UN Women

As we celebrate the International Women’s Day, we must reflect upon the challenges many women and girls face around the globe

International Women’s March

Whether a Rohingya refugee or a famous actress in Hollywood, being a woman requires an extra level of resistance and hope. The last few years have opened many eyes on the situation of women around the world, especially concerning sexual harassment and the fragility of the gender equality speech when it comes to true representation and parity on the work field.

Yet, we have much more to accomplish. Here are a few numbers from UN Women to consider: 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime; 830 women die every day from preventable pregnancy-related causes; and only 1 in 4 parliamentarians worldwide are women. It will be 2086 before we close the gender pay gap if present trends continue with no action.

What can we do as a society to accelerate equality in our world? Awareness campaigns surely help, as #MeToo and many other hashtags spread the message that we are equal in our experiences and concerns. We’ve learned that feminism is not the opposite of sexism, it’s solely the true hope to be equal in a broad, respectful way. Marches around the world passed the message that we, as women, own our bodies, our choices, our sexuality. That we must be heard and respected. But is it enough?

The new International Women’s Day theme this year is «Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Womens’ Lives». It celebrates strong, fearless activists whose work is key to all the transformations we’re witnessing as a society. More important than being a voice, they are role models for our girls and boys, the next generations that will hopefully put their message into practice. Activism is key, and female activism is the remedy to invisibility.

Despite a long history of prejudice and ignorance, these women are getting their voices increasingly heard. From Malala Yousafzai, who’s shown that education matters for girls, to Amal Clooney, who was brave enough to be the first lawyer to sue ISIS for its crimes, to Noriko Mitsui, Horyou ambassador to Japan, whose work for social good has been recognized by members of the US Congress and its Multi Ethnic Advisory Task Force which ranked her among the Top 20 Women of Global Excellence. To mothers, waitresses, teachers, housewives, who fight against poverty, prejudice and domestic violence.

Many of them might not be able to march. I’m marching for them, though. I want to resonate their voices. Because #Timesup to be silent.

Written by Vívian Soares

Horyou supports the SDG5, which aims to empower women and girls for gender equality. You can be part of it too either by supporting one of Horyou organizations which work for this SDG or by participating in the Horyou Light Challenge, that aims to raise awareness of gender equality. Be the change, be Horyou!

On the 25th of November, we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. As part of its support of the cause, Horyou interviewed Juncal Plazaola Castaño, UN Women Specialist on Ending Violence Against Women.

Orange the world is a UN Women Campaign for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

What is UN Women’s approach to the elimination of violence against women?

We focus on four areas of work. The first of them is to work with partners, governments, civil society and stakeholders to revise or approve legislations and policies that meet international standards. It does not only regard violence but also equality and opportunities issues, like divorce and custody. We also work to improve services provided to women, namely legal, social, police and security services. Another area is prevention of sexism, men privilege and men dominance. We do that through women empowerment and by promoting more positive masculinity. The fourth pillar is about evidence and data. In order to know the magnitude of the problem and make governments and actors aware of it, we need to collect evidence. We do this with our partners, mostly academic.

Have you scored any recent progress in these areas?

In the area of legislation, UN women was an important actor on defining legal age of marriage in Malawi and some places in the Caribbean, focusing on preventing child marriage. We also helped to implement Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces, a program that aims to address sexual harassment. We are working with 27 cities in developing and developed countries, like in Winnipeg, Canada. The city has very high sexual harassment rates, especially with indigenous women and we involved with indigenous organizations to understand the scope of the problem and to set new public transportation initiatives. In Quito, Equador, we were partners of the municipal observatory of violence, which includes violence against women, too. They have a municipal budget allocation to the program, which shows great ownership and sustainability.

What is UN Women biggest challenge on eliminating violence against women?

One of them is accountability of perpetrators. It requires involvement of other actors and all of the pillars I mentioned before. If no legislation is involved, for example, the violence will continue as the perpetrators will think there is no penalty or consequence. We also need to address stereotypes, men dominance, men privilege and other social norms. Another big challenge is to reach those there are left behind, women who are exposed for their condition as women with disabilities, from ethnic minorities, lesbians, bisexuals, or women who are very young or older who experiment different types of violence. The last challenge I will mention is monitoring impact. We expect something to be achieved in 3 or 4 years, some change of social norms and attitude. I think we need to find the impact the work we are doing in a more realistic way.

Orange the world campaign. Photo: UN Women

Can we be hopeful that one day we will eliminate gender violence?

I am hopeful and I have observed some recent signs that gave me even more hope. One of them is the #metoo campaign. It shows the power of women’s voices and how to reach a momentum as the topic is not being hidden anymore. The campaign calls for accountability of perpetrators. And they are actually being called. It also shows that women are exposed not only related to domestic violence and women mutilation, but also to sexual and verbal harassment, rape and many other aspects. The other sign of hope is agenda 2030. The SDG set one specific goal for women, but there are also other hidden goals in the agenda. For instance, SDG goals dedicated to achieving inclusive and sustainable cities. It recognizes the centrality of equality, and how relevant it is for the international community.

What is the role of social media in UN Women campaigns?

The Internet and social media have a strong power to shape the ways we think. They are enablers of women empowerment. Social media gives voice to women and features stories of positive empowerment. It’s a very powerful tool for shaping stereotypes and the way we think and act, and a way to condemn discrimination. It creates a sense of community.

What does the color orange mean on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women?

From the 25th of November, we are ‘oranging’ the world for 16 days as part of the campaign. The color orange is a symbol of bright and optimistic future. The idea is to make social media to initiate a discussion about this future we want to have.

The 5th Sustainable Development Goal concerns nearly half of global population – girls and women are still far from having the same opportunities and privileges as men

Photo: UNDP

Internet and social media are full of hashtags concerning women’s challenges in our society. The most recent one was #metoo, in which women shared their personal stories about harassment. The idea was to prove a grim reality – believe me if you are a man, almost every female on the planet has a sad story to tell about it. If you are a woman, you already know how it feels.

From corporations in the developed world to slums in the poorest countries, we share the same vulnerability. Since we’re born, our gender defines our challenges – we are going to face more difficulties to access education; if we get into the job market, our salaries will be lower; we are more exposed to violence and forced marriages; we have poorer access to health services. Women empowerment is urgent, and we, regardless of gender, should work together to promote it.

We need more representation: according to the UNDP, in 46 countries, women hold 30% or more in national parliament seats. Globally, women’s participation in single or lower houses of national parliaments reached 23.4 percent in 2017, just 10 percentage points higher than in 2000. It’s not enough.

We need more education: in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Western Asia, girls still face barriers to entering both primary and secondary school.

We need equal opportunities: in the corporate world, women are underrepresented in managerial positions. In the majority of the 67 countries with data from 2009 to 2015, fewer than a third of senior- and middle-management positions were held by women.

We need liberty: only half of women in reproductive age make their own decisions about consensual sexual relations and use of contraceptives and health services.

We deserve respect: A fifth of women of reproductive age have suffered physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey, made in 2016.

Association El Khir promotes cooking workshops for women in Morocco

The SDG 5 defends the end of all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere. In 2014, the UN Women launched the campaign He for She, inviting men to join the fight for equal opportunities – since then, the discussion has improved and many debate spaces were opened in media, companies, governments and civil society. Many organizations have been working towards the same goal. The Horyou community has great examples of NGOs and projects that support women and create an empowering environment for them to overcome difficulties and thrive personally and professionally.

One of the active members of our platform is Association Féminine de Bienfaisance El-Khir, based in Morocco, which promotes better life condition for women in the country, supporting their independence by providing them with legal assistance and career opportunities through education.

One of the activities of Fundação Laço Rosa during Pink October

In Brazil, Fundação Laço Rosa, yet another active nonprofit organization in our platform, empowers women with breast cancer, by helping them with self-image issues and to create bonds to overcome the disease.

If you wish to support this SDG, you can do so through Horyou. Go to Horyou platform and choose an NGO or project that helps promote women empowerment in your region or anywhere in the world. Your support can be made easier and more effective with Spotlight, our digital currency for impact. Check it out and start using it to engage in any cause you feel concerned about. Be the change, be Horyou!

Written by Vivian Soares

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!

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.

panel
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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