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Inés Alberdi: A Life Free of Violence for Women and Girls


By Inés Alberdi, UNIFEM Executive Director

Date: 27 March 2010

Occasion: Fifth Meeting of Women for a Better World, Valencia, Spain, 27–28 March 2010.

Good morning. It is a pleasure to join my distinguished colleagues in this dialogue on women’s health and rights. My remarks will take up the issue of violence against women and girls and UNIFEM strategy to end this pandemic.

National surveys show that as many as 17 to 76 percent of women experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime, most often by husbands and intimate partners. It takes place in the home, on the streets, in schools, the workplace, in fields, refugee camps, during conflicts and crises. As such, it strips countries of the human capital and productivity needed in the struggle to end poverty, improve education and health and propel development. Violence against women has also been a silent but potent culprit in the feminization and spread of HIV It is now recognized as a public health issue in many countries, one that undermines the health of individuals and the strength of communities and societies.

Despite its harmful effects, violence against women has long been regarded as essentially a private issue. Today, after decades of struggle by women’s rights activists, ending violence against women is positioned high on policy-making agendas. A record number of countries have adopted laws, policies and action plans to end violence against women, and a growing number are ensuring budgets for their implementation. Landmark agreements since the 1993 UN Declaration on Violence against Women and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action include the world summits in 2000 and 2005, recognizing the importance of ending violence against women to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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Lowering maternal mortality rates is a tough bet in DRC

"women continue to die as they are giving life"

KINSHASA, 22 December 2009 (IRIN) - Years of conflict and instability mean the Democratic Republic of Congo is still among the worst countries in the world to be pregnant, despite a nationwide push to improve maternal, infant and childhood mortality rates.

“Every hour of every day in DRC, four women die from complications of pregnancy and labour, and for every woman who dies, between 20 and 30 have serious complications, such as obstetric fistula, which is very common in DRC,” said Richard Dackam Ngacthou, country representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). For every 100,000 live births 1,100 women die, he said.

But to meet a national target of reducing the number of women who die in childbirth by 75 percent and to provide all Congolese with access to contraception – in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals – new funding targets must be achieved.

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Donors backtracking on funding AIDS treatment

By Phakamile Magamdela

Lives of AIDS patients in poor countries could be severely compromised if donors and rich nations continue reducing their funding commitments to AIDS programmes.

Independent humanitarian aid agency, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), is urging major donors not to “wipe out gains” made by the roll out of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) by “retreating from their international funding commitments”.

In a report titled “Punishing success? Early Signs of a Retreat from Commitment to HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment”, which was published recently, the MSF singled out the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as having reduced their funding commitments to the response to AIDS. These are two major organisations supporting crucial AIDS treatment programmes in the developing world. 

“We are told by the White House in the United States that the budget coming from the White House to Congress this month will have a flat funding of PEPFAR for 2011. This will have disastrous effects on the countries that are relying upon PEPFAR funds”, said Sharonann Lynch, MSF Policy Advisor.

The MSF also raised concern over the “funding deficit of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund)”.

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UN-INSTRAW's 3rd Virtual Dialogue

The experts in UN-INSTRAW’s Gender Training Community of Practice will meet virtually to discuss about the empowerment of women for their leadership and political participation.
The Third Virtual Dialogue aims to gather more information about the current situation of gender training in this area and to offer a platform where gender training specialists and researchers can exchange their experiences and outline the major achievements, challenges and lessons learned.

In the last decade women’s participation in Latin America has grown in average from 9% to 14% in ministerial positions, from 5% to 13% in senate and from 8% to 15% in lower chambers. At the same time, this increase in political participation has seen a parallel loss of credibility of the traditional political participation systems, a gap that has partly been filled by social movements, including women’s movements. In this new democratic wave, women have flourished as voters with decision making power, political leaders and coordinators of grass roots movements.

However, there are still many challenges to reach gender equality in political participation world-wide. Women still remain underrepresented in decision-making and leadership positions; in the field of economics, finance and in political institutions; and even in civil society organizations.
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Global Gender Pay Gap Bigger Than Previously Thought

A new study covers the impact of the economic crisis on women’s jobs and incomes and reveals costs of violence against women

Brussels, 5 March 2009: A new report released by the ITUC for March 8, International Women’s Day, has revealed that the pay gap between men and women worldwide may be much higher than official government figures. The report, “Gender (in)Equality in the Labour Market”, is based on survey results of some 300,000 women and men in 20 countries. It puts the global pay gap at up to 22%, rather than the 16.5% figure taken from official government figures and released by the ITUC on March 8 last year.

The report also confirms previous findings that union membership, and particularly the inclusion of women in collective bargaining agreements, leads to much better incomes for both women and men, as well as better pay for women relative to their male co-workers. The study, which follows the March 8 ITUC Global Gender Pay Gap report, was written by London-based pay specialists Incomes Data Services and is based on internet surveys conducted in industrialised and developing countries in 2008 by the WageIndicator Foundation.

“This report clearly confirms the advantage which men and women workers gain from union membership, which is all the more important in the current global economic crisis when jobs and living standards for millions of workers are under severe threat,” said Guy Ryder, ITUC general secretary.

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Dying during childbirth in India

Who asks what happened afterwards? ...  If a person dies, she dies.  If someone hangs himself then it becomes a police case.  But if someone dies in a hospital then no one cares. Suresh S., neighbor of deceased pregnant woman, Uttar Pradesh, March 2, 2009.

Last week, Human Rights Watch released an extensive report detailing the maternal mortality problem in India - whose rate is 16 times that of Russia and 10 times that of China.

In conjunction with Magnum In Motion photographer Susan Meiselas, the human rights group produced a video/slideshow about a 25-year-old North Indian woman who died during childbirth. 

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Sex for food in Nyeri slums

Girls as young as 10 are now trading their bodies for food as hunger and poverty ravage slums.

[Daily Nation] Nyeri may be considered the land of plenty, but in these times of famine, that label means nothing in Witemere slums, where girls trade their bodies for food.

The slum on the banks of River Chania is barely two kilometres from Muringato, which was recently in the news for all the wrong reasons - hungry villagers eating pig food to survive.

Now, residents of Witemere say hunger is driving their daughters, some as young as 10-14 years, out of school and straight into the arms of sex pests.

They say theirs is a forgotten village, where hunger is the order of the day. Amidst that misery, predators prowl the dusty lanes, seeking desperate girls who are only too willing to give their bodies in exchange for a few coins to buy food.

Mothers with nothing to feed their children actually tell their daughters to make the best of it.

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29 Million Women Blind Globally

By Ayodele Samuel And Sharon Alake [Leadership Nigeria]

As the world celebrates the World Sight Day , 29.25 million women have been reported blind globally according to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"Out of the purported 45 million blind people worldwide, women account for about 65 percent, which is 29.25 million,"

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris said at a news conference to mark the day, adding that another 269 million people were visually impaired, while 85 percent of these people suffer from avoidable blindness that could either be prevented, or treated and cured.

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Criminalisation of Abortion 'The Wrong Concept'

By Kristin Palitza

CAPE TOWN, Oct 8 (IPS) - One hundred African women and girls die unnecessarily from unsafe abortions every day because they have to rely on unqualified medical practitioners or self-induce abortion by ingesting poisonous substances or inserting tools into their uterus.

Africa has the highest percentage of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion. 60 percent of abortion-related deaths occur in women and girls under the age of 25.

"Abortions that have to be performed illegally translate directly to higher maternal mortality," warned Dr Anibal Faundes.

Faundes, who is professor of obstetrics at the State University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, Brasil, was speaking in Cape Town at the  World Congress of the Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (FIGO), for which he chairs a working group for prevention of unsafe abortion.

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Dorcas Pirosis, "This is the worst year of my life"

DOL-DOL, 5 October 2009 (IRIN)

Traditionally, life for women in pastoralist communities in the central Kenya region of Laikipia revolves around taking care of their children, leaving the men to provide for the family. However, a prolonged drought in the area, which has resulted in significant livestock deaths, has seen these roles reversed, with more women venturing into small-scale business to feed their families. 

Government officials estimate that at least 600,000 livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) have died in the past three months in the area. Dorcas Piroris, 50, from Olkinyei in Laikipia North District, is selling tourist trinkets to supplement her family’s income. She spoke to IRIN in the town of Dol-Dol on 5 October:

"This is the worst year that I have witnessed in my life; everything seems to be going against tradition and we do not know when things will improve.

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