• Sunday, September 21, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Fifteen years after Beijing

    23 Feb 2010

    Kudzai Makombe

    Women live longer than men but these extra years are not always healthy, says WHO. Credit: WHO/UNAIDS/K.Hesse

    Women live longer than men but these extra years are not always healthy, says WHO. Credit: WHO/UNAIDS/K.Hesse

    With the Beijing +15 review coming up next week at the Commission on the Status of Women, it seems an appropriate time to have a look at where we are globally in terms of gender equality and women’s empowerment in line with the 12 Critical Areas under the Beijing Platform for Action.

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    Is it ever okay for a woman to exercise her sexuality to gain political power?

    15 Feb 2010

    Kudzai Makombe

    Queen Elizabeth I kept a reign on power by becoming "The Virgin Queen"  Credit www.PDImages.com

    Queen Elizabeth I kept a reign on power by becoming "The Virgin Queen" Credit www.PDImages.com

    This question has been puzzling me since a late-night, noisy get together with friends where we got talking (some might say gossiping) about the alleged cross-party sexual politics taking place in our government. The men, it was said, were using sex as a strategy to silence the women from the opposite camps. The woman targeted  loses her standing once she’s been seduced as it quickly becomes general knowledge among other politicians.

    “Once you see that so and so who used to be so vocal has gone quite then you know they’ve been had,” said one friend. Much like the boarding school strategy employed by male students to remove the top performing girl student’s ranking as number one in class I’m told. But, never having been to boarding school, much less a co-educational school, I am not aware.

    As much as this dirty trick is an age-old male strategy to silence female opponents, women throughout history have used their sexuality, that is — whom one has sex with (or not), in what ways, why, under what circumstances, and with what outcomes — as a strategy to gain power. More »

    When migrant labour hurts families

    08 Feb 2010

    Tess Bacalla

    How does one tell a child that it is for his own future that his mother has to go offshore in search of the proverbial ‘greener pastures’, leaving behind a family that has never known the meaning of separation?

    Just what does that assurance mean to a child anyway whose notion of a secure tomorrow could simply be waking up each morning with his mother by his side.
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    Famous and infamous births

    21 Dec 2009

    By Paula Modersohn Becker

    By Paula Modersohn Becker

    When is a photo of a woman giving birth considered pornographic? Take your pick:

    A. When it is shown in a pornographic magazine, film or website.
    B. Never.
    C. When it is emailed to government officials urging action to improve public health.

    One could argue about A and B but this blog is about C.

    Earlier this year, in Zambia, Chansa Kabwela, news editor at the feisty opposition newspaper The Post, was charged with circulating pornography with intent to corrupt public morals. More »

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CEDAW!

    18 Dec 2009

    Ask the woman sitting next to you in the bus, train, plane, taxi-brousse or donkey cart what is CEDAW, and most probably you will draw a blank look. C’est quoi?

    Yet CEDAW – Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – has likely impacted on her life and her daughters, if she has any, in many ways, from pension and inheritance rights to the passport they hold.

    Quilt made by women of Kyrgztan. (Unifem)

    Quilt made by women of Kyrgztan. (Unifem)

    CEDAW, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 30 years ago today, is the global Bill of Rights for Women, the first international human rights treaty devoted to gender equality.

    Through its 30 articles, CEDAW has boosted women’s rights worldwide in many ways.

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    Women human rights defenders under attack

    10 Dec 2009

    Let’s do a quick review of women and violence in the news in the last weeks.

    What's in the news on Human Rights Day?

    What's in the news on Human Rights Day?

    Why today? Because it’s the last of the 16 Days against Violence against Women, arguably the best known global campaign of the women’s movement, and also Human Rights Day.

    Today, Sahrawi activist Aminatou Haidar starts her fourth week of hunger strike at Lanzarote airport in the Canary Islands. She is so weak she has to be transported to court by wheelchair or stretcher. Last week, the head of UNHCR called on Spain and Morocco to resolve her issue on humanitarian grounds.

    The award-winning Haidar is known as the Sahrawi Gandhi for her non-violent protests for the independence of her desert country, the Western Sahara, ruled by Morocco since 1975.  More »

    WORLD AIDS DAY 2009

    01 Dec 2009

    We share the wish of Marie Mendene Owono:  SEND AIDS AWAY.

    By M. Sayagues

    By M. Sayagues

    Marie Mendene  is an extraordinary activist from Cameroon and one of the first African women to say publicly that she lives with HIV, in the 1990s, when AIDS was a disease of shame and blame.

    This is one of my favourite photos about AIDS in Africa. I took it at Sunshine, her NGO in Douala, in 2003, before antiretroviral treatment became widely available. Only a few Cameroonians in cities could get the life-saving pills.

    The day I took the photo, Marie had queued for seven hours and  received only half of her monthly ARV pills. She was understandably upset about the poor logistics and delivery of medicines. AIDS magnified all the inadequacies of health systems.

    That was then. Today, nearly three million people in Africa are on ARV treatment. This seemed like a dream then, but activists were campaigning hard to make it come true.

    Marie had a clear vision of activism. “We should go beyond the begging bowl and the appeal to compassion, beyond the stage of being used to do prevention and awareness, and become part of real-decision making around AIDS,” she told me.

    Marie is to the right in the pic, with a fellow activist.

    Watchdog citizen journalism against gender violence

    27 Nov 2009

    The sisters can do it by themselves. By A. Vilanculos

    The sisters can do it by themselves. By A. Vilanculos

    The buzz in Mozambique during the recent elections was not the TV debate among presidential candidates debate (there is none) or their programs  (all vague).

    What had tongues wagging was citizen’s journalism, dispatches by ordinary folk about electoral irregularities from the Rovuma to the Maputo rivers.

    Good stuff: government cars illegally used for campaigning, with cellphone pics of their registration plates (until officials wised up and started covering up plates and ministry logos with party posters). Reports of youth tearing downs other party’s posters, fistfights, intimidation, and police lack of impartiality.  More »

    A spiritual gift

    23 Nov 2009

    Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

    Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

    What drives a 17-year-old girl to enter a monastery? Today she is 30, and still happy about her choice. Her eyes sparkle and her laughter comes easy. She exudes peace.

    I will call her Gabra (gift, in Amharic), for our conversation was private. I met her at a monastery near Lalibela, the mystical city of rock-hewn churches in northern Ethiopia.

    Monastic life has a long tradition and prestige in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The oldest monastery dates from the 6th century. A monastic renaissance between the 13th and 16th century brought great moral and political authority to clergy.

    Custodians of tradition

    Custodians of tradition

    Gabra’s rock-hewn monastery dates from the 12th century. Her room is excavated in the pink tufa rock. Two built-in-the-rock platforms, covered with a thin mattress, do as couch and bed. An old cupboard holds a few plates and cooking utensils, three of the long green robes worn by Ethiopian peasants, the white headscarves that nuns wear, and two pairs of sandals.

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