Month: November 2015

Why taxing tampons is bad for the world

Irise International works to support the education and empowerment of women and girls in East Africa through addressing the neglected issue of menstrual hygiene management. In this series of blogs, we look at how menstrual hygiene can affect all girls in a range of cultures and environments. In the first of these blogs, Laura Coryton, a guest blogger, explains the detrimental effect tampon tax can have on gender identity and involvement in society in the UK. All over the world women and girls are held back from their full potential, and we want this to change. To find out more about the work Irise do please visit http://www.irise.org.uk. Sanitary tax is a damaging worldwide phenomenon that needs to end. Period. Hundreds of governments across the globe implement a tax on menstruation: a natural bodily function that happens whether we want it to or not. A small tax on tampons, sanitary pads and mooncups may seem justifiable in theory (everything has to be taxed just a little, right?) but in practice and in context it exacerbates …

Violence against child brides

We don’t know much about the lives of child brides. But we do know that married girls are often subject to sexual, physical and psychological abuse by their husbands. Child brides are the poorest girls in the poorest communities. While culture and tradition sometimes play a role in their marriage, often they are forced to marry adult men because their families are too poor to continue to raise them. When a girl marries, she typically leaves her parents and goes to live with her husband. Here she faces a very new reality: suddenly she is no longer being raised by her parents. Instead, her husband is raising her to be the kind of wife he desires. If she wants to go to the market, she must ask her husband’s permission. If she wants to listen to the radio, she must ask his permission. And when she does something wrong, her husband punishes her. That punishment often entails violence. Nujood Ali, who lives in Yemen, offers us a glimpse into the world of child brides. According …

SDG 17: The significance of Gender Equality in strengthening Global Partnerships

Gender equality is central to the achievement of majority of the SDGs, however has to be made a primary principal objective in the implementation of all the global goals, at national levels. Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls UN member states to “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”. In delivering it’s mandate to catalyze global solidarity for sustainable development, women and girls have to be seen as key partners in development and active economic agents. SDG 17 is key to the implementation of all the other goals, as it addresses the shortcomings and insufficiently achieved agenda of MDG 8 which was aimed at catalyzing  global solidarity for sustainable development, where after monitoring and evaluations, was found weak in designing and implementing the mobilization of support from wealthier countries to deliver sufficiently on its mandated goal. In 2015 and beyond, Goal 17 thus has to play critical importance to achieving equality and inclusive development in revitalizing global partnerships, with a stronger focus on the role women play to …

Education Combats Gender Based Violence

Amidst today’s global turmoil, let us not overlook the ongoing gender based violence impacting women and girls on a daily basis.  One-third of women in the world have been beaten, forced into sex, or abused.  One in five will become a victim of rape or attempted rape.  In conflict zones, gender based violence is epidemic. Myanmar is not exempt from this impact on basic human rights.  The country has been immersed in civil wars and conflict since the 1960’s. At that time the military junta enacted the Four Cuts policy, consisting of “attacking villages, forcing ethnic villagers to move into heavily controlled relocation sites, destroying their homes and crops, and planting landmines in their former villages and farms to prevent their return”. Thousands of children have been displaced by ongoing conflict in Myanmar, limiting their access to education, psycho-social support, and protection.  Impacts to these children are severe, especially for girls who are at high risk of sexual assault. The story of Chang Chang is, unfortunately, too familiar.  She was attacked and raped in her …

Giving Thanks For the Care That Saved My Son’s Life

I did not give birth in Tanzania, although some people had asked me if I would, given my professional focus on maternal healthcare in the country. Despite impressive improvements being made to the quality of care in Tanzanian facilities by Kupona Foundation’s sister organization, CCBRT, pregnancy and childbirth is still a high-risk ordeal. The maternal mortality rate remains stubbornly high, with 8,000 women dying every year. The odds are worse for babies. Each year in Tanzania, 39,000 newborns do not survive their first month of life. If I had delivered in Tanzania, my son would have been one of them. O n September 24th, my husband Mike and I became parents. Three days later, we left the hospital with a healthy baby boy, and with a renewed appreciation for the medical care available just a quarter mile from our home. In my last HuffPost article, I painted a contrasting picture between the expectations of parenthood and childbirth in the U.S. and Tanzania. I wanted to understand, as much as I could, the reality experienced by …

Ensuring Girls are Empowered to Avoid Post-Colonial Pitfalls

Our recent work with strengthening resilience in rural Kenya has brought to light an important issue on women’s empowerment: the lasting impact of colonial rule that continues to hinder women’s full leadership capacity and capabilities. This has forced us to take a step back and reexamine our approach to development in the community. Despite the strong female leadership in the community, there is a strong need to please. Women of all ages, still struggle to challenge perceived figures of authority even when what is proposed may go against cultural norms or what they think is best for the community. They are driven by the constant need to say yes, and agree while inwardly saying no. Instead of standing up and speaking up, the tendency is for them to shut down. As an organization seeking to make a long lasting impact in the community, we have found this to be quite a challenge. What is now considered a thing of the past, the effects of colonialism continue to be manifested in the lives of many women in rural …

SDG 16: Promoting Peace for All

The penultimate Goal of the new Sustainable Development Goals focuses on peace and justice, calling for the global community to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. Targets that sit under the goal include significantly reducing all forms of violence and related death rates, ending exploitation and trafficking, promoting the rule of law at national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice for all. There are also targets to reduce illicit arms flows, combat organised crime, and reduce corruption and bribery. In the wake of recent global events, a world at peace may feel further from our reach than ever before. At the same time, striving for such a world has never felt so urgent. This month, a coordinated massacre unfolded throughout Paris and deadly bombs struck the streets of Beirut. This week,  Brussels remains on high alert due to a ‘serious and imminent’ terrorist threat. Today, more than 43 million people worldwide woke up forcibly displaced as a result of conflict, and civil war continues …

Ending GBV: Shifting The Narrative To The Men

The theme for this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is prevention.We are not only raising awareness during the 16 days of activism, but also discussing ways to permanently eradicate violence against women. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is non-discriminatory of race, color or social status. Current statistics are alarming, with one out of every three women and girls globally experiencing physical and, or sexual violence. The violence manifests in various forms including rape, defilement, domestic violence, early and forced marriages, FGM and sex trafficking. For a long time we addressed GBV from the perspective of women, who form the majority of victims and survivors. However, GBV is an issue that affects not only the victim’s life but also other aspects of global social progress such as health, education and economic productivity. The HeForShe movement is an example of initiatives calling upon men to support women in achieving gender equality. To work towards ending GBV we need to shift our awareness focus to include both those on the receiving end of violence and those causing …

When girls become refugees

The Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that there are over 60 million displaced people in the world. This number is constantly growing: every two seconds another human being is forced to flee. According to International Medical Corps, there are currently 7.6 million Syrian refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says 6.2% of those refugees are girls between the ages of 12 and 17. In displacement, adolescent girls suffer disproportionately and silently. In emergencies, adolescent girls are forced to assume adult roles. This often includes marriage. Care International estimates that 17.7% of Syrian girls married before their 18th birthday prior to the conflict. Save the Children reports that among Syrian refugees in Jordan the number of child brides has doubled. Conflict and displacement usher families into poverty, which can cause them to marry off their daughters because they can no longer afford to feed them. At the same time, the Women’s Refugee Commission explains that preexisting gender norms are manipulated for power, meaning that all forms of gender-based violence increase in displacement. Wanting to …

Investing in children is the best investment we can make

Today, 20 November, marks Universal Children’s Day, observed around the world to bring attention to the many issues still facing children all over the world, but also to celebrate the immense potential and power that lies within them. The date, 20 November, marks the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted first the Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959 and then the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on that same date in 1989. The Convention, which forms the basic framework for protecting the rights of children and ensuring a basic minimum level of well-being for them, is the most widely ratified UN convention – today, it has been ratified by every single United Nations member country except for the United States. The CRC spells out the basic rights and entitlements all children in the world – that is, all people below the age of 18 – should have access to. This includes things like right to life and protection, right to nationality, right to basic health care and education, …