Gender Equality

Forced marriage is still an issue that affects more than 700 million women globally – a third of them are less than 18. In order to raise awareness of this issue, the UNICEF partnered with major African artists to write a song against child marriage.

In Central and Western Africa, 41% of the girls above 18 are married (illustrative photo, source: UNICEF)
In Central and Western Africa, 41% of the girls above 18 are married (illustrative photo, source: UNICEF)

In Central and Western Africa, 41% of the girls above 18 are married – in countries like Benin, one in ten girls is married under the age of 15. More than depicting a social issue, these statistics are alarming from a health care standpoint as many of these girls are not able-bodied for childbearing and could face permanent physical and psychological damage.

As part of the Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage that the government launched last June, nine artists from Benin committed themselves to breaking the silence around child marriage. UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors Angélique Kidjo and Zeynab Abib, supported by Danialou Sagbohan, Kalamoulaï, Don Métok, Sessimè, Dibi Dobo, Norberka and Olga Vigouroux, gathered to craft a deeply moving song and a video that call the population to act.

“A little girl is still a child. She cannot be a mother or a bride. Let her grow up to live a fulfilling life. Say NO to child marriage!”; so goes the song, co-written by Angelique Kidjo and Zeynab Abib.

The artists sing in a variety of languages, including Fon, Mina, Mahi, Sahouè, Yoruba, Goun, Bariba and French in order for the message to spread throughout the country and neighbouring countries.

Artists from Benin are engaged in the cause
Artists from Benin are engaged in the cause

“The impact on these girls is terrible. Once married, they no longer go to school, they are raped, they get pregnant, which puts their health and that of their baby in danger. We artists are saying NO to all these injustices! Girls are not the property of anyone; they have the right to choose their own destinies”, says Beninese pop star Zeynab Abib, who was able to mobilise Benin’s greatest artists around this cause.

Early marriage prevents girls from getting proper education and leads them to poverty, while enforcing the prevalence of traditions and belief systems that are tied to the continued practice of child marriage.

“We need all the strength and weapons we can muster to fight the scourge of child marriage. Art, especially music, is a powerful weapon. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘politics can be strengthened by music, but music has a potency that defies politics’. This power must be harnessed!” says Dr Claudes Kamenga, UNICEF Representative in Benin.

Watch the video [English subtitles] [SAY NO TO CHILD MARRIAGE]1 Watch the video [French subtitles] [DISONS NON AU MARIAGE DES ENFANTS]2

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

On the 20th of June, the World Refugee Day, we remember the most vulnerable group of refugees worldwide: girls and women whose basic humanitarian rights are denied. Alongside the UN motto for the Sustainable Development Goals which is to «leave no one behind», the Horyou blog stands for women empowerment and protection.

Woman in refugee camp in Democratic Republic of Congo
Woman in refugee camp in Democratic Republic of Congo

We live in a world with unprecedented numbers of refugees. The statistics of the UNHCR released this week show that, last year, the number of displaced people has reached a record 65,5 million, the vast majority living in challenging conditions in developing countries. More than a third of these refugees are women and girls in their childbearing years, being considered amongst the most vulnerable.

UN Women reminds us that women and girls face many humanitarian violations such as forced marriages and that, while many families believe they are protecting their girls through arranged husbands, many of them end up even more exposed to domestic violence and early pregnancies. Besides having their childhood shortened, they tend to drop out of school and to have their sexual and reproductive rights denied.

Woman prepares meals in a refugee camp in Cameroon
Woman prepares meals in a refugee camp in Cameroon

«On World Refugee Day, we acknowledge the unique vulnerabilities of women and girl refugees, and the need for us all to do better to serve them. We also celebrate their strength. From crisis to crisis, it is the resilience and persistence of women and girls that carries their families, their communities and their societies through hardship to durable solution», said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in a statement.

Phumzile stresses the strenght of women and girls who call tirelessly for effective services such as health and education, and who develop creative and efficient approaches to support livelihoods. «When in camps, they are rapid adopters of opportunities through new technologies, like education via mobile devices, or cash-for-work programmes that develop skills for a life outside the camp. They are the experts on safe sanitary facilities, female-friendly camp design and other aspects critical for reducing women’s risk of physical and sexual violence and increasing their capacity to live independent and fulfilled lives. We must listen to their insights and amplify them», added the UN Women Director.

Woman learns the French alphabet in a refugee camp in Cameroon
Woman learns the French alphabet in a refugee camp in Cameroon

The opportunities for these women lie in education programs, health care and open opportunities for small businesses, especially in camp areas which suffer from the lack of funds and international support. «The international community must recommit itself to placing women and girls equally with men and boys at the heart of humanitarian action for the world’s refugees. We, and they, cannot afford anything less», concluded Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

The motto of the World Humanitarian Summit, which took place on May 23rd and 24th was #Share Humanity. More than 9,000 participants from 173 States, including 55 Heads of State and Government were gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to debate about the Humanitarian challenge in times of natural disasters, conflicts and refugee crisis.

World Humanitarian Summit opening ceremony
World Humanitarian Summit opening ceremony

“Standing up for humanity: committing to action” was the call for all stakeholders present at the World Humanitatian Summit, promoting the idea that non-profit organizations, civil society, public and private sectors should be united for the defense of human rights. “The Summit has brought to the forefront of global attention the scale of the changes required if we are to address the magnitude of the challenges before us”, stated the Chair’s Summary of the event. The document highlighted the desperate situation of more than 130 million people – affected by conflicts, poverty and climate change, and are amongst the most vulnerable populations in the world.

Global leaders are aware of the importance of the political will to prevent and end conflicts. Nevertheless, their actions can only be effective with the support of all social stakeholders and the use of diverse tools – preventive diplomacy, sustainable development, commitment to climate change policies and building of more inclusive and respectful societies. The leaders present at the Summit pledged to increase their investments and teams dedicated to conflict prevention and also to engage and empower youth, communities and women over the process.

Global leaders gathered during the World Humanitarian Summit
Global leaders gathered during the World Humanitarian Summit

Legal Framework

In order to safeguard humanity and to enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflict regions, heads of State and humanitarian leaders stressed the importance of creating and developing a legal framework. During the summit, global leaders announced commitments to enhance compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law by ratifying international treaties, adopting local legislation, improving monitoring and reporting of violations. Participants also pledged to promote protection of universities, schools and journalists in armed conflict regions by setting guidelines and plans of action. Since many hospital and medical facilities have been attacked in many of these regions, leaders also discussed how to raise awareness and build trust for health care teams.

Leave no one behind

The international community has demonstrated a commitment to promote sustainable development for all, including the 60 million people displaced and victims of crisis who deserve global attention, life, dignity and opportunities to thrive! The leadership of the many countries that welcomed refugees was praised and global leaders agreed on sharing responsibilities to address the current crisis. Governments and private organizations will enhance education and living conditions of displaced people, as well as tailor-made financial services.

The humanitarian action should also be backed by women inclusion and empowerment and promotion of gender equality worldwide – the lack of female leaders and decision makers is a global challenge that helps to increase inequality. New financial support programs were announced during the Summit, as well as commitments on sexual and reproductive health care.

Launching of Education Cannot Wait
Launching of Education Cannot Wait

Education can’t wait

A Fund for education in emergencies, Education Can’t Wait, was launched at the Summit, in order to support quality education to all children in crisis situations by 2030. “Education Cannot Wait galvanized an initial commitment of $90 million from donors and the private sector, with greater commitments expected in the lead up to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. The Global Business Coalition for Education announced its intentions to mobilize $100 million for this Fund in financial and in-kind contributions”, says the Chair Summary.

Change people’s lives

By engaging all social stakeholders, the Summit is sending a message that humanitarian emergencies can’t be viewed as isolated from sustainable development efforts. With the conjoint work of all actors, including the direct affected populations, better solutions and outcomes will be reached. “People affected by crises need to not only be informed and consulted, but put at the centre of the decision-making processes”, states the Summary.

Overview of World Humanitarian Summit
Overview of World Humanitarian Summit


• The Summit launched the Regional Organisations Humanitarian Action Network, in order to strengthen collaboration amongst regional organisations.

• A Global Preparedness Partnership was launched by Finance Ministers of the most 20 vulnerable countries, with the support of the UN and World Bank, setting a goal to reach a minimum level of readiness to future shocks by 2020.

• The Global Alliance for Urban Crisis was launched to develop precarious urban settings, in partnership with local municipal communities and governments, while the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation intends to improve humanitarian action through innovative processes, approached and tools.

• The private sector must be also involved! The Connecting Business Initiative brings together 11 national private sector networks. Some industries like satellite and mobile launched plans to increase connectivity for affected populations.

Invest in Humanity

It’s a capitalist world – and the role of financing is key for sustainable development. Over 130 million worldwide need to have access not only to humanitarian assistance but to rebuild their lives. There was broad support from Member States to increase the Central Emergency Response Fund to $1 billion. This included a 25% increase by one country, a pledge to provide $149 million over 5 years, as well as an initiative to use risk financing to establish an innovative financing mechanism linked to risk insurance”, states the Summary.

In an effort to generate more data and solutions to promote economic resilience in fragile states, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank also announced the Global Financing Response Platform.

Closing ceremony with Ban Ki Moon
Closing ceremony with Ban Ki Moon

Way forward

The World Humanitarian Summit is a start, a call to action. By uniting voices and creating momentum, it starts a global conversation that should never stop – countries must honor their agreements and keep collaborating to share better times to come. The individual and joint commitments will be published in a Commitment to Action platform, which will be publicly accessible. Based on this document, next steps and recommendations will follow up. Horyou blog will follow all its steps, not only as a witness, but as an actor. By promoting communities empowerment, economic inclusion and network opportunity, we also #ShareHumanity.

Written by Vívian Soares

Emma Watson
Actress Emma Watson making a speech about her “He For She” campaign with UN Women

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? This is one of the opening lines in “Lean In,” the debut book from well known gender equality advocate Sheryl Sandberg.

Ms Sandberg has gained a lot of traction over the last few years as a champion for helping women to “lean in” in the workplace. Awareness and advocacy for gender equality has always been a women’s movement, but Sheryl and many feminists like her (including men) are changing the dynamic.

In business, a goal without a plan is just a wish. In the campaign for gender neutrality, real goals are being identified at national and international levels and importantly, real plans are being formulated and put into action.

At international level, women and girls are now high on the agenda, as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world.

At national level, many companies have introduced quotas of the number of women they want to have in senior positions. This is positive and proactive, however a point was made this year on a gender equality panel at the World Economic Forum.

PM Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, discussing gender parity

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the first ever gender balanced cabinet said that his reasoning in appointing both men and women wasn’t anything to do with “what is right” or “what society will be responsive to.” He said that he would get better decision making and better governance from a group that reflects the diversity in the population he is serving.

This is a turning point. It not only shows action at government level which will most likely trickle down to corporate and civil society but it also realizes that the divide shouldn’t be men and women, appointments should be made on merit, regardless of gender or role.

Prime Minister Trudeau went further in saying that legislation is the easy option. “We need a cultural revolution towards gender parity,” making the point that mind sets can be harder to shift.

Sheryl Sandberg echoed this sentiment and said that this cultural revolution begins at home, with children being treated equally when it comes to chores and pocket money and even with the parents themselves, taking an equal share of responsibilities.

The panel discussing a cultural revolution towards diversity in the workplace

The discussion of gender quality on the world stage is important, however UN Women and passionate gender equality advocate Emma Watson are putting words into action with an international campaign #HeForShe.

He For She is about uniting men and women in the fight against inequality. This campaign is unique in that it brings men into the conversation and encourages them to be part of the solution.There has already been 2.5 million tweets connected to the #HeForShe thread. This is expected to increase as He For She 10 x 10 x 10 rolls out across the world,an initiative in which leaders can adopt a framework and commit to gender equality in their workplace.

It seems that gender equality is now finally part of the conversation, from the world stage down to the kitchen table. No country in the world has ever achieved parity between men and women but as the philosopher Ed Burke once said “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph, is for good men and women to do nothing.”

In the interests of diversity and achieving the greatest good for society, Horyou stands in solidarity with this campaign and every person on the road to achieving equality for men and women.

By Dearbhla Gavin

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