Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sandra Cauffman Emerges to Become NASA Manager on Mars Atmosphere

Sandra Cauffman, the Deputy Project Manager on the MarsAtmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission at NASA’s GoddardSpace Flight Center, in the United States. (Courtesy:

(Women’s Feature Service) - Growing up impoverished in Costa Rica without even a roof over her head, few could have predicted the career and life Sandra Cauffman has today. She is the Deputy Project Manager on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Goddard Space Flight Center, in the United States, devoted to understanding Mars’ upper atmosphere. Daughter of a domestic violence survivor, who escaped her abuser and had to take three jobs to support her children, Cauffman’s go-to mantra are her mother’s words: “not to repeat the same story”. Today, she is a role model, a mother and a NASA employee, who is supporting NASA’s quest to explore the red planet. In this one-on-one Cauffman talks about her life in Costa Rica, her struggles with learning English in college in the US and her NASA dream.

Q: Over the years, what were some of the toughest challenges you have had to face?

A: There were so many obstacles that I don’t know where to begin. Firstly, I was born in Costa Rica, a small country in Central America. Since I was little, I remember I wanted to work in something related to space. That time I didn’t know about NASA. When I was seven I got to see the spectacle of the first man landing on moon and I told my mom: ‘I want to do that someday’. My mom could’ve said that it was impossible, but instead she was very encouraging. She told me: ‘You never know; the world goes round and round and if you work and study hard, you never know where opportunities are going to come from’.

My mom lost everything. We lost our house and ended up living in an office, but even with all the struggles that we had, she kept encouraging me to study, to get good grades and to continue to work hard. Even though she worked three jobs to support us, and I had to start working young, she always told me that I all I needed to succeed was the strength to push myself through everything.

When I graduated from high school, I wanted to study electrical engineering at the Universidad de Costa Rica, and the counselor told me that I couldn’t do that because there were no women in the electrical engineering programme. This was a big barrier. They told me that I should study industrial engineering, so that was what I did. At the time, I was 17 and I thought that as long as I was an engineer it would be fine. Three-and-a-half years into the programme, I found out that I didn’t really want to be an industrial engineer. I still wanted to be an electrical engineer. It was then that my mom met my dad. He is the man that I call father because he married my mom and adopted us legally. Things started looking up for us since then and we all moved to the United States.

I left everything in Costa Rica, even my incomplete industrial engineering degree. I didn’t speak English and I had to figure out how to get back into college again. I took the Test of English as a Second Language (TOEFL). Even with the little English that I had learnt in high school, I scored 601 and I needed 600 points to be able to start college. The first couple of semesters were very hard because the teachers spoke so fast that I was totally lost. I had to go back home to slowly review and study everything. I finally graduated from George Mason University with two bachelor’s degrees: in electrical engineering and physics. 

Once I started working, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, I was one out of a handful of women on the project. I have been very blessed that all the people I have worked with have embraced diversity. There have been a couple of moments when someone had thought that I was the secretary or commented that I should be at home and not working in engineering but those situations were the exception and not the rule.

Q: What do you think have been the most important factors that have helped in getting you where you are today?

A: The most important factor has been putting the effort that is required to succeed. I know sometimes opportunities don’t present themselves, but you have to be ready all the time for those opportunities if they do present themselves.

The biggest influence in my life has been my mother, and all her effort and the encouragement that I always received from her. She was a single parent and always held her head high. No matter how bad things were, she always saw the positive side of things. She told me not to let the negative comments affect me. Her motto was: ‘always move forward…keep on marching forward, and work hard to get what you want’.

She empowered me to be what I wanted to be. My mother is my heroine. She was the youngest of 12 and she grew up an orphan because the older siblings didn’t want or could not take care of the little ones. She had so much strength and she transferred that strength to all of us. She is a survivor.

Q: Has being a woman affected your life and work choices?

A: It is hard for a woman to work in a predominately male environment, and we [women] have to try a little bit harder, but things are evolving. I think that we need more women in high-level positions, but compared to 20 or 30 years ago, it is improving.

We [women] bring a different point of view, a different way to look at problems. Diversity is always good in every sense, not just gender, but colour and religion. Diversity brings a different point of view and the sum of one plus one is not two; it’s always more. 

Q: How do you cope with your predominantly male work environment?

A: Working for NASA has been an incredible experience and I have worked hard to be where I am. I do admit that I had to work harder because I’m a woman, but I’m here and I’m happy for what I’ve accomplished and where I am in my career. MAVEN has been one of the projects with more women engineers. I’m very pleased to say that the project pays attention to diversity. 

Q: What, according to you, is your greatest contribution to society?

A: Everything comes back to the people that you work with and the relationships that you create throughout your life in your career. I hope my greatest contribution is being able to pass on a little bit of encouragement and motivation to the new generation. I go to schools all the time and I talk to the kids and try to motivate them. One of the things that I always tell them is to be grateful for what you have; be grateful to your teachers; be grateful to your mothers, to everybody, and try to have a good working relationship with people. That’s what is going to carry you through life.

Q: What message do you have for young girls today?

A: Do not be persuaded by negativism because negativism is ignorance. Saying that you cannot do something is negativism. It might be difficult but it’s never impossible if you work hard. Poverty is not an excuse because there are a lot of organisations, scholarships, and help for people that really want to go the extra mile. If you really want to do what it takes to achieve your dreams, a lot of help will come your way. You just need to be ready for the opportunities that will come along. You can dream. Go for your dreams!

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Could someone help us to keep this blog?

We know it is necessary but do not have time to keep it with updated information

You help us?

Can you help us ?

Could someone help us to keep this blog?

We are concerned with equality .We are working to ensure that human rights of women become a reality.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

‘Women´s participation and leadership in conflict: from theory to practice’

On November 4, 2015 ,Gender/Post-Conflict Specialist Lesley Abdela spoke at an International Forum at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece. Her presentation was titled 'UNSCR 1325: Progress and Shortcomings after 15 years of Implementation by Organizations and Governments'.

Her Conclusions: 

The reason persuasion and advocacy has failed is simple: 1325 contains no carrots and no sticks – no incentives, no penalties, no sanctions and no time-frames. These are the weaknesses built into 1325 which need to be addressed - urgently.

Remedies: the UN and its Member States should only provide resources and funding to peace talks where at least 40% women (and 40% men) are participants at all levels of negotiation including the top table. 


The failings of UNSCR1325 and the continued exclusion of women’s voices from top-level Peace negotiations.

Some 50% of  conflicts break out all over again within 10 years. The saying ‘All conflicts contain the seeds of future conflict’ should be rewritten as ‘All Peace agreements contain the seeds of future conflict’.

Peacemaking and peace-building ought not to be left so overwhelmingly to men, for one practical reason: evidence shows that men on their own are not very good at it!

The current practice is that if you are a man responsible for blowing up people, maiming, murdering, bullying, intimidating and grabbing power, money and assets (viz the Sudans, Afghanistan etc) you will be included at the peace-tables deciding on the future of your community.  In addition to a few decent honourable men, Warlords, business mafia, extremist religious leaders are invited in.  Women civil society leaders and peace-campaigners are shut out.   

Ceasefires and demobilization were the main focus of peace processes. However, today it is recognised that peace is something far more than the ‘absence of violence’. Conflict prevention and resolution, as practiced today, continues to focus on neutralizing potential spoilers and perpetrators of violence, rather than investing in resources for peace.

One of the lessons I have learned is that quick-fix stabilisation using current paradigms for peace may bring temporary absence of fighting but not long term-peace and prosperity.

The current reality is that even in cases when women are included they are elbowed out from being the key decision-makers -  in 15 of the 16 national dialogues examined for the recent UN study it was found that decision-making was left to a small group of male leaders.

Despite UNSCR1325 and hundreds of conferences, speeches and declarations, significant barriers remain to the full integration of a Gender perspective in conflict prevention and peacebuilding processes.

In 2012, a study by UN Women showed that out of a representative sample of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011, only 2% cent of chief mediators, 4 % of witnesses and signatories, and nine per cent of negotiators were women.

Parallel Universes.

Women have always participated in peace negotiations and peacebuilding but always at the informal level and rarely visible to the formal peacemakers and keepers. My Bosnia and Kosovo experiences and a stint in Sierra Leone a few weeks after the rebels were driven from the capital  Freetown, and my time in Afghanistan and Iraq has led me to the existence of a phenomenon I call the ‘Parallel Universes’.

The Male Universe:


One universe is composed of formal hierarchies. This universe is mainly colonised by those who hold or have access to political and economic power:  

Senior diplomats, Political Party leaders, high-ranking Military officers,  Warlords, Government Ministers. These are mostly men who maintain the majority of their contact with counterparts of the same rank. The peace processes from the start are top-down, leaving almost no space for women’s voices to be heard. 

No-one in this universe seems to hear even, let alone listen to, inhabitants of another, parallel universe, mainly women leaders in Civil Society, community-based organisations, NGOs, advocacy groups and women’s wings of political Parties despite their heavy involvement in informal peace initiatives.

A major challenge for 1325 is how to bridge the parallel universes? 

In country after country, from Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone and Kosova to Nepal persuasion and national/international advocacy on 1325 has been ineffective for bringing women into top level peace-talks. 

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, writes in the foreword to the latest global study the depressingly accurate words, “there remains a crippling gap between the ambition of our commitments and actual political and financial support.”

Unless we make a big noise Syria will be yet another example of this pattern in which women are excluded from being equal partners in a meaningful way in the formal talks on the future of their country.

The reason persuasion and advocacy has failed is simple: 1325 contains no carrots and no sticks – no incentives, no penalties, no sanctions and no time-frames. These are the weaknesses built into 1325 which need to be addressed - urgently.

In the 15 years since 1325 was passed, the Security Council has since adopted a series of additional ‘daughter’ resolutions on women, peace, and security.

The latest daughter resolution of UNSCR 1325 is resolution 2122 (2013) in which the Council reiterated its intention to convene a High-level Review to assess progress at the global, regional and national levels in implementing resolution 1325 (2000).

The overall participation of women in peace processes is inching upwards in parts, albeit at far too slow a rate. In 2014, women in senior positions were found in 75% of peace processes led or co-led by the UN, compared with only 36% in 2011.

There has been a rise in the number of references to women in the text of peace agreements. 50 % of peace agreements signed in 2014 included references relevant to women, peace and security (up from 22% in 2010).

Conclusions: The reason persuasion and advocacy has failed is simple: 1325 contains no carrots and no sticks – no incentives, no penalties, no sanctions and no time-frames. These are the weaknesses built into 1325 which need to be addressed - urgently.

The UN and its Member States should only provide resources and funding to peace talks where at least 40% women (and 40% men) are participants at all levels of negotiation including the top table.

Lesley Abdela,   MBE  is a British expert on women's rights and representation. She has worked as an adviser in 40 different countries to governments and IGOs (United Nations, CoE, IOM, OSCE), NGOs and the European Commission. She is also a Journalist, broadcaster, public speaker and women's rights campaigner.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Patriarchy, Gender Violence and Poverty amongst Pakistani Women: A Social Work Inquiry

In Pakistani, patriarchal Muslim society, women are vulnerable to different types of violence; however there is a strong class component. Research findings exposed the relationship between patriarchy, poverty and gender violence. Poverty appears to be the direct cause of gender violence as it creates a stressful cycle. Women from low income families were economically dependent, having less access to educational facilities and suffered from poverty as well as violence. They were victims of violence but some of them ironically accepted that their disobedience although from their personal point of view was legitimate has become a cause to be at the receiving end of both verbal abuse and physical violence. Poor women used different strategies to cope with their poverty and patriarchal structure utilized violence against women as a most powerful tool to control women’s sexuality. Women were prone to face physical, psychological and social violence against them. To eradicate poverty and control violence, it is important to understand it’s psychological, social and gender aspects. It is also important to educate and empower women to promote economic, social and gender equalities as well as to improve the social structure. Social Work as enabling/ empowering profession can be used to solve the problems and restore the abilities by providing correctional and intervention services for those women who by sheer force of circumstances fall into the hands of anti-social elements and later on disowned by their family. Social work practitioners are needed to consider the dynamics of victimization and powerlessness in gender relations because empowerment oriented social work practice can focus on victim’s strengths, adaptive skills and competencies to resolve their problems related to poverty as well as violence.

Maliha Gull Tarar1Department of Social Work, Ghazali Block, University of Sargodha,, Sargodha, Pakistan,
Venkat Pulla,Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, DC, Qld, Australia

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Sheila Watt-Cloutier (Canada)
"...for her lifelong work to protect the Inuit of the Arctic and defend their right to maintain their livelihoods and culture, which are acutely threatened by climate change."
Sheila Watt-Cloutier is one of the most outstanding advocates for the economic, social and cultural rights of the Inuit of the Arctic. As an elected representative of her people, administrator and advocate, Watt-Cloutier significantly contributed to an overhaul of the education system in Nunavik in Northern Quebec to make it more effective in meeting the needs of Inuit communities. She was an influential force behind the adoption of the Stockholm Convention to ban persistent organic pollutants, which accumulate strongly in Arctic food chains. Through her advocacy, she has shifted the discourse around climate change by establishing how unchecked greenhouse gas emissions violate the collective human rights of the Inuit.
Early life and work on reform of the educational system in Nunavik, Canada
Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in 1953 in Nunavik, Northern Quebec, Canada. For the first ten years of her life, Watt-Cloutier was raised traditionally, traveling on land only by dog-sled before she was sent away to a family in Nova Scotia and to a residential setting in Manitoba. As an educational administrator working for the Kativik School Board, she undertook several initiatives to improve educational standards of Inuit students, as well as addressing the problem of alcohol and drug addiction afflicting the Inuit student population. Subsequently, as one of the main contributors to the landmark 1992 Nunavik Educational Task Force Report, Watt-Cloutier and the team of Inuit leaders from Nunavik provided 101 recommendations to completely reform the system, arguing that any effective education system must consider community needs, including self-government, cultural preservation, and the development of community and regional infrastructure. Watt-Cloutier spent several years working to implement the recommendations of the report, which remains an important reference point today.
Leadership and achievements as an elected representative of the Makivik Corporation and the Inuit Circumpolar Council
From 1995 to 1998, Watt-Cloutier was elected and served as Corporate Secretary of the Makivik Corporation, the Inuit land claims organisation established under the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Watt-Cloutier used her position to address Inuit youth issues, working with them to put together the film Capturing Spirit: The Inuit Journey that visualised the various concerns that they had in coping with a changing Arctic.
In 1995, Watt-Cloutier was also elected as President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada, a position to which she was re-elected in 1998. ICC represents internationally the interests of Inuit in Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. In this position, she served as the spokesperson for Arctic indigenous peoples in the negotiation of the Stockholm Convention banning or restricting the manufacture and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and DDT. These substances pollute the Arctic food chain and accumulate in the bodies of Inuit, many of whom continue to subsist on local food supplies. During the negotiations, Watt-Cloutier made common cause with indigenous leaders and provided compelling evidence establishing the injurious effects of POPs on human health and nursing mothers. Through her interventions, she succinctly captured the concerns of the Inuit and projected it on the world stage, ensuring that Inuit traditional knowledge was respected and accepted as evidence. The Stockholm Convention on POPs was adopted in 2001 and entered into force on 17 May 2004. At present, 179 countries have ratified the convention.
Establishing the link between climate change and human rights violations
In 2002, Watt-Cloutier was elected International Chair of ICC, a position she held until 2006. In this position, she presented the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) before US Senator John McCain's Senate Committee on Science, Transport and Communications, stymying the attempt by the George W Bush administration to prevent Arctic states from adopting policy recommendations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Among the key findings of the ACIA was that Arctic temperature was rising at double the rate of the rest of the planet. The report also provided evidence of rising sea levels and acceleration of global temperature increases due to the loss of the reflective ice and snow in the Arctic. In December 2005, based on the ACIA findings which projected that Inuit hunting culture may not survive the loss of sea ice and other changes projected over the coming decades, Watt-Cloutier and 62 Inuit hunters and elders from communities across Canada and Alaska filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), arguing that unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases from the United States have violated Inuit cultural and human rights as guaranteed by the 1948 American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man. Although the IACHR decided against hearing her petition, the Commission invited Watt-Cloutier to testify with her international legal team at their first ever hearing on climate change and human rights on March 1, 2007. The petition, which is the first international legal action on climate change, opened the door to the recognition of collective rights for indigenous peoples and firmly established the link between climate change and human rights within the mainstream global discourse.
The Right to Be Cold
Since leaving the ICC, Watt-Cloutier has continued advocating for the Inuit in an independent capacity, co-teaching a University level course on the human dimension to climate change at Bowdoin College (USA) and Mount Allison University (Canada) as well as delivering many lectures across Canada and the USA. In 2015, she published the book The Right to Be Cold about her life and the effects of climate change on Inuit communities and travelled across Canada on a book tour. While she remains an active participant in international forums, giving ten speeches at the 2009 UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Watt-Cloutier is now returning to the Arctic. Her intention is to work towards developing the leadership potential of the Inuit youth, building programs that would allow them to use ancient Inuit life skills and wisdom that will be meaningful in a globalised world. She emphatically rejects a future where the Inuit exclusively work for large extractive industries, pointing out that the dispiritedness of a people cannot be relieved by a cheque from a mining company.
For her lifetime of work, Watt-Cloutier has been recognised with several honours including the 2004 United Nations Environment Programme’s Champion of the Earth Award, the Governor General’s Northern Medal in 2005 and the Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006. Two Norwegian MPs nominated her alongside former US Vice President Al Gore for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Religious intolerance

101. Many factors of widely varying impact and far from easy to understand exert a negative influence, as we have seen, on education in relation to racial discrimination and religious intolerance. These factors include historical circumstances, the social and economic conditions of groups and minorities, their demographic distribution in the territory, their cultural impoverishment, the prejudices of dominant groups, the status of the majority and minority languages, the political will of the Government and of the groups themselves, the shortage of resources and the lack of intercultural dialogue. It would certainly not be realistic to expect that taking action on these factors could achieve the desired results immediately: some of them are not, in fact, specific to education and would require major efforts by the State and the international community, as well as considerable resources, which would not necessarily be forthcoming at short notice; other factors might not require substantial resources but would need  a long-term commitment as they involve issues that, by definition, evolve slowly and not always straightforwardly. We shall distinguish here between domestic and international measures. 

A. Domestic measures 
 1. Establishment of the educational system
 2. The content of education
 3. Improving the intercommunity environment of the educational system

 B. International measures 
 1. Standard-setting
 2. The role of the relevant international organizations
 3. Follow-up and monitoring of States’ obligations
 4. Information gathering
 5. The media and means of communication

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015


80. Taking account of the conceptual considerations presented in the first chapter of this
study, we shall now discuss the practical and factual aspects of racial discrimination and
religious intolerance in education, so as to be in a better position to make recommendations on
how to combat them. It is possible to draw up a typology on the basis of a range of examples
of discriminatory practices throughout the world. This chapter does not seek to be exhaustive
and is concerned less with the number of examples cited than with the category to which each of
them can be assigned in the context of the overall purpose of the study. In this regard, it should
be noted that factual aspects must cast light on people’s attitudes to others, as well as the
representation of their own identity, bearing in mind that, even where no minorities are present in
a country, these may still be intolerant and discriminatory. Moreover, the choice of classification
does not always have legal implications with respect to the violations committed; the intention is
purely pedagogical. Thus, subclassifications may overlap within one and the same typology, and
sometimes in any one example; likewise, other typologies can be used, and these may also overlap. We have opted for an approach that seems to us both the most directly relevant to the
subject of this study, namely, one based on the concepts of discrimination and intolerance in
education, and the most functional in terms of violations or ignorance of legal obligations. We
shall start by looking at discrimination resulting from positive and often deliberate materially
identifiable acts of States; such discrimination would arise from regulations, policies,
instructions, measures and other material conditions affecting the organization or content of
education put in place by States (sect. A). We shall then turn to discrimination or segregation
resulting from a negative attitude on the part of States, where the discrimination arises from a
State’s omission or failure to take action (sect. B).

A. Discrimination by action
81. An examination of certain aspects of practice in this regard reveals at least three
scenarios for attitudes that may be classified as discrimination by action: impermeability,
domination and marginalization.

1. Impermeability
82. Impermeability here means an intended or unintended situation in which it is impossible
for all or even part of an education system to take account, at the conceptual and organizational
levels, of the specific expectations of certain ethnic and/or religious minority groups. Thus, in
countries with many indigenous populations, the official education systems might be either
unable or unwilling to incorporate the values and components of those populations’ cultural
identity.91 In such cases, discrimination arises when the education system established or
supervised by the State does not meet to those groups’ expectations with regard to equal rights
and identity.
83. Several examples may be cited in this connection. Discrimination arises, for instance,
when the education system organizes teaching whose form and content conflicts with the
religious beliefs of pupils belonging to minority ethnic groups.92 Again with regard to the
content of the teaching provided, some examples concern families which consider that their
children should not study certain subjects, arguing that, although they have no specifically
religious content, they may conflict with their beliefs and convictions. Examples are sex
education and instruction in sports or music, which some parents challenge on the grounds that
these subjects are incompatible with specific religious beliefs.93 However, education should also
contribute to shaping the pupils’ sensibility and taste, and to protecting them against societal ills
such as teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A refusal to take account of that
dimension in the teaching dispensed in private schools or in textbooks, for religious or moral
reasons, conflicts not only with human rights and tolerance, but also with the “best interests of
the child”.
84. Examples relating to the organization of teaching are also worthy of note. First, there is
the thorny question of weekly restdays, which poses a particularly acute problem in
multi-denominational classes. Do pupils not belonging to the majority religious group have the
right to a holiday on the day celebrated as a holiday by their religion? Admittedly, the
organization of differentiated restdays poses serious problems, particularly when there is a great
religious diversity in one and the same school.95 The same problem could arise with the observation of certain religious rites or dress codes by some pupils in multi-denominational
classes. Nonetheless, difficult as these questions may be, an answer must be found that is
compatible with respect for human rights and takes account of the particularities of pupils from
minority groups. As we have noted, the teacher’s role and “tact” are crucial in this regard.
2. Domination and assimilation
85. The policy of assimilating the children of minorities, thereby making them lose their
identity, is a most harmful form of discrimination because it sows the seeds for the continuation
of discriminatory attitudes beyond the generations practising them at any given time. Referring
to article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution, Mr. Federico Mayor emphasized that distinctions,
notably those based on language or religion, “undermine the right to education and the cultural
rights of numerous minorities; they sometimes raise unjust and intolerable barriers among
citizens of the same State”.96 Domination can take a variety of forms. It may be physical and
direct, or else grounded in psychological and moral conditioning. For example, it may take the
form of an affirmation of the complete or at least partial superiority of the culture, language or
religion of the group exercising such domination. This generally involves a glorification of the
dominant culture, including the dominant language, and a devaluation of the culture, traditions,
standards and languages of minorities. Such domination is especially perceptible in the field of
education, this being the most suitable means of shaping the mindset of those dominating
(children of the majority) and those dominated (children from minority groups).
86. Many examples can be cited. School curricula and textbooks are replete with examples
of attitudes deriving from such psychological conditioning, affirming through both
approximations and lies that the history, culture and language of the dominant group have always
been and still are superior. Schoolbooks thus teach children, including those of the various
religious minorities, that some of them are alien elements, whereas this is not, in fact, the case:
representatives of these religious minorities are for the most part descendants of indigenous
people who converted to the religions concerned.97
87. Domination sometimes goes beyond mere psychological conditioning and is actually
accompanied by physical discrimination. An obvious case is that affecting minority groups
under military domination, including raids made by the occupying forces in schools attended by
the children of minorities.98 Physical domination may also involve a ban on the use of the
language of the minority group, even outside the classroom setting. Some children are thus
reportedly beaten for using their own language at school and schoolmasters face arrest if they
recognize the existence of the language and culture of the group in question.99 This, too, is an
obvious case of such domination or discrimination where power (historical, demographic,
political, military, etc.) is transposed to the educational field to express directly or indirectly the
position of dominance of a particular group, culture, religion or language. This transposition is
all the more serious because it can shape the minds of young people as a result, and may lead to
discriminatory attitudes being reproduced by successive generations.
88. Lastly, excessive attention to identity characteristics - which could be described as
identity-related “narcissism” - as affirmed by the law or in school textbooks, or else by the
dominant ideology can, even when there are no minorities in a country, lead to xenophobia, a
negative representation of aliens and discrimination.

3. Marginalization or non-consideration
89. Marginalization is the direct consequence of the first two forms of discrimination, as it
reflects the will of the dominant group to keep children, especially the children of minorities,
from enjoying the benefits of education. An extreme case would be the denial of access to
education for such children, particularly at the primary and secondary level. Such a denial,
which is without doubt the most serious form of discrimination against the children of minorities
and migrant workers, has been formally identified by the United Nations human rights treaty
bodies as the denial of a fundamental right.100 This sometimes takes the form of an intake
capacity being described as insufficient in the schools attended by such communities. Of course,
discrimination exists only when the education authorities are actually able, given the
“availability” of financial, human and material resources, to increase school intake capacity,
including for the benefit of the groups of pupils in question.
90. Another attitude consists in deliberately relegating to a subordinate status anything
relating to the cultural features of minority groups. This may take the form of an ostensibly
pedagogical approach that in fact promotes profoundly racist stereotypes. An example is the use,
in one textbook, of a heavily discriminatory image including the phrase “The Gypsy has stolen
the goose”.101 Because of the general context this tendentious phrase is likely to be taken as the
truth or the norm, particularly in view of the eminently pedagogical value of the medium used.
91. A portrayal prejudicial to girls in society or advocating polygamy in textbooks is also apt
to perpetuate discrimination between the sexes rather than fostering a spirit of tolerance among
young pupils.102 Likewise, imposing a strict code of conduct confining women to their homes
and banning girls from going to school is a discriminatory and intolerant attitude contrary to the
applicable principles of international law.103 This can also be said of stereotypes encouraging a
very negative portrayal of women belonging to a different ethnic and/or religious minority
group. According to one author, this form of discrimination, which may be described as
aggravated (gender-based, and racial and/or religious) discrimination, became a noticeable
feature of the 1990s.104
92. Non-consideration may take the form of attitudes affecting the conditions of education of
the pupil who, for ethnic reasons, may be forced to go to a school for the mentally disabled or
systematically placed in the back row of the classroom. Thus, for example, “disproportionate
numbers of Roma children are relegated to second-class educational facilities - ‘special schools’
- designed for pupils said to be suffering from intellectual or behavioural deficiencies”.105
Others are assigned to separate classes or discriminated against within the same school (separate
graduation ceremonies, different meal times in the cafeteria).106 These are examples of relatively
clear-cut discrimination based on a failure to respect the most elementary basic rights. Where it
affects children, this is likely to have very adverse consequences for the individuals concerned,
their own self image and how other children see them, for their balanced integration into the
society where they live, for social cohesion and, ultimately for the very unity of the State.

B. Discrimination by omission
93. Discrimination may sometimes appear in its passive form, i.e. when it results from an
omission, in one of three ways: non-prevention, a refusal to take affirmative action and a lack or
shortage of adequate resources.
1. Non-prevention
94. Non-prevention here means an attitude on the part of the State which consists in not
taking the necessary measures to prevent situations of discrimination in the school setting. This
is an omission upstream of a racial and/or ethnic situation likely to give rise to discriminatory
95. The same applies to the training of teaching staff entrusted with multicultural or
multi-denominational classes. Such training is all the more necessary since, aside from the fact
that such staff may themselves be the source of discriminatory behaviour, the very composition
of a multicultural class may lead to the propagation of racist stereotypes. The teachers’ role here
is to dispel such myths and stereotypes and help to foster in the children a culture of respect for
others as much as for themselves. Wherever possible, teachers must, as we have already said, be
sensitized to and trained in addressing the problems of multiculturalism and in suitable means for
combating discrimination. This is certainly a key element for balanced education in a
multicultural setting. While any deficiency here cannot in itself be considered as discrimination,
it is bound to maintain, if not develop, discriminatory ideas and conduct. States have a
fundamental role to play here in stemming, through organizational measures, one of the most
frequent causes of discrimination (see chapter III below).
2. Refusal to take affirmative action
96. The second aspect of discrimination by omission results sometimes from ill will and
sometimes from selective attitudes, and is reflected in the refusal to take special measures for the
benefit of a group. This is what happens, for example, when teaching programmes are not
adapted to the needs of minorities. There is discrimination when the omission gives rise to
exclusion, a restriction or a preference based on race and likely to deny the child of a minority
group the enjoyment of a fundamental right. Such acts of omission may, depending on the
circumstances, mean that there are no bilingual classes or remedial classes in the official
language when children have difficulties because of that language, or else that there is a lack of
diversity in school curricula or teacher training.
97. In some cases, the minorities not only call for their specific characteristics to be taken
into account but also ask to participate in the formulation and implementation of educational
policies. Thus, denouncing a political party’s discriminatory policy in the field of education,
some indigenous representatives in one country drew a distinction “between education for
Aborigines and Aboriginal education, with a view to highlighting the role that Aborigines should
have in both designing and implementing educational policies”.107
98. On the question of language teaching more specifically, the examples which may be cited
are both very numerous and very diverse owing to the complexity of the socio-political problems
underlying this issue.108 In this connection, while it is perfectly legitimate for a State to consider
making an integrationist effort with the (or any one) official language, the concern to ensure
respect for the self-esteem of all the individuals comprising that State must also be taken into
account. Various forms of social behaviour of children and, later, of adults are contingent
thereon. What is likely to be the attitude of a child who does not believe in himself or is taught
to believe in the superiority of the language of the group to which he belongs (even if it is the
majority)? Education is thus the crucible for a civic attitude in society as a whole, whatever its
ethnic or religious make-up.

3. Lack or shortage of adequate resources
99. The failure to supply adequate resources to provide an education meeting the various
aspirations for ensuring non-discrimination is a highly complex issue, objectively speaking,
in view of the financial difficulties experienced by educational systems throughout the
world, and particularly in the developing countries. In most of the countries surveyed by
Francesco Capotorti, secondary education is not provided in minority languages. The reasons
often given include a lack of funds, the unavailability of competent teaching staff and the desire
not to fragment the educational system or, indeed, to impair national unity.

100. In this connection, consideration must be given only to cases where such an attitude is
based on discriminatory grounds and the shortage of funds affects the various ethnic and/or
religious groups unequally. Thus, for example, in some European countries, budget cut backs
and austerity policies affect educational programmes intended for the children of minorities or
emigrants (in particular, remedial classes). In this regard, the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination recently had occasion to point out that “the situation of Roma is a subject
of particular concern since no improvements have been noted in the … low educational level
traditionally predominant among members of this minority” and recommended that “measures
of affirmative action should be adopted in favour of the Roma population, especially in the areas
of education and vocational training …”. In any event, it is only when such measures
(or rather such non-measures) have an excessive impact and consequences for the enjoyment of
the fundamental rights of a particular group that they may be described as prohibited
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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Monitoring of the obligations relating to the content of education

77. The content of education as it relates to racial discrimination and religious intolerance falls within the purview of several bodies involved in the monitoring of international human rights treaties whose objects include education, either fully or in part. As we have seen, this is due to the crosscutting nature of the right to education and to the variety of fields in which it is implemented and of its beneficiaries.

78. In accordance with their mandates, the various committees set up by the relevant international conventions take the content of education into account in a wide variety of ways. Paradoxically, it is not the committees with the most direct competence that have had the most satisfying results. According to one study, only the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child take the content of education into account in their guidelines for periodic reporting by States.82 Even so, these guidelines merely recall the general principles set out in the two Conventions and recommend that States should indicate in their reports what steps have been taken to ensure that the aims of education are consistent with the relevant provisions (articles 7 and 29, respectively).83 On the other hand, the guidelines of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights make no reference whatsoever to the obligations of States regarding the content of education. This absence is all the more regrettable in that the Committee is the obvious body for the formulation of recommendations in this area: matters relating to education, and in particular, to its aims as set out in article 13, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, fall directly within the full competence of this Committee, and as such, its guidelines as well as the interpretations it has given would be extremely useful.

79. Finally, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights envisages no procedure like that established under article 41 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This is indeed regrettable and does nothing to enhance the protection of the right to receive education in conformity with the objectives of non-discrimination and tolerance set out in article 13, paragraph 1.86 It must be recognized, however, that the Human Rights Committee does not hesitate to monitor, through individual complaints, pursuant to article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, compliance by States parties with their commitments under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - in other words, under an instrument which does not fall self-evidently within its purview and which has its own monitoring body. In reality, the Human Rights Committee monitors, not the content of the right to be protected but rather, in an audacious manner, the right not to be subjected to discrimination in conformity with article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, even though the right in question is not covered in that instrument.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Scaling up social protection and cash transfers to reduce poverty and girl vulnerability to HIV

Strategies and action implemented at the community level to address intimate partner violence are critical to reducing young women’s and adolescent girls’ vulnerability to HIV. Two randomized controlled trials have shown positive outcomes. The Raising Voices SASA!3 kit was designed to inspire, enable and structure effective community mobilization to prevent violence against women and HIV  Community activists spearheaded a wide range of activities in their own neighbourhoods designed to decrease the social acceptability of violence by influencing knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours on gender, power and violence. When implemented in four communities in Kampala, Uganda, the SASA! kit was associated with significantly lower social acceptance of intimate partner violence among both men and women. It was also associated with lower incidence of intimate partner violence and more supportive community responses to women who experienced such violence .

SASA! has been implemented by over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa in diverse settings such as religious, rural, refugee, urban and pastoralist communities. The Safe Homes and Respect for Everyone (SHARE) project in Rakai, Uganda aimed to reduce physical and sexual intimate partner violence and HIV incidence using two main approaches: community-based mobilization to change attitudes and social norms that contribute to intimate partner violence and HIV risk, and a screening and brief intervention to reduce HIV disclosure-related violence and sexual risk in women seeking HIV counselling and testing. Evaluation of the project showed significant decreases in both intimate partner violence and HIV incidence. The SHARE model could inform other HIV programmes’ efforts to address intimate partner violence and HIV and could be adopted, at least partly, as a standard of care for other HIV programmes in Africa . In both approaches outlined above, engaging men and boys has been essential to tackle harmful masculinities and redress power imbalances in the private and public spheres.

These interventions also contribute to the broader goal of challenging cultural and social norms that are harmful to women and girls and communities as a whole. For example, MenCare+, a community-based intervention in Rwanda and South Africa, engages young men and women together in group sessions on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health, fatherhood and care, and uses reflection groups with men who have used violence with their partners. The One Man Can campaign, launched by Sonke Gender Justice, is another example of engaging men in advocating the elimination of gender-based violence and gender equality, while at the same time responding to HIV
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Core reasons why young women and adolescent girls are vulnerable to HIV

Every hour, around 34 young African women are newly infected with HIV. The reasons for relatively high rates of infection and low scale-up ofservices for young women in Africa are complex and interwoven.
 Changing the course of the epidemic requires addressing the root causes and understanding the core
conditions that exacerbate vulnerability. Seven core conditions stand out:
  • inadequate access to good-quality sexual and reproductive health information, commodities and services, in some measure due to age of consent to access services;
  • „ low personal agency, meaning women are unable to make choices and take action on matters of their own health and well-being;
  • „ harmful gender norms, including child, early and forced marriage, resulting in early pregnancy;
  • „ transactional and unprotected age-disparate sex, often as a result of poverty, lack of opportunity or lack of material goods;
  • „lack of access to secondary education and comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education;
  • „ intimate partner violence, which impacts on risk and health-seeking behaviour;

„Violence in conflict and post-conflict settings.
Individually or in combination, these factors severely inhibit the ability of young women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from HIV, violence and unintended or unwanted pregnancy. Gender inequality and lack of women’s empowerment or agency are key themes that cut across these drivers.
Women’s agency or empowerment is the ability to make choices and to transform them into desired actions and outcomes. Across all countries and cultures there are differences between men’s and women’s ability to make these choices. Women’s empowerment influences their ability to build their human capital. Greater control over household resources by women leads to more investment in children’s human capital, shaping the opportunities for the next generation . In sub-Saharan African countries, more than half of married adolescent girls and young women do not have the final say regarding their own health care and play a low decision-making role in the household .
Poverty is another overarching factor. Poverty can push girls into age-disparate relationships, a driver of HIV risk for young women and adolescent girls. For example, in South Africa, 34% of sexually active adolescent girls report being in a relationship with a man at least five years their senior. Such relationships expose young woman and girls to unsafe sexual behaviours, low condom use and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections . The risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation is also higher for young women and adolescent girls living in poverty . Poverty also increases the risk of child marriage, and girls in the poorest economic quintile are 2.5 times more likely to be married as children compared with girls in the richest quintile . In 2010, 67 million women aged 20–24 years had been married as girls, of which one-fifth were in Africa .
 In May 2014, after numerous national and regional commitments to address child marriage (including the 2005 Maputo Protocol, Article 6c), the African Union Commission initiated a 2-year campaign, starting in 10 African countries , to accelerate the end of child marriage on the continent by increasing awareness, influencing policy, advocating for the implementation of laws and ensuring accountability. Eliminating child marriage will decrease African girls’ greater risk of experiencing domestic violence, premature pregnancies and related complications, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. There are promising solutions, but the solutions today are not the solutions of yesterday. Fast-tracking the response is about being flexible and taking account of the rapid transition taking place in Africa today, looking at the new risks but also at the new opportunities.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Strategies to reduce intimate partner violence and reduce vulnerability to HIV

Strategies and action implemented at the community level to address intimate partner violence are critical to reducing young women’s and adolescent girls’ vulnerability to HIV. Two randomized controlled trials have shown positive outcomes. The Raising Voices SASA!3 kit was designed to inspire, enable and structure effective community mobilization to prevent violence against women and HIV  Community activists spearheaded a wide range of activities in their own neighbourhoods designed to decrease the social acceptability of violence by influencing knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours on gender, power and violence. When implemented in four communities in Kampala, Uganda, the SASA! kit was associated with significantly lower social acceptance of intimate partner violence among both men and women. It was also associated with lower incidence of intimate partner violence and more supportive community responses to women who experienced such violence . SASA! has been implemented by over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa in diverse settings such as religious, rural, refugee, urban and pastoralist communities. The Safe Homes and Respect for Everyone (SHARE) project in Rakai, Uganda aimed to reduce physical and sexual intimate partner violence and HIV incidence using two main approaches: community-based mobilization to change attitudes and social norms that contribute to intimate partner violence and HIV risk, and a screening and brief intervention to reduce HIV disclosure-related violence and sexual risk in women seeking HIV counselling and testing. Evaluation of the project showed significant decreases in both intimate partner violence and HIV incidence. The SHARE model could inform other HIV programmes’ efforts to address intimate partner violence and HIV and could be adopted, at least partly, as a standard of care for other HIV programmes in Africa . In both approaches outlined above, engaging men and boys has been essential to tackle harmful masculinities and redress power imbalances in the private and public spheres. These interventions also contribute to the broader goal of challenging cultural and social norms that are harmful to women and girls and communities as a whole. For example, MenCare+, a community-based intervention in Rwanda and South Africa, engages young men and women together in group sessions on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health, fatherhood and care, and uses reflection groups with men who have used violence with their partners. The One Man Can campaign, launched by Sonke Gender Justice, is another example of engaging men in advocating the elimination of gender-based violence and gender equality, while at the same time responding to HIV
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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Women’s agency, participation and leadership

Women’s collective agency is transformative for society. It shapes the institutions, markets and norms of a society. Empowering women as political and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices . There has been progress in political participation. In Rwanda women make up 63% of all members of parliament, and in 11 other countries in the region women make up over 30% of lower house members .
The meaningful engagement and leadership of women living with and affected by HIV, in the HIV response, are critical elements to ensuring a response, which is effective and sustainable. Young women living with and affected by HIV must be involved and represented at all levels of policy and decision-making, including as members of parliament, as representatives in advisory groups for policy development, and in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of HIV policies. Young women should be recognized and included as decision-makers and not considered only as victims or recipients of assistance. It is only through significant improvements in the representation and meaningful participation of young women in these processes that HIV policies and programmes will be truly human rights-based.

All over the continent, women’s groups have mobilized in the AIDS response. In the Middle East and North Africa, MENA-Rosa, launched in 2010, is the first regional group dedicated to women living with HIV. Members of MENA-Rosa were among the first women living with HIV in the region to speak out openly about their lived experiences. The organization provides women living with HIV with the opportunity and platform to mobilize and advocate around key issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and empowerment.
 In 2011, MENA-Rosa solicited the views of 200 women living with HIV in 10 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, with their stories and voices being narrated in the UNAIDS report, Standing up, speaking out: women and HIV in the Middle East and North Africa.

Women’s participation in humanitarian situations is also important and feasible. Even though women are critical to reconciliation and reconstruction efforts, they have been underrepresented in peace processes and poorly involved in the establishment of post-conflict frameworks. Yet when women have been included in peace-building, such as in Sudan and Burundi, the specific needs and rights of women, including support for victims of sexual violence, services for widows, and education and health, were reflected in frameworks .
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 (the anniversary of the day of the murder of the Mirabal sisters) as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in commemoration of the sisters.
This day also marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days is December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Patria Mercedes Mirabal (February 27, 1924November 25, 1960), Maria Argentina Minerva Mirabal (March 12, 1926November 25, 1960) and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal (October 15, 1935November 25, 1960) — were natives of the Dominican Republic who fervently opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. A fourth sister, Bélgica Adela "Dedé" Mirabal-Reyes [1] was not assassinated the day her sisters were. As of 2007, she currently lives in Salcedo, Dominican Republic. She precedes in the sisters'natal house and works to preserve her sisters'memory through the "Museo Hermanas Mirabal" which is also located in Salcedos de Macoris and was home to the girls for the final ten months of their lives).

The Mirabal sisters grew up in an upper class, well-cultured environment. All became married, family women. The father of the Mirabal sisters was a successful businessman. When Trujillo came to power, their family lost almost all of their fortune. They believed that Trujillo would send their country into economic chaos. Minerva became particularly passionate about ending the dictatorship of Trujillo after talking extensively with an uncle of hers. Influenced by her uncle, Minerva became more involved in the anti-Trujillo movement. Minerva studied law and became a lawyer, but because she did not allow Trujillo romantic advancements he ordered that she was not to receive her title. Her sisters followed suit, and they eventually formed a group of opponents to the Trujillo regime, known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. Inside that group, they were known as "The Butterflies" (Las Mariposas in Spanish). They are known as Las Mariposas because that was the underground name that Minerva was recognized as in the political dealings. Two of the sisters were incarcerated and tortured on several occasions. Three of the sisters' husbands were incarcerated at La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo.
Despite these setbacks, they persisted fighting to try to end Trujillo's dictatorship. After the sisters' numerous imprisonments, Trujillo decided to get rid of the sisters. On November 25, 1960, he sent men to intercept the three women after the women visited their husbands in prison. The unarmed sisters were led into a sugarcane field, then beaten and strangled to death. Their car was later thrown off of a mountain known as La Cumbre, between the cities of Santiago and Puerto Plata.
Trujillo believed at the time that he had removed a significant problem. Having the three sisters killed backfired, however: the deaths of the Mirabal sisters caused a general public outrage in their native country. The resultant publicity of the deaths caused the Dominican public to become more interested in the Mirabal sisters and their cause. This public support and awareness contributed to Trujillo's assassination six months later in 1961.
The Mirabal sisters are buried in Ojo de Agua, an area outside the city of Salcedo in Salcedo Province. They are buried on the property of their second home, where they lived the last ten months of their lives. This home has also been turned into a museum in their honor and is open to the public. There is also a library, bookstore, and souvenir shop located on the property. The three sisters are buried together, and Manolo, Minerva's husband, is also buried with them.
The surviving sister, Dedé, lives near the museum. One of her sons, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, served as the vice-president during Leonel Fernández's first term as president of the republic between the years of 1996 and 2000. Minou Tavarez Mirabal, the eldest daughter of Minerva Mirabal has served as a Congresswoman since 1998 until 2006, and has recently been reelected for four additional years (until 2010).

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Maternal Mortality

Key Facts
  • Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
  • Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.
  • Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
  • Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%.

Maternal mortality is unacceptably high. About 800 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. In 2013, 289 000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.
Progress towards achieving the fifth Millennium Development Goal
Improving maternal health is 1 of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000. Under MDG5, countries committed to reducing maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have dropped by 45%.
In sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries have halved their levels of maternal mortality since 1990. In other regions, including Asia and North Africa, even greater headway has been made. However, between 1990 and 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (i.e. the number of maternal deaths per 100 000 live births) declined by only 2.6% per year. This is far from the annual decline of 5.5% required to achieve MDG5.
Where do maternal deaths occur?
The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the world reflects inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor. Almost all maternal deaths (99%) occur in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third occur in South Asia.
The maternal mortality ratio in developing countries in 2013 is 230 per 100 000 live births versus 16 per 100 000 live births in developed countries. There are large disparities between countries, with few countries having extremely high maternal mortality ratios around 1000 per 100 000 live births. There are also large disparities within countries, between women with high and low income and between women living in rural and urban areas.
The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls under 15 years old and complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries.1, 2
Women in developing countries have on average many more pregnancies than women in developed countries, and their lifetime risk of death due to pregnancy is higher. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15 year old woman will eventually die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 3700 in developed countries, versus 1 in 160 in developing countries.
Why do women die?
Women die as a result of complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these complications develop during pregnancy. Other complications may exist before pregnancy but are worsened during pregnancy. The major complications that account for nearly 75% of all maternal deaths are:
  • severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth)
  • infections (usually after childbirth)
  • high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia)
  • complications from delivery
  • unsafe abortion.
The remainder are caused by or associated with diseases such as malaria, and AIDS during pregnancy.
Maternal health and newborn health are closely linked. Almost 3 million newborn babies die every year4, and an additional 2.6 million babies are stillborn.5
How can women’s lives be saved?
Most maternal deaths are preventable, as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. All women need access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth. It is particularly important that all births are attended by skilled health professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death.
Severe bleeding after birth can kill a healthy woman within hours if she is unattended. Injecting oxytocin immediately after childbirth effectively reduces the risk of bleeding.
Infection after childbirth can be eliminated if good hygiene is practiced and if early signs of infection are recognized and treated in a timely manner.
Pre-eclampsia should be detected and appropriately managed before the onset of convulsions (eclampsia) and other life-threatening complications. Administering drugs such as magnesium sulfate for pre-eclampsia can lower a woman’s risk of developing eclampsia.
To avoid maternal deaths, it is also vital to prevent unwanted and too-early pregnancies. All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care.
Why do women not get the care they need?
Poor women in remote areas are the least likely to receive adequate health care. This is especially true for regions with low numbers of skilled health workers, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. While levels of antenatal care have increased in many parts of the world during the past decade, only 46% of women in low-income countries benefit from skilled care during childbirth6. This means that millions of births are not assisted by a midwife, a doctor or a trained nurse.
In high-income countries, virtually all women have at least 4 antenatal care visits, are attended by a skilled health worker during childbirth and receive postpartum care. In low-income countries, just over a third of all pregnant women have the recommended 4 antenatal care visits.
Other factors that prevent women from receiving or seeking care during pregnancy and childbirth are:
  • poverty
  • distance
  • lack of information
  • inadequate services
  • cultural practices.
To improve maternal health, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at all levels of the health system.
WHO response
Improving maternal health is one of WHO’s key priorities. WHO is working to reduce maternal mortality by providing evidence-based clinical and programmatic guidance, setting global standards, and providing technical support to Member States.
In addition, WHO advocates for more affordable and effective treatments, designs training materials and guidelines for health workers, and supports countries to implement policies and programmes and monitor progress.
During the United Nations MDG summit in September 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a Global strategy for women's and children's health, aimed at saving the lives of more than 16 million women and children over the next 4 years. WHO is working with partners towards this goal7.

1Conde-Agudelo A, Belizan JM, Lammers C. Maternal-perinatal morbidity and mortality associated with adolescent pregnancy in Latin America: Cross-sectional study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2004, 192:342–349.
2 Patton GC, Coffey C, Sawyer SM, Viner RM, Haller DM, Bose K, Vos T, Ferguson J, Mathers CD. Global patterns of mortality in young people: a systematic analysis of population health data. Lancet, 2009, 374:881–892.
3 Say L et al. Global Causes of Maternal Death: A WHO Systematic Analysis. Lancet. 2014.
4 UNICEF, WHO, The World Bank, United Nations Population Division. The Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME). Levels and Trends in Child Mortality. Report 2013. New York, USA, UNICEF, 2013.
5 Cousens S, Blencowe H, Stanton C, Chou D, Ahmed S, Steinhardt L, Creanga AA, Tunçalp O, Balsara ZP, Gupta S, Say L, Lawn JE. National, regional, and worldwide estimates of stillbirth rates in 2009 with trends since 1995: a systematic analysis. Lancet, 2011, Apr 16, 377(9774):1319-30. [in press, will be published 15 May 2014]
6 WHO. World Health Statistics 2014. Geneva, World Health Organization; 2014.
7 Ban K. The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. New York, NY, USA, United Nations, 2010.
Fact Sheet N°348 - Updated May 2014

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