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Women in Half the World Still Denied Land, Property Rights Despite Laws

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image source: stand4herland.org

Women in half of the countries in the world are unable to assert equal land and property rights despite legal protections, warned members of a new global campaign that formally launches today. The campaign, Stand For Her Land, aims to close this persistent gap between law and practice worldwide so that millions of women can realize these rights in their daily lives.

“For men and women alike, land is the foundation for security, shelter, and livelihood, supports women’s dignity and creates pathways to empowerment and economic opportunity,” said Karol Boudreaux, Chief Program Officer with the land rights group, Landesa, a founding partner of the Stand For Her Land campaign. “For women, land truly is a gateway right – without it, efforts to improve the basic rights and well-being of all women will continue to be hampered.”

Stand For Her Land founding partners Habitat for Humanity, Huairou Commission, Landesa, Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) Partners, and the World Bank are hosting a public launch event, “Presenting Stand For Her Land,” at 3 pm, March 25, ahead of the opening session of the World Bank Land and Poverty Conference 2019 at The World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington, D.C.

“Secure land rights are essential for women’s economic empowerment and creating incentives for investment, providing an asset that can be leveraged for agriculture or business development, and offering a solid foundation for financial stability,” said Anna Wellenstein, Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, World Bank. “Improving women’s access to – and control over – economic resources also has a positive effect on a range of development goals, including poverty reduction and economic growth. We are committed to working with partners to close the gap and make land rights for women a reality globally.”

Persistent discriminatory social norms and practices are among the strongest barriers standing between women and their land and property rights. Weak implementation of policies, insufficient capacity to enforce laws, and a lack of political will further compound the problem. And poor access to legal services and a lack of understanding of laws within communities and households – and by women themselves – build an invisible but near impenetrable wall to women realizing land and property rights in rural and urban areas alike.

“Insecure land rights create obstacles for women engaging in farming and other agricultural activities, in starting and running a home-based enterprise, and, as we’ve observed, in accessing safe and decent housing,” said Jane Katz, Director of International Affairs and Programs, of Habitat for Humanity International. “As urbanization continues to increase, land rights are an issue for all those living in cities as well as in rural areas.”

With so much at stake, there is growing recognition – and a growing movement – to strengthen women’s land rights around the world. The Stand For Her Land campaign aims to be a driving force behind this movement by catalyzing a consolidated push across settings and cultures – urban, rural, customary, and indigenous – to narrow the gap between law and practice towards secure women’s land.

“Global and regional efforts, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, the African Union’s Campaign for Women’s Land Ownership and Agenda 2063, and U.S. Government’s new Global Women’s Development and Prosperity Initiative, recognize that women’s land rights are critical to achieving gender equality and tackling some of the world’s most pressing development challenges,” said Oumar Sylla, Leader of the Land and Global Land Tool Network Unit, UN-Habitat. “The Stand For Her Land Campaign aims to translate these gains at the highest levels into real change for women in villages and communities across the globe.”

The main objective of the campaign is to drive real change on the ground – consolidating local and national efforts by civil society groups, grassroots organizations, advocates and allies across sectors.

“This campaign is not a top-down effort but rather an approach to strengthening land rights from the ground up,” said Violet Shivutse, grassroots women’s leader from Kenya and Chair of the Huairou Commission. “Advocates, steeped in local contexts and the specific needs of communities, can apply their own expertise to overcome barriers for women and become the engines of social impact.”

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Human Rights

Forum calls for stepped-up action to end child labour

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Participants at a forum held at the Centenary International Labour Conference  (ILC) called for stronger action to end child labour, and highlighted some of the challenges resulting from the major transformations occuring in the world of work.

In an emotional moment, youth advocate Molly Namirembe recalled how she and her sister worked on a tea plantation in Uganda when they were children, after their parents died. “We would work for 12 hours, sometimes on an empty stomach,” she recalled, tears running down her cheeks.

The thematic forum entitled Together for a brighter future without child labour  also focused on accelerating action towards SDG Target 8.7 that calls for “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

“Ever since the creation of our Organization, the elimination of child labour has been a top priority,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, adding that he expected the ILO would achieve soon the universal ratification of Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour .

Kumaran Shanmugam Naidoo, Secretary-General, Amnesty International, called for a holistic approach “where we not only view the phenomenon of child labour but also the very systems that drive children to work at such a high cost.”

Juneia Martins Batista, Women’s Secretary, Single Confederation of Workers (CUT), Brazil, spoke of the need to improve the situation of women who make a living as domestic workers and rural workers. “The idea is that we can empower these adults, mostly women, to have a decent life. With decent work, we may be able to eliminate child labour.”

Assefa Bequele, Founder and former Executive Director, African Child Policy Forum, said: “The big question … is what needs to be done to initiate the kind of policy we need to narrow the gap between rhetoric and action and that would put children at the heart of public policy.”

Sue Longley, General-Secretary, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association, said, “The key question, the key accelerator will be addressing the fundamental power imbalance in rural areas – we really still do have feudal landlords and slavery.”

Jacqueline Mugo, Executive Director, Federation of Kenya Employers, stressed the need “to address the root causes and systemic issues. These are poverty, informality and the lack of educational opportunities for young people.”

Tanzila Narbaeva, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, said: “To ratify a child labour convention is only half of the job: what is needed is to change the mindset of people and their perception of the child labour phenomenon.”

Phyllis Kong Wai Yue, Human Rights and Responsible Sourcing Specialist at chocolate maker Ferrero, said, “It is in business’ interest to demand stronger policies for protecting children, as well as the enforcement of labour laws.”

The forum was followed by a music event providing testimony to children and young people’s role combating child labour.

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UN: Understanding of LGBT realities ‘non-existent’ in most countries

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Policymakers in most parts of the world are taking decisions in the dark when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, an independent UN human rights expert said on Wednesday. 

In a statement issued ahead of presenting his latest report to the Human Rights Council later this month, Victor Madrigal-Borloz urged States to collect more data in an effort to understand the root causes of violence which is often routinely directed towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in societies across the world. 

“States must adequately address this scourge through public policy, access to justice, law reform or administrative actions,” said Mr. Madrigal-Borloz. “In most contexts, policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, left only with personal preconceptions and prejudices.” 

Clear information about the realities as lived by most LGBT people are at best, little understood, “incomplete and fragmented”, said the UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, “but in most countries it is simply non-existent”. 

 “My findings show that barriers created by criminalization, pathologization, demonization and stigmatization, hinder accurate estimates regarding the world population” which is affected, he said. “Maintaining such a level of ignorance without seeking appropriate evidence is tantamount to criminal negligence.”  

 The expert said that data collection efforts are already underway in many parts of the world and have supported assessments of the situation of LGBT persons in various areas of life, including their relative safety, well-being, health, education and employment.  

“However, many other areas still lack data and remain unexplored, for example, the concerns of ageing LGBT people and intersections with disability, racism and xenophobia”, he noted, adding that where States criminalize certain forms of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, fully effective data collection is impossible: “I have received multiple accounts of data being used for surveillance, harassment, entrapment, arrest and persecution by government officials in such contexts”, he added. 

The rapporteur called on States to “design and implement comprehensive data collection procedures to assess the type, prevalence, trends and patters of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons. When doing so, States should always respect the overriding ‘do no harm’ principle and follow a human rights-based approach to prevent the misuse of collected data,” concluded the expert. 

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Women’s Rights: Between East and West, the Case of Azerbaijan

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Photo: UNESCO/ Bruno Zanobia

This year marks the centenary of the granting of the right to vote to women in Azerbaijan, the first country of the Muslim East to grant this right. To celebrate this occasion, the France-Azerbaijan Friendship Group organized an event entitled “Women’s Rights: Between East and West, the Case of Azerbaijan”, which took place at the French National Assembly on 7 June.

As part of the celebration, UNESCO’s Director for Gender Equality, Ms Saniye Gülser Corat, was invited to speak at the round table entitled, “La réussite au féminin”, which was moderated by Ms Fawzia Zouari, writer and journalist. The speakers included Mr Jean-Louis Gouraud, writer and journalist; Ms Charlotte Payen, Secretary-General, French-Azerbaijani University; Ms Leyla Taghizadé, co-founder of Social Innovation Lab; and Ms Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Anne Lauvergeon Partners (ALP).

During her speech, Ms Corat recalled the important role of education in promoting gender equality. She highlighted the importance of gender inequalities in the scientific world. Across the world, 30% of science researchers and 21% of executives in technology companies are women. In developed countries, 26% of the overall STEM workforce are women. In addition, when it comes to the Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine, only 17 women have been awarded since Marie Curie in 1903 – compared to 572 men.

Ms Corat explained that UNESCO works to address inequalities wherever there are, particularly within new technologies. She announced that UNESCO recently launched the report I’d blush if I could with funding from the Government of Germany. This publication stresses the growing gender gap in frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, and the troubling repercussions this is likely to have on future generations.

She concluded her speech with a message of hope: “We want girls and women, in Azerbaijan and across the world, to move full steam ahead towards a career in the discipline of their choices, unrestrained by gendered perceptions of different fields. Put simply, girls and women must have the opportunity to develop the skills that will enable them to thrive in today’s world and to participate equally in creating the world of tomorrow”.

At the end of the event, Ms Corat gave interviews to two different media outlets from Azerbaijan that were present in the room, namely Report News Agency and Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC).

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