Women’s Resistance, Inequality Marks 2018

United Nations Women and partners in Colombia organised a public concert in November and lit public buildings in orange calling for women’s right to live a life free of violence. However, despite the rise in women’s resistance, women’s rights continue to be sidelined and increasingly face blatant attacks, according to Amnesty International. Courtesy: UN Women

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Despite the rise in women’s resistance, women’s rights continue to be sidelined and increasingly face blatant attacks, Amnesty International said.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Amnesty International launched its annual report reviewing the state of human rights around the world—and it doesn’t look good.

“In 2018, we witnessed many of these self-proclaimed ‘tough guy’ leaders trying to undermine the very principle of equality – the bedrock of human rights law. They think their policies make them tough, but they amount to little more than bully tactics trying to demonise and persecute already marginalised and vulnerable communities,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo in the foreword of the report.

Amnesty’s Director of Gender, Sexuality, and Identity Yamini Mishra echoed similar sentiments to IPS, noting that these “tough guys leaders” have come into power using misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic platforms.

“It is very distressing,” she said.

But among the rays of hope is women-led movements, Mishra added.

While the #MeToo movement has captured international attention, women have mobilised mass movements on women’s rights around the world in the past year at a scale never seen before.

In Argentina, one million women took to the streets demanding the legalisation of abortion, while in Nigeria thousands of displaced women mobilised for justice for the abuses they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces.

“Mobilisation really comes from people,” Mishra told IPS.

While some of these movements were galvanised in response to newer forms of oppression, others are against old forms of discrimination that have no place in today’s society.

Mishra pointed to India where earlier this year, a group of women activists advocated for their right to participate in a historic pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple, one of the holiest sites in Hinduism which has long barred entry to women of menstruating age.

While the Right to Pray movement successfully led to the Supreme Court overturning the ban, violent protests have erupted in the southern state of Kerala as devotees block women from entering the temple.

It is thus hard to celebrate the rise of women’s activism as the stark reality is that many governments and societies continue to support policies and laws that oppress women, this year’s ‘Rights Today’ report found.

This can especially be seen around sexual and reproductive health rights.

El Salvador has some of the stricter abortion policies in the world as women can be jailed if they are suspected of having an abortion.

Almost 30 women are reportedly incarcerated under the policy.

In February, Teodora del Carmen Vasquez was released after spending a decade in prison after having pregnancy-related complications which resulted in a stillbirth.

Despite protests against the draconian law,  the country failed to pass a reform to decriminalise abortion in April, leaving women and girls with no control over their reproductive and sexual health.

Mishra particularly expressed concern over the increasing attacks on women human rights defenders (WHRDs).

According to Front Line Defenders, approximately 44 WHRDs were killed in 2017, an increase from 40 in 2016 and 30 in 2015.

Among those killed in 2018 was Marielle Franco, a Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was shot in her car in March.

Women activists have also been jailed around the world including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, Saudi activists who led the movement fighting for women’s right to drive.

Amnesty International recently found that several Saudi Arabian activists, including women, have also faced sexual harassment and torture while in detention.

Such attacks on human rights defenders is not happening in a vacuum, but rather in a world where civil society space is shrinking, Mishra noted.

“It is important for us to recognise that even the shrinking of civil society space is not gender-neutral…women human rights defenders as opposed to male human rights defenders face specific kinds of vulnerabilities and heightened vulnerabilities,” she said.

Mishra highlighted the need for action at all levels to achieve human rights for all, but civil society in particular must step up.

“All these years, human rights organisations have really not done enough on women’s rights. We’ve always treated it as a secondary kind of issue…now that it has been 70 years of UDHR, it is time for us to think how do we really bring women to the centre of our work,” she told IPS.

The report urges civil society and governments to raise their commitments to uphold women’s rights, and implement changes to harmful national laws.

Naidoo particularly pointed to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), whose 40th anniversary is soon approaching, will be an “important milestone that the world cannot afford to overlook.”

While CEDAW is the second most ratified human rights treaty, with 189 state parties, the non-legally binding document allows states to reject provisions.

For instance, Kuwait reserved its right to not implement Article 9 which grants women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.

Niger expressed reservation to Article 2 which states the need to refrain from engaging in any act of discrimination against women and to modify and abolish existing laws and practices which constitute such discrimination.

“Governments must stop merely paying lip-service to women’s rights. If the undeniable surge of women’s activism this year proves anything, it is that people will not accept this. And neither will we,” Naidoo wrote.

Study Shows How African Countries are Preparing for Green Development

A wind energy generation plant located in Loiyangalani in northwestern Kenya. The plant is set to be the biggest in Africa, generating 300 MW. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

In order for African countries to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), they will require further human capacity building, and there must be involvement of the private sector from the start of the planning process.

This is according to preliminary findings of a study on green growth trends and readiness across the continent jointly conducted by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The NDCs spell out the actions countries intend to take to address climate change, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation, and the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The early findings of the report titled Green Growth Readiness Assessment in Africa was released on the sidelines of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland yesterday Dec. 10. Seven countries; Morocco, Tunisia Senegal Gabon, Rwanda Kenya and Mozambique, were selected for the pilot phase.

The scientists presented the findings as climate talks in Katowice entered the second week of negotiations, a stage where political leaders decide whether or not to adapt recommendations brought forth following the first week of technical engagements.

The report stated that high-level political commitment, appropriate policies and implementation of government strategic plans are the key drivers of green growth among African countries.

“Governments need to look at this [NDCs and SDGs] as commercial business opportunities,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the Director General for GGGI. Surprisingly, he said, “I have asked a number of private investors as to why they do not invest in this sector, and the answer is not lack of finances, instead they say it is because of government policies.”

The need for sound policies was reiterated by Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the AfDB, who said that there must be an enabling environment for countries to achieve the much-desired green growth.

“After this assessment report, findings will be shared across the board so that countries can learn from each other,” said Nyong.

According to Dr. Pranab Baruah, one of the lead researchers from GGGI, some of the seven countries in the study have demonstrated high level leadership commitment that confirms their willingness to implement a green growth model.

In Kenya, for example, the researchers said that there is a National Climate Change Council that is chaired by the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. The council oversees the implementation of the National Climate Change Action Plan and also advises national and sub-national bodies on mainstreaming, legislative and implementation measures for climate change.

Kenya is currently producing the highest amount of geothermal energy in Africa with an output of 534 megawatts (MW), and 84 percent of all electricity installations consist of green energy.

The country is also in the process of constructing the largest wind firm in Africa with a potential capacity of 300 MW.

This is despite the government’s unpopular plan to construct the largest coal plant in sub-Saharan Africa. However, yesterday Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko told IPS  that the government is likely going to reconsider whether to proceed with construction of the coal plant.

But above all, said Baruah, the study found that Kenya’s recent introduction of a green growth curriculum in schools was key to the development of human capacity.

Rwanda is another country whose green growth is spearheaded from the highest political level. While most countries around the world wait for finances for mitigation projects to come from the Green Climate Fund, Rwanda is already mobilising and disbursing funds nationally.

The researchers said that Rwanda has created a 100-million-dollar National Fund for Climate and the Environment (FONERWA) as an instrument for financing the country’s needs on environment, climate change, and green growth.

In the same vein, Senegal is in the process of removing financial barriers for private sector participation through pilot projects. The country has a 200-million-dollar Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (REEF), which provides financial incentives to private sector led pilot projects, such as lengthening the refinancing period for the small businesses.

The study also found that countries require urgent financing readiness, especially with the emergence of Green Climate Fund and that there is an urgent need for the strengthening of policy and planning frameworks for green growth. Countries studied also needed to address weak monitoring and reporting systems and work to enhance wider stakeholder buy-in to the green growth agenda.

 

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