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Gender Equality is Far from Achieved

By Amina Adhan Ahmed 

 

While women’s rights have been sluggishly progressive in most parts of the world, gender equality is more elusive as time goes by. The biggest impediment to gender parity remains in patriarchal cultures that shape all facets of life. While some argue that women are now on par with men in regards to access to social, economic and political rights (citing affirmative action as a cause), recent events in the Kenyan parliament refute that claim. 

Women legislators walked out of Kenya’s parliament in protest after legislators passed a polygamy law that did not necessitate a man to seek consent of his first wife before marrying another. The law reveals a rotten underbelly of Kenya’s political scene.  The policy overwhelmingly supported by male legislators indicates power relations between the sexes. Women are not considered partners in marriage but inferiors. While the quota system improved access, it has been grueling for women to effectively participate in policy making, a factor attributed to male domination in policymaking institutions as evidenced by the regressive policies passed.  The Matrimonial Property Act of 2013 was passed with regressive amendments that overturned the 50-50 sharing of matrimonial property after dissolution of marriage and based it on “contribution”. While the contribution clause entails both monetary and non-monetary forms, the burden of proof falls on women. This disadvantages the majority of women whose lives revolve around informal labor such as domestic chores and child rearing.

kenya parliament

The entrance to Kenya's parliament.  Image via Wikimedia.

Affirmative action for women in and of itself has faced strong criticism by those who believe that women have an equal opportunity to compete with men. The two thirds gender rule enshrined in article 27(8) of the constitution of Kenya states “that not more than two thirds of members in elective or appointive positions are of the same gender” and has been viewed as imposing women’s leadership by opponents of affirmative action.  A Kenyan Member of Parliament (MP) was recently quoted as saying “we should not be donating seats to women, positions reserved for women should be scrapped” as a proposal to cut down on Kenya’s overly inflated wage bill and bloated representation that arose with the devolved system of government.

Dorothy Kweyu, an editor of Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper, articulates the notion that patriarchy has been overcome in an article on women leadership.  She cites the fact that the number of girls in primary and secondary schools has risen since independence and goes on to argue that women are well educated and therefore the two thirds gender rule is a scheme for women to gain easy access to leadership positions and does not promote substantial gains for all women. She further states that gender equality is difficult because it seeks to achieve 50% representation in politics, which she claims creates an “us vs. them” mentality.[1]

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Unconventional Youth

By David Takawira

Y'en A Marre

 

Y'en a Marre youth movement in Senegal.  Image via SeneNews.

We are the Game Changers

For beyond the observation that ‘young generations are individualistic and tend not to ask for bigger decision’, understanding youth would not be complete without interrogating the topography within which they engage and operate. While disagreeing with the observation, a working definition of youth and its generational connotation to society remains elusive, contextual and yet ‘youth’ as an ‘agent’ remain an unsung generation. And yet the case of Malala Yousafzai, Mohamed Bouazizi, Steve Espinosa, Rachel Weeks and the Y’en A Marre movement in Senegal epitomises a youthful generation that continuously questions and engages the status quo while offering life changing solutions to community challenges.

While many definitions have been proffered, UNESCO[1] provides a unique entry point. It identifies “youth” as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community[2].  The United Nations on the other hand, and for statistical consistency across regions, defines “youth”, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, while the African Youth Charter locates ‘’youths” as meaning, “every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years.[3]

The complexities of defining youth using age as a variable is that in some societies and in particular economies, unemployment has been so high that individuals as old as 36 or 40 are neither employed nor independent. Hence the ‘transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’ is impassable.  Dictatorial spaces and societies that are trapped in patriarchy or religious hegemony continue to shrink the space for youth innovation and participation. In such spaces, the older generation, outside engaging in fault-finding missions on youths, have not been providing an enabling environment and in many cases have claimed to be youths, occupied the ‘youth’ space while continuously changing it to suite their own goals. Absolom Sikhosana[4] is almost 60 years old and was the ZANU PF[5] Youth League President until recently - youths within the party have started demanding for leadership renewal. And yet even within suppressed spaces, courageous young people continue to demand for bigger reforms. 

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Stop Areva's pressure on Niger!

A Urgent Call to all YOWLIs!

This message comes via the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).  Please read, spread the word, and consider signing the petition to stop Areva's pressure on Niger.

stopareva

Dear Friends, 

In Niger, almost 90% of the population doesn’t have access to electricity. This in a country that is the fourth largest producer of uranium and produces enough uranium to light one in every three light-bulbs in France.

 

At the end of this month, the French government, their state-owned nuclear group AREVA, and the Nigerien government will sign a new mining contract to define Areva’s operating conditions for the decade to come. If that deal remains as unfair as the current one, millions of dollars will still be kept from one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Today, Areva refuses to pay its tax and hangs on tax exonerations that deprives Niger from resources crucial to its development.

 

OSIWA, along with its Nigerien partner ROTAB, Publish What You Pay, and Oxfam France are joining forces to help ensure that Niger gets a fair deal in this upcoming negotiation.  Areva has to respect the 2006 mining code and pay its taxes in Niger!

 

We’re reaching out to all of you to get the word out and engage in the conversation!

 

We have less than one month to stand with the people of Niger and ensure that the parties negotiate a fair deal for Niger.

Over 13 000 people have joined the call. You can help us by signing our petition and circulating it using the hashtag #fairAREVAdeal!

 

We encourage you to share posts and RT your favorite comments.  Please feel free to use the tweets below.

 

Thanks for your support!

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EuroNGOs 2013: Conclusions and Reflections

EuroNGOs Conference Berlin, October 24th, 2013

Next Steps: Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) on the Post-2015 Agenda.

Fulfilling Rights, Achieving Universal access to SRHR, Empowering Women, Investing in Youth, through a Coherent Post-2015 Development Framework.

Young Women's Knowledge and Leadership Institute (YOWLI) 2012 alumni Chifundo Patience Chilera from Malawi represented AWOMI at the 2013 EuroNGOs International Conference in Berlin.  The event included over 150 sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) civil society organizations, coalitions, and NGOs who are active in advocacy and campaigning on the post-2015 agenda, as well as UN agencies, donors, and decision-makers from Europe and beyond.

 

By Chifundo Patience Chilera

Conclusions and Reflections

EuroNGOs Conference 2013The EuroNGOs Conference 2013 was concluded with representatives from the UNFPA and the UN sharing their organizations’ post-2015 strategies, priorities and plans for engaging with civil society organizations (CSO). Lopa Banerjee (Chief of Civil Society Section of UN Women) and Diego Palacios (Coordinator of MDGs Beyond 2015 Secretariat and the Post-2015 Development Processes at UNFPA) represented their respective organizations. This session was particularly exciting for the African Women’s Millennium Initiative (AWOMI) and especially for the Young Women’s Knowledge and Leadership Institute (YOWLI) because it was presided over by a youth discussant, Paulien Boone (Partnerships Officer, CHOICE for the Youth and Sexuality). This was important for identifying possible areas for joint CSO-UN work that are youth specific.

Both UN representatives and Diego Palacios concurred that a solid human rights base is fundamental to the post-2015 framework, especially regarding SRHR. A human rights basis is important for three main reasons. Firstly, it has inherent accountability mechanisms such that it is possible to hold specific persons or agencies answerable regarding certain actions and inactions. Secondly, human rights and SRHR cannot be mutually exclusive, if we aim for quality results. A human rights basis allows for an integrated approach to effectively address SRHR. For instance, an integrated approach for effective SRHR advocacy would have to address issues of women’s choice, women’s agency, and women’s decision making. Lastly, a human rights basis is fundamental because it accounts for equality, taking into consideration disadvantaged communities and minorities, for example.

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EuroNGOs 2013: Session 2 and 3

EuroNGOs Conference Berlin, October 24th, 2013

Next Steps: Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) on the Post-2015 Agenda.

Fulfilling Rights, Achieving Universal access to SRHR, Empowering Women, Investing in Youth, through a Coherent Post-2015 Development Framework.

Young Women's Knowledge and Leadership Institute (YOWLI) 2012 alumni Chifundo Patience Chilera from Malawi represented AWOMI at the 2013 EuroNGOs International Conference in Berlin.  The event included over 150 sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) civil society organizations, coalitions, and NGOs who are active in advocacy and campaigning on the post-2015 agenda, as well as UN agencies, donors, and decision-makers from Europe and beyond.

 

By Chifundo Patience Chilera

Session 2 and 3

EuroNGOs 2013 Chifundo Patience ChileraThe EuroNGO Conference 2013 was rich with constructive debate and dialogue from a wide range of experts, activists and distinguished persons in the field of SRHR. Participants were not only from Europe but also from Africa, North America, and Asia and included SRHR advocates working in communities, governments, and international organisations – many of whom were already playing a significant role in developing the post-2015 framework through high level taskforces, panels, and committees established for this particular end.

The second and third sessions of the conference were held back to back. The second session was mainly focussed on identifying emerging opportunities, challenges, and lessons learnt so far to promote a coherent post-2015 framework. This session, formatted as a panel discussion, was hosted by civil society representatives from key communities active in advocacy and campaigns on the post-2015 agenda. The panel was composed of Sascha Gabizon (Executive Driector of Women in Europe for a Common Future), Francoise Girard (President of the International Women’s Health Coalition), and Ahmed Swapan (member of the Global Executive Committee, Beyond 2015). The third session was a strategic conversation in which tailor-made advocacy tactics were refocused. This session was presided over by Tewodros Melesse (Director of International Planned Parenthood Federation), Natalia Pineda (Co-Chair of Civil Society Platform to Promote SRHR Beyond 2015), Sandeep Prasad (Member, High Level Task Force for ICPD), and Dianne Stewart (Director, Information and External Relations Division, UNFPA).

Learning from the experience of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the conversations in this session highlighted two main challenges. Firstly, it was noted that governments all over the world are increasingly resisting policy prescriptions. The MDGs are somewhat prescriptive because they were not necessarily negotiated. As a result, the MDGs reflected the global ‘North-South division’, where the North gave prescriptions for the South to undertake with the support of the North. It is therefore the Global South that is answerable for MDGs without the Global North necessarily sharing responsibility. Secondly, another challenge raised was that the MDGs were formulated to have minimum targets. Consequently, governments strived to meet only the minimum requirements. If, for example, a target is to meet requirements for 50% of the population, when will efforts be made to reach out to the remaining 50%?