Category Archives: Observing International Days

16 Days Campaigners CALL for an End to Gender-based Violence and Violations of the Right to Education

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On November 25, 2015, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) will launch the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. Along with over 5,478 organizations and other participants from 187 countries and territories, CWGL is calling for an end to gender-based violence and accountability on the part of policymakers and community members to end violence, discrimination, and inequality.

The 16 Days Campaign is a powerful platform to educate the public and governments about gender-based violence, human rights, and the intersections of political, economic, and social realities.

CWGL is sharing resources, coordinating with global participants on their actions and hosting a social media mobilization with a Twitter “teach-in.” To participate, contact the global coordinator at 16days@cwgl.rutgers.edu and follow @16DaysCampaign. Use the #16Days and #GBVteachin hashtags to join the discussion.

READ full Press Release

For more information, visit http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu.

ILLEGAL SEX: Is it culture, religion, traditions or purely sexual superiority

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“I think marrying off a child to an old man is not about tradition, religion, culture but purely sexual superiority and power over” Jasmine

Jasmine comes from the Mijikenda community in Kenya residing in the Coastal region. She is a beautiful young girl, who is passionate about education. She is attending a local primary school which is a few meters from her home. She is diligent, kind and playful like many children in our society. The community members give her praises as she is obedient to her parents and she takes care of her siblings. She is only 13 years and about to sit for her Kenya National Examination of Primary Education. Just before she sat for her exams her father had visitors who he entertained in their home. She had just started her menstruation less than two months ago and her mother explained to her in detailed that she has now become a ‘grown woman’ who is able to bring forth life. Confused and totally lost she just listened to her mother and brushed it off. Since her exams were around the corner she concentrated in her studies as she was eager to make sure she passed with good grades so as to transition to secondary school.

She was busy reading for her final exams and her family was busy negotiating her dowry and making all arrangements for her “marriage”. As naive as she was, she could not understand what was going on at home hence minded her own business. In November of 1998 she sat for her final exams and shockingly to her, when she arrived back home she was married off. “I cried and people did not mind my cries my aunties told me; now you are a woman please take care of your family and build you home” says Jasmine.

Early Child Marriages – Is it Culture? Religion? Sexual Superiority?

Listening to Jasmine our house help (then) telling me the story of her life, I was so touched and baffled by how her relatives and family members behaved. Jasmine was more than a house help to me, she was like a sister, I loved her so much and we always used to have our girlish talk. It was particularly painful for her when she spoke about her childhood experiences. She was forcefully married off as a child and ended up running away with her 1 year old child. I applauded her for that and all who helped her escape claws of sexual slavery. In one of our conversations, I asked her why do you think young girls are married off to old men, is it culture or religion or what exactly? She bitterly told me that it is all about sexual superiority, sexual pleasure and power over women. I actually did not understand what she meant by then, but now I agree with her totally. Child, Early and Forced marriages are about sexual superiority (patriarchy).

When a young girl is married off, she does not have any say over her body; when to have sex, when to have a child and how many children to have. She is inferior in such kind of a relationship, after all she is only a child with no experience on family matters. “The man always feels that they have conquered and their sexual needs will always be satisfied” Jasmine explains. Child, early and forced marriages undermines the most important aspects of one’s life and their sexual and reproductive rights. Girls are robbed of their rights to choose and make decisions of their own lives and bodies.

Girls who are married off young do not have access to reproductive health information, knowledge and services. Since many of them drop out of school as a result of child marriage, they do not have reliable sources of information on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the time they need it the most. They face difficulties in accessing reproductive health services such as safe and legal abortion as well as contraceptives. The lack of access is both at the facility level as well as from their home as their “partners” will not allow them to get these important services especially contraceptives. Men in such relationship feel powerful when they are asked for any information and most of the time they are not willing to share. So as a young girl you just suffer alone with nowhere to go.

Child brides are at risk of getting HIV and AIDS as they are not able to negotiate for safe sex. Basic information on HIV is usually taught in schools and they miss out on that since they have dropped out of school to be married off. Girls, adolescents and young women often have little and in most cases no decision-making ability within their sexual-partnership, leaving them unable to negotiate the terms of sex (including contraceptive use) or refuse it altogether.

Finally, a child bride is at risk of experiencing gender-based violence. Imagine refusing to do your “wifely” duties in this kind of a union. You will be beaten thoroughly and forced to do them while crying or even nose bleeding. “Why I actually ran away was because he used to force himself on me everyday even when I was due to give birth, if I cry of pain he would beat me up thoroughly and leave me for the dead” Jasmine tells me. Early child marriage is pushing girls into the grave early – at 12years she becomes a mother, at 24 years she is a grandmother and at 35 years she is likely to be an ancestor in a community like the Mijikenda.

Jasmine had vowed to take good care of her child. She was strong-willed and determined to push through. Her efforts were cut short when she contracted HIV and AIDS and lost her will to live. She lost her life at a young age – she could have survived and lived longer if only she was allowed to continue with her education, if only she was allowed to make her own decisions, if only she had access to information, knowledge and services on sexual reproductive health and rights.

Jasmine’s case in not an isolated one, every year, about 14 million adolescent and teenage girls are married, almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. In developing countries, one in three girls is married by age 18; and one in nine by age 15. There are 41 countries world-wide with a child marriage prevalence rate of 30% or more, and of these 41 countries, 30 are from Africa. We need to join hands, work together and save these girls.

Day of the African Child

On 16th June 2015, as we celebrated the Day of the African Child whose theme was dubbed “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa” I reminisced on Jasmine’s life and couldnt but join many others in calling out to member states to enhance their efforts to end child marriages. Let’s take a moment to remember all girls who have lost their lives due to child marriages. Let’s remember girls like Jasmine, who died due to effects of child marriages, today I write this in her memory. She could be my age mate now but she is no more. I totally agree with her that child, early and forced marriages are really not about, culture, religion or traditions – it is purely sexual gratification, superiority and patriarchy. In the coming days and months and years, may we take time to remember girls like Jasmine who really challenged the norm and culture. Even though after her heroic acts nobody stood by her, she felt safe staying with us for three years. With her child all grown up, Jasmine is now in heaven looking down upon us to save girls from early, child and forced marriages. Let us not let her down, lets fight to end Esther Kimani-.

In loving memory of Jasmine Mohammed*, (not her real name). It was great knowing you and spending three years with you. I celebrate you Heroine.

With Lots of Love,

Esther

Esther Kimani is a member of FEMNET,

you can follow her on twitter @KelsieKim

Young and Capable: Why Young People Must be at the Centre of Efforts to End Child Marriage

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End CEFMAs I packed my bags to begin a journey that would take me several thousand miles from my hometown in Nairobi to Casablanca, I shuddered at the thought that at the very same moment, a girl not much younger than me would begin a similar journey – an arranged marriage. The marriage would be most likely without her consent. This day would mark the end of her childhood and the beginning of a long nightmare that would quickly become her life. By the time my flight would touch down in Casablanca, 18 hours later, she would probably have consummated a marriage in which neither her mind nor her body was prepared for. The thought of this made me sick to my stomach. With this harsh reality in my mind, I joined fellow participants at the Girls Not Brides members’ meeting, resolute that ending child marriage will not be possible unless and until young people are meaningfully involved and supported.

What is Child Marriage?
Child marriage is global phenomenon defined as a formal marriage or informal union in which one of the spouses is married before the age of 18. While child marriage can affect boys and girls, it disproportionately affects the girl child. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that every year, more than 14 million adolescent and teen girls are married, almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. It is a violation of young women’s rights and one of a number of harmful practices which harm young women worldwide. The implications of this practice on the lives of girls are many and far-reaching. Child marriage perpetuates the cycle of poverty and deep rooted gender inequalities that often lead to society having a perceived low value for women and girls. When girls are forced to marry, they often drop out of school, face serious health complications and even risk dying from early pregnancy and childbearing, and are at greater risk of HIV infection and intimate partner violence. Child brides are often isolated, with limited opportunity to engage socially and to participate in the economic development of their communities.

Young People Are Saying NO to child marriage
While the problem of child marriage is complex and sensitive, young people hold the potential to catapult worldwide efforts in addressing the problem.

First, child marriage is an issue that directly impacts the lives of young people. As such, we are able to articulate the issues in a way no adult can. Listening to young people’s voices in general is powerful in so many ways. It not only helps create a better, equal and more inclusive society but also allows young people to feel important, empowered and confident to become their own leaders. This is often leads to successful advocacy as recently witnessed in Malawi where young activists played a critical role in raising for the minimum legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 years of age in Malawi.

Secondly, young people continue to play a key role in monitoring and averting potential child marriage cases. Where countries have had laws in place to criminalize the practice, young people have been able to support each other by reporting cases of child marriages to the authorities, providing support networks, assisting peers access safe spaces and changing norms and attitudes. In a recent youth survey done by Girls Not Brides, a young participant from Uganda said: “We know who is at risk of child marriage; we hear the conversations that adults do not. Let us be the eyes and ears and the actors demanding that young people are allowed to fulfill their potential”

Lastly, by speaking out against child marriage, young people become strong role models for their peers. Kakenya Ntaiya shares her fearless journey of how escaping child marriage changed her fate forever. Through her story, Kakenya continues to inspire, motivate and empower young girls to pursue education so that they become agents of change. In 2013, she was nominated as a Top 10 CNN Hero, for her work to send girls to school and delay marriage in Enoosaen, a Maasai village in south-west Kenya. Her primary school, Kakenya Center for Excellence, currently hosts over 155 girls.

From small actions at the village level to global advocacy efforts, the positive examples of young change makers working towards ending child marriage in the community are vast and varying.

The Time to Act is NOW!
Engaging young people to end child marriage is not only the right thing to do but it is also the practical thing to do. By tapping into their knowledge and insights, diverse skills in not only mobilizing at different levels but also engaging with different groups and their potential of catalyzing behavior change in the society, the fight to end child marriage can gain a new impetus. This can be successfully nurtured through genuine youth-adult relationships, opportunities that develop meaningful skills though continual capacity building and technical support, access to decision-making platforms and safe spaces that provide emotional and physical security.

As I believe, it is possible to end child marriage in our generation. Together, let us banish child marriage to the books of history, where it belongs.

Follow @Femnetprog @GirlsNotBrides & @felogene on twitter for updates on International Day of The African Child – June 16 2015 . THEME ”25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”

Change MustBe Accelerated to End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in One Generation

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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia. It is an extreme and violent form of discrimination and violates the rights of women and girls to equality, bodily integrity and dignity.
As we mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, we are at a critical window of opportunity – a ‘tipping point’ where momentum is growing and change can be accelerated. FGM is now prohibited to varying degrees in 20 out of 29 of the countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most prevalent, although full implementation of the law continues to be a challenge.

Over the last 12 months, the campaign against FGM has received renewed support from different actors committed to ending the practice. According to UNICEF, Kenya has led the way with falls in prevalence from middle-aged women to adolescent girls from 49% to 15%, albeit with an increase in the percentage of FGM performed by health personnel.
2014also saw a significant increase in theprosecution of FGM cases globally and verdicts in a few countries.In Kenya,efforts are in full gear to enforce the Children’s Act as well as the Prohibition of FGM Act. The creation of anFGM and Early Marriage Prosecutorial Unit inthe Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the establishment of the Anti-FGM Board has resulted in an increase in the number of cases being reported to the police.
Meanwhile, Tarime in Tanzania witnessedthe first FGM prosecution in a community that has been reluctant to change. The UK has also had its first ever case of FGM since the passage of its anti-FGM law in 1985. In Egypt in 2014, the Attorney General filed that country’s first case of FGM since a law was passed banning FGM in 2008. 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea died after a doctor performed FGM on her at the behest of her father. On January 26, the doctor was sentenced to two years in jail for manslaughter and three months for performing FGM. Soheir’s father received a three month suspended sentence. The doctor’s clinic was also closed for one year. This first ever FGM trial in Egypt is hugely important in a country which has the highest number of affected women and girls in the world. In a country where more than 75% of FGM cases are performed by medical practitioners, it is also extremely significant that a medical professional was sentenced.
The narrative on FGM found new platforms too. Key players in sparking media interest were two campaigns – The Girl Generation: Together to End FGM and The Guardian’s Global Media Campaign to End FGM. The Guardian’s campaign recognizes the critical role of the media in ending FGM and seeks to provide incentives to keep the issue on top of the media agenda. An international reporting award, named after the late Efua Dorkenoo,will be granted annually to an African reporterwho has demonstrated innovation and commitment in covering FGM.

However, many challenges remain too in addressing FGM around the world. Many countries with high rates of FGM still do not have laws banning FGM.Without laws, women and girls have no way to seek redress and states send the message that they condone the practice. Those that have laws in place are yet to fully enforce them.
In Kenya, Equality Now has been monitoring three cases of girls who died following complications related to the practice in Kajiado, Oloitoktok and Pokot. Two of the girls were pregnant and forced to undergo FGM to hasten their passage into womanhood after delivery. The possibility that there could have been more cases that were not reported cannot be ruled out either.

The theme of this Year’s Zero Tolerance Day – the involvement and mobilization of health personnel to end FGM could not be more apt. It is urgently required. The fact that health personnel sometimes fail in their duty of care and perform FGM,undermines decades of hard work and is a violation of medical ethical obligations to protect health and “do no harm.”
Resistance to FGM laws has also hampered efforts to eliminate this human rights violation.For example, in June 2014, a section of Maasai women in Kenya took to the streets demanding that the government permit them to practice their supposed ‘tradition’. In December 2014, in Kuria and Narok Counties, local chiefs and activists who had set out to save girls from undergoing the practice were attacked. In Tanzania, girls who had escaped FGM and sought refuge in a rescue centre were forced to undergo the practice when they returned to their families.
If we are to truly end FGM in one generation, a joined-up comprehensive approach works best. This includes prevention, protection, provision of services, partnerships and prosecutions where required. States must live up to their international obligations and protect women and girls, as well as provide support services for girls at risk or women who have undergone FGM.

Members of the medical profession should take a leading role in eliminating the practice by refusing to perform FGM, educating communities about the harmful consequences of FGM and providing care where needed.


Mary Wandia

FGM Program Manager

Equality Now
mwandia@equalitynow.org: Cell: +254 733 860036

2015 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ZERO TOLERANCE FOR FGM

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THEME: “Mobilization and Involvement of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting”.

On 6th February we stand in solidarity together with the people around the world who are observing this annual International Zero Tolerance Day to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. This day fosters awareness of the harmful effects of female genital mutilation/cutting and renews the call for communities to abandon this inhumane practice.

FGM/C refers to a procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. It is a practice that occurs across cultures and religions, although in fact no religion mandates the procedure. The practice is often performed and often using such instruments as broken glass, tin lids, scissors, unsterilized razors or surgical blades. According to World Health Organization, as many as 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide currently live with the consequences of this dangerous practice.

Everyone must act jointly to abandon the practice, so that girls and their families who opt out do not become social outcasts. Communities working together to abandon FGM/C can ensure stronger, healthier futures for girls, young women, and their families. We all have an obligation to work together for the equality, well-being, and prosperity.

How to engage tomorrow: Use the hashtags #EndFGM #Zerotoleranceday #TogetherforZero add your voice to call for the abandonment of this harmful traditional practice.

UNCCD short writting-contest 2015

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Theme: Land nurturing people nurturing life

The UNCCD is pleased to announce its first Short Writing Contest. The theme is ‘Land nurturing people nurturing life
  • How would you express your relationship with land in a poem?
  • ​What does land mean to you?
  • Do you know any proverb about land in your country? Is it still relevant in your today’s life?
We welcome all literary expressions and styles, from a very short Haiku-style to a short story of up to 500 words. Entries must be written in English.
There are two categories:
(1) University Students and General Public
(2) Children and Youth in High-School and Below.
The winner of the first category will receive US$500, the second US$300.
Please note that all shortlisted entries will be checked for plagiarism. Plagiarized works will be disqualified from the competition.
Deadline for receiving the application is 15 May 2015.
Please fill in the form which is available on this page, and send it either by:
E-mail: Library@unccd.int
Fax: +49 228 815 2898
Postal mail: UNCCD Library, UN Campus, PO Box 260129, 53153 Bonn, Germany
The winner will be announced on the UNCCD website on 17 June 2015, the World Day to Combat Desertification.

Amina Mama on Militarism

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“Development is about people, not guns. No amount of military power can bring about security in the absence of food, water, healthcare, affordable energy, decent work and a decent environment – all those things that have been enshrined in over half a century of lofty declarations, but which remain elusive in the former colonies. Needless to say surveys confirm that women do define security differently from men – not in terms of all-male armies and arsenals of weapons, or even in terms of national border policing– but in terms of security from poverty, and epidemics of disease,  in terms of freedom from violence and the fear of violence. Women –whose bodies are so often abused by men to spite other men – define security in terms of bodily integrity, that is freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation. For us rape is not just a ‘”weapon of war” but an endemic feature of our unjust and patriarchal societies, where misogyny lives in peacetime as well as in war-time.

Many of us have direct or indirect experiences of war, conflict and military rule. The appalling consequences this has for our societies and for future generations has compelled many women to work for de-militarization and peace. This was evident in the work of the women’s movements in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where women played key roles in ending disastrous conflicts during which men specifically targeted women’s and children’s bodies for rape, mutilation and other violations designed to terrorize ordinary people. Women’s movements continue to work against the long-term social and economic consequences of war and other violent attacks on communities, in ways that deserve far more support than they are currently getting.”

Excerpts from an interview of Amina Mama by Hakima Abbas  on the Feminist Wire – read the full interview here.