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Fighting discrimination and violence against women and girls
by UN Women, OHCHR, agencies
2:16pm 28th Aug, 2018
#HearMeToo, by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
One in three women experience violence in their lifetime, across all social status, class, race, country or age groups. That's one too many. For many of them, the #MeToo moment hasn't come yet, because speaking out can have fatal consequences, and survival is a long and complicated journey.
Today we stand at a tipping point. Global activists movements have shown us that when our voices come together, it is possible to challenge the historical power imbalances and affect lasting change.
Fighting discrimination and violence against women and girls is at the core of UN Women's mandate. And, we know that there are solutions that can unlock the transformational change we want to see, such as: a comprehensive approach that includes laws along with decisive implementation to protect women and girls from violence; prevention that starts at an early age and the provision of services accessible to all survivors.
We still do not know the full extent of violence against women, as the fear of reprisals, impact of not being believed, and the stigma borne by the survivor -not the perpetrator - have silenced the voices of millions of survivors of violence and masked the true extent of women's continued horrific experiences.
In the recent past, grassroots activists and survivors, as well as global movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #BalanceTonPorc, #NiUnaMenos, HollaBack! and #TotalShutdown have converted isolation into global sisterhood.
They are making offenders accountable, exposing the prevalence of violence from high office to factory floor. Today's global movements are setting collective demands for accountability and action and calling for the end of impunity, to ensure the human rights of all women and girls.
This year's theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is Orange the World: #HearMeToo. It aims to honour and further amplify voices, whether a housewife at home, a schoolgirl abused by her teacher, an office secretary, a sportswoman, or a boy who is an intern in a business, bringing them together across locations and sectors in a global movement of solidarity.
It is a call to listen to and believe survivors, to end the culture of silencing and to put the survivors at the centre of the response. The focus must change from questioning the credibility of the victim, to pursuing the accountability of the perpetrator.
Those who have spoken out have helped us understand better just how much sexual harassment has been normalized and even justified as an inevitable part of a woman's life. Its ubiquity has helped it seem a minor, everyday inconvenience that can be ignored or tolerated, with only the really horrific events being worthy of the difficulty of reporting. This is a vicious cycle that has to stop.
#HearMeToo is therefore also a strong call to law enforcement. It is deeply wrong that the vast majority of perpetrators of violence against women and girls face no consequences. Only a minority of cases are ever reported to the police; an even smaller percentage result in charges, and in only a fraction of those cases is there a conviction.
Police and judicial institutions must take reports seriously, and prioritize the safety and wellbeing of survivors, for example by making more female officers available for women reporting violence.
Laws must recognize that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination against women and a human rights violation, both expressing and re-generating inequality, that occurs in many arenas of life, from schools to workplaces, in public spaces and online. If laws protect both formal and informal workplaces, the most vulnerable workers, like those dependent on tips from customers for their income, will have a better chance to speak out against abuse, and be heard.
Employers themselves in every country can make vital impacts by independently enforcing standards of behaviour that reinforce gender equality and zero tolerance for any form of abuse.
UN Women is at the forefront of efforts to end all forms of violence against women and girls through the work we do, from our UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women that benefited over 6 million individuals last year, to the Spotlight initiative, which is the largest ever single investment in the elimination of violence against women and girls worldwide, to our work on safe cities and safe public spaces. This year, together with you, we aim to support all those whose voices are still not yet being heard.
* UN Women: Global Database on Violence against Women; Country Hotlines for Domestic Violence Victims/Survivors:
The world's most dangerous countries for women 2018 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
India was named as the world's most dangerous country for women in a survey by global experts this week.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of about 550 experts on women's issues ranked war-torn Afghanistan and Syria in second and third place, with Somalia and Saudi Arabia next.
The survey was a repeat of a similar poll in 2011 which ranked the most dangerous countries for women as Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia.
It asked which five of the 193 United Nations member states were most dangerous for women and the worst for healthcare, economic resources, traditional practices, sexual and non-sexual abuse, and human trafficking.
Here is the list of the 10 countries ranked as the most dangerous for women by the survey, conducted between in May:
INDIA - Tops the list, with levels of violence against women still running high, more than five years after the rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi sparked national outrage and government pledges to tackle the issue. India ranked as the most dangerous on three issues - the risks women face from sexual violence and harassment, from cultural and traditional practices, and from human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude.
AFGHANISTAN - Second in the list, with experts saying women face dire problems nearly 17 years after the overthrow of the Taliban. Ranked as the most dangerous country for women in three areas - non-sexual violence, access to healthcare, and access to economic resources.
SYRIA - Third after seven years of civil war. Ranked as second most dangerous country for women in terms of access to healthcare and non-sexual violence, which includes conflict-related violence as well as domestic abuse. Joint third with the United States on the risks women face of sexual abuse.
SOMALIA - Fourth after being mired in conflict since 1991. Ranked as third most dangerous country for women in terms of access to healthcare and for putting them at risk of harmful cultural and traditional practices. Named as fifth worst in terms of women having access to economic resources.
SAUDI ARABIA - Overall fifth, but the conservative kingdom was named the second most dangerous country for women in terms of economic access and discrimination, including in the workplace and in terms of property rights. Fifth in terms of the risks women face from cultural and religious practices.
PAKISTAN - Sixth most dangerous and fourth worst in terms of economic resources and discrimination as well as the risks women face from cultural, religious and traditional practices, including so-called honour killings. Pakistan ranked fifth on non-sexual violence, including domestic abuse.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Listed as seventh with the United Nations warning millions of people face "hellish living conditions" after years of factional bloodshed and lawlessness. Ranked as second most dangerous country for women as regards sexual violence, and between seventh and ninth in four other questions.
YEMEN - Eighth in the list after ranking poorly on access to healthcare, economic resources, risk from cultural and traditional practices, and non-sexual violence. Yemen is still reeling from the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis with 22 million people in need of vital assistance.
NIGERIA - Ranked as ninth, with human rights groups accusing the country's military of torture, rape and killing civilians during a nine-year fight against Boko Haram militants. Nigeria was named fourth most dangerous country along with Russia when it came to human trafficking. It listed sixth worst on the risks women face from traditional practices.
UNITED STATES - The only Western nation in the top 10 and joint third with Syria for the risks women face in terms of sexual violence, including rape, sexual harassment, coercion into sex and a lack of access to justice in rape cases. The survey came after the #MeToo campaign went viral last year, with thousands of women using the social media movement to share stories of sexual harassment or abuse.
Sexual harassment is the number one safety risk facing girls. (Plan International)
Sexual harassment is the number one safety risk facing girls and young women across the world, according to a survey of global experts in 22 cities released this week. The survey is the first of its kind to examine the safety risks facing girls and young women in so many different cities across the world.
Almost 400 experts across six continents took part in the online perception-based survey. The specialists were drawn from the fields of women's rights, children's rights and urban safety. Of those experts, 60% said sexual harassment in their city is never or hardly ever reported to the authorities.
Sexual violence was also believed to be worrying prevalent in cities across the world, with 57% of experts describing it as an extremely high or high risk for girls and young women in their city. Almost half (47%) said it occurs either very or fairly often in public. Over a third (35%) said it was never or hardly ever reported to the authorities.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said:
Cities offer enormous opportunities for girls and young women but as this pioneering research shows, they are also incredibly dangerous places which can have life-changing consequences for them.
Cities in developing countries are growing at an unprecedented rate. By 2030, millions of girls will live in urban areas. We must act now or we're at risk of denying an entire generation of girls their right to learn, earn and play an active role in society.
* Plan International report:
* How laws around the world are failing to protect women and girls from sexual violence. (Equality Now 2017):
70% of worl'd's hungry are women, says UN expert on the right to food
Women account for 70 per cent of the world's hungry, and are disproportionately affected by malnutrition, yet they are responsible for more than half of global food production, said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver.
Faced with discrimination on multiple levels, women's right to access food is affected at all stages of life. Indeed women in many countries receive less food than their male partners, as a result of their lower social status, said Ms. Elver launching her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council.
Social segregation based on gender, when combined with other forms of discrimination grounded on religion, race, ethnicity, class and caste, disadvantage women even further, added the expert.
Despite their critical contribution to world food and agricultural production, women face difficulties in maintaining household incomes due to increased competition with imported agricultural goods, reduced prices, and declining commodity prices in international market, as well as in engaging in market activities when cultural norms make it socially unacceptable for them to interact with men.
Migrant women workers with precarious immigration status and indigenous women are particularly vulnerable, said the Special Rapporteur.
Closing the gender gap in agriculture requires the development of gender-sensitive policies. Ensuring land rights, reinforcing the rights of girls and women to education and social protection and increasing women's participation in decision-making in a meaningful manner are critical, stressed the independent expert.
Increasing women's access to and control over assets has been shown to have positive effects on important human development outcomes, including household food security, child nutrition, education and women's well-being and status within the home and community, she added.
The Special Rapporteur encourages States to focus on gender-sensitive policies in all fields, particularly in the context of climate change, in order to achieve further improvements in women's access to their right to food.
Respecting, protecting and fulfilling women's rights will inevitably solve broader problems in food systems in general and can help communities achieve improved development outcomes, concluded Ms. Elver.
* Access the report:
Why the majority of the world's poor are women. (OHCHR, agencies)
Gender inequality is one of the oldest and most pervasive forms of inequality in the world. It denies women their voices, devalues their work and make women's position unequal to men's, from the household to the national and global levels.
Despite some important progress to change this in recent years, in no country have women achieved economic equality with men, and women are still more likely than men to live in poverty.
Lower-paid, unpaid, undervalued: gender inequality in work
Low wages. Across the world, women are in the lowest-paid work. Globally, they earn 23 percent less than men and at the current rate of progress, it will take 170 years to close the gap. 700 million fewer women than men are in paid work.
Lack of decent work. 75 percent of women in developing regions are in the informal economy - where they are less likely to have employment contracts, legal rights or social protection, and are often not paid enough to escape poverty. 600 million are in the most insecure and precarious forms of work.
Unpaid care work. Women do at least twice as much unpaid care work, such as childcare and housework, as men - sometimes 10 times as much, often on top of their paid work. The global value of this work each year is estimated at $10 trillion - which is equivalent to one-eighth of the world's entire GDP.
Longer work days. Women work longer days than men when paid and unpaid work is counted together. That means globally, a young woman today will work on average the equivalent of four years more than a man over her lifetime.
Increasing women's economic equality would reduce poverty for everyone
Gender inequality in the economy costs women in developing countries $9 trillion a year a sum which would not only give new spending power to women and benefit their families and communities, but would also provide a massive boost to the economy as a whole.
Countries with higher levels of gender equality tend to have higher income levels, and evidence from a number of regions and countries shows closing the gap leads to reduction in poverty.
In Latin America for instance, an increase in the number of women in paid work between 2000 and 2010 accounted for around 30 percent of the overall reduction in poverty and income inequality.
Supporting women to have access to quality and decent work and improve their livelihoods is therefore vital for fulfilling women's rights, reducing poverty and attaining broader development goals.
Women's economic empowerment is a key part of achieving this. We need a human economy that works for women and men alike, and for everyone, not just a few.
Sep. 2018
2.7 billion women worldwide are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men, highlights Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Research suggests that if women could fully participate in the global economy, they would contribute up to 28 trillion dollars to annual global GDP by the year 2025. That's a 26% increase compared with a business-as-usual scenario and especially significant in an age of economic crises, and as we work to deliver the 2030 Agenda.
Empowering women unlocks economic potential at every level in society from the State, through private companies and state-run enterprises, to individual women, their families and their communities.
Gender inequality is damaging to society as a whole. In terms of health, lifespan, participative, representative institutions, there is just simply no contest, no argument. It is clear that addressing discrimination against women can be a very powerful driver of positive outcomes.
But that's not all. Beyond the economic case, the human rights case is also overwhelming.
Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration proclaimed, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". And these words, which are very simple, are also - if you pause to think about it profound. All of us are of equal value. All of us, inherently have a right to freedom, freedom from fear, and from want, but also freedom of choice, in the most fundamental ways, including the freedom to make basic decisions about our lives.
Women's autonomy, choice and rights lead to greater economic growth: I think that's clear, since we make up one-half the population of the world. And this is also more sustainable growth, because it is more broadly based and more deeply beneficial.
But women's empowerment also matters because women matter, and their choices matter. Let us not forget to focus on that. We cannot empower women and girls unless we are respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights.
We have seen real transformations in this respect in recent decades. Fundamental changes in law, in many countries, have empowered women. For millions of women though not all there has been a substantial extension of their available choices, and of their effective rights.
It is in no way perfect, and it is not easy: this has been in some ways a painful struggle, and I know that. But women's rights have been progressing, across the board. Yet important obstacles still exist.
According to the World Bank, 2.7 billion women worldwide are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.
Many others impose or endorse discriminatory restrictions on women and girls, including access to property rights, pensions, welfare benefits and loans. And that is strange because it is well-known that women pay back their loans better than men.
Confronting obstacles to women's economic empowerment means making reforms across an enormous range of issues. We need more work to guarantee women's and adolescent girls' right to health, including access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Women's economic potential is significantly reduced by unintended pregnancies, sexual and reproductive ill-health, and limited access to family planning. Further exclusion is driven by the ongoing stigma around menstruation, breast-feeding and the menopause.
It should be clear that unless we are able to improve family planning, eliminate preventable maternal mortality, ensure access to contraception, avoid child marriages and other important steps, we will be unable to achieve, not only SDG 5 -- gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls but also the 2030 Agenda overall.
Let me take another example. Current economic models do not take into account unpaid care and domestic work - even though the formally defined economy cannot be sustained without that work. To facilitate women's participation in the formal economy, there needs to be a more balanced and equal share of unpaid domestic and care responsibilities. Programs such as parental leave and flexible work or childcare programmes are key.
But to effect these changes, we also need deep shifts in the rigidly conceived notions of masculinity and feminity, which impede women's full participation in school, in neighbourhoods, in politics, across society and at home.
We need more dialogue around the whole range of issues that impact women's rights and autonomy. We need strong policies, which take into account the lived reality of women and girls, and we need to involve women and girls - particularly from marginalized and excluded groups in these conversations.
Unfortunately, what we are seeing in many countries today is strong resistance to important elements of the women's rights agenda. In several States there have been attempts to pass laws or enact policy changes aimed at controlling, or limiting, women's freedom to make choices about their lives.
As ever, those who pay the heaviest cost for these policies are the most marginalized women and girls.
The struggle for the equality, dignity and rights for women - as for everyone - needs to be constant and active. It needs to be front and centre of everything we do. It needs to be principled, it needs to be visible, and it needs to be unsparing.
Not only because women's empowerment is a key, core goal for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development since it delivers, powerfully, both in development, and in development which is sustainable. Not only because women's empowerment drives economic growth, and many other benefits for all of society.
But because this is what "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" means. It means everyone.
Women's rights are intrinsic to human rights. And the absence - the refusal of women's empowerment and women's human rights - undercuts the choice and the freedom of millions of human beings. This is one of the most fundamental injustices of our time.
Oct. 2017
State of World Population 2017 (UNFPA)
Unless inequality is urgently tackled and the poorest women empowered to make their own decisions about their lives, countries could face unrest and threats to peace and development, according the The State of World Population 2017, published by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
The costs of inequalities, including in sexual and reproductive health and rights, could extend to the entire global community's goals, adds the new UNFPA report, entitled, Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality.
Failure to provide reproductive health services, including family planning, to the poorest women can weaken economies and sabotage progress towards the number one sustainable development goal, to eliminate poverty.
Economic inequality reinforces and is reinforced by other inequalities, including those in women's health, where only a privileged few are able to control their fertility, and, as a result, can develop skills, enter the paid labour force and gain economic power.
Inequality in countries today is not only about the haves and have nots, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem says. Inequality is increasingly about the cans and cannots. Poor women who lack the means to make their own decisions about family size or who are in poor health because of inadequate reproductive health care dominate the ranks of the cannots.
In most developing countries, the poorest women have the fewest options for family planning, the least access to antenatal care and are most likely to give birth without the assistance of a doctor or midwife.
Limited access to family planning translates into 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions in developing countries annually. This not only harms women's health, but also restricts women's ability to join or stay in the paid labour force and move towards financial independence, the report argues.
Lack of access to related services, such as affordable child care, also stops women from seeking jobs outside the home. For women who are in the labour force, the absence of paid maternity leave and employers discrimination against those who become pregnant amount to a motherhood penalty, forcing many women to choose between a career and parenthood.
Countries that want to tackle economic inequality can start by tackling other inequalities, such as in reproductive health and rights, and tearing down social, institutional and other obstacles that prevent women from realizing their full potential, Dr. Kanem says.
The UNFPA report recommends focusing on the furthest behind first, in line with the United Nations blueprint for achieving sustainable development and inclusive societies by 2030. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has envisaged a better future, one where we collectively tear down the barriers and correct disparities, the report states. Reducing all inequalities needs to be the aim. Some of the most powerful contributions can come from realizing...women's reproductive rights.
* The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA reaches millions of women and young people in 155 countries and territories.
* Stockholm Forum on Gender Equality (April 2018) focusing on critical issues related to women's and girls human rights, the sessions are available to view online:
* The Women, Peace, and Security Index offers a measure of women's wellbeing and empowerment in 153 countries on both peace and security and women's inclusion and justice:
* UN WebTV High-level Panel - 68th Session Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. (Nov. 2017):
* ILO: : Women in the labour market, care work:

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