of efforts to tackle the glass ceiling in recent years. An increasing number of studies and surveys are focusing on the business case for more women executives and board members. Monitoring of women’s presence on boards has also been intense in recent years in an increasing number of countries and is often linked to issues of overall corporate governance, under the spotlight especially since the world financial crisis. 
Across the globe, mainstream media and magazines specialized in management, finance and gender issues regularly include columns on women in business and management. Statistics on women in decision-making positions in parliaments and the private sector are periodically compiled and published by various groups.26 Networks of businesswomen and gender-related courses in management institutions and business schools have mushroomed around the world. Companies, governments, international organizations, academic institutions and NGOs have implemented numerous programmes and initiatives to advance women in business and management. Women’s entrepreneurship has attracted a great deal of attention and resources as part of a global effort to advance women’s economic status and the well-being of their families. 

This is particularly the case in many developing countries where the informal economy is the dominant form of economic activity and the existence of formal enterprises is limited. It could be argued that there is a groundswell of action that could be signalling that the world is on the cusp of change and more and more women will be appointed to top positions in the coming years. Others consider that there is still a long way to go in dismantling the glass ceiling. 
What is important for companies of all types and sizes is how they can benefit from the growing talent pool and market that women represent today. And how national employers’ organizations can provide advice and support to their members in this regard. So what are the policies being applied to advance women in business and management? Table 5 below shows the extent to which companies replying to the ILO company survey were implementing 20 different policies. They are ranked according to the greatest number of companies implementing a specific policy. The majority of companies responding to the survey indicated that they have policies for the first 10 policy measures in the above table. The most common policy was that of maternity leave, followed by access to skills training and measures for the recruitment, retention and promotion of women. Maternity leave in many countries is required by law. However, some respondents indicated they provided more than the statutory requirements. Fewer companies provided family friendly measures such as childcare and elder care, career breaks and re-entry programmes. 
While 66 per cent of respondent companies provide access to executive training generally, half of this number provided executive training specifically for women. That companies indicated N/A to many of the 20 policies reflects that the meaning of the policy measure was not understood, that the information was not available or unknown, or that such policies were not applicable given the nature of the company operations or the characteristics of their employee population. In addition to the above policies, a good number of respondents pointed out the problem of transport for women due to the dangers associated with sexual harassment on public transport and the concerns of families and spouses about women travelling, especially in the evening. 
Thus, in the developing regions, companies often provided transport for women and also in some cases women could leave work earlier with company transport if there were law and order disruptions. Some respondents also indicated they implemented other policies such as canteens, nursing rooms for feeding babies or expressing milk and separate toilets for women. A number of respondents mentioned that they follow the global diversity policy of their international parent companies.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Challenges in expanding the talent pool of women

Social customs and traditional gender roles in many countries and certain regions, such as the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, greatly influence the role women are able to play in labour markets and in decision-making generally. However, as a means to enhance economic growth, there is increasing governmental and societal support for the education and economic engagement of women as long as social and religious norms, particularly in relation to family responsibilities, are respected. The route for women to gain access to management positions is thus being opened up with efforts to counter the low labour participation rates of women and to create a larger pool of qualified women. 
Some multinational companies are spearheading the hiring of women and promoting more women in their management structures in such countries. In a bid to nationalize their labour markets, the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia are providing incentives to speed up women’s entry into the labour market, including as managers and business owners. While these initiatives are implemented within the framework of the social requirements concerning physical segregation of men and women at workplaces, they nevertheless provide new opportunities for women to earn income and to apply their knowledge and education at technical and managerial levels. 

In many parts of the globe, the main role of women is still perceived as carers for families and households. In terms of sheer daily hours of work, this has given rise to the so called “double burden” of being a worker, a career or business woman in addition to attending to family needs. “Flexibility”, “priority setting” and “multitasking” have become part of the vocabulary associated with managing busy schedules that span from early morning to late evening most days of the week.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Women overtaking men in education

In most regions, women are surpassing men with degrees at Bachelors’ and Masters’ levels. In many countries, this is not a recent phenomenon and already two decades ago, women had reached parity in obtaining degrees. They are now fast catching up with men in gaining doctoral degrees. UNESCO reports that globally, women outnumber men in Bachelor’s degrees and that women are more likely to pursue Master’s degrees, representing 57 per cent of graduates. Women, however, face considerable barriers as they move up the education ladder to research careers, according to UNESCO. 
Men surpass women in virtually all countries at the highest levels of education, accounting for almost 55 per cent of all PhD graduates and 71 per cent of researchers.24 The highest proportion of women researchers are found in the Latin American and Caribbean region with 45.2 per cent, followed by Europe with 34 per cent average.25 Differences in the choice of study focus between men and women are declining in many areas. While engineering for example is still dominated by men, more women are taking up this area in an increasing number of countries, as shown in Figure 5 above. Nevertheless, there are countries where the number of women qualifying as engineers is declining.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Women are increasing their share of managerial jobs

 ILO data shows that women’s labour market participation rates are generally still proportionally higher than their share of management jobs, and in many countries the gap is considerable. However, women are gradually increasing their numbers as managers. In the majority of countries for which 

ILO data was available over time during the last decade, women have increased their share of management jobs. In 77 per cent – or 80 of the 104 countries for which ILO data was available, the proportion of managers who were women increased. In 23 countries the increase was by 7 per cent or more as shown in Figure 3. However, in some 23 countries women’s share of management actually fell, despite their increasing labour force participation and their higher levels of education.

 This indicates that gains made in the advancement of women in management are not always sustained and can be easily reversed unless there are concerted efforts to consolidate progress. The countries that saw a decline in women managers are from all regions and levels of development. In only a few cases did both the labour force participation and the proportion of women in management decline. Women reaching senior management positions in greater numbers is critical for building a pool of potential candidates for the top jobs such as chief executive officer (CEO) or company president. ILO data provided by 49 countries give an indication of the proportion of women in senior and middle management in the private and public sectors combined in 2012 as shown in the Figure 4 below. Given that legislative quotas in many countries have boosted the proportion of women as legislators and that legal requirements for equal opportunity in the public service are driving the appointment of women at higher levels of management, the figures are likely to be lower for the private sector alone. 

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

An expanding pool of female talent

The world of work has changed dramatically in the last generation due to falling fertility, aging of populations and migration, as well as increased access to education and technology. ILO data indicates that women now hold over 40 per cent of jobs worldwide.
Research demonstrates that women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness. Human capital has become key for companies to maintain a competitive edge in economies around the world that are increasingly based on knowledge and technology. Business groups and development actors increasingly view gender equality as an important plank for longterm economic growth and development. A recent study by Booz & Company points out that in terms of emerging markets, women consumers and entrepreneurs across the world altogether represent the “third billion” after the first and second billion markets in China and India.

Women with business experience 
Today, women own and manage over 30 per cent of all businesses, ranging from selfemployed (or own account workers), micro and small enterprises to medium and large companies. However, women tend to be concentrated more in micro and small enterprises. They represent around 24 per cent of all employers in all regions except the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) where they are around 6 per cent. By comparison, women represent 31 to 38 per cent of own-account workers across all regions except the MENA countries, where they make up almost 13 per cent of those who are self-employed.

Behind these average global statistics there are great variations between countries within each region and between regions, with some countries having a tiny per cent of women engaged in business activity while in other countries, women run nearly half of all businesses. 
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Glass ceiling still intact and female talent underutilized

For over a decade, media, scholarly articles and institutions have called for the dismantling of the “glass ceiling” that bars women from top positions. The “glass walls” within hierarchal structures that reproduce occupational segregation also create subtle barriers making career pathways different for women compared to men. 
Yet today, women are catching up and surpassing men in academic achievement. At the same time companies are reporting difficulties in attracting and retaining talent generally and women in particular. While there is much unemployment, the lack of workers with the right skills sets and knowledge required by a range of economic sectors is increasingly a challenge.
The ILO company survey revealed that 34 per cent of the companies responding indicated that retention of women was a problem to a great extent, while another 16 per cent said it was a problem to some extent. 

Yet, there is plenty of evidence of the benefits to business of tapping into the talent pool that women represent – including being in tune with a consumer market increasingly driven by women, benefiting from the innovation and creativity that gender diversity can bring, improving corporate governance and, as a result, enhancing company outcomes. 
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Friday, April 10, 2015

“Glass walls”: Women concentrated in specific management functions

One of the reasons why it can be more difficult for women to be selected for top management jobs is that their management experience is not sufficiently diverse. They have not been exposed to all types of company operations during their careers and thus have not gained sufficient experience in general management across several functional areas. The ILO company survey in the developing regions confirms trends already identified in a range of studies and surveys. The concentration of women in certain types of management reflects the “glass walls” phenomenon, which is segregation by gender within management occupations. 

While women are gaining access to more and higher levels of management, there is a tendency for them to be clustered in particular managerial functions. Figure 2 below illustrates that a greater proportion of companies participating in the survey have 100 per cent women compared to 100 per cent men in managerial functions such as human resources, public relations and communications management, and finance and administration. Fewer companies have 100 per cent women or more than 50 per cent women in managerial functions such as operations and sales managers, research and product managers and general managers.
 In addition, more companies have more than 50 per cent women in the first three types of management compared to the latter. Attaining experience in the latter is vital for ascending the central pathways of the organizational pyramid (see Figure 1 above) to reach top positions. As a consequence women may “go up the ladder” only to a certain point as the managerial functions they exercise are located on the sides of the pyramid. Companies responding to the ILO company survey also identified some other types of managers and the proportion who were women. Among the sample responses, ICT managers appeared to be men more often than not, while there were more women as quality control and procurement managers

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

#CSW59 African Women's Caucus Statement

African Women’s Rights Organizations have been and will continue to be at the forefront of shaping the global agenda for women's rights. From the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975 to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and beyond, they have continued to ensure that women’s rights instruments, including the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPfA) reflect priorities of African women and girls. 
Over the past two decades, Africa has made tremendous strides in developing progressive policy frameworks to advance the rights of women on the continent as evidenced from the adoption of the gender parity principle in the African Union's (AU) Constitutive Act of 2002, the AU Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa of 2003, and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa of 2004, to mention a few. Despite these achievements, the 20 year review of the BDPfA comes within a social, political and economic environment in which many of the gains made in 1995 are facing serious threats.

The African Women’s Caucus of the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) is deeply concerned by the weak Political Declaration that was adopted by Member States, which falls far short of the transformative and progressive objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. We were surprised and disappointed that the Political Declaration was negotiated prior to CSW59 and devoid of civil society consultation.

We are also concerned that civil society organizations were also left out of the Working Methods process and that the Working Methods Resolution did not incorporate stronger language on commitment to human rights for women and girls.

2015 has been dedicated as the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 by the African Union. It also marks the mid-way point in the African Women’s Decade, as declared by the AU in 2010. We also recall the numerous regional inter-governmental consultations held in 2014 and during the January 2015 African Union Summit where Member States committed to accelerated implementation of women’s rights instruments without renegotiating their content. Thus, we are deeply concerned that the African Group position in the negotiations of both the Political Declaration and the Working Methods Resolution at the global level was not fully in line with the agreements and promises made by African Governments both at the continental, regional and national levels. 

Going forward, as women’s organizations, feminist organizations, individual activists and citizens of African Countries that work at different levels to achieve gender equality, empowerment and the full realization of the human rights of women and girls, we call upon our governments to: 

1. Commit towards full realization of gender equality, the human rights and empowerment of women and girls without renegotiating already agreed upon commitments made by our governments at national, regional, continental and global levels.
2. Ensure continuity and consistency in negotiations on commitments to women’s human rights and empowerment in country positions at all levels – national, regional, continental and global, as well as while negotiating as a bloc.
3. Commit to accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, along with the outcomes of the 23rd United Nations General Assembly Special Session, the Beijing+10 and Beijing+15 political declarations, the agreed conclusions and resolutions of the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as the women’s rights regional instruments highlighted above. 
4. Recognize the critical and unequivocal role that African women’s organizations, feminist organizations and women human rights defenders have played in advancing gender equality, the human rights and empowerment of women and girls.
5. Commit to create an enabling and conducive environment that allows women’s rights organizations, feminist organizations and other CSOs to participate fully in the CSW sessions. 
6. Recognize and commit to address the emerging challenges that are setbacks on gains made for gender equality and the realization of the human rights of all women and girls. 
7. Affirm the strong linkages between the BDPfA and the Sustainable Development Goals. Realizing gender equality, empowerment and the human rights of women and girls will be critical for the success of the post-2015 development agenda. 
8. Strongly recognize, in future processes, including the CSW, the links between the human rights of women and girls and development, particularly as women and girls are disproportionately affected by the consequences of under-development. 

We cannot have true development if more than half the population is left behind.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The business case for advancing women in business and management

Academics and analysts have been examining to what extent more gender balance in management teams and boards actually improves business performance and if the “bottom line” is negatively affected when all decision-makers are men only. Several important studies, some mentioned below, have concluded that women’s participation in decision-making is positive for business outcomes, though some indicated there might not be a direct causal link.

 McKinsey & Company researched the relationship between organizational and financial performance and the number of women managers. It found that European listed companies with more women in their management teams had 17 per cent higher stock price growth between 2005 and 2007, and their average operating profit was almost double their industry average.

A 2011 report of the organization Catalyst16 found that Fortune 500 companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least by 16 per cent on return on sales. Companies with the most women on their boards outperformed those with the least by 26 per cent on return on invested capital. Companies with high representation of women – three or more – on their boards over at least four to five years, significantly outperformed those with low representation by 84 per cent on return on sales, by 60 per cent on return on invested capital and by 46 per cent on return on equity.
In 2012 Credit Suisse19 compiled a database on the number of women – since 2005 – sitting on the boards of the 2,360 companies constituting the MSCI AC World index.20
This research was more comprehensive in terms of geographical scope than other studies, covering all regions except Africa. The outcome shows that, over the previous six years, companies with at least one female board member outperformed by 26 per cent those with no women on the board in terms of share price performance.

While there is considerable research on how gender balance in management impacts the bottom line, making causal links is still a challenge. It has been noted that companies that promote women to top jobs are often those that invest a great deal in research, innovation and technology. More research, especially in developing regions, would be of immense value, especially for those many organizations that are actively advocating for greater inclusion of women in all walks of life.
But there is no lack of research pointing to the hurdles experienced by women on the corporate ladder, as well as on measures that have been successful in promoting women in business and management.

While women have greatly increased their share of management jobs and as entrepreneurs over the last two decades, all data sources and analyses report a continuing dearth of women in top decision making positions, as CEOs and board members. The situation is not much better in politics: In March 2014, just 18 women were heads of state, and women were only 22 per cent (22.9%) of all elected parliamentarians worldwide in April 2014.

The ILO company survey in the developing regions found that women were just over 20 per cent of CEOs. The survey respondents were mostly middle to large national companies. This reflects that more women are able to reach top jobs in local companies as compared to large publically traded businesses and international companies. Women Board Members: The 2013 Catalyst Inc. survey of the percentage of board seats held by women over recent years in 44 countries is shown in Table 2 below. The results indicate that in just four countries women represent over 20 per cent of board members (Finland, Sweden, Norway and United Kingdom); in 13 countries between 10 and 20 per cent; in 14 countries between five and 10 per cent and in 13 countries less than 5 per cent.

The ILO company survey found that 30 per cent of the respondent companies had no women on their boards, while 65 per cent in total had less than 30 per cent women; 30 per cent being often considered as the critical mass required for women’s voices and views to be taken into account. Thirteen per cent had gender-balanced boards with between 40 and 60 per cent of women. 
When it comes to a woman being the chairperson of a company board, the percentages decline sharply. While data from different sources vary, they generally show the small degree to which women are leading boards – generally in the range of zero to a few per cent. The 2013 GMI Ratings Survey21 found that only in Norway was the proportion more significant at 13.3 per cent, followed by Turkey at 11.1 per cent. In the 44 countries covered by the survey there were 19 countries in which not a single company had a woman board chairperson. In a number of countries there was some increase in the percentage of women as chairpersons from 2009 to 2013 while in others it declined. 
The ILO company survey found that 87 per cent of the boards of respondent companies had a man as president while 13 per cent had a woman as president. 
Some commentators describe progress as “glacial” and consider that unless action is taken it could take 100 to 200 years to achieve parity at the top. One consequence of this inertia is that a number of countries have moved to legislate controversial mandatory quotas for women on company boards, with Norway being the first. The European Union is currently considering extending these to its member states with a draft Gender Directive passed by the European Parliament in November 2013 and still under consideration by the European Council of Ministers as of mid-2014. Other countries, notably Australia, Canada, Hong Kong China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, United Kingdom, United States of America, while stopping short of quotas, have adopted a variety of measures to promote more women in management, such as inclusion of gender diversity requirements and reporting in corporate governance codes, codes of conduct, voluntary targets and cooperative initiatives between business and government.

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Monday, April 6, 2015


The advancement of women’s leadership has traditionally been focused on increasing women’s political participation. This is an important strategy because there is evidence to suggest
that increasing the participation of women in politics and public life makes a significant difference for women and society. The visibility of women in public office encourages greater political
engagement and mobilization of a broad spectrum of women. It helps to shift people’s perceptions of what a leader is, and challenges the idea that only men can be/are leaders. It can also give women the confidence to apply for positions of public leadership.

However, working to promote women’s political and public leadership may be ineffective if we ignore the broader political and structural context in which this is taking place, and the relevant informal sources of power and decision-making that are active in that context. This is because conventional leadership is often situated in existing power structures.
Usually these are founded in hierarchical and exclusionary patterns of power over. Globally, decision-making spaces are still male-dominated. Leaders who become part of these structures are encouraged to model prevailing power behaviors which may compromise on their principles, and are rewarded for doing so. Merely ensuring that women hold formal positions of power is therefore not enough
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