People's Stories Women's Rights

Digital platform aims to revolutionise pursuit of girls rights
by Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen
Plan International
The Girls'' Rights Platform reveals the gaps in laws and policies that are failing girls and aims to revolutionise the way information can be used to advance gender equality worldwide.
Launching the groundbreaking digital initiative - the Girls’ Rights Platform today, Plan International said that girls are practically invisible in laws and policies worldwide leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and abuse of their rights.
“Too often girls are falling between the dominant agendas of women’s and children’s rights. There is hardly any reference to girls or recognition of their needs in international laws. This is nothing less than scandalous,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International.
The Girls’ Rights Platform is the first of its kind human rights database created to help campaigners and policy-makers to bridge this huge gap and shine a light on girls’ rights and their plight. It brings together more than 1,400 international policy documents and allows users to run extensive searches to reveal crucial trends and gaps in gender equality for girls.
The database has been created to serve as the go-to place for researching and accessing all international policy and legislation related to girls’ rights. The Platform aims to revolutionise the way information can be used to advance gender equality worldwide, and will be regularly updated with latest legal and policy documents.
“Girls are one of the largest excluded groups in the world. They face discrimination and abuse simply for being young and female. Plan International’s years of research has shown that at all stages of their early lives up to adulthood girls face distinct disadvantages that are directly related to this double burden of discrimination,” said Ms. Albrectsen.
Millions of girls are disproportionately disadvantaged in education, health, work, and family life - particularly in the world’s poorest countries. These challenges become more even more severe where factors such as poverty, ethnicity or disability overlap.
“We can’t resolve what we don’t know. Unless we fully understand the scale and spread of gender inequality in our policies and systems, we cannot protect the futures of millions of girls.
The Girls’ Rights Platform gives this critical knowledge and power to advocates of girls’ rights to challenge this unacceptable reality and hold governments and decision-makers to account,” said Ms. Albrectsen.
“Girls deserve the full protection of their governments, and support from their families and communities. When a girl can grow up safe, happy and healthy with full enjoyment of her rights, she can grow up to reach her full potential.”
A new research report by Plan International: Girls’ Rights are Human Rights – made possible by the database – reveals the extent to which international law overlooks girls’ rights, effectively rendering them invisible. It shows that age and gender-neutral approaches are shaping international law-making, shifting attention away from girls.
“International human rights law is failing to protect girls from discrimination. Even though the concept of girls’ rights has gained ground over time, politics, biased interpretation of international law, weak language in treaties, and sheer unwillingness of States to protect girls’ rights have stalled this progress,” said Anne-Sophie Lois, Head of Plan International’s UN Office in Geneva.
“This failure means girls in many parts of the world do not even hold autonomy over their bodies, let alone reach their full potential. It’s time to act to change this.”
Plan International is calling on the international community to make sure girls are visible and to ensure they are heard. The organisation is advocating for a radical change in the UN and international processes, in order to bridge the gap between women’s and children’s rights where girls’ specific needs are currently ignored.
“Girls require targeted actions that take into account their lived realities. States must intentionally and explicitly address the double burden of age and gender-based discrimination faced by girls in their laws and policies,” said Ms. Lois.
“We also need to understand that girls’ rights are not just about their vulnerabilities, but also about their great power and potential. We won’t make any difference if we don’t urgently change our approach.”

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International Women’s Day 2018
by UN Women, agencies
Mar. 2018
The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March, is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.
This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. This has taken the form of global marches and campaigns, including #MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States of America and their counterparts in other countries, on issues ranging from sexual harassment and femicide to equal pay and women’s political representation.
Echoing the priority theme of the upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, International Women’s Day will also draw attention to the rights and activism of rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world population, and are being left behind in every measure of development.
Join us to transform the momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and to celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential. The #TimeisNow.
This International Women’s Day, UN Women celebrates the rural and urban activists who have transformed the lives of women around the world. From grassroots campaigns to global movements, women’s activism over the decades has paved the way for women’s rights and a more equal future.
Feb. 2018
Without firm action on gender equality, women’s empowerment, world may miss development targets
Without speedy progress on gender equality and real action to end pervasive discrimination against women and girls, the global community will not be able to keep the promise to ‘leave no one behind’ on the road to ending poverty, protecting the planet and advancing prosperity by 2030, according to a new United Nations report.
“This is an urgent signal for action, and the report recommends the directions to follow,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, said at the launch of the new report, Turning promises into action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Speaking to reporters she said: “As a world, we committed through the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] to leave no one behind,” but the report reveals many areas where progress remains slow to achieve the Goals by 2030.
Even where progress is made, it may not reach the women and girls who need it most and the ones that are being left furthest behind,” explained Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Turning promises into action makes in-depth case studies in the Colombia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, United States and Uruguay, looking at what is necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
Focusing on unpaid care work and ending violence against women, the comprehensive report examines all 17 SDGs and how deeply intertwined the different dimensions of well-being and deprivation are in impacting the lives of women and girls.
As one example, it points out that a girl born into poverty and forced into early marriage is more likely to drop out of school, give birth at an early age, suffer childbirth complications and experience violence – a scenario that encompasses all the SDGs.
New data in 89 countries reveals that there are more women than men living on less than $1.90 a day – much of which is explained by the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work women face, especially during their reproductive years.
Looking beyond national averages, glaring gaps are uncovered between women and girls who, even within the same country, are living in worlds apart because of income status, race, ethnicity or location.
While the report addresses how to tackle existing structural inequalities and what is needed to move from promises to action, progress remains slow.
“It’s a problem in all countries, developed, developing, north, south, east west,” Shahrashoub Razavi, UN Women’s Chief of Research and Data, told UN News.
“We have a long way to go to achieve gender equality universally,” she added, calling it “a problem that stymies the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media, by Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
Information and communication technologies have the potential to open up new worlds of ideas and the media – television, newspapers, advertising, blogs, social networks, film – is increasingly omnipresent in the lives of many of us. In line with one of the major themes of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, UNESCO is assessing how the media and ICTs shape the lives of women.
In the mass media,women are often relegated to archetypical roles, or to peripheral characters. They are often underrepresented and are more likely to be portrayed as passive victims.
When women in the media are reduced to stereotypes it is deeply damaging psychologically. Films continue to fail the simple “Bechdel Test” to measure gender bias, created by satirist Alison Bechdel, whereby two female characters talk to each other about something other than a man.
In advertising – a good litmus test for public attitudes – cleaning products still tend to be pitched to women whilst ads for banks, cars and other major financial investments are pitched to men.
Alas, nearly 40 years on, the words of Margaret Gallagher in her 1979 UNESCO report The Portrayal and Participation of Women in the Media (the first major global report on the subject) still ring true: “The media have been observed to lag behind change in the broader social system. For even if, in many cases, the media cannot realistically be expected to initiate change, they can certainly be expected to reflect it.”
In the news media, some progress has been made. But the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project Report made some alarming conclusions: women still make up less than a quarter of the persons featured in newspapers, television and radio news and only 13% of stories specifically focus on women. Fewer than one in five experts interviewed by the media are women, and not only because they are underrepresented in the respective fields of expertise.
This means that major issues that affect women’s lives do not make it into the global conversation: the pay gap, voice and representation in public spheres, the challenges of balancing family with career, spouse and child abuse, the culture of victim-shaming of survivors of rape and harassment.
Part of the root problem is that women are under-represented in newsrooms: female reporters are responsible for only one third of all stories.
Yet, extrapolating from the Global Media Monitoring 2010 report, female reporters are more likely to challenge stereotypes and ensure gender equality in their coverage.
Through our Gender Sensitive Indicators for Media,UNESCO is providing guidance for policy-makers, editors and journalists to avoid falling into the pitfalls of archetypal gender roles and ensuring women’s participation. And since 2000, the UNESCO Women Make the News initiative has encouraged newsrooms to promote content related to women and encourage female journalists.
When women’s voices are heard, it makes a real difference to their lives. One woman, trained in Tanzania through UNESCO’s Local Radio Programme, described how women reporters mounted pressure on the authorities to arrest an accused rapist. This amplified call for justice could no longer fall on deaf ears.
It is not just mass media, the internet has changed the way we use, contribute to and comment on media. It has the power to remedy asymmetries. Unfortunately, the internet often replicates these problems and has, in fact, thrown up new challenges. For example, only 17% of Wikipedia’s profiles relate to women and their achievements, according to the Wikimedia Foundation.
To redress this balance, this Women’s Day we are running a “editathon” with some 100 volunteers who will create and update pages about dozens of women who have contributed to knowledge in the fields of science, culture and education – the core of UNESCO’s work.
Creating information is not enough if it cannot be used. Across the world too many women still cannot unleash the broader potential of mobile technologies to gain access to information.
A recent Broadband Commission report, co-authored by UNESCO, concluded that there were over 250 million fewer women online than men that year due to a widening gender gap in digital skills, which actually exacerbates existing power imbalances. This is why UNESCO supports women and girls access to ICTs through our flagship Mobile Learning Week, which this year will focus on Skills for a Connected World.
Even for those women with access, the internet has opened up a new arena in which they are subject to sexual harassment, rape and violence threats, and cyberstalking. For example, a 2014 study conducted by the think tank Demos found that on Twitter, female journalists receive nearly three times as much abuse as male journalists.
The subject is, as yet, under-researched but UNESCO is working to address online abuse, particularly aimed at women, through our Media and Information Literacy programme.
Young generations are sometimes described as digital natives – skilled in media and ICTs. This International Women’s Day is our chance to find ways to ensure that all women and girls also have the opportunities to become digital citizens, empowered to access and participate equitably in our global knowledge society.

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