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Hijrah, Immigration: the Historical-Religious Setting

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Islam is a missionary political religion, an ever expending faith that has no borders and no political limits. It is intended to be the universal hegemonic religion for all mankind, by force of Jihad; by propagation of Da’wah; and by mass immigration, and by demography of high birthrate.

The issue of Hijrah in the Islamic Sharī‘ah is clear: it is forbidden for Muslims to leave Islamic lands and to reside in non-Islamic territories. This is according to the Hadīth:

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: Allah’s Apostle said, “There is no Hijrah [from Mecca to Medina] after the Conquest [of Mecca], but Jihad and good intention remain.

That means, according to Islamic exegesis, Muslims cannot leave Islamic territory and cannot live in non-Islamic states and under non-Islamic rule. As long as there is an Islamic owned territory where Islamic law is the dominant, Muslims must live in it and must not leave it. This is according to the Islamic verse (Sûrat al-Nisā’, 4:97): “… angels will say: was not Allah’s earth large enough for you to migrate…?”

Islamic exegetes translate these verses that Muhammad had forbid Muslims to live under non-Islamic rule. Muslims must leave territories in which the Islamic law is not the supreme and Islam is not ruling there, and migrate to Islamic territory as soon as possible. This commandment was never abolished, and he who violates it is considered being Murtad, who deserves a death penalty.

All Islamic Schools of Jurisprudence (Madhāhib) agree to this and in fact could not give other legal ruling, since it is anchored in the Qur’an.

Ibn Kathir, one of the most distinguished and highly influential Qur’an exegete, explains: “One who remains with polytheists at a place and lives with them, he is like them.” Hijrah is not the only guarantee to Islamic honor, liberty, and peace, but it is a guarantee the Muslims will not assimilate among the infidels.

For Zamachshari, when a person has no capability to establish his Dīn, Hijrah, moving back to the Islamic state, becomes an obligatory duty. This is also the attitude al-Tabari, who does not use the word Mamnû’ (forbidden), but Harām (religious taboo) as to clearly indicate what is the punishment of living in a non-Islamic state. Ibn Rushd insisted that Muslims are not allowed to live under non-Islamic rule, not only because the Sharī‘ah does function there (the main of the Hanafī School); and not only the Sharī‘ah must always be the supreme law (the main of the Shāfi‘ī School); but because it is impossible that an infidel rules over a Muslim. A Muslim that freely immigrates to non-Islamic territory and allows a Kāfir to rule over him is in fact Murtad, and his penalty is death

al-Mawardi, though he agrees with other exegetes, also adds to the issue as follows: a Muslim can live in Dār al-Kufr only in two cases. One, he had kept up struggle for the dominance of Islam to convert the un-Islamic system into an Islamic one. Second, having no chance of leaving the land he lives in a dislike and disrespect situation. The reason is that Islam is destined to rule and conquer and not to be ruled and be conquered by others.

Abu al-A‘la al-Mawdudi has the same opinion: a Muslim can live in Dār al-Kufr only if he makes all efforts for the predominance of Islam in that land (Iqāmat al-Dīn), or he lives under compulsion of tyranny and corruption. In all other cases he must live only in Dār al-Islām. Hijrah is complementary to Jihad and helps to establish the “rule of Allah,” the Sharī‘ah, only through the Khilāfah system.

Historically, the Hijrah was in fact the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, as the Meccans made their decision to execute Muhammad and his Sahābah. However, Islamic religious eschatology declares that the Hijrah It was a blessing act deliberately scheduled, decided, and executed by Allah for spreading his religion by means of expansion and occupation (Futûhāt) of the infidels’ territories. It was the command of Allah, promising the Muslims’ victory, a date that marked an essential stage for the establishment of the Islamic Ummah (Sûrat al-Nûr, 24:55). The Hijrah has become a cosmological transformation, an important factor in the process of consolidation and empowerment of the Islamic community.

For Islamic exegetes the Hijrah of Muhammad was the end of an era of weakness and marked a new beginning of success and victory. It was so important that the decision of Umar to mark the Islamic calendar beginning from the year 622 was accepted without any objection. The Hijrah was for the sake of the religion of Allah and the establishment of the Islamic Ummah to spread the religion all over the world. Therefore, the Hijrah is considered to be a Jihad for the sake of religion.

The Islamic eschatology declares: Medina was conquered by Hijrah and Mecca by the arms of Jihad. The first has strike the roots and the seeds of the Ummah, and the other has flourished its fruits worldwide. The first was the basis for development and the other was the pillar of manifestation and institutionalization. The first was the spirit that brought the existence while the other declared its triumph and victory worldwide. Therefore, Muslims must do their utmost to assimilate and integrate the infidels to Islam.

Muhammad forbade his followers to travel or to immigrate to a non-Muslim country: “I am innocent of any Muslim that lives amongst the Kuffār.” “Whoever collegiate or aggregate with non-Muslims and lives with them, he is one of them.” In the face of such a clearly defined prohibition, one must wonder how modern-day immigration is so widespread among the Muslims. Why is it that so many Muslims have chosen to live in the lands of the infidels, and do not return to the Islamic territory as soon as they have the opportunity? Do the economic-social burdens overcome the religious commandments?

Islamic exegesis and contemporary Muslim Imāms solve this issue as follows: it is forbidden to live in non-Islamic territory, in Dār al-Kufr, and staying there must be only temporary. Therefore, integration and assimilation of Muslim immigrants among the host states are forbidden. Yet, the sole reason for staying in Dar al-Kufr is to make all efforts to bring the non-Islamic territory under Islamic rule. If not, Muslims must do their best to leave back to Dār al-Islām territory.

This approach is elaborated in Surat al-Nisā’, 4:100:

“And whosoever leaves his country in duty to Allah, will find many places of refuge and abundance on the earth. And he who leaves his home and immigrate in the way of Allah and his messenger and death overtake him is sure to receive his reward from Allah…”

Khālid al-Mājid, one of contemporary influential Islamic exegetes, declares that it is a must upon Muslims to migrate from Dār al-Kufr to Dār al-Islām. However, it is lawful for the Muslim to stay in Dār al-Kufr under the following conditions: there is a valid reason to stay, as the necessity of an appropriate Hijrah; if he cannot find any Muslim country to migrate to, or he is persecuted there; and when he stays in Dār al-Kufr for a short period of time: to receive medical care, or business relations, or for education, or officially, serving his country as a diplomat. Under these, Hijrah is acceptable, and still the Muslim believer must remain faithful to Islam and to his brothers, and under any circumstance he should not favor his relation with the Kuffār over his Muslim brothers and Islamic belief.

Sheikh Muhammed Salih al-Munajid has issued a Fatwah: “It is not permissible for the Muslims to attend the festivals of the Mushrikīn (those who associate other gods with Allah)… Do not enter upon the Mushrikīn in their churches on the day of their festival, for divine wrath is descending upon them… Whosoever settles in the land of the non-Muslims and celebrates their new year’s festival and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection.”

In answering to the question: “Is it allowed to take the nationality of the US or a European country?” Muhammad Taqi al-Uthmani, of the Majlis Mujma’ al-Fiqh al-Islāmi, answered in a Fatwah: “Taking permanent residence in a non-Muslim country, adopting their nationality, and making it one’s country of residence as its citizen is a matter of apostasy. He would not be regarded as a Muslim and is liable of being declared a Kāfir…” The best solution is the Muslim invites the Kuffār to Islam. Then, his stay in Dār al-Kufr is not only permissible, but he will be rewarded for the merit of it.

Travelling to the land of the Kuffār is impermissible (la Yajûz) unless two conditions are met: (a) that the person has knowledge (‘Ilm) to repel doubts (Shûbbahāt); (b) that he keeps his faith (Imān) to prevent him from falling into lustful desires (Shahawāt); and he keeps a strong animosity toward the Kuffār. If these conditions are not met, Muslims are not allowed to travel due to the Fitnah that exists there. Residing in Dār al-Kufr is absolutely forbidden as it involves mixing with the infidels. Muslims in a country that is not governed according to the Sharī‘ah should do their utmost to bring it under Islamic law. It is Bid‘ah not to call for and to work steadily for the implementation of the Sharī‘ah.

This also marks the ultimate message that integration and assimilation of Muslims among the host states in Dār al-Kufr are forbidden. This commandment is abiding: as long as there are infidel territories, as Dar al-Kufr exists on earth, the injunction of Hijrah continues to be obligatory up to Day of Judgment. The basis of this methodology is the Hadīth related to Muhammad:

“I charge you with five of what Allah has charged me with: to assemble; to listen; to obey; to immigrate; and to wage Jihad for the sake of Allah.”

The first three of the five commands are part of Imān, belief: to assemble means to join together the Muslim community, the Ummah, to work together for the Islamic cause, rest upon the principle of Tawhīd (Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:255; Sûrat al-An‘ām, 6:103; Sûrat al-Rûm, 30:26–7; Sûrat al-Hadīd, 57:30). The other two, to listen and to obey means absolutely and wholeheartedly believe in Allah and his messenger, that is, obedience and submission (Sûrat ‘Imrān, 3:62; Sûrat al-Nisā’, 4:171; Sûrat al-Mā’idah, 5:73; Sûrat al-Taubah, 9:31; Sûrat Tā Hā, 20:8; Sûrat Hashr, 59:22). Muhammad, who was sent as the final prophet to all mankind, is the perfect model all believers must obey and imitate (Sûrat al-Ahzāb, 33:21; Sûrat al-Anfāl, 8:58; Sûrat al-Hujurāt, 49:22). This is Sunnat Rasûl Allāh, and Sirā al-Mustaqīm believers must follow. The other two, Hijrah and Jihad, are commanded for materializing the interests of Islam, to bring about Islam’s victory. To Immigrate and to wage Jihad for the sake of Allah are tightly connected with the best belief:

“Surely those who believed and immigrated and fought in Jihad for the sake of Allah, these hope for mercy of Allah… (Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:218).

Surely those who believed and immigrated and fought in Jihad for the sake of Allah with their property and their souls, and those who gave shelter and helped — these are guardians of each other…” (Sûratal-Anfāl, 8:72).

“And (as for) those who believed and immigrated and fought in Jihad for the sake of Allah, and those who gave shelter and helped, these are the believers truly…” (Sûratal-Anfāl, 8:74).

“And (as for) those who believed afterward and immigrated and fought in Jihad for the sake of Allah with you, they are of you; and the possessors of relationships are nearer to each other in the ordinance of Allah; surely Allah knows all things…” (Sûratal-Anfāl, 8:75).

“Those who believed and immigrated and fought in Jihad for the sake of Allah with their property and their souls are much higher in rank with Allah…” (Sûrat al-Taubah, 9:20).

“Surely your Lord, with respect to those who immigrated after they are persecuted, then fought in Jihad in the way of Allah and are patient…” (Sûrat al-Nahl, 16:110).

This is the Islamic trilogy: belief (Imān) that leads to immigration (Hijrah) that is accomplished by holy war against the infidels (Jihād Fī-Sabīlillāh). Before Hijrah, Islam had to adopt patience and express the believers’ faith through Salāh and Zakāt; while after the Hijrah, Islam ordained for Jihad and conquests of their enemies. The primary purpose of Jihad is to create a world order characterized by total submission to Allah through Imān. These three are the components for spreading the message to establish the Islamic Khilāfah worldwide. From these verses, “those who believed” (Âmanû); are “those who immigrated” (Hājarû); and are those who “fought in Jihad for the sake of Allah” (Jāhadû). Belief, immigration, and conquests are the stepping stones for the expansion of Islam as the only legitimate lawful religion to the entire world.

Imān, Hijrah, and Jihad are tightly interconnected: Jihad is not complete without Hijrah; and Hijrah and Jihad are not complete without Imān. Each can be the pivotal goal: the primary goal of Imān is the establishment of the Islamic Ummah that rules over the world, and it is achieved by Hijrah and Jihad. It is also true that the primary goal of the Hijrah is the establishment of a world Islamic Ummah, and it is accomplished by Imān and Jihad. That is also to say that Jihad is the supreme means to bring about the Islamic world hegemony, and it is assisted by Hijrah and Imān. As Imān is basic and obligatory, so are Hijrah and Jihad. Thereby, Imān is a prelude to Hijrah, as Hijrah is a prelude to Jihad. Without Imān, Hijrah has no meaning, and without Hijrah, Jihad has no meaning. It can also be said that the aims and the objectives of the Hijrah are to revive Imān by performing Jihad, as to establish Islam’s authority in the world.

The Islamic confession ultimately states that humanity and all its governments belong to Allah and his messenger (Sûrat al-A‘rāf, 7:158; Sûrat al-Anbiyā’, 21:107). Muslim exegetes state without reference that Muhammad declared, “migration cannot be ended as long as there is Kufr in the world.” In the Ahādīth it is reiterated:

“Hijrah will continue until the sun rises from the West. Hijrah would not be stopped until repentance is cut off, and repentance will not be cut off until the sun rises from the West.”

“Hijrah ceases only when a place, a community or a country has been won over, and Fath (occupation) has been achieved. Only then, there is no Hijrah.”

As long as the enemy resists Islam and Islam is not regarded the only supreme political religious system by humanity, Hijrah continues to exit. It becomes a must by displaying and practicing the religion openly. This is the basis of the Muslims’ mass street praying in the main streets, a phenomenon that is known only in Dār al-Kufr, in Western countries. This is an absolutely 100% political declaration and it has nothing to do with religious belief, that is, “we are here and we come to dominate.” Moreover, Muslims in the West can perform Jihad and Da‘wah as a means of occupation only by multiplying the numbers of Muslim immigrants, by Hijrah. The power of Islam cannot be executed if the Muslims are few, without increase in numbers and without the arrival of more new Muslims, as it was proven all along Islamic history of occupations. As there can be no empowerment of the religion without Hijrah, Islam cannot be demonstrated in Dār al-Kufr if the Muslims were not to immigrate and settle down there as a planned strategy.

Here is the basis of Islamic demography as a product of immigration and birthrate. The emigration and settlement of Muslims in the West is a religious duty, forming and reorganizing the Muslims to establish an Islamic community, the Ummah. In due time its role will be ushering in and enforcing the Sharī‘ah as the only legitimate way of life. This is the primary objective of Islamic mission to the peoples of Dār al-Kufr, to the infidel’s states, to be occupied and be Islamized from within.

Muhammad Abd al-Khaliq recommends establishment and consolidation of Muslim communities in Dār al-Kufr by huge immigration and at the same time by practicing loyalty and allegiance to the Islamic Ummah alone. The immigrants must not accept the system of laws of the Kuffār and not to accommodate in the host societies. They must commence with the establishment of mosques everywhere; and practice their public prayers in the main streets, as a visible display of the Islamic power. The most important mission is to educate and indoctrinate the young generation born in Dār al-Kufr to follow the Sharī‘ah and by learning the Arabic language as a top priority. At the same time Muslims must produce inroads into the affairs of the host communities to weaken them from within and to facilitate their conversion to Islam, using Da‘wah and Jihad.

This is exactly how Muslim immigrants act and behave while residing in the West. Hijrah, in concert with military conquest of Jihad comprised the backbone of Islamic expansionism through history. It was in essence the Arabization and Islamization processes that have brought Islam to become dominant from Western Asia to Spain. It has transformed the Middle East, for example, from Christian-majority to Arab-Islamic dominance. Today, Hijrah is designed to subvert and subdue the non-Muslim societies and thus pave the way for eventually Islamization of these societies. Indeed, Hijrah has become one of the three Islamic strategies to occupy the world and at the same time one of the main important steps in the process of spreading Islam as the only victorious political religion.

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Pandemic Threatens to Push 72 Million More Children into Learning Poverty

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Photo: UNICEF

COVID-related school closures risk pushing an additional 72 million primary school aged children into learning poverty—meaning that they are unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10—according to two new World Bank reports released today. The reports outline a new vision for learning and the investments and policies, including on education technology, that countries can implement today to realize this vision. 

The pandemic is amplifying the global learning crisis that already existed:  it could increase the percentage of primary school-age children in low- and middle-income countries living in learning poverty to 63 percent from 53 percent, and it puts this generation of students at risk of losing about $10 trillion in future life-time earnings, an amount equivalent to almost 10 percent of global GDP. 

The new report, Realizing the Future of Learning: From Learning Poverty to Learning for Everyone, Everywhere, lays out a vision for the future of learning that can guide countries today in their investments and policy reforms, so that they can build more equitable, effective, and resilient education systems and ensure that all children learn with joy, rigor, and purpose in school and beyond the school walls. 

The accompanying report, Reimagining Human Connections: Technology & Innovation at the World Bank, presents the World Bank’s new approach to guide investments in education technology, so that technology can truly serve as a tool to make education systems more resilient to catastrophic shocks like COVID-19 and help in reimagining the way education is delivered. 

“Without urgent action, this generation of students may never achieve their full capabilities and earnings potential, and countries will lose essential human capital to sustain long-term economic growth,” said Mamta Murthi, World Bank Vice President for Human Development, in today’s launch event. “Having over half of children worldwide in learning poverty is unacceptable, and so we cannot continue with business as usual in education delivery.  Through visionary and bold action, policymakers and stakeholders around the globe can turn this crisis into a boon to transform education systems so that all children can truly achieve learning with joy, rigor, and purpose, everywhere.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought two massive shocks. School closures have left most students on the planet out of school—1.6 billion students at the peak in April 2020, and still almost 700 million students today. The negative impact of the unprecedented global economic contraction on family incomes has increased the risk of school dropouts.  Marginalized groups are likely to fall further behind.  Girls are facing increased risk of adolescent pregnancy and early marriage during the pandemic. And children with disabilities, ethnic minorities, refugees, and displaced populations are less likely to access suitable remote learning materials and to return to school post-crisis. 

In responding to the pandemic, education systems have been forced to rapidly implement innovations in remote learning at scale. To reach as many children and youth as possible, they have used multi-modal remote learning approaches that combine online resources with radio, TV, mobile, as well as printed materials for the most vulnerable. However, the huge digital divides – from connectivity to digital skills – and inequalities in the quality of parental support and home learning environments is amplifying learning inequality.

“Effective action today to mitigate large and mounting learning losses, recover, and rebuild stronger is needed more urgently than ever to accelerate the acquisition of foundational skills and, increasingly, 21st-century skills for every child,” said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education. “There is a window of opportunity to build on the lessons of the pandemic and to build back a system that is  equitable, where all schools and homes have the conditions and support for learning; that is effective, where teachers and schools are equipped to support each student at the level she needs; and that is resilient, with education services that are well-managed and ensure continuity in the learning process between the school and the home and community.”  

Countries can chart their own path with a political commitment to carry out investments and reforms in five pillars that ensure that: 

1. Learners are prepared and motivated to learn—with a stronger emphasis on whole-child development and support to learning continuity beyond the school, as well as better preparation through quality preschool, early stimulation, and nutrition.

2. Teachers are effective and valued—and ready to take on an increasingly complex role supported by technology that enables teaching students of diverse learning levels. This requires a meritocratic career path and continuing support through practical training that focuses on the quality of instruction.

3. Learning resources, including an effective curriculum and blended learning, supporting pedagogical practices that ensure that every student is taught at the level she needs.

4. Schools are safe and inclusive spaces—with a whole-and-beyond-the-school approach to prevent and address violence and leave no child behind.

5. Education systems are well-managed—with school leaders who spur more effective pedagogy and a competent educational bureaucracy adept at managing using technology, data, and evidence.

What core principles should guide reform efforts, so that policies within each of these pillars offer the greatest value for money and are scalable and sustainable? While there is no single path toward the future of learning, high-performing systems share some common tenets:  pursue systemic reform, supported by political commitment and a whole-of-government approach, that focuses on learning for all children; focus relentlessly on equity and inclusion; act on the basis of evidence and focus on results; ensure the necessary financial commitment; and make smart investments in education technology.

Throughout the five pillars, countries can effectively harness the power of education technology—or “EdTech,” encompassing hardware, software, digital content, data, and information systems—to support and enrich teaching and learning and improve education management and delivery.  As noted in the Bank’s new Reimagining Human Connections: Technology & Innovation at the World Bank report, EdTech can create new connections between teachers, students, parents, and broader communities to create learning networks. The investments in EdTech can pay off if ministries of education ensure they are:

  • Embedded in broad, sustainable policies and programs that enable schools and education systems to provide blended in-person and multi-modal remote learning; 
  • Geared to support teachers being prepared to navigate distance learning and personalize instruction in and beyond the school; and 
  • Oriented toward assessing that learning is actually happening and using data to develop early warning mechanisms to identify and help children who are at risk of dropping out or falling behind. 

For its part, the World Bank’s Education Global Practice has rapidly ramped up its support to countries.  In all, the World Bank is supporting COVID-19 response investments in 62 countries, covering the entire cycle from early childhood to higher education. The Bank’s overall new commitments in education during the last fiscal year reached US$5.2 billion, the largest figure ever, and expects to add another US$6.3b this year. The World Bank is supporting the appropriate, cost-effective use of EdTech for expanding access and improving learning for all students. So far, WB efforts are reaching over 400 million students and 16 million teachers—about one-third of the student population and nearly a quarter of the teacher workforce in current client countries. 

Overall, the World Bank Group (WBG), one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. It is supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of WBG supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. The WBG is making available up to $160 billion over a 15-month period ending June 2021 to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans and $12 billion for developing countries to finance the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

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To Achieve the SDGs We Must Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls

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During the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence from the 25th of November to the 10th of December, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens contributes to the Orange the World Campaign globally and in Austria, calling for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

Five years ago, in 2015, the member states of the United Nations (UN) agreed on 17 global goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Since then, these Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have evolved into a guiding roadmap for finding long term solutions to global challenges. “Leaving No One Behind” has become the key message of this agenda, as the global community emphasised that the SDGs can only be achieved if peace and prosperity holds true for everyone.

Women make up half of the world’s population, but they still struggle to even exercise their fundamental human rights. A staggering one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Violence against women and girls is, thus, one of the most pervasive human rights violations and perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the deeply rooted imbalances in power in our societies. How will we ever reach the SDGs if such inequalities still exist?

In 2008, the UN, under the leadership of its 8th Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, pushed for a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world, called UNiTE to End Violence against Women. The campaign called on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.Ithas, for example, worked to adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with international human rights standards.

In 2015 UN Women became the agency entrusted to lead the UN’s efforts to advocate the elimination of violence against women and girls. To strengthen UNiTE, UN Women announced the “Orange the World” campaign, to take place annually during the period between the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the 10th of December, Human Rights Day. During these16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the world’s most prominent monuments and buildings are illuminated in orange, representing a future free from violence against women and girls.

Hosting the United Nations and located in the heart of Europe, Austria plays a key role in boosting the campaign on a local and international level. UN Women Austria, Soroptimist International Austria, HeForShe Austria and the Ban Ki-moon Centre are working in close partnership on the Austrian contribution to Orange the World. In 2019, the partners counted over 130 Austrian buildings in monuments illuminated in orange during the 16 Days of Activism. In 2020, the aim is to surpass this number and to shed light on current challenges regarding gender-based violence with the support of the Austrian actress Ursula Strauss as the campaign’s spokesperson.

2020 has been rattled by the Covid-19 pandemic and emerging data has shown that the lock-down measures around the world were accompanied by a spike in reported domestic violence cases. This alarming development demonstrates that action must be taken to prevent the aggravation and contribute to the elimination of what UN Women has named ‘The Shadow Pandemic’.[1]

Image Reference: https://www.unwomen.org

To spread the message of the campaign to a wider audience and discuss the issues of the Shadow Pandemic with high-level actors, two online events will take place during the Orange the World timeframe.

At a virtual high-level roundtable on November 26thtitled “Tackling the Shadow Pandemic –Violence Against Women During COVID-19 Times”, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, Regional Director of UN Women Asia and Pacific Mohammad Naciri, CEO of Avon Angela Cretu, and women’s rights activist Trisha Shetty will discuss what steps can be taken to address the spike in violence against women during COVID-19. The event will be hosted by the Co-chairs of the Ban Ki-moon Centre, 8th UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 11th President of Austria Heinz Fischer.

On December 1st,the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ban Ki-moon Centre will host a Virtual Expo called “Education, Empowerment, and Effective Policies: Innovative Initiatives Preventing Gender-Based Violence”. As part of UNODC’s Education for Justice Global Dialogue Series, changemakers from around the world will come together and present how they take action to prevent violence against women and girls.

To make the world a safer and better place for all, we must all do our part to eliminate violence against women and girls in all its forms. We encourage you to get active in the Orange the World campaign by hosting an event, sharing its messages, and becoming part of this global movement!

About the Ban Ki-moon Centre:

In 2018, Ban Ki-moon and Heinz Fischer founded the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens (BKMC), to empower women and youth to become global citizens within the framework of the SDGs. Acknowledging that gender-based violence restricts, if not prevents individuals to be a part of and contribute to the 2030 Agenda, the BKMC, based in Vienna, Austria, also advocates for the elimination of violence against women and girls. The Ban Ki-moon Centre has been an active contributor to the Orange the World Campaign in Austria since 2018.

Reach out and learn more at www.bankimooncentre.org


[1]https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/issue-brief-covid-19-and-ending-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5006

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Gender equality agenda of SDGs and Feminist Mobilization

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The revolutionary result of a two-year long process of intergovernmental debate and deliberation was a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was formally declared in a UN summit from 25th to 27th September 2015.  Also known as the Global Goals, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly aim to push highly relevant agendas to be addressed by the year 2030. Amidst the targets set that facilitate basic human existence, such as no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, there is the equally important strong Goal 5 that need special focus. The increasing wave of feminism and feminism-educated individuals created on bringing to fruition the agenda of Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality.

Goal 5 holds world governments accountable to their role in putting an end to gender inequality. According to the UNDP’s official manifesto, it proposes to stamp out discrimination and gender-based violence; eliminate child marriage, educate women on their sexual and reproductive health and their reproductive rights, ensure that they have adequate access to PHCs for sexual health check-ups; work on making education and the workforce and equal-opportunity platform for men and women; expand economic opportunities for women and girls; and finally, attempt to reduce the unfair conditions of unpaid work on women. As compared to the earlier designed MDGs that focused minimally on gender roles, these edicts represent a paradigm shift in the thinking of policy makers.

When we talk of feminist mobilization, we often start with a bleak picture that progressively improves. Women with radical opinions are ignored or dismissed as being inexperienced. Out of the many roadblocks faced by feminist groups, a primary one is a general feeling of not being heard. This ranges anywhere from a despondent acceptance to abject frustration. Moreover, this does not exist only in the context of men. Smaller feminist movements are often drowned by larger, more populist feminist agendas. Younger women who are developing their philosophy on feminism tend to choose offbeat paths as they aggressively reject traditional governmental structures. In a large number of instances, there is enough initiative but a dearth of resources. 

Since the 1990s, there have been the advent of a number of structures that are, at their core, against the idea of an independent woman, who sees herself as equal to a man in every way. A few of these include; an unstable global economy that is also wrestling with economic inequality among nations; a completely disregarded worldview on climate change and global warming that pays no heed to an increasingly large number of climate refugees, out of whom women and children survive the least; an increasing number of non-liberal governments and organizations in both high and low income countries where women are discriminated against and seen as second-class citizens; a large mass of migrant displaced populations that keep exponentially increasing due to new clashes daily; and a regression of popular opinion into what seems like medieval times, with no respect for integrity, bodily autonomy, and sexual and reproductive rights, as well as basic human rights to refugees and migrants in receiving countries. Not to mention, the gamut of telecommunications in the present times coupled with the massive volume of information exchange have pushed us as a people into a world where social media is regarded as the gospel truth, and the messages sent via these platforms are used to spread ideas of hatred, inequality, false perceptions and discrimination.

These increasing societal challenges, go hand in hand with deeply unsettling evidence on the widespread inequalities and gender crimes that seem almost entrenched in the fabric of our existence. The Global Gender Gap Index is a system of ranking a total of 144 countries according to their education, economic opportunities, health delivery systems, and political participation. The most recent version of this index was published in 2017 by the World Economic Forum, whose findings show that some parameters of the gap may have worsened in recent years instead of getting better. In terms of estimating earned income in USD, the gap increased considerably after the financial global meltdown in 2008. The index has made an estimate that going forward from 2017, it will take 217 years to completely abolish this gap only in the workplace, and over 100 years to close this gap overall. It seems that only the health and education sectors are somewhat progressing when it comes to achieving some kind of equality, but the same equality in the economic and political sectors between women and men seem to be but a distant dream – they are exponentially increasing each year.

However, there has been renewed interest from funding sources and policy makers on ‘investing in women and girls’ and combined with this strong push from the UN, has made some significant headway.

In The Context of India

As with feminist mobilization, one tends to take on a slightly defeatist attitude when talking of India’s role in global feminism. However, by no means can it be said that India as a country has not been making strides.In 20 years (1994-2014), India has lifted nearly 144 million people out of abject poverty under various government schemes, including the largest employment scheme in the world, the MNREGA, almost half of whose members are women.

In a historic 2016 legislation the law promised 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, to ensure that women do not quit the workforce after planning a family. A renewed push towards gender equality in education is seen by the advent of programs such as the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan and the Right to Education Act, 2009, which have been instrumental in helping to exponentially increase the gross enrolment rate for girls at the primary school level. Further, there have been similarly encouraging statistics recorded at the secondary school level – the rate of enrolment for girls has increased from 55.5% in 2008 to 78.9% in 2014-15 and at the higher secondary school level it has gone up from 31.6% in 2008 to 53.8% in 2014-15.

While these findings are highly significant, it points to the gamut of work that is still to be done. While India seems to progress in the right direction in terms of policy, it tends to lag behind in understanding the cultural applications at the grass-roots level. According to a study conducted by the Oxfam Organization, there appear to be deep stigmas attached to women working in agriculture. There is also a statistic that might seriously impact India’s feminist movement – that highly educated women tend to leave the workforce to make ‘respectable’ marriages to higher caste and higher income households. 

This points to a shocking number, that being that the contribution of women all over the world to the global GDP is 35%, but Indian women represent less than half of that at 17%. Based on the rankings released by the Labour Force Participation,India comes in at a rank of lowly 120 out of a total of 131 countries, even though 42% of Indian women graduate by education.

Between the years of 2005 and 2012, the Indian workforce was severely depleted by almost20 million women, due to various reasons. This staggering figure is almost equal to the collective population of Sri Lanka. Every one of these women who chose to discontinue their professional aspirations should be regarded as a lost opportunity for their families and for their country, but most importantly, for themselves. The Indian feminist movement that has paved the way for these discussions to take place in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, has played an important first step in reaching a state of equal respect and opportunity by 2030.

According to policy makers at the ECOSOC Youth Forum held at the UN Headquarters in New York, Mr Ravi Karkara (Senior Adviser to the Assistant Secretary General, UN Women) and Mr Rohith Porhukuchi, the young feminist movement has been indispensable in cementing the SDG agenda. Further, they recommend a greater number of educated women taking up the mantle at advocacy campaigns related to the equality and women empowerment sectors. For example, the UNiTE campaign is creating a large impact through its global, regional and multinational advocacy initiatives and is actively working to mobilize individuals and communities to its cause. This campaign supports the efforts of women’s initiatives and organizations dedicated to their upliftment, but actively engage in work with men – to sensitize and educate them to their cause – along with celebrities, artists, sportspeople, media, corporates and a whole host of others. 

The UN Women’s “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” campaign, again holds world governments accountable to make national public commitments to uplift women and eliminate the challenges that prevent them from reaching their full potential. The HeForShe and MAN UP campaigns also take a stand on gender equality and women’s rights.

Conclusion

During the ongoing process of deciding the SDG agenda, it was common knowledge that key economic issues such as financing, investments, trade, tax laws and unlawful transactions, while extremely important, grossly outstripped and took precedence over issues of feminist advocacy.  This problem was further complicated by the decrease in the authority of the UN, and the rise of ultra-conservatism in many powerful nations across the globe as a result of rapidly spreading religious fanaticism and evangelism. 

In spite of these issues, the global and Indian feminist movements have been extremely organized and have used their resources effectively to bring about small facets of change, using techniques learned from the time of the 1990s conferences and their 5-yearly regional and global reviews. According to the paper Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Feminist Mobilization for the SDGs, by Gita Sen, some of these almost ground-breaking reforms include: 

  • Recognizing in the initial stages that there is value in being awarded an official status as part of the Major Groups and utilizing the Women’s Major Group as a platform to voice feminist issues, especially bas civil society is moving more into a zone of closed spaces.
  • Utilizing bodies such as WWG in order to involve concerned persons in critical aspects of campaigning, such as financing and media engagement.
  • Actively seeking out other bodies with similar interests and agendas and networking with them in order to reach shared goals.
  • Being able to coordinate with and mobilize these bodies peacefully with effective and quick conflict resolution when required 
  • Making it a point to never compromise on technical support, language and expertise on processes, so that they can come across as trustworthy and strong in their dealings with official negotiators. 
  • As an extension to the above, further honing the negotiation abilities of young budding feminists.

Feminist advocacy platforms need to be constantly discussed and negotiated periodically. Feminists need to forge valuable partnerships with select organizations and perhaps even corporates that are sympathetic to the feminist cause, but also are able to effectively bring about long-term changes in areas such as finance, education, trade, investment and climate change among others. The annual Spotlight Report on Sustainable Development is the result of a feminist group working with tandem with such an organization (www.2030spotlight.org). The first report was unveiled during the UN High Level Political Forum in July 2016 and was received well among both UN member states and civil societies, being the first major media published which was critical of ongoing responses to feminist needs.

The ability of feminist organizations to defend their vision will need a clear manifesto, exceptional analytical skills, better communication and organizational strategies, and the ability to form collaborations where the youth plays a strong role. 

In totality, this work makes the claim that is that the size of the environment affected is directly proportional to the strength, organization and nature of facilities involved in bringing about a significant social mobilization.

REFERENCES:

1. Gita Sen. Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Feminist Mobilization for the SGDs. Global Policy Volume Jan (2010); 10(1)

2. United Nations Development Programme

 3. UN Women

4. Mary Hawkesworth. Policy studies within a feminist frame. Policy Sciences Jun (1994); 27(2-3), pp. 97-118.

5. Paola Cagna, Nitya Rao. Feminist Mobilization, Claims Making and Policy Change: An Introduction. Wiley Online Library. doi

6. Eric Swank, Breanne Fahs. Understanding Feminist Activism among Women: Resources, Consciousness, and Social Networks. Socius. doi

7. jacobinmag

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