Each year on March 22 we mark World Water Day. It is an opportunity to keep the urgent water issues – from lack of sanitation to transboundary water to climate change -- top of my mind for practitioners, decision makers and the global public. In the coming days we will post here updates and stories from the field, as well as links to some of our partners’ content. But, more importantly, this is an opportunity to hear from you, too.
On September 19, 2014, a Kenyan middle-aged woman was waiting for a bus at a stop in Nairobi. When the bus stopped, a group of men surrounded her, and started to strip and assault her for wearing a miniskirt in public. She screamed and cried out for help, but only a couple of brave people reached out and gave her clothes to cover herself.
This kind of sexual violence against women is not unprecedented in Kenya, but this time was different. The brutality of the violence was caught on camera and went viral online. On November 2014 alone, at least four such attacks were recorded across Kenya. The numbers for violence against women are disturbing: according to the Gallup World Poll conducted in 2010 in Kenya, 48.2 percent of women feared that a household member could be sexually harassed.
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I’ll admit there was a tiny part of me that wanted to do that whole Angelina Jolie thing – go deep into the heart of a developing country and be surrounded by a gaggle of school children, whom I would go on to pinch, squeeze, and coddle. Last I checked I was not an UNHCR ambassador (and zero movie credentials), so instead I found myself face to face with four resolute high school students in the western region of Cameroon asking in broken French: What does corruption mean to you?
“It means to give money, to be sexually harassed, to be absent from school and then to pay teachers to say you were present,” said Floriane Masso, a student of a government school of Bamendjou. Masso is one of many students who are part of Clubs d’Education Civique et d’Integration Nationale (Cecine) established under the ZENU Network. With financing of about $15,000 from a Development Marketplace competition organized under a $1.8 million “Banking on Change” Governance Program in Cameroon--funded by the Governance Partnership Facility (GPF)—the ZENU Network set out to fight corruption in 16 high schools across 8 districts in the Western parts of Cameroon. One of the tools used were to put in place “corruption observatories.” The activity focused on victims of corruption and provided a whistleblowing mechanism, while pressuring authorities to impose sanctions for corrupt behavior.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Tomorrow’s world: seven development megatrends challenging NGOs
As we move into 2015, many UK-based NGOs are wondering how to meet the challenges of a crucial year. What is the unique and distinct value that each organisation, and the UK sector as a whole, brings to international development, and how might this change in future? To help the sector get on the front foot we have identified seven “megatrends” and posed a few questions to highlight some of the key choices NGOs might need to make. At the end of next week we’ll be concluding a consultation with DfID on the future of the sector – all your thoughts are welcome.
Why emerging markets need smart internet policies
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has released its latest study into, well, the affordability of internet access. The study shows how big the challenge is on that front in emerging markets – for over two billion people there, fixed-line broadband costs on average 40 percent of their monthly income, and mobile broadband costs on average 10 percent of their monthly income. The United Nations’ “affordability target” for internet access is five percent of monthly income, so there’s clearly a ways to go in many developing countries. Almost 60 percent of global households are still unconnected and, unsurprisingly, those who can’t afford to get online tend to be poor, in rural communities and/or women.
Duncan Green reviews the balance of achievements on gender equality as summarized in a new paper from Gender and Development Network and shares some videos in honor of International Women's Day.
It was International Women’s Day on Sunday, which is swiftly followed by celebrations around the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing conference (I still remember the buzz from women returning from that) and the start of the 59th Commission on the Status of Women at the UN – an annual spotlight on progress (or otherwise) on women’s rights.
Gender is a big deal in Oxfam, and I’ve often been struck by what the rest of the development business can learn from progress on gender rights, and the activism that underpins it. For starters:
Power begins with ‘power within’, when previously marginalized people kindle their sense of rights, dignity and voice. Far more of our work should start there.
Norms really matter. Gender activism shows just how shallow a lot of advocacy can be, when it concentrates on the ephemera of policy, and ignores the social norms that underpin identity and injustice. And international movements can have real impact on those norms.
Stamina: any struggle worth its salt takes decades – you don’t just look for a quick win and move on.
The world beyond money – work on areas such as the ‘care economy’ highlights just how much of what really matters lies outside the monetary economy that dominates thinking on development. We should be talking about shame and joy as much as about income and assets.
(I also happen to think the gender activists could learn useful lessons from others, but that’s another post.)
As for IWD, first some heavy policy, then some fun videos.
It’s been 20 years since 189 countries signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, committing themselves to embracing gender equality, and 104 years since the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, but child marriage is still a common practice in many developing countries.
Child marriage, defined by UNICEF as a marriage or informal union before age 18, is a violation of human rights. It is a reality for both boys and girls but disproportionately affects young females. Globally, more than 700 million women alive today were married as before age 18, and more than 1 in 3 – or about 250 million – were married before age 15.
The following video is a partnership between UNICEF and trap artist RL Grime and tells the story of child marriage through the eyes of one young girl in Chad. Chad has the third highest rate of child marriage in the world, behind Niger and Central African Republic, and 68% of its girls are married as children. Unlike many other countries, the practice is prevalent in both wealthy and less wealthy households. Child marriage compromises the development of girls because it interrupts schooling, limits career and vocational opportunities, and places girls at increased risk of complications during pregnancy or childbirth. The video captures all of this.
We must continue to empower women. Women continue to face disadvantages in almost all spheres. But if we want a gender equitable society, empowering women is not enough.
We must also 'Empower Men'
We must also empower men. Of course, not in the conventional sense by giving men more power over women. Rather, by empowering men to challenge prevailing norms and change their behaviors. This is logical even though it has not been the prevailing approach. Gender is a "system" and both women and men are integral parts of this system. If we want to see meaningful change, both men and women are implicated. It is not enough to enlighten and empower women and expect men to follow.
This is not an easy thing. Men are critically judged and assessed - by themselves, by their peers, by their elders and by most women themselves - based on the dominant ideals of manhood. And across many societies, this still means exercising control over women, being tough, being strong. It also means achieving something, as terms such as "man-up" suggest, and many men, including low-income men struggle with this societal expectation. If men can't achieve and don't conform to these societal expectations, they are often socially sanctioned, belittled or ridiculed.
Challenging norms and behaviors is thus a collective challenge for men. It is also a challenge for women, who consciously or unconsciously often perpetuate these same social norms in the way they raise their sons or interact with men.
Make Available Resource for Men
Most gender initiatives continue to focus on women. This is understandable. But as we argue, we need interventions targeting and supporting men for change.
The largest and most extensive resource available for men is MenEngage, a global alliance made up of dozens of country networks spread across many regions of the world, hundreds of non-governmental organizations, and UN partners, that provides a collective voice to engage men and boys on gender issues. There are also other smaller more localized interventions, with the most innovative programming coming from the fields of HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and family planning, parenting, and domestic violence.
But we need to do much more.
Central to this premise of engaging and empowering men for change is understanding and unbundling this homogenous term called 'men'. In the case of gender-based violence for example, we identified five groups of men, each with different needs and potential roles:
Men who are victims of violence: need to break their silence and seek help
Men who use violence: need to seek help
Men who are silence spectators: need to speak out
Men who speak out: need to become agents of change
Men who are agents of change: need to continue to speak out and mobilize others
In coming up with a typology, we see how acute the needs are in supporting men. For example, how many hotlines are out there to support the men that need help? There is much work to do.
Empower Women by Empowering Men
As we just celebrated International Women's Day, let us continue to recognize women for all the advances and contributions they have made. But let us also 'empower women by empowering men' and recognize that we need new approaches and huge efforts to achieve this objective.
For more information how to get involved in the WEvolve campaign visit the website http://www.wevolveglobal.org.
There was cause for celebration at the State of Rio de Janeiro’s Office of Women’s Affairs last week. The office had just launched a new program that provides support and legal assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, which was covered by a wide range of media and commemorated by a visit from senior World Bank leadership to Brazil.
Our team is currently visiting Rio to help with activities for this new program, called “Via Lilas.” Rio’s government has a lot to cheer about; the program is both innovative and significant. Its primary component is a system of electronic kiosks, placed at stations along Supervia suburban rail lines, which contain helpful information about how women can seek support for gender-based violence.
The placement of these kiosks is strategic; the Supervia provides some of the poorest communities in the region access to jobs and services.
The rail service connects downtown Rio de Janeiro to the periphery in this sprawling metropolitan area of more than 4,500 square kilometers and 12 million people. Outlying parts of the metropolitan area, such as the community of Japeri, can be more than two hours by train to Rio’s Central station.
The “Via Lilas” kiosks will be placed at high-profile locations along the Supervia system, providing easy information access to the approximately 700,000 passengers who use the rail network each day.
"I’m no different from anybody else. I like clothes, I like shoes, I like to go have nice dinners, I like to dance. Just because I’ve dedicated myself to serving women, why do you think I need to sacrifice myself?”
– Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur, author, and media commentator who has dedicated herself to women’s rights and freedom. She founded Women for Women International, a humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of war, at the age of 23.