Addressing Cyber Violence and Harassment

Orange Day – a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls”, is celebrated on 25th of the month, according to UN Women. July 2017’s Orange Day Action Theme was cyber violence against women.

To mark the day, UN Women hosted a panel moderated by Emily Mahaney, Senior Editor at Glamour Magazine. Panelists were Feminista Jones, a writer, activist, survivor of cyber violence, and creator of the hashtag #YouOKSis; Emily May, Co-founder and Executive Director of Hollaback!; and Jamia Wilson, Press Executive Director and Publisher at CUNY Feminist.

Research published this year showed that in the US:

  • 70% of US adults surveyed who identify as women say that “online harassment is a ‘major problem’”, compared to 54% of those surveyed who identify as men.
  • 41% of American adults said that they have experienced some form of online harassment, which the survey defined as “offensive name-calling, purposeful embarrassment, physical threats, stalking, sexual harassment, or harassment over a sustained period of time”.
  • Even though both sexes reported experiencing cyber violence, women reported a worse experience: 34% of them experienced their latest incident as “extremely” or “very” upsetting, versus 16% of men reporting the same.

At its core, the internet is another public space where women can experience forms of violence or harassment, similar to catcalling on the street or inappropriate touching on a subway. To improve the online experience for all, Jamia Wilson suggested that online etiquette should be taught early on, both at schools and at home, and that adults should instruct children how to behave respectfully online, just as they teach children how to behave in public spaces

Emily Mahaney asked the panelists perhaps the most burning question we all have about cyberviolence and harassment: who perpetrates these acts of cyber violence, and what is their motivation? 

Feminsta Jones answered that the perpetrators are usually men who feel injured by women in some way, such as rejection from a woman in their lives or having been cheated on by their partners, and harassing women online is a way for them to channel their resentment. In terms of motivation, all panelists mentioned two things: power and dominance. May mentioned that it’s hard to pinpoint a perpetrator’s identity exactly, but that their real identity is not as important as the identity they assume online, which is usually that of a white, cisgender, and heterosexual man.

It might be logical to think that most perpetrators of cyber violence and harassment will do so anonymously or using a fake identity, but Jones mentioned that she has been attacked by people using their real pictures and names.

Although the violence and harassment are ‘virtual’, the consequences are very real. Being a victim of harassment and cyber violence can cause serious psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and even PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Jones, for example, shared that she suffers from agoraphobia after experiencing cyber violence and harassment.

Cyber violence and harassment can indeed affect the victim’s life offline, especially when threats include rape or physical violence. Victims may feel the need to change their phone numbers and address, as well as becoming wary of being online again. Because consequences can impact a person’s offline life, Wilson talked about the importance of therapy for victims in their recovery process.

On how to help victims, May suggested that if we see someone suffering cyber violence or harassment, we should acknowledge the victim, whether through a comment or private message, even if that person is a stranger to us. To end the panel, Mahaney asked the panelists to identify one positive thing we can all do change this environment of cyber violence and harassment and to support each other. Wilson encourages us to speak up and share our stories if we have been a victim ourselves. May encourages us to remember that there are people out there that have your back and don’t forget to have the backs of others. Jones’ advice was simple but powerful: ask people if they’re ok.

If you have experienced some form of cyber violence and/or harassment – or know someone who has – visit for help and support.

Women In Politics: Moving From the Periphery Toward Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions

With our sights and Twitter feeds plugged into #2030NOW, the UN has amplified not only the Sustainable Development Goals but also asked us to consider the world we want to live in in 2030. Regardless of our political affiliations, government is highly influential in shaping our world and governance is reflective of societal norms and power dynamics. A low representation of women in government does not lend itself to the inclusive, transparent, and just governance systems we have pledged to achieve by 2030 via Sustainable Development Goal 16, which calls for Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

In excluding women from government, women’s preferences, voices, and citizenship are all disempowered. However, women advocates, UN organizations and others have stepped up and voiced these concerns and are actively working to increase female participation in government.

For example, UN Women’s primary goal is to empower women and girls and has used the platform of Goal 16 to elevate the importance of transparent, inclusive governance in empowerment. Their solution involves developing the capacity to conduct gender analysis, monitoring systems to track good governance and women in government and collecting adequate sex disaggregated data to assess gender equality and empowerment in nations around the world.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark spoke on increased government transparency for the betterment of women in September: “Advancing SDG 16 helps advance progress on all the other goals as effective institutions are central, for example, to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership.”

Clark herself has held a number of positions in government, not only as the head of UNDP, but also as the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand, and a forerunner in the appointment of the next UN Secretary General. At the +SocialGood Summit, Clark spoke on her Secretary General aspirations with fellow female leader, Former President of Malawi Joyce Banda, “There is a job to be done here. That is going to take leadership and someone with a profile like mine. So I am standing my ground and hoping that I can be the one to get it done.”

Helen Clark’s confidence in her abilities and pursuit of leadership positions inspires young girls and women globally. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Gulley, New Zealand native, is inspired by Clark. As a young person, and girl advocate Ms. Gulley hopes women politicians be criticized for their politics rather their hair, hemlines and husbands, and in shifting the dialogue around women in politics young girls are inclined to become politically active and aware.

Rwanda has the highest percentage of female politicians with 64% of the Lower House and 39% of the Upper House, and one of only two countries with greater than 50% female participation in government. The First Lady, Jeanette Kagame, however, believes female participation is necessary in not only the politics but also the economics of government, saying,

“A global female leader, perhaps correctly, stated, ‘too many women, in too many countries speak the same language: silence.’ We see several girls lacking confidence, preferring to remain on the periphery of economic progress.”

Kagame has further refuted that economic success be hindered because of African culture, and stressed the importance of employing economic opportunities for female empowerment.

Former U.S.  Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright, famously said, “Every country deserves to have the best possible leader and that means that women have to be given a chance to compete. If they’re never allowed to compete in the electoral process then the countries are really robbing themselves of a great deal of talent.”

As a girl interested in politics, I of course hope to see more women and girls become political leaders. And by 2030, I do not doubt that we will have the first female leader of America, the UN, and all other major countries, but I am concerned that they will be the first and also the last. Besides electing women to politics, I hope we continue to inspire and empower young women and girls to becoming female leaders.

For us to achieve the objectives of Goal 16 and transform our government into transparent, inclusive institutions by 2030 we must empower young girls to be involved in every level of politics. And with the guidance of a generation of formidable female leaders like Madeline Albright, Jeanette Kagame, Helen Clark and many others, we can achieve #2030NOW.

‘Create our future by design, not by accident!’

Last night, I attended the UNGA event, Leader’s Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action, hosted by UN Women and the Mary Robinson Foundation.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, addressed the attendees through video, and called on the group, on the eve of the Climate Summit, to forge a new agenda with bold and transformative action, and listen to the voices of women when creating a universal climate agreement for 2015.

Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

The discussion from the event will be presented at the Climate Summit today.

Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, opened the discussion by remarking that women are ‘bearing the brunt of climate change’.

Women, who are the farmers and fishers, and who rely on the land for their livelihood, become more vulnerable with climate change.

The keynote speaker Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, mentioned that women are 14 times more likely to be affected by natural disasters and, post disaster, women become more vulnerable to abuse and violence. In times of natural disasters, women are the care givers leaving themselves at higher risk. She explained that women play a central role in the world in our agriculture, water, and food systems. Women represent 65% of those who raise livestock. Women are not just affected by climate change, but have an understanding of the impact of climate change on the rest of the world.

Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

The panel, moderated by Mary Robinson, included Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator; Christiana Figueres, Climate Change Secretariat, UNFCCC; Rachel Kyte, World Bank; Noelene Nabulivou, Pacific Partnerships to Strengthen Gender, Climate Change Response and Sustainable Development; Linidiwe Sibanda, Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network; Leena Srivastava, The Energy and Resource Institute University; and Riddhima Yadav, The Global Education and Leadership Foundation.

Attendees included Queen Rania Al Abdullah, of Jordan; Nadine Heredia de Humala, First Lady of Peru; Graça Machel, member of The Elders; and former Heads of State:

  • Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia
  • Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland
  • Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland
  • Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi
  • Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway
  • Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal

Some current approaches by women for curbing climate change include ‘promoting green investments, developing energy-efficient technology, managing small-scale irrigation projects, engaging in efficient waste management systems, and boosting efforts to increase awareness and mobilize action.’

Panelist Rachel Kyte suggested that decisions about climate change should not only be decided by environment ministers, but other sectors, such as the economic sector. She said we need to reinvent how the decisions are made. For example, taxes could be determined according to impact on the environment. Women around the world balance their family’s money. They often work multiple, low-paying jobs, and they see the effect of climate change on their income on a daily basis. Climate change is closely related to the economy.

Other members of the panel stressed including and empowering women in decisions, measuring the effects of climate change accurately, and using data to prioritize short term and long term goals.

Eighteen-year-old Riddhima Yadav was the last to speak. She explained that she understands economics, unequal distribution of wealth, and the realities of climate change; however, what she cannot understand is gender inequality, and why women around the world have to fight everyday for education and literacy, face trafficking, abuse and humiliation, and domestic violence. She asks,

Despite all of the technology we have access to and the progress we are making, are we doing enough?

Her final message to our leaders was to collaborate on climate change, and “create our future by design, not by accident.”

Christiana Figueres, ended the panel discussion with her summary of Riddhima’s comments. Ms. Figueres said that to her, Riddhima is telling us,

This generation is not taking any crap!

Ms. Figueres remarked that her generation took a lot of ‘crap’ as if it was normal. She called on the women leaders in the room to commit to leaving not one seat behind them to women in their respective decision-making rooms, but to be sure to leave five.

Climate change is one of the biggest human rights issues of our time. Development cannot happen if climate change is not halted. Our generation has a challenge ahead of us.  We need to include the voices of women who are most affected by climate change, and who can find the right solutions.

Follow all the action surrounding the UN Climate Summit happening today!

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

Why You Should Care

Gladys Kalibbala, an award-winning journalist from Uganda, was a panelist last night, along with Jessica Yu, Academy Award winning film maker, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Head of UN Women, at the UN Foundation event, Why We Care: Stories of Reproductive Health and discussion of the film Misconception. Gladys left Africa for the first time to attend the premiere of the film she was featured in at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday night, and to be a panelist at the event last night.

Jessica Yu, Director Misconception, speaking at the UN Foundation event. Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Jessica Yu, Director Misconception, speaking at the UN Foundation event. Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

Gladys developed the column, Lost (and Abandoned) Children, for Vision Group in Uganda. Gladys writes the stories of abandoned children to shed light on the issue and to make an attempt at reconnecting them with their families. In her community, children are often left at schools, in taxis, and at hospitals because their parents are desperate, and cannot provide for them.

At the discussion last night, Gladys was able to solve a common reproductive health debate, in an instant, through a powerful and heart-wrenching story.

At population or reproductive health conferences, and in policy-making debates, opposing camps cannot come to a consensus about what age to begin sex education. This debate and debates like it stall real progress for gender equity. Gladys recounted the story of a 4-year-old girl who had been raped by her father. The girl was noticed walking down the street limping with blood dripping down her legs. The only reason she got justice (if one could really gain a sense of justice after enduring something like that) was because, luckily, older community members saw her, had evidence against her father, and were brave enough to bring it to the attention of the authorities. This story is not an unusual situation for girls in Gladys’ community. For most of us, something that unfathomable is what Gladys bears witness to on a daily basis.

Through her story, Gladys quickly convinces everyone how important it is to educate girls and boys at a very young age about sexual health. She says it is imperative that young children know how their bodies are meant to be treated. They need to learn when to speak up and to know when something shouldn’t be happening to them.

This story was just one of many powerful remarks Gladys made during the panel discussion. Another was an account of her own family – how her father sold her family’s land, left her mother alone with 8 children, and walked away carrying their linens and as much of the family’s possessions as he could.

Gladys was featured in Misconception because the film investigates the issue of population growth. The film begins with Hans Rosling divulging statistics about the world’s growing population and making a point for contraceptives. The film then moves into personal stories including that of Gladys’. At its onset, Jessica Yu believed the film would focus on the stats, however, she quickly realized it is a human issue. “It is not about trying to control people, it’s about giving people opportunity and they will control themselves.”  She mentions,

We need to focus on context to deal with the issue of over population, it is not a one size fits all solution.”

Panelists. Photo Credit: Liz Fortier
Panelists. Photo Credit: Liz Fortier

Only ¼ of the women in most developing nations with high fertility rates have access to family planning services, and on average women in these countries have 6 children. Many of these mothers are children themselves. Those that are not linked to family planning services, are likely to attempt unsafe abortions, and 2% of women in these countries experience maternal death. Children are born into a life of limited resources and opportunities.

The film features women who had been raped at ages 13 and 14, and did not even realize they were pregnant. Because they lack education, girls are bullied into sexual relationships and are unable to make informed decisions.

A mother featured in the film mentions, “I love her (referring to her daughter), but I don’t have a place to put her.”

Gladys calls for politicians to take action, not by sitting at a conference, but by coming to meet the people where they are.

The solutions that I took away from this event are that we need not be complacent, work from the ground up, and broaden the voices in the discussion to include men and other stakeholders. When these issues are addressed, there will be clear, individual, community and global effects.

Gladys reminds us that no action is too small. At a young age she learned that it was good to share with people in need. That value is what led her to dedicate her life to helping children who have been left with no hope and no voice. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka mentioned how much better the world would be if we all thought like Gladys.

Check out the UN Foundation – Why We Care website, follow the discussion on Twitter using #whywecare, and watch the film, Misconception.
Featured image. Photo Credit: ILO/ Livingston Armytage
Featured image. Photo Credit: ILO/ Livingston Armytage


The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health 2013 Report

PMNCH Report Pic

To kick off UN General Assembly Week in New York City, Girls’ Globe bloggers attended the launch of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health 2013 Report. Some of the Report’s contributors and reviewers included members of the World Health Organization, Foreign Affairs Canada, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, SickKids Center for Global Child Health, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University. The representatives spoke on the current issues and accomplishments regarding maternal and child health, as well as accountability and moving beyond 2015.

Discussions of the Report show that improvements have been made in several countries regarding maternal, newborn, and child health. Bangladesh was cited as a success story reporting a significant decrease in maternal and child mortality in the past decade. Increased access to modern contraceptives, access to skilled birth attendants and private sector facilities, gains in female education, and better roads and mobile phone use have all contributed to the decrease in maternal and infant mortality rates in Bangladesh.

“Commitments to advance the Global Maternal and Child Health Strategy continue to increase- the number of commitment-makers rose from 111 in 2010 to 293 in 2013, and there is growing evidence that committed funding is being disbursed.”

Although Bangladesh provides the Report with positive statistics, many contributors and reviewers believe although some progress has been made, it is not sufficient to meet goals by 2030. Dr. Richard Horton, co-chair and editor of The Lancet, points out there are still 38 countries that have experienced no reduction in child mortality. Horton believes a need for increased civil society engagement, greater focus on the issue of violence against women, and a more human rights-focused universal approach are necessary factors in the fight to decrease maternal and child mortality rates. Similarly, Dr. Neff Walker, Senior Scientist at John Hopkins University,  recognizes if we continue at this rate of growth, only 9 of the 75 countries will hit the MDG for reducing mortality. A lack of data surrounding adolescent reproductive health was also cited as a hindrance to achieving the goals.

There is an overwhelming sense of urgency to build effective accountability systems for countries, governments and organizations to ensure progress is being achieved. The report recognizes the need for stronger partnerships across a number of sectors in order for fundamental changes to occur. The majority of contributors and reviewers agreed in order to accelerate the goals on maternal and child health development initiatives must go beyond “business as usual.”

If you missed the conversation, check out our recap of the entire session and launch of the Report on Storify.

Blog Post by: Diane Fender and Justine Stacey

Featured Image Courtesy of: DFID

#LandMatters for Women

Burmese women working in fields. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Burmese women working in fields. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Consider the following:

Land Matters is a month-long campaign developed by Devex highlighting innovative solutions and furthering the dialogue among smallholder farms in developing countries around the world, land experts, social entrepreneurs, business people and governments. In partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute  and with support from organizations like USAID, Chemonics, to name a few, this campaign hopes to create a collaborative movement to tackle land challenges for, among other sectors, women.

What is the situation for women and land rights?

In many parts of the world patriarchy still rules. The UN-HABITAT report Women’s Rights to Land and Property highlights how women have no rights to land because land ownership is all too often bestowed upon the male head of the family – the father, eldest son or husband. In the case of divorce or death of the husband, a woman can lose her and her children’s right to stay on the land on which she lives (and sometimes works) and be thrown on the streets, left to fend for themselves. Additionally, women are disproportionately affected by slum clearance, forced evictions and resettlement schemes by the state. In many places like Lesotho and Zimbabwe, women face legal discrimination laws and policies, no access to credit, and/or few to no female or gender aware male representatives with decision-making power.

Land ownership is important, even critical, for many women around the world. Whether it’s the land they live on, the land they work, or a combination of both, land can be the gateway to a better life. In countries like El Salvador, Burundi and Niger, organizations like IFAD have helped provide women technical and legal assistance in achieving land rights and navigating government systems. UN Women has had success in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan spreading awareness in communities about women’s land rights and providing legal assistance and training classes on farm management to thousands of women. Even if laws recognize women’s’ rights to land ownership, actually implementing them can be more difficult than getting them on the books in the first place. So often the hardest part of implementing rights is changing the ingrained patriarchal attitudes of society and that may prove to be the biggest challenge in acquiring land rights for women.

Former UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet visits Rural Women’s Land Rights Project in Morocco. Courtesy of UN Women on Flickr (Creative Commons).
Former UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet visits Rural Women’s Land Rights Project in Morocco. Courtesy of UN Women on Flickr (Creative Commons).

Why is it important for women to have land rights?

There are a number of arguments to be made for furthering women’s land rights, but the most compelling is that research shows that when women have access to land rights and control over the family finances, there are a lot of benefits not only for women but also for children, families and communities as a whole. Families have better nutrition and reduced food insecurity. Children, especially girls, receive more education; are born healthier at higher birth weights; have better health outcomes; and girls are less likely to marry young. There are less reports of domestic violence. This list goes on, but you get the idea.

When you consider this research in relation to the fact that women disproportionately bear the burden of poverty and that female-led households tend to be the “poorest of the poor,” what is missing is glaringly obvious. We are missing out on so much potential. If women can produce better outcomes for their families working on limited resources, just think of how much better off children, families and communities could be if they actually had access to their full rights and resources. The outcome could very likely be a world with less hunger and malnutrition, less violence, less poverty, and better health outcomes for children.

Moving Forward

Just because the #LandMatters campaign ends at the end of September does not mean the conversation needs to stop. Fighting for women’s land rights is an on-going project that requires partners from all sectors and disciplines. Check out these organizations working to improve land rights for women…:

…and these resources:

And check out this video from the International Center for Research on Women with economist Krista Jacobs explaining why everyone benefits when women have access to land rights:

Cover image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.