Yesterday, Laura Flanders, a MADRE board member and the host of GRITtv, made a commentary about the cycle of war, as a NATO attack in Afghanistan took more civilian lives this week. She wonders about what path we are forging, as violence leads to more violence. Watch the video on her site or below:
Every year the Center for Women’s Global Leadership runs the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign.
Starting on November 25 and chosen
for its significance, International Day Against Violence Against Women, the
campaign finishes on December 10, to
coincide with International Human
These 16 days symbolically highlight
the link between violence against women and human rights. Every year the campaign has
a different theme, and 2010 is the year of: ‘Structures
of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against
This year’s activist toolkit is now available for those interested in campaigning for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. The action kit includes:
campaign profile and a description of dates
list of participating organizations and countries
bibliography and resource list
list of suggested activities
current campaign announcement
information relevant to this year's theme
It can be found on the Women’s Global Leadership
website at: http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/16days/kit10/kit.html
As well as raising awareness of gender-based violence locally and internationally, the
campaign has been successful in creating
tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence
Join the effort and
advocate for the elimination of gender violence!
The New York Times recently featured a disturbing article about the current state of women's reproductive rights in Guanajuato, Mexico. In Guanajuato, a state located in central Mexico, women who receive abortions are being prosecuted as murderers.
Guanajuato's government has traditionally been headed by Roman Catholic conservatives, which is one reason for their radical approach to abortion, but as women's rights advocates and some health officials have said, Guanajuato is no exceptional case. According to them, a "broad move to enforce antiabortion laws has gained momentum in other parts of Mexico," most likely as a backlash against Mexico City's 2007 decision to legalize abortion for women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Under these strict antiabortion laws, women who do not give birth to a healthy baby are often suspected of "homicide." The result is that many women are too scared to seek medical care in cases of miscarriage or stillbirth, severely endangering their own health. Eight women in Guanajuato have been convicted of homicide and jailed in recent years, and according to women's health advocates, 166 investigations on abortion have been opened in Guanajuato in the past ten years.
MADRE stands firm against laws restricting access to abortion, especially in situations where women are criminalized for their choices. Such laws violate women's human rights. Mexico is unfortunately only one of many countries in which women are denied access to safe abortions.
In 2006, Nicaragua became the third country in the Western hemisphere to completely outlaw abortion. While most forms of abortion have been illegal in Nicaragua for over 100 years, the 2006 vote banned therapeutic abortion, thereby outlawing abortions in cases of incest, rape, or danger to the women's health or life. The result is the degradation of women's reproductive rights and an increase in cases of women seeking unsafe, illegal abortions. MADRE continues to work in Nicaragua to lift the ban. Together with other US-based and Nicaraguan organizations, MADRE took part in preparing an international legal challenge to Nicaragua's abortion ban. The complete ban on abortion has yet to be revoked, but MADRE has continued to advocate for the protection of Nicaraguan women's reproductive and human rights and for the end of the abortion ban.
On Saturday, MADRE Program Director Natalia Caruso and I went to the rally in NYC to demand that aid that has been pledged to Haiti be disbursed. One of the speakers at the rally was Eramithe Delva, one of the leaders of our sister organization in Haiti, KOFAVIV. Below is the video of her speech, as well as photos from the rally.
(Eramithe's speech begins at about 1:45.)
Last week, UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund), IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) and the Inter-Agency Network for Youth Development held an insightful panel discussion outlining the importance of involving young people and especially young women in the orchestration and implementation of the MDGs.
The case for investing in young people has never been stronger: statistics show that youth make up 30% of the average national population and up to 50% in some countries. Evidence has shown national poverty levels can be reduced by devoting time, money, education, health provisions and resources to young people. Making the voices and well-being of women and young people a priority not only makes economic sense; it also helps to ensure the sustainability of the development effort.
The event highlighted the topic of reproductive health and the benefits of educating and empowering young people, especially girls, about their sexual and reproductive choices. Currently 11% of births worldwide are by girls of the age between 15-19, many of whom who have only had the opportunity of limited education. Horrifyingly, every 14 seconds a young person becomes HIV positive and every year 3 million girls are subjected to female genital mutilation, with many suffering adverse consequences long after.
By improving education services and tackling negative social attitudes, many of these statistics could be greatly reduced. It has already been well documented that the better educated a mother is, the greater chance her children have not only of surviving but of leading a better and more healthy life.
The panelists, who included UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid and Gill Greer; Director General of the IPPF, called on the international community to stop ignoring the 1.8 billion young who are the makers of tomorrow and to involve them in MDG discussions. This would help to ensure that legislation and provisions for the youth are not based on ideology or assumptions, but on evidence and reality.
The International Indigenous Women's Forum (known by its Spanish acronym FIMI, Foro
Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas), a longtime MADRE partner, headed to the UN last week to take part in the international discussions concerning the MDGs.
FIMI advanced a position that states must make a greater commitment to ensuring the rights and protection of women and Indigenous Peoples across
the globe. While the MDGs have seen some success, millions of people are
still deprived of basic rights and resources which can help them to lead a
better and healthier life.
Indigenous Peoples are often disproportionately represented amongst the poor. They are denied the ability to determine their own patterns of sustainable consumption and production, and their poverty is not merely about income and material wealth. Access to and control over natural resources, as well as traditional
knowledge, contribute significantly to healthy livelihoods. Recognition of these needs, along with the understanding that poverty is a function of human rights violations, are vital.
In their statement, FIMI called upon states to promote and encourage; "…the full and effective participation of indigenous people's" as well as a greater role for women
the design, implementation and monitoring of MDG-related programmes and policies. These
are all measures which will dramatically improve the chances of achieving the MDG's.
role for womenin
Importantly, FIMI also drew attention to the impact climate change and environmental
degradation has on Indigenous communities and demanded that states recognize that fighting climate change does not only protect their way of life but also helps to fight poverty.
Read more from FIMI's statement here.
We've reached the eighth and final Millennium Development Goal! MDG 8 recognizes the need to Develop a Global Partnership for Development.
The targets MDG 8 outlines deal primarily with finances, trade, and partnerships with large-scale corporations and the private sector. Instead this approach to global partnership, MADRE and our sister organizations have long worked together towards common goals with a focus on grassroots partnerships. MADRE's mission has always been to work hand-in-hand with community-based groups around the world to create meaningful and necessary change. MADRE continues to work toward building global partnership, with local projects in places like Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Peru, and Sudan. On an international level, MADRE also partners with the International Indigenous Women's Forum (also known by its Spanish acronym FIMI) to increase the role of Indigenous women in decision-making positions, leadership, and advocacy.
With established local and international connections, we know that our model of partnership works. This week, as we've been following the discussion on the MDGs and posting information on our programs, this has been very clear to us. Any hope we have of achieving the MDGs will depend on the participation of community-based leaders, who have struggled against hunger, poverty, illness and discrimination and who have created local solutions.
After an in-depth look at the eight UN Millennium Development Goals, one key target is noticeably absent: Violence Against Women. The Millennium Development Goals fail to address violence against women as a target, even where discussion about this issue would be most salient (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women, Improve Maternal Health, and Combat HIV/AIDS).
MADRE, along with a multitude of other women's groups, have criticized the MDGs and the United Nations for neglecting this extremely critical issue (for MADRE's critique of the MDGs, click here.) As many as three-quarters of women and girls around the world experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. This in turn affects their ability to contribute fully to the improvement of their own lives, the lives of those around them, and the communities in which they live. Without acknowledging the "missing target" of Violence Against Women, the UN's chance of accomplishing the eight MDGs is severely diminished.
UNIFEM released a video about this "missing target" and the recent increase in gender-based violence in Haiti following the January 12th earthquake. MADRE has been working extensively with our sister organization in Haiti, KOFAVIV, to address the epidemic of violence against women since the earthquake. Watch UNIFEM's video below:
In 2000, world leaders representing all 191 countries that belong to the United Nations pledged to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. These goals aimed at tackling some of the most pressing threats of our time – gender discrimination, poverty, hunger, maternal mortality, and more – have since become the main framework for development policy worldwide.
They have even been adopted by many of the international agencies and banks that control the budgets of most poor countries, and they have been reflected in the budgeting priorities of the UN. Ultimately, the MDGs create opportunities for advancing women’s human rights, but only if we are able to participate effectively in the process of realizing the goals.
On September 20-22, the UN General Assembly has convened a high level plenary meeting to address progress towards achieving the MDGs, with five years remaining before the 2015 deadline. The clock is ticking, not only for those governments responsible for making the MDGs real in their own countries, but for the billions of people every day denied the right to food, health, education and more. As the UN strategizes a way forward, MADRE calls for an approach that is rooted in human rights and committed to ending gender discrimination.
What Do the Millennium Development Goals Mean for Women?
We're almost done with our week-long examination of the United Nations' eight Millennium Development Goals! MDG 7 seeks to Ensure Environmental Sustainability. Its targets are:
- integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources;
- reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss;
- halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation; and
- achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
Here, again, the United Nations has the opportunity to place women at the center as key actors in the world's agricultural economy.
In Panama, as a result of the environmental degradation of their rainforest, 95% of Panama's Indigenous groups live in poverty. The women that are responsible for providing their families with food and medicine are hard-hit by the destruction of the rainforest. Through our program, Defending People and Planet, MADRE supports community workshops that enable Indigenous women to recover Indigenous knowledge of biodiversity and secure agricultural seeds in danger of extinction. These women are also being trained in eco-tourism, providing them with income without risking further environmental degradation. Consequentially, poverty is eased while environmental destruction is reduced. Women are working to protect their environment, conserve biodiversity, and fight for their rights. As fundamental participants in the agricultural sector, women can also be the solution to ensuring environmental sustainability.
For more on climate change and environmental degradation, and its disproportionate impact on women, watch UNIFEM's video about the Colombian Wayuu people: