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UN urges global action so women and girls everywhere can live free from all forms of violence

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Achieving gender equality and the full empowerment of women is the answer to ending violence against women, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday, calling for collective global action on this cause.

“Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” Mr. Guterres said in his remarks alongside UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at a special event held at UN Headquarters in New York to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is annually observed on 25 November.

“It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality,” he stressed, adding that his policy on gender parity in the United Nations is one step towards achieving this goal.

Mr. Guterres noted that every woman and every girl have the right to a life free of violence, but this right is violated in a variety of ways in every community, with more than one in three women worldwide face violence throughout their lifetime.

This violence, the most visible sign of pervasive patriarchy and chauvinism, directly impacts women’s physical and psychological health. It affects whole families, communities and societies. While it continues, States will not achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a master plan to end poverty and save the planet, adopted by them in 2015.

“There is increasing recognition that violence against women is a major barrier to the fulfilment of human rights, and a direct challenge to women’s inclusion and participation in sustainable development and sustaining peace,” said Mr. Guterres.

The United Nations is committed to addressing violence against women in all its forms, he stressed, citing such initiatives as the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which has successfully awarded $129 million to 463 initiatives across 139 countries and territories over the past 20 years.

These also include the Spotlight Initiative recently launched by the UN and the European Union, as well as the UN Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative, which seeks to help end sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces.

Mr. Guterres is also addressing the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse inhouse by launching a new, victim-centred approach to the offenses committed by those serving under the UN.

While noting that these initiatives should help deliver transformative change, he said much more remains to be done.

“It is time for united action from all of us, so that women and girls around the world can live free from all forms of violence,” he said.

Led by UN Women and partners, hundreds of events will be held worldwide, including marches, flashmobs, concerts, and football and rugby games. Iconic buildings will be lit up in orange to galvanize attention during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence from 25 November to 10 December, when the world marks Human Rights Day.

The 16 Days campaign takes place under the umbrella of the Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women by 2030. Orange has been designated as the colour of the UNiTE campaign as it symbolizes hope and a violence-free world.

This year’s theme for the campaign is ‘Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls.’

In her remarks to today’s event, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that gender-based violence takes place hidden, but in plain sight, normalized so it is hardly noticeable.

“It becomes just part of life,” she said. “When we talk about leaving no one behind, we want to identify all these different forms of violence that women experience.”

She said the momentum has already been created by the #MeToo movement. This movement has exposed how men in authority can become serial perpetrators, and that men’s rise to positions of power does not always mean they respect those they are responsible for leading.

It also exposed how frightening it is for young women and young men to come to the front to expose those predators, because there is always the chance that they will not be believed. And it exposed how a culture of entitlement, where there are no consequences for sexual crimes, has left many women tormented in silence.

“Sanctions and accountability are critical for behaviour change, and for the coming generations to be socialized differently, so that they know that this is not acceptable,” she stressed.

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World Bank Supports Young Digital Entrepreneurs in Botswana

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Digital ecosystems and entrepreneurs are essential to innovation and development in Africa. With support from the World Bank, the Botswana Business Angels Network and the Global Entrepreneurship Network in Botswana brought together local entrepreneurs and global thought leaders to share knowledge and strengthen the operating environment for digital entrepreneurs in the country.

The workshop built upon the recent XL Africa competition, a pan-African acceleration program to find the 20 most promising digital start-ups in Africa and demonstrate that Africa can produce world-class digital entrepreneurial talent.

“The World Bank supported today’s event to help ensure that Botswana’s digital entrepreneurs are able to learn lessons from other ecosystems across Africa,” said Xavier Furtado, World Bank Country Representative for Botswana. “We hope that, over time, this can help address Botswana’s pressing youth unemployment challenge while also contributing to national economic diversification.”  

Through relevant case studies, participants were exposed to methods and tools to help accelerate digital entrepreneurship. With a supportive and dynamic ecosystem, local digital technology companies can spread new technologies across Botswana and abroad.

“Today’s event indicates that supporting Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and investors requires a thriving and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere, Founder of Ngwana Enterprises. “Over time, we hope that the digital ecosystem will attract and link digital startups, more mature entrepreneurs, and impact entrepreneurs from Botswana with potential investors across the continent and beyond.”

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Job creation around agriculture can spur youth employment in Africa

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Agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but businesses around farming, including processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and financial services, could also create jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas, a senior United Nations official said Thursday.

“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces” the linkages between rural areas and cities, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told a regional conference on employment being held from 19 to 23 February in Khartoum, Sudan.

FAO Regional Conference for Africa primarily focuses on the theme of creating decent and attractive employment in the world’s “youngest” continent in terms of the average age of its population.

Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years. Today some 54 per cent of Africa’s work force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.

With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services.

“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

He warned however that more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.

“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” he added, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers can link public food purchase to family farmer’s production.

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Asia’s youth give their take on the region’s environment

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Twelve young people between the ages of 25 and 35 met in Singapore today to kick off preparations for a youth-oriented version of the UN Environment Regional Assessment for Asia Pacific.

The Asia-Pacific assessment is one of five regional reports on the health of the environment that will feed into the 6th Global Environment Outlook. The youth version of the Asia-Pacific assessment, slated for release at the end of this year, will include the latest information and updated data on the findings of the report.

“While the regional assessment is largely targeted to policymakers, it is also important that we bring young people into the conversation. They constitute nearly 40 per cent of the population in this region and certainly have a vested interest in where we are heading in terms of the environment,” said Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director, UN Environment Asia Pacific. “We also want to inspire young people to consider the environment in their jobs and disciplines and initiate actions that will shape a healthier environment and, in turn, well-being of people.”

The 12 participants were among 50 youth selected to serve as lead authors, contributing authors and reviewers. Areas that they explored include the state of the environment in the region presently, what can be done to address challenges, how to bring value to nature, and climate change and its impacts.

“I am very excited to be part of the team working and contributing towards the publication of GEO-6 Youth for Asia Pacific with UN Environment,” said NEO Mei Lin, Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore. “This is a wonderful opportunity for a young scientist like myself to give back to society by making scientific information more accessible to everyone, especially youths. I hope that this publication will be technically accessible, as well as inspire youths to take small actions in making the environment a better place.”

Jose Isagani, Associate Professor from De La Salle University in the Philippines said that the meeting was engaging and the outcome of the meeting very relevant. “In this era where fake news and post-truth are rampant, the need for reliable and credible information is critical. It is my fervent hope that the documents produced from these meetings will raise awareness about the deteriorating state of our environment, and thus initiate more steps in taking care of our common home.”

The Global Environment Outlook Regional Assessment for Asia Pacific was released in 2016 and found that changing demography and lifestyles, increasingly inefficient use of resources, growing vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters and environment-related health risks could offset the region’s development gains, threaten water and food security, and worsen poverty and inequity. The findings of the regional assessment and youth report will contribute to the 6th edition of the global outlook, due to be released in 2019.

First published in UN Environment

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