Tag Archives: youth

CSW57: “It Should Not Hurt to Be a Girl”

By Kelly Lynn Ziemer

On Friday, March 8, 2013, the National Council of Women (NCW) hosted their parallel event “A Global Outcry: It Should Not Hurt to Be a Girl” for the United Nation’s 57th Commission on the Status of Women, a poignant topic given that March 8th was also International Women’s Day. The event was moderated by Leslie Wright, UN Convener for the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF), and brought together seven panelists from around the world representing government and civil society to discuss problems, initiatives and progress of women’s organizations in different regions of the globe.

Lindy Blanchard, President and Co-Founder of 100X Development Foundation and keynote speaker, provided examples of how her organization is working with orphans and vulnerable children in 10 countries, including Moldova and Malawi, to increase education and vocational and social skills. Teresa Hintzke, President of Pan-Pacific and South-East Asia Women’s Association (PPSEAWA) International, focused on the harmful cultural beliefs that perpetuate inequality of women and girls, as girls are raised to be second-class citizens in the Pacific Islands. Gender and social standing take precedence in this culture as opposed to economic status; status is attained as one ages. With rapid economic change in the Pacific Islands, which has led to more unemployment and the loss of natural resources, sexual violence has become prevalent. Therefore, being young and female allows for no power in this culture. She recommended an increase in awareness and education to change the perception of girls’ and women’s capabilities in this region.

Awareness is also a goal of Dr. Ranjana Kumari’s organizations as Director of the Center for Social Research and President of Women Power Connect. These organizations are increasing education about a girl child’s right to be born in India, particularly among the upper socioeconomic classes where research has shown that these couples are more apt to abort female fetuses than lower socioeconomic status couples. Dr. Kumari also discussed child marriage, trafficking and a cultural mindset of inferiority of women. Although there is a legal ban on child marriages, she stated, “customs are so strong” that 50% of marriages are still occurring for women less than 18 years old. To combat trafficking, where 70% of trafficked children from Nepal, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh are pushed into prostitution, Dr. Kumari spoke of her organization’s campaign to raise awareness about trafficking and create a network of support services for survivors.

It became evident that the panelists were advocating for an increase of awareness about violence against women while taking into account local cultural beliefs. This was reiterated by Dr. Manjula O’Connor, Vice President of Australia India Society of Victoria. She has found success in the state of Victoria, Australia where she estimates that 10% of the 250,000 Indian population living in Australia has been reached thus far through community education and healthcare providers. Initial steps to address this community’s isolation and lack of assistance were to form a task force. In doing this, they were able to understand the needs of the community and determine key stakeholders. Dr. O’Connor credits their success to working with stakeholders in the community through theater, Bollywood dancing and faith-based organizations, such as Sikh temples, to tailor domestic violence campaigns to this population. It has also created more opportunity for this population to embrace the Australian government’s White Ribbon program, which engages men and boys to participate in the fight to end violence against women.

The role of government to push forth legislation and programs was echoed by several other panelists. Licenciada Eunice Loyda Mijangos, member of NCW of Guatemala, gave her own personal accounts of surviving psychological and physical abuse. She encouraged the audience that “there are laws to protect us”. However, Ms. Yakovleva, President of Ukranian NCW, stated that Ukraine has a lack of gender policy and a lack of women in government. Because of this, the country has become a hotbed for sex trafficking and Internet pornography. To contrast, Honorable Anita Kalinde is the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare for the Republic of Malawi. Given that there is a post in the government to address issues of gender is progressive and one that many countries need to adapt, like the United States. Ms. Kalinde discussed the country’s recent passing of the Gender Equality Law and the fact that the country has a female President. She believes these initiatives have furthered rights and services for women in the country including the implementation of one-stop shops to assist survivors with social affairs, courts, medical, police under one roof.

Though the panelists came from different countries with various cultures, it was clear that patriarchy is embedded in many of these cultures allowing violence against women to continue to occur. To address these cultural beliefs and adjust the mindset that violence against women is harmful not only to the individual but also a community and economy, an approach needs to be tailored to that culture. Awareness, education, legislation and more women in government were solutions offered by the panelists. To conclude her address, Lindy Blanchard emphasized, “Yes you can as a girl child go into education. Yes you can go into higher education. Yes you can become a mother, entrepreneur and President of your country.” Through their work to end violence against women, the panelists are passing along the same message as Ms. Blanchard.

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CSW57: A Girl’s Eye View of Unsafe Urban Spaces

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By: Cristal Espejo, UN Youth Representative

After the Delhi bus case, where a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern was raped and murdered on a bus, the need for reports such as Plan International’s latest, Safer Cities: Adolescent Girl’s Eye View on Unsafe Spaces, has increased greatly. On March 8th, a side event for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women, entitled, A Girl’s Eye View on Unsafe Urban Spaces, brought together a distinguished panel to discuss the global issue of unsafe urban spaces and how this affects the livelihood of young women. On the panel were Plan International’s Global Gender Advisor, Sarah Hendriks, UN-HABITAT’s Deputy Executive, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, and Women in Cities International’s Director of Programmes, Kathyrn Travers. Two young delegates were also on the panel, one from Kampala, Uganda and one from Hanoi, Vietnam.

According to Plan International’s 2010 report, Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls, “For the First time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas. Each month, five million people are added to the cities of the developing world, and it is estimated that by 2030, approximately 1.5 billion girls will live in urban areas.” While the increase in the number of girls in urban areas should lead to an increase in girls receiving more resources, the situation is much more complex for young women in many developing countries. Girls face sexual harassment and live in fear of being raped, kidnapped, robbed, or hurt when walking through urban areas. As a result, some families are so fearful for their daughters being alone in the streets that they limit the times that they can be outside and sometimes limit them from going out at all. This fear largely limits young women.

Some of the aims of UN-HABITAT, Plan International and Women and Cities International, is to increase access to public space and improve girls autonomous mobility in cities. This leads to their ability to receive a quality education. Plan International’s Sarah Hendriks, reported that some of Plan’s research findings in, Because I am a Girl Urban Programme Study, conducted in Cairo, Delhi, Hanoi, Kampala and Lima, concluded that girls felt excluded from policy and legislation. One of Plan’s goals is to help adolescent girls feel less excluded from policy and legislation and have their voices heard.

Hakima (shown above) from Kampala, Uganda definitely had her voice heard when she spoke to audience members about her experiences in her urban city. Hakima articulated that women should not be limited because of their gender and had just as much rights to urban spaces as men did. She proposed solutions such as an increase in streetlights and safer public restrooms in her city in order for girls to roam more freely. At just 9 years old, Hakima had strength in her voice that all panelists and audience members acknowledged.

Young women such as Hakima and the hard work of the panelists mentioned, show that much has to be done to help make urban areas safer for young women. Acknowledgment of the problem is the first step. In addition, more data has to be available about young girls in urban environments, in order for governments to acknowledge the magnitude of this issue. Some short-term solutions would be to increase the number of streetlights and create a safer haven for public restrooms, as Hakima mentioned. Some long-term solutions mentioned, were bringing men into the conversation and changing cultural views on how to approach women in public. In addition, encouraging governments to enforce policies and legislation that keep women safe were solutions proposed as well.

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet with youth delegates at the Youth Delegates Orientation

Executive Director of UN Women Meets Youth Delegates to the Commission on the Status of WomenAt the Youth Delegate Orientation at the 56th Session of CSW on February 26, 2012. Our interns Sophie, Victoria, and Charlotte are somewhere in this photo! Michelle Bachelet spoke to the girls about being the voice of youth and paving the way forward for the next generation. She believes that this generation of girls will be the ones to push words into actions.

Photo Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown