Tag Archives: human rights

10 sobering facts about violence against women

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25 has its origins in the 1960 assassination of three of the four Mirabal sisters — Antonia, Maria and Patricia — who were political activists in the Dominican Republic. Their fourth sibling, Bélgica, passed away in 2014. The sisters, known as the Unforgettable Butterflies, became a symbol of the endemic violence against women around the world.

Full article published by CBC News on 25 November 2015.

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Orange Your World!

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one in three women in the world has suffered from violence, usually by someone known to her, according to UN Women. In many societies, bias in the legal system and community attitudes add to the trauma.

The origins of November 25th go back to 1960, when the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic were violently assassinated for their political activism. The sisters, known as the “Unforgettable Butterflies,” became a symbol of the crisis of violence against women in Latin America. November 25th was the date chosen to commemorate their lives and promote global recognition of gender violence, and has been observed in Latin America since the 1980s.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence from November 25th through December 10th, Human Rights Day, aim to raise public awareness and mobilise people everywhere to bring about change. This year the UN’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign invites you to “Orange the world,” using the colour designated by the UNiTE campaign to symbolize a brighter future without violence.

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Well-being and education of women and girls are best predictor of peace

Yesterday the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva held a panel discussion on realising the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl. The panel focused on a broad spectrum of situations and obstacles that girls face when accessing education and the actions and responses of governments. I wanted to share some of the observations with you.

Adama Coulibaly, Regional Director at Plan International for the West African Region, said that barriers to girls’ education in general are multiple: the cost of education, distance to school, violence in and around schools, gender norms, and early marriage and pregnancy. “During emergencies those barriers would become more complex and multiplied, and the situation would become worse for marginalized and excluded populations, particularly girls with disabilities and those belonging to minorities. Education was often interrupted during emergencies, with some children never returning to school, while those who stayed received poor quality of education as a result of unsafe and inadequate learning environments. Dropping out of school was detrimental to girls’ future due to difficulties in catching up on missed lessons, early marriage, and parents preferring to keep girls at home for economic reasons. When children missed out on their education because of emergencies, the negative impact went beyond the interruption of their learning and exposed them to early marriage, child trafficking and gender-based violence.  At the same time, disasters could offer opportunity to rebuild more resilient communities and change norms that blocked girls’ education.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also addressed the panel. “As education expands girls’ horizons, opens up better earning opportunities, and improves women’s position in the family and society, it brings strong benefits to the entire community,” according to Mr. Zeid, noting that the benefits included “greater social stability, better health outcomes across generations, and a surge of economic growth.”

The High Commissioner explained that, according to the recent UN-backed Statistics on Women study of 174 member states, the best predictor of a country’s so-called “peacefulness” is not its wealth or political structure but the well-being and education of women and girls. This finding, coupled with the considerable progress made towards achieving the third Millennium Development Goal on gender equality marked “a tremendous force for social change.”

At the same time, he warned, almost one-third of countries today continue to lag in achieving gender parity in primary education while less than half see as many girls as boys in lower-secondary grades.

“In several countries, education is far from being a zone of gender-sensitivity and safety; a shocking number of girls face sexual violence and harassment inside schools, and on their way to schools,” added Mr. Zeid. “One-third of girls in developing countries are married before they’re 18, and millions give birth while they are still in their teens; most of these young women are prevented from continuing their education.”

Gender parity in education is also under threat from the growing spread of extremists who seek to extinguish any attempt at changing their obscurantist views. A recent paper issued by Mr. Zeid’s office covering the years spanning 2009 to 2014 reported thousands of attacks against schools in at least 70 different countries, many of which were targeted for advocating girls’ education.

The violence, the High Commissioner said, ultimately stemmed from a fear of the power of girls’ education “to spark and sustain social, cultural, economic and political change.”

“Every state should take urgent measures to ensure that all girls can effectively and safely access education of quality, including teaching about human rights,” concluded Mr. Zeid. “With an education of this nature, in line with human rights standards, future generations will be equipped to build and maintain societies based on equality and justice for all.”

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“Bearing witness to the dramatic human failure that is war”

Yesterday I moderated a roundtable discussion on the role of the media in reporting on armed conflict. Panelists were Anne Bennett (Executive Director, Hirondelle USA), Roy Gutman (Middle East Bureau Chief, McClatchy Newspapers) and Charlie Sennott (Executive Director of The GroundTruth Project and Co-founder of the GlobalPost). The event also introduced HREA’s new self-directed e-course Reporting Conflicts: International Humanitarian Law for Media Professionals.

The panelists shared different perspectives on how media professionals should cover conflict situations, how journalists should report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL), and how journalists working in conflict zones can be protected.

“Reporting accurate news and information really contributes to the protection of populations that are caught up in conflict,” said Anne Bennett of Hirondelle USA. An understanding of IHL, she added, helps journalists “ask the right questions.”

Like any story, armed conflict “needs to be explained. It needs to be understood,” said Roy Gutman, who reported on the Bosnian wars in the 1990s. “Wars happen…but what we can do is monitor how they’re being fought.” He called IHL a “yardstick” or “toolbox” that the media can use to highlight violations of human rights and of the laws of the war.

Former Boston Globe foreign correspondent Charlie Sennott compared IHL to the “ground truth,” the human measurements NASA uses to calibrate satellite measurements. Just as the ground truth determines if satellite data is accurate, IHL helps media professionals and the public assess violations of the laws of war. He described journalists’ role in conflict situations as “bear[ing] witness to the dramatic human failure that is war.”

You can watch the recording of the event.

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