To End Violence, We Must Build #CitiesforWomen

In the fight to end violence against women and girls, no real progress can be made without considering the role of the urban environment. Dark streets, unprotected public toilets, parking lots and mass transit are breeding grounds for violence. A placard we saw at a protest against femicide in Latin America a few years ago sums it up: “Walking home, I want to feel free, not brave.”

Since last fall, women in the United States have been speaking up as never before on the subject of violence, harassment, and abuse – at home, at work, in daily life. If #TimesUp for gender-based, on-the-job abuse, #TimesUp too for cities that fail to consider the daily dangers faced by half of their community.

A Global Problem
  • 2014 Reuters survey of 16 major cities worldwide found that women in Latin American cities suffered the highest rates of harassment, with about 6 in 10 women experiencing physical harassment on public transport. Additionally, 64% of women in Mexico City said they’d been groped or physically harassed on public transport.
  • In a 2009 UN Women survey in Delhi, 95% of women said their mobility was limited by fear of harassment in public places.
  • In a Kenyan survey from Women’s Empowerment Link, more than half of the 381 women interviewed in 2017 said they’d experienced gender-based violence while using public transport.
  • According to the World Bank-led partnership, Sustainable Mobility For All, 53% of women in developed countries feel “unsafe” or “very unsafe” waiting on a railway platform after dark.

By 2030, more than 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. With women representing more than half the world’s population, cities need to improve their urban infrastructure to discourage harassment and abuse.

A great deal of danger could be eliminated with more inclusive city planning and the creation of infrastructure sensitive to the needs of women and girls – better street lighting and broader streets, fewer dead-end alleys, safer public toilets. Safer cities enable every individual to move through their day without fear and with unfettered access to social, economic, political, cultural, and educational opportunities.

Photo Credit: Sydney Rubin

We must all do whatever it takes to create cities where women and girls can lead healthy, prosperous, and fulfilling lives, in dignity and peace. It will take cooperation and commitment from government at every level, multi-lateral institutions of all kinds, and non-governmental groups such as WomenStrong International.

How WomenStrong Helps

Members of the WomenStrong Consortium are supporting women and girls in a number of effective ways as they seek to build lives free from violence.

  • With our partner DHAN Foundation in Madurai, India – a city with a population of 1.5 million – we have established a Micro-Justice Clinic to teach women their rights, arm them with the resources they need to fight injustice and stand up for themselves. These women, who also are members of micro-finance self-help groups, discover that economic empowerment gives them confidence and the ability to press local officials to address some of the root causes of gender-based violence, including unsafe infrastructure.
  • Women’s Health to Wealth (WHW) in Kumasi, Ghana – population well over 2 million – works with women who rent stalls in the Bantama Market and who had been pressing local officials for years to install lighting and pave market alleyways so they could safely transport their wares at dawn and dusk. With WomenStrong’s support, women working with WHW struck a bargain with a local official, agreeing to clean the market in exchange for the government paving and lighting the market. The paving was completed, but the lighting was not, so WHW continue to press the market manager. Their concerns have spurred construction of a new, safe, enclosed market structure where plenty of lighting is promised.
  • In the Manyatta slums of Kisumu, Kenya, Alice Visionary Foundation Project (AVFP) has run a multi-year program on Positive Discipline in schools to help create environments where girls can learn, prosper and grow. Schools should be places of safety for young girls but are often places of harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and rape, by male students and even teachers. AVFP works with school administrators, teachers, parents, public officials and communities to help keep girls in school and flourishing in the face of the massive challenges of poverty.
  • WomenStrong Member H.O.P.E. in Borgne, Haiti – located in a commune with a population of under 100,000 – supports the work of local women who have formed a group to confront domestic violence, helping victims and filling the gap left by a lack of law enforcement. H.O.P.E. also runs clubs for adolescent girls, similar to those at the other WomenStrong sites, teaching girls their rights, building confidence, and providing safe spaces where girls can build friendships, gain mentors, and create a network of support.

Women and girls at all our sites demonstrate every day that they have the determination, smarts and willingness to stand up for their right to be free from violence. It is now up to the rest of us to provide the support they deserve and need by building #CitiesforWomen.

Sexual and Reproductive Health in Kenya’s Big Four Agenda

Of recent, the Government of Kenya (GoK) prioritized Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in its Big Four Agenda over the next five years. The Big Four Agenda which is aimed at accelerating economic growth focuses on food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal health.

The Government is set to roll out Universal Health Coverage to all households by 2022 to guarantee access to quality and affordable healthcare by reconfiguring the National Hospital Insurance Fund and reforming the governance of private insurance companies to align them to the universal health coverage.

Focus on universal health stands out as the most significant and conceivably the most important strategic priority for Kenya. The reality is that a majority of Kenyans can hardly afford or even access health services in their various communities.

The governments’ agenda to invest in health will indeed spur economic growth. The move demonstrates that the government values the need for human capital. A healthy population will engage in various economic activities hence contribute to the growth and development of Kenya.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights cut across each of the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. Sex and reproduction are essentially intimate affairs, played out within personal and familial relationships. However, the consequences of a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, supplies, information and education are felt across entire populations, in social and economic life.

The recently launched State of African Women Report by International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) warns that unless countries make urgent commitment to invest in tangible actions for improving the Sexual health and lives of women and girls in Africa, the continent will continue to have poor development outcomes.

Making This a Reality

To realize this the Kenyan government will work the county government to scale up the provision of specialized medical equipment and increase the number of health facilities at the community level, including mobile facilities in order to increase access to health services.

The existing Linda Mama program, a free maternity care program is slated for expansion to mission and private hospitals to enlist community volunteers who will assist in healthcare service provision at grassroots level.

Training of medical doctors is also set to commence, including the sourcing of health specialists from outside in order to fill the existing medical gaps.

In terms of realization of sexual and reproductive health, the Ministry of Health, civil society organizations and other stakeholders have this opportune moment to work with county governments to ensure that part of the chunk that is set for health goes into the improvement of sexual and reproductive health.

Why is this Relevant?

In the national context, the Big Four are rightly pegged on the Kenya Vision 2030 and well-mainstreamed in the third-Medium Term Plan (2018-2022) of the Vision, due for launch soon. At the continental level, the Big Four Agenda aligns well with Africa’s Agenda 2063 themed “The Africa We Want”. At the global level, the Big Four Agenda is effectively aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, upon which the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are anchored.

 

Girls’ Globe is Leaving No One Behind

This year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign has focused on the fact that we must ‘Leave No One Behind‘ if we’re to eradicate or even reduce the ongoing violation of rights that continues to occur all over the world.

For me, personally, Girls’ Globe is a true example of leaving no one behind.

It is a pertinent and powerful platform which brings women, girls and men together and amplifies their voices, stories and perspectives. It is a place to raise awareness and share experiences. It is a place where all women have a voice and all girls have an opportunity. It’s about young people – of all genders, origins, backgrounds and beliefs – collaborating to create content with the power not only to inform ordinary global citizens, but to influence policy and decision makers.

‘Leaving No One Behind’ is the universal principle at the core of the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It ensures that every citizen of every country in every corner of every community is included in the plight to implement the 17 Global Goals and achieve results beyond the targets and indicators. It has become a rallying cry on global, regional and national platforms.

Our mothers, sisters and daughters have lived in a world where sexual and gender-based violence were regular occurrences and socio-culturally acceptable norms, especially when between man and wife. Our women and girls have been abused, tortured, humiliated and violated through a politically endorsed, socially accepted and unjustly oppressive social system called patriarchy. This system oozes inequality and unfairness and inflicts everlasting damage on the world. As a result, women continue to face physical, emotional and mental abuse because structural, systematic abusive behaviours towards them continue to go unpunished.

Many communities – previously and currently underserved and marginalized – have been systematically oppressed and deliberately excluded due to neoliberal policies, and well…patriarchy. Women and children face the biggest burden of social segregation and political manipulation. Therefore, prioritizing the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, and putting these populations first, is vital in tackling issues like gender based violence.

Women around the world face similar issues and challenges, and women understand what needs to be done to overcome them, although in many cases they lack the resources, opportunities and support to shape the world they live in. Girls’ Globe is about partnership. It is about fostering bonds and building a network of strong and capable women who carry the voices of their peers, community members and families with them in their advocacy. This creates a unique opportunity for collaboration, communication and connection, just what the 2030 Agenda needs to capitialize on in order to be successful.

Let’s be honest. Many countries are, at this very moment, struggling to meet the goal of leaving no one behind. Some might not even have achieved the expected progress when conducting their five-year monitoring and evaluations review in a few year’s time.  However, it is worth the effort required. Leaving no one behind requires commitment from public, private and civil society sector on national, regional and global levels.

Girls’ Globe is publishing opinions and ideas on tackling gender-based violence from our global network of bloggers and organizations during each of the 16 Days of Activism. We’re also crowdfunding to be able to continue to raise the voices of girls and young women in 2018 – voices like Zanele’s. Donate today and help us to continue building a safer, more equal world. 

Unlocking Technology’s Potential: the Social Good Summit 2017

Every September, the world’s leaders gather together at the United Nations to debate on the world’s most pressing issues and present their points of view to the world for a week. This year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is focusing on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which were adopted in 2015.  

One of the biggest events of the week is The Social Good Summit, which is held annually. It’s goal is to bring together a community of global citizens and progressive leaders to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. This year, the Social Good Summit will focus on how we can use technology to achieve these goals and make the world a better place. The Summit is particularly special this year because it’s the first global virtual summit exploring social innovation, disruptive technology, and the power of mobilizing networks to address some of today’s most challenging issues.

Since Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, the Summit will include a panel on Women in Activism with Carmen Perez, Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice. She is the co-founder of Justice League NYC and founder of Justice League CA, two state-based task forces for advancing criminal justice reform agenda. She has organized numerous national campaigns and protests, including Growing Up Locked Down conferences and the March2Justice. She’s currently the National Co-Chair of the Women’s March on Washington.

In total, the Summit selected 33 women to speak throughout the event, from artists to CEOs to activists. The fact that more than half of the speakers are women (there are 28 male speakers) already shows the UN’s commitment to gender equality by implementing this principle in their own event.

I’m certainly looking forward to what will be said throughout the Summit about how to achieve gender equality by 2030. Being able to hear from so many empowered women will surely be empowering to those of us in the audience who are at the beginning of our careers and trying to find a way to make a difference in the world. I’m looking forward to being inspired by these world leaders to do my part for my community.

If you’re interested in being part of the global conversation online, here’s the Facebook event