• Friday, October 9, 2015
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Women Empowering Women

    by prize winning feminist researcher Wendy Harcourt

    Why has ‘gender’ emerged as a key area of development funding in these days of reduced funds for development? How has the MDG3 Fund helped catalyze progress towards achievement of the 2015 MDG3 on gender equality and women’s empowerment? How are women overcoming violence against women, gaining economic independence, fighting for land rights and becoming more involved in decision making?

    10 inside stories on ten projects reveal how the MDG3 Fund has helped women to help end social discrimination and rights injustices and to catalyze transformative changes in women’s and communities lives worldwide.

    Using Law for Rural Women’s Empowerment in West Africa (WiLDAF-AO)

    24 Nov 2011

    How to translate rights and legal entitlements into reality for many rural women who do not know how to claim their rights nor how to seek redress over unfair treatment? Credit: Suleiman Mbatiah/IPS

    Agriculture is key to women’s livelihoods in rural West Africa and to the survival of the national economies. But despite women’s crucial work on the farms women’s rights to land ownership, control and access to land continues to be neglected.

    The importance of African women farmers has been long recognized in international development since the famous study by Ester Boserup in 1970 a message that continues to be underlined in major reports such 2010-2011 UN State of Food and Agriculture Report on ‘Women and Agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development’. More »

    Women Nobel Peace Laureates Congratulate Three New Women Laureates

    08 Oct 2011

    Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemini opposition leader Tawakkul Karman.

    Ottawa — The women Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative—Jody Williams (USA), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Mairead Maguire (Ireland) and Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala)—sent letters of congratulations to the three women who today were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:  Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemini opposition leader Tawakkul Karman.

    “Your victory today is a victory for all women around the world struggling for peace, justice and equality,” said Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines.  “We are inspired by your example of nonviolent action in the face of brutal violence, discrimination and injustice.  You remind us that with women’s bold action, there is hope for a better world.” More »

    Nobel Women’s Initiative Celebrating women’s leadership and vision: In Memory of Wangari Maathai

    03 Oct 2011

    Wangari Maathai (1940-2011). Credit: The Green Belt Movement.

    By Wendy Harcourt

    The loss of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday 25 September has been felt around the world. Feminists, environmentalists, Presidents, spiritual and UN leaders, peace activists, women and men, mourn for the passing of the Nobel Laureate. As a leader and fighter, and founder of the Greenbelt Movement in 1977 she connected African vision, knowledge and action to end environmental degradation and human rights violations of women.

    As well as her great work for Kenya and women world wide through the Greenbelt Movement, another initiative that Wangari Maathai led with vision and wisdom was the Nobel Women’s Initiative. More »

    Celebrating the Legacy of Wangari Maathai

    26 Sep 2011

    Wangari Maathai (1940-2011). Credit: The Green Belt Movement.

    IPS joins the international community in mourning the loss of Wangari Maathai, a tireless fighter for peace and the environment.

    We were honoured to have her as a contributor to our IPS Columnist Service. In recent years the Nobel Women’s Initiative, our valued partner, helped to connect us to more of her writings and those of her sister Laureates.

    As well as giving her a channel through the Columnist Service to reach the mainstream media with her opinions, Professor Maathai was regularly featured in IPS coverage of issues including Kenya, human rights, the environment and civil society. More »

    Enhancing Women’s Dignity, New Video by TrustAfrica

    12 Sep 2011

    IPS is happy to share with its readers a new, inspiring video recently released by TrustAfrica.

    The film features TrustAfrica project “Enhancing Women’s Dignity”, and gives insight on some of the work done to build capacity to curb violence against women and increase women’s political participation. The work is being realised with funds from the Dutch MDG3 Fund.

    The video can be accessed here

    To learn more about TrustAfrica MDG3 project, visit the webpage.

    War Survivors: Body Politics and Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange

    05 Sep 2011

    Isis-WICCE activities in the community livelihood projects in Soroti and Pader.

    By Wendy Harcourt*

    It is hard to recall that just a couple of decades ago rape as a weapon of war was an unspeakable subject. The appalling violations of women and children during wartime were hidden from view. Millions of women bore the brutality, humiliation, pain debilitating physical and psychological scars with no support and too often complete rejection of their community.

    Unfortunately rape in war continues but it is no longer silenced. It is upfront as one of the gravest rights abuses now punishable by criminal courts. In 2008 the UN Resolution 1820 (2008), stated that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”.  The resolution calls not only for monitoring and prosecution of warring factions but also for a crackdown on peacekeepers who exploit women and children during times of conflict. More »

    Do more than talk say gender activists

    01 Jul 2011

    Gender activists at the fifth SADC water dialogue, in Swaziland, say the time for talking about gender and poverty reduction is past; they say action is now needed to address the needs of the poor in Africa.

    Do more than talk say gender activists

    01 Jul 2011


    Gender activists at the fifth SADC water dialogue, in Swaziland, say the time for talking about gender and poverty reduction is past; they say action is now needed to address the needs of the poor in Africa.


    Time for Action is Now

    05 Apr 2011

    Navi Ramgoolam

    By Loga Virahsawmy

    Lots of people thought that Prime Minister Dr. Navin Ramgoolam made history when on 8th March 2011 in front of hundreds of women at the Grand Baie Convention Centre he said “I think that finally we have to put a quota system”.  I even gave a radio interview on the matter.

    Yes, the Prime Minister did bring some hope with his announcement and we congratulate him for that. I am sure the Prime Minister must be as embarrassed as gender activists when the question of Mauritian women in parliaments is raised at regional forums. But is this the first time that we hear this kind of political discourse?

    Let us go back in memory lane. During a Gender Links Workshop, prior to the 2005 General Elections when Dr. Navin Ramgoolam was leader of the opposition he assured the hundreds of participants in the audience that his party was very much aware of this deficit (women were 5.4% in Parliament) and added “the first past the post constitutes a major impediment for women while a proportional or a mixed system can be favourable to women.” He also said “I hope that when we will be in power we will have the consensus to introduce a PR system in our electoral reform.”

    He kept his word and the Parliamentary session for the year 2008 kicked off with a good omen for women.  Prime Minister Dr. Navin Ramgoolam suggested that there should be a quota for women. He told the house that as from May 2008 all political parties will be contacted to find a consensus on this issue and the opposition agreed.

    We are now in 2011 and still hearing the same talk with no implementation.

    On several occasions the Prime Minister has officially said that Mauritius cannot sign the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. Article 12-13 of the Protocol makes provision for equal representation of women in all areas of decision-making, both public and private and suggests that this target be achieved through Constitutional and other legislative provisions, including affirmative action.

    For over four years high officials from Mauritius participated in discussion as well as the drafting of the SADC Protocol and nobody argued that the Protocol was not in line with Article 16  “Protection from Discrimination”  of the Constitution of Mauritius.  It was only in August 2008 when all Heads of States were signing the Protocol that all of a sudden Mauritius realised that it could not sign.

    But what  about the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development? This one was signed by Mauritius in 1997 and the Declaration highlights that gender equality is a fundamental human right. This declaration committs member states to having 30% female representation in parliament by 2005.

    What do we see in Mauritius 14 years after signing that Declaration? Women comprise 18.1% in Parliament and 6.4% at local government. When Heads of States cannot walk the talk, they should then not give false hope.

    The Labour Party amended its constitution in 2003 to make a special provision so that there are at least 30 percent of women in the party structure at all levels. The party’s Constitution is one thing but fielding 30% candidates is another thing.

    The Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) is the only party in Mauritius that puts quotas for women’s participation in the legislative and local elections. Yet, the 20% stipulated in the party constitution has never translated into action. The MMM thought it gave women a gift on a golden platter when it amended its Constitution on International Women’s Day 2011 to make special provision so that 30% women are in the party structure.

    What is the point of having 30% in party structures if political cannot field 30% women as candidates?

    Some falsely believe that women cannot lead. Yet, countries daring to break stereotypes and put more women in Parliament are doing really well. Rwanda, a country emerging successfully from tragic genocide has over 50% women in Parliament. South Africa, a nation that broke away from apartheid and remains the region’s economic powerhouse, has 42.1% women in Parliament. This is followed by Angola at 37.3%, Mozambique at 34.8% and Tanzania at 30.4%, all are dealing with huge challenges, but are nations largely at peace and moving towards development.  Mauritius is a country cited as a model of democracy and yet it is side lining 51% of its population.

    There will be local government elections this year. There is no need for more talks or wait for Constitution or Electoral Reforms if we want change to happen. For once Heads of Political Parties can hold their heads and prove what they can do it instead of the rhetoric and ink wasting?

    After all both Navin Ragoolam, now Prime Minister and Paul Berenger, now Leader of the opposition talked the same language on women during the electoral campaigns 2010. Navin Ramgoolam told men to be careful as at the next elections there might be more women than men while Paul Berenger said that he will make sure that there is at least one woman in each constituency.

    Why not walk the talk now on the eve of  local government elections. Time is for action.