information and Stories about woman and female empowerment.

chime
Chime for Change is throwing a huge concert that will elicit large crowds because of the musical artists performing. Those who have the privilege of attending The Sound of Change concert on June 1, 2013 in London will see and hear performances by Beyonce, a member of the Chime for Change founding committee, John Legend, Florence and the Machine, Ellie Goulding, Iggy Azalea, Timbaland, Laura Pausini, and Rita Ora.

However, the driving force behind this concert is not the showcasing of musical talents or putting on a great show but rather raising funds and bringing attention to problems plaguing women globally, especially in the areas of health, education, and justice. In between the musical performances, attention will be directed towards women’s issues and personal stories of women across the globe. In addition to drawing attention to the issues,the Chime for Change organization and Gucci are ensuring that all proceeds from ticket sales are given to nonprofit organizations that are helping empower women.

Chime for Change is an organization founded by Gucci that brings together the voices of women across the globe to create discussion and raise funds and awareness for girls’ and women’s empowerment. In bringing this concert to London, as well as broadcasting it online for people all over the world to view, Chime for Change is putting girls’ and women’s issues on a world stage. Discussion of these issues are sure to occur as the result of this concert, which is one of the main points of the Chime for Change campaign. According to Ariana Huffington, an advisory board member of Chime for Change, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, the organization “brings together a range of voices, from women’s advocates and experts to business leaders and philanthropists” working to make girls’ and women’s issues a top priority.

Mixing fashion (Gucci) and charity work seems to be a winning combination. The Sound of Change concert will surely draw a large crowd and bring issues plaguing  girls and women everywhere to the front and center.

– Angela Hooks
Sources: Elle, Huffington Post

Does Globalization Help or Hurt Women?

Some say globalization has excluded or even impoverished women due to disproportionate job loss from an influx of foreign goods into domestic markets. Others say that living standards have improved for women due to the creation of new jobs and economic growth in second and third-world nations. The discussion is nuanced, and there are both improvements and impediments to women’s equality:

Pro-trade Research

  • The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report (WDR 2012) finds an increase in international trade has tended to increase women’s employment.
  • The value of trade growth goes beyond just job creation. Employment allows greater autonomy for women working outside the home, empowering them with greater decision-making authority – a key shift in development for the woman, and for the next generation.
  • The arrival of garment jobs in Bangladesh increased the probability of a five-year-old girl attending school. Either due to parental awareness to prepare their daughter for skilled work later, or simply because they had additional income.
  • Greater trade has increased job opportunities for women in many countries. This is especially true for manufacturing and service exports, characterized by labor-intensive production.
  • In Korea, the number of women employed in manufacturing grew from 6% in 1970 to around 30% by the early 1990s.
  • In Delhi and Mumbai, call centers now employ more than 1 million people, mostly women (WDR 2012).
  • In Bangladesh, female garment workers have higher self-esteem than other female workers in non-export industries; some even take employment against their family’s wishes.
  • In one study, female garment workers in Bangladesh marry and give birth at a later age.

Trade-inequality Research

  • There is still a wide disparity in the women-to-men wage gap for the same job.
  • In Korea, even with high labor demands, the women-men wage gap narrowed only marginally between 1975 and 1990 (Seguino, 1997).
  • Women are subject to more job insecurity. In Turkey, gross job reallocation is larger for women than men, showing women are subject to more volatile employment status. In Chile the gross job reallocation rates are more than twice as high for women than men.
  • A systemic issue is that greater employment segregation emerges as new industries and companies expand and increase in value. In East Asia, as countries have moved to more skill-intensive manufacturing, there has been a decline in the female manufacturing workforce. Between 1980 and 2008, women’s share of manufacturing employment has declined from 50% to 37% in Chinese Taipei, and from 39% to 32% in the Republic of Korea (Berik, 2008; ILO, 2011).
  • In agriculture, women’s weaker land rights and limited access to productive inputs can limit their opportunities to benefit from greater agricultural trade.
  • While gender gaps in schooling have largely closed, association in different fields of study, and thus different career opportunities, continues to be an issue. In higher education, women are more likely to choose fields related to education and health, but not science, engineering, or construction (WDR 2012).
  • In severely disadvantaged populations, such as remote rural areas, girls still tend to drop out of school more often than boys.
  • Companies under-invest in training female employees, reflecting the view that men are less likely to leave paid work to fulfill domestic responsibilities (Seguino and Growth 2006).
  • In Afghanistan, as one example, women’s mobility is severely limited because they are not allowed to interact with men outside the family, or work outside the home without permission from a male family member, or to own their own land.
Does globalization help or hurt women? It seems the expansion of global markets and trade is quantitatively lifting more women out of poverty and providing new access to opportunities. The impediments for women are indicative of historic sexism, and potentially greater globalization will help eradicate antiquated traditions. Read the full article for a discussion on how to turn the trend toward greater equality – all the time.
– Mary Purcell

Source: ITC
Photo: UFA.lookmart

Afghan Women Cycle for EqualityThe Afghan women cycle for equality. Although women throughout Afghanistan are rarely permitted to even drive cars, a group of Afghan females has been changing minds by riding bikes. The Afghan National Cycling Team, led by 16-year-old Salma Kakar, hopes to be the face of a new phenomenon in the country – more women riding bikes, and possibly even representing their country in the Olympic games.

A nonprofit started by U.S. cyclist Shannon Galpin, called Mountain2Mountain, helped give the team their initial bikes and other gear to get them started. Galpin, no stranger to Afghanistan herself, was involved in volunteer work in the country and during her time there had a chance to cycle throughout Afghanistan’s mountain trails.

Despite aid from Galpin and support from team coach Abdul Seddiqi, the women still face immense hurdles. Afghan men still hold the belief that women do not have a place in society outside of the home, and for this reason, the riders are often heckled and have even received death threats. Although the women cover their heads, wear long pants and sleeves when they ride, Seddiqi usually has them train in secret to avoid any danger.

Salma maintains that despite what many Afghan men may think, a few have actually shown support and Salma is confident that their cycling team will be able to create lasting change, with cycling being just the beginning of the road to Afghan women achieving new freedoms.

Galpin hopes that not only will the bicycles be a vehicle for the women to get around, but also a “vehicle for social change.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: NBC News

More Midwives Needed in NepalNepal’s maternal mortality rate (MMR), or the ratio of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births for reasons related to pregnancy or birth, has declined in Nepal over the last fifteen years. It is estimated that between 1996 and 2005, Nepal reduced its MMR from 539 deaths to 281. It was estimated in 2010 to be around 170.

These declines, similar to those seen in countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Thailand, are cause for hope. However, health care experts say the gains in Nepal are unsustainable if the country does not address its need for more health care professionals, especially midwives, to prevent women from dying in childbirth.

Declines in maternal mortality rate are attributable to a number of factors other than improved health care access or services. Nepal’s paradox is that even though the MMR is decreasing, access to skilled birth care is still very low. In general, improved health care positively correlates with reduced MMR, but sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have not demonstrated a strong correlation so far due to lack of skilled birth care.

Experts in maternal health do not have the data necessary to determine the exact causes of the decline, but there are multiple factors involved. The top reasons are the social empowerment of women, reduced fertility, and government health care programs. Nepalese women are now having fewer children on average, and have more access to contraception and family planning tools. Women’s life expectancies and literacy rates have increased as MMR has declined. Women are now also offered financial incentives to seek medical care during pregnancy and have more access to affordable, life-saving health care such as blood transfusions.

Nepal is on track to meet its Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR by 75 percent, to 134 deaths per 100,000 live births. When it reaches that point, the country will require the help of more midwives and health care workers trained in birthing to further reduce maternal mortality. A 2012 UN study found that a midwife in attendance during birth can reduce up to 90 percent of maternal deaths.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo: Midwife Ramilla

USAID Funds Partnerships for Women's LeadershipUSAID funds partnerships with Higher Education for Development (HED) to encourage women’s leadership throughout a number of developing countries, including South Sudan, Rwanda, Paraguay, and Armenia. As part of the new Women’s Leadership Program, five American universities will partner with universities and colleges throughout the select countries.

The partnership between universities aims at encouraging women’s status in a number of vital sectors for economic development, including agriculture, business, and education. The goals of the program also fall in line with previous goals laid out by USAID as part of the Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy, which was released in 2012.

HED will be in charge of administering the programs, which will total one in each country and two in Rwanda. Funding for the program from USAID will total $8.75 million.

Some of the more specific goals of the Women’s Leadership Program will include increased access to higher education and advanced degrees for women, increases in foreign universities research on women’s leadership, and encourage women’s leadership through advocacy in struggling communities. The American universities that are participating in the program are Arizona State University, Michigan State, Indiana University, UCLA, and the University of Florida.

USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Carla Koppell, said “USAID is very excited to be collaborating with academic institutions in the United States and abroad in advancing women’s leadership. These partnerships offer a meaningful and important opportunity to ensure women are empowered and advance in economies and societies globally.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID


The end of a ten-year war seems like a time of hope, of rebuilding and starting over. Yet, for Iraqi women, hope does not seem like it’s in the cards. The last ten years have not been a time of progress for them. Rather, it has been a time of regression, in which many of their rights have been taken away, either by law or by the increasing amount of violence occurring in Iraq.

On paper, it looks like the women of Iraq are increasingly engaged with civil society. With elections happening in April, pictures of Iraqi women of different political parties are appearing throughout the city of Baghdad, giving a glimpse of equality amongst men and women. However, in reality, women are not making much of a political appearance, though not through the fault of their own. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not elected a female to a single Senior Cabinet position and only one Department is headed by women: The Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Violence in the streets of Iraq is also resulting in a loss of freedom for Iraqi women. It is no longer safe for them to walk in the streets alone, leaving many stuck inside their homes. According to many women’s groups, the increase in violence and poor security for women is the result of “the social and economic pressure that families face, the lack of public and political will to stop it, and the increased religious conservatism that often justifies the violence”. The lack of political will to stop it can be seen in the replacement of the Family Statutes Law, with one giving cultural and religious groups control of regulating family affairs, meaning that tribal leaders and religious groups can decide on issues involving divorce, marriage, custody, and inheritance using religious laws or cultural ways of living. Often times, these laws and ways of living do not favor women. This is a large setback for women because it means that women are not guaranteed equal treatment under the law.

The Iraq of today is worse for women than the Iraq of 1980. Yet, this has not discouraged Iraqi women from still standing up for women’s rights and hoping for change. Political participation is one way for women to gain freedom, yet, much more must be done to ensure equality is in their future.

– Angela Hooks

Source: CNN
Photo: CNN

L'Occitane Supports Women's Fair TradeIn honor of International Women’s Day, L’Occitane has created a fair trade soap that supports women in their efforts to achieve economic independence. The soap is produced in Burkina Faso in a completely female-run factory, for which L’Occitane has provided support and training. The company has been working with women in Burkina Faso in efforts to achieve economic emancipation since 2006. By working with Aide et Action, they have helped put in place literacy centers throughout Burkina Faso, resulting in the strengthening of income-generating activity for women.

All proceeds made from the shea butter soap (that retails for just $8) will go towards building literacy programs and centers in Burkina Faso. Every soap bar sold can be considered as donating 3 bricks that will be utilized to build a new literacy center. From soap sales, L’Occitane, with its partners in Aide et Action and women in Burkina Faso, hopes to collect €63,000, which is equivalent to approximately $831,364.5, in the year 2013.

The soap can be seen as something that brings women together and helps empower them separately from their male counterparts. Since 2006, L’Occitane has helped almost 2,000 women become literate and even more (approximately 5,000 more) improve their literacy skills. With the building of even more literacy centers in Burkina Faso, these numbers can only go up.

If interested in buying a bar of soap in support of women achieving economic emancipation, visit L’Occitane’s website.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: L’Occitane Foundation, L’Occitane
Photo: L’Occitane

afghanistan art gallery
Art is a powerful form of expression and has been a tool artists have used to document the world around us for ages. Created by ART WORKS Projects and co-presented by UN Women, ten international photojournalists entered the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan to document and photograph their everyday lives in a country of conflict and fear. This was their way of presenting  development through art in Afghanistan.

Behind the camera lens, these photojournalists were able to depict these women and girls by revealing the immense courage they have for strengthening women’s rights. The highlight of these photographs are representative of how much the world has changed, depicting the status of these women in focuses of healthcare, education, peace and security, and economic development.

This women’s rights focused exhibition is a powerful contribution for the celebration of International Women’s Day in March. Joining in on the exhibition includes a collection of essays and writings by journalist Elizabeth Rubin and curator Leslie Thomas.

Some of the photographers includes Jean Chung, with one of her images above, Jared Moossy, Ron Haviv, and Moises Saman are just a few of them who have their work in this gallery. The exhibition is already open for public viewing at the Rayburn Foyer in Washington, DC. For more information on the artwork and project, visit the website here.

Jada Chin

Source: UN Women

USAID Takes Part in New Child and Maternal Health Initiative in IndiaThe U.S. Agency for International Development has partnered with two other philanthropic organizations to improve health care for mothers, adolescent girls, and children throughout India. Along with USAID, the Kiawah Trust and Dasra have created a $14 million collaboration to tackle the health issues that women face. Currently, nearly 67,000 women in India die annually due to childbirth or pregnancy, and nearly 50 percent of children under five years old experience continuous malnutrition. The three organizations hope to commission various other parties in creating new solutions that fight current maternal and child mortality rates.

The administrator of USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah, said that although India has made great strides towards eradicating hunger and poverty, innovation alone will not be enough to completely end the issues that plague the poor in the country – local collaboration and partnerships are crucial “to achieving unprecedented gains in human health, prosperity, and dignity.”

Dr. Shah went on to address India’s various businesses, financial organizations, and investors aid in the fight against barriers to increasing development by creating alliances between the private and public sectors and asserted that solutions created in India could also be put into practice in other developing nations in order to fight poverty.

Dasra, India’s largest philanthropic organization, published a report on female health in India showing that “the root cause of maternal and child mortality is closely linked to the age of marriage and first pregnancy.” Other crucial factors for health affected by age of marriage and pregnancy are hygiene and sanitation, level of education, and access to clean drinking water.

Dasra’s representative, Deval Sanghavi, said that many types of involvement and capital are needed “to collectively find impactful and scalable solutions for the millions of women and children living in poverty in our country.  This collaboration has the potential to build collective action and attract like-minded parties.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID
Photo: UNICEF

women
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day deals with ending violence against women. So did the theme in 2009 (“Ending impunity for violence against women and girls”) and in 2007 (“Women and men united to end violence against women in girls”). While International Women’s Day can choose a theme that highlights different issues plaguing women in rural and urban areas, the UN seems to keep going back to violence against women.

Why?

Violence against women is still a huge issue across the world and looking at Zimbabwe, how large of an issue it is becomes apparent. In Zimbabwe, women may be faced with abuse from their spouses, family members, and even their children. Reported cases of domestic violence have risen from 1,940 cases in 2008 to 10,351 cases in 2011, according to AllAfrica.org. The number of domestic violence cases in 2012 are said to surpass even that number, showing that domestic violence is not going away and bringing attention to the issue, which the UN’s International Women’s Day is doing, as necessary.

Even though the country has taken great strides to end violence against women, a 2010-2011 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey shows that 30 percent of women have experienced some form of domestic violence since the age of 15. This violence, most often, comes from the people that women should be able to trust, who are supposed to protect them. Women are asking questions now – “what has to happen for violence against women to end, what are the challenges, who will stand up and look straight in the eyes of perpetrators to say enough is enough?” – and demanding answers.

Women in Zimbabwe are using International Women’s Day to denounce all types of violence against women, and are coming together to demand answers.

– Angela Hooks 

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: AllAfrica