Amidst crisis, helping mothers and newborn to embrace life

15 Sep 2015 by Rasha Al-Shargabi, Field Manager, Youth Economic Empowerment Programme, UNDP in Yemen

two Yemeni womenA future midwife is training in filling out assessment forms as part of a national midwife association training on community mapping. Photo: Rasha Alshargabi/UNDP Yemen
Four-year-old Mohammed caught my eye with his naughty looks and the great amount of happiness housed his little body. I was amused watching him play with other children in the open ground in his village in Alsilw district, Taizz. Only later did I learn that his mother died during labor due to a lack of health care services. I thought of how the world would be for a little child without a mother nurturing him. … Read more

To promote women’s leadership in the public sector, we need better data

28 Aug 2015 by By Ciara Lee, Consultant, Gender Equality in Public Administration, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

Civil service support officers provide on-the-job training to their South Sudanese counterparts as part of a UNDP governance project. Photo: Brian Sokol/UNDP South Sudan
Public administration is the foundation of government and a major employer in most countries. As such, women’s participation in the civil service is vital for their economic empowerment as well as for improving the responsiveness and effectiveness of public services. While some progress has been achieved in terms of women’s political leadership, verifiable data on women’s participation in public administration is lacking. In response to this, UNDP launched the Gender Equality in Public Administration (GEPA) initiative. … Read more

Years of effort are paying off in the fight against female genital mutilation

09 Jun 2015 by Ignacio Artaza, Country Director, UNDP in Egypt

Egyptian women at meetingWomen attend a community meeting at Qena governorate to call to an end to female genital mutilation. Photo: UNDP in Egypt
I was recently in Aswan to meet with the local government, partner NGOs, and people working together to fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), a widely-spread practice in Egypt that predates both Christianity and Islam and was criminalized by Egyptian law in 2008. The commitment and dedication I found are not only commendable but quite encouraging: Whole communities are taking a firm stance against a traditional practice that has no religious, medical or moral basis, as declared by both Al Azhar and the Coptic Church. … Read more

To address women's poverty, we must make the invisible visible

20 May 2015 by Claudia Vinay, Policy Specialist on Economic Empowerment, Gender Team, UNDP

A Hmong woman and her child in Viet Nam.A Hmong woman and her child in Viet Nam. According to UN Women, women do two and a half times as much unpaid work as men, including caring for children, the elderly and the ill. Photo: Kibae Park/UN
“Let’s make the invisible visible.” This statement, by Argentina Minister of Social Development Alicia Kirchner, captured a recurrent theme at the global conference on women and social inclusion, recently co-hosted by UNDP in Buenos Aires. Despite gains that women have made over the past decades, there are still too many factors affecting women’s lives that are not recognized in public policies. … Read more

Whatever you call it, violence against women is never acceptable

07 Mar 2015 by Lucio Valerio Sarandrea, Chief Technical Advisor, Rule of Law, Kyrgyzstan

 Although local activists continue their efforts to stop the tradition of bride kidnapping, more work is needed to make a difference. Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan
Along with the beauty of its mountainous landscapes, one of the first things associated with Kyrgyzstan is the cruel phenomenon of bride kidnapping. This ritual involves ambushing a young woman and detaining her until she agrees to marry her kidnapper. I read a lot of sad stories about this practice coming from different countries in Central Asia and Africa, as well as trite justifications based on culture and poor economic conditions. But perhaps the most striking story I’ve heard is the personal account of a young woman I will call Roza. Roza has been kidnapped twice, first at the age of 19, then at 23. In both cases she clearly remembers the applause welcoming the kidnapper when he brought her home. It was as though they were heroes coming back from a victorious battle. She was the spoils. The first time, Roza was taken to a nicely set room and offered tea and plov while her potential mother-in-law praised the virtues of her son – “a hard worker and mild person”. Roza stubbornly refused the marriage. Many other female relatives joined the effort, the discussions eventually becoming very tense with shouting and threats. After a long night, she was eventually allowed … Read more

Gender equality: A human right critical for development progress

06 Mar 2015 by Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP

women in El SalvadorIn Sonsonate, El Salvador, UNDP promotes women’s economic empowerment as a way of reducing violence. Photo: UNDP El Salvador
This week, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which remains the world’s best blueprint for achieving gender equality and empowering women. The review of this visionary roadmap, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, is an opportunity to celebrate the world’s progress toward ensuring the rights and opportunities of women and girls, and also to renew and reinvigorate commitments to achieve gender equality. One of the great achievements of the Beijing Platform for Action was the clear recognition that women’s rights are human rights. Since that historic gathering in Beijing, when 17,000 participants and 30,000 activists gathered to voice and demonstrate their support for gender equality and women’s empowerment, there has been increasing recognition that gender equality, in addition to being a human right, is also critical to making development progress. If women and girls are not able to fully realize their rights and aspirations in all spheres of life, development will be impeded. Twenty years on, we can see both progress and challenges in the twelve areas of critical concern laid out in the Beijing Platform for Action. Gender parity in … Read more

Climate change and inequalities: How will this impact women?

15 Dec 2014 by Susan McDade, Deputy Director, Latin America and the Caribbean

Waorani woman cultivating Women are key drivers of sustainable development. (Photo: UNDP)
Of all the impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels to landslides and flooding, one does not get the attention it deserves: exacerbation of inequalities, particularly for women. In poor countries, women’s lives are often directly dependent on the natural environment. Women bear the main responsibility for supplying water and firewood for cooking and heating, as well as growing food. Drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation make these tasks more time-consuming and arduous, threaten women’s livelihoods and deprive them of time to learn skills, earn money and participate in community life. But the same societal roles that make women more vulnerable to environmental challenges also make them key actors for driving sustainable development. Their knowledge and experience can make natural resource management and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies at all levels more successful. Just look to Ecuadorian Amazon, where the Waorani women association (Asociación de Mujeres Waorani de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana) is promoting organic cocoa cultivation as a wildlife protection measure and a pathway to local sustainable development. With our support, the association is managing its land collectively and working toward zero deforestation, the protection of vulnerable wildlife species and the production of certified organic chocolate. In the process, women … Read more

A rural community calls for an end to FGM

01 Dec 2014 by Ignacio Artaza, Country Director, Egypt

 Communities in Qena are joining forces with international organizations and civil society to end FGM in Egypt. Photo credit: Jose Sanchez/UNDP Egypt
I recently visited the village of Beir Anbar in the district of Koft, Qena governorate, and listened to the powerful statement this community is conveying to the rest of the country to put an end to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The whole village, from young schoolchildren to village elders came together to denounce FGM as "violent", "wrong" and "harmful". Even today, many girls and young women are subjected to genital mutilation in the name of ‘tradition’. According to the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, at least 91 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation. The people of Beir Anbar made it clear that Egyptian girls and women deserve a new tradition – a tradition of protecting and safeguarding their rights. The joint efforts of families, community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out this traditional harmful practice. Let us be clear: there is no justification – moral, religious, cultural, medical or otherwise for this practice. ‘Cutting’ demeans, dehumanizes and injures. It is a human rights violation that must be actively opposed until it is ended. As we gathered inside the community centre, a group of … Read more

The lessons from the ground on Gender-based Violence

25 Nov 2014 by Diego Antoni, Policy Specialist, Gender, Governance and Crisis Prevention and Recovery

girls from QenaGirls from Qena where the whole community has joined forces to end FGM. Photo credit: Jose Sanchez/UNDP
To commemorate this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, our innovation lab in Egypt will work with young people to develop an IT application that helps victims report cases of gender-based violence (GBV). The space offered to these young champions of the GBV cause is just one of many examples of how social innovation is providing solutions to tackle and prevent violence.   Across the world, similar bottom-up initiatives pick new angles to address GBV. In Uganda, the organization Raising Voices has developed an ambitious project called SASA! It explains to social activists  what power means, both its positive and negative uses, and has successfully reduced community tolerance of GBV. In Azerbaijan, an  organization for gender equality explores different cultural values –what they call “national values”- that can help raise awareness about the need to reduce GBV. Many of these initiatives focus on making the voices of the people heard. Also in Uganda, the Manya Human Rights International Film Festival is providing film training for marginalized women so that they can tell their own stories through documentaries. As the UN-led consultations on the Post-2015 agenda have shown, people who participated in the discussions care and are willing … Read more

Making innovation work to end gender-based violence: The search for better feedback loops

25 Nov 2014 by Benjamin Kumpf, Innovation Specialist

Egyptian girlsIn Egypt, the joint efforts of community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out the traditional harmful practice of FGM. Photo credit: UNDP/Egypt
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is a reminder that more needs to be done to address gender-based violence (GBV). Globally, one out of three women experiences violence in her lifetime, most likely committed by a partner or family member. Given the prevalence and persistence of GVB across the globe it is necessary to strive to find more effective solutions with the people we work for. In UNDP, we explore innovations to address GVB based on our multi-sectoral approach to prevent violence against women. In this context, innovation is merely the logical result of taking our mandate seriously. While technology is an important accelerator for innovation, we do not equate innovation with technology. “Think change, not technology” is an important principle for marrying gender equality and innovation. Leveraging technology for advocacy provides us with the great opportunity to broaden the scope of influence but this requires dedicated efforts and communications in a language that our target audiences actually understand. In Nepal, for example, UNDP, through short video clips and quizzes, challenged young Nepalese women and men to rethink dominant gender norms. The clips are shared via social media and a specific focus is put on reaching audiences … Read more