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COVID-19 Pandemic Dealt Women A Painful Blow

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On January 28, Women Deliver and Focus 2030 released the first-of-its-kind multi-country public opinion survey,carried out in 17 countries spanning six continents, which captures the attitudes and expectations for major actions to address gender equality during COVID-19. The data reveal that an overwhelming majority of respondents want their governments to do more to promote gender equality.

The survey comes at a time when the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has deepened the imbalanced economic opportunities for men and women and shown the discrimination and abuse that women face in the workplace and at home. The results of the survey serves to make visible the urgency of gender issues and hold governments accountable to address the discrimination against women.

The new multi-country survey finds overwhelming majority of citizens want their governments to act now to accelerate progress on gender equality.

-A new survey covering 17 countries on six continents – representing half the world’s population – reveals that a majority of respondents want their governments to devote more resources and attention to supporting gender equality.

-The first survey of its kind since the outbreak of COVID-19, the new poll shows that the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on women compared to men, in terms of both mental health and household obligations.

-The survey offers a roadmap for actions that the public most wants to see, spotlighting where leaders’ and decision-makers’ focus and investments can have the most striking impact.

The first-of-its-kind international survey finds that the global public overwhelmingly supports gender equality, and a resounding majority is ready for their governments and business leaders to take action to bridge the gender divide.

At the same time, women and girls around the world are suffering the worst impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, which has disproportionately affected their mental and physical health, as well as their economic prospects.

The vast majority of respondents – 80% on average across the 17 surveyed countries – said gender equality is a priority to them personally, and 65% said their government should do more to promote gender equality in their country.

The global public perception survey, released in a new report by Women Deliver and Focus 2030, includes 17 countries across six continents whose inhabitants represent half the world’s population.

The results come two months before the Generation Equality Forum, a civil society–centered, global gathering for gender equality convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France. There, leaders in government, the private sector, and civil society will have a critical opportunity to commit to bold, specific actions on gender equality issues.

The forum will galvanize political action and secure financial commitments for the period of 2021-2026 on measures to advance women’s rights and opportunities around the world.

Sixty-one percent of respondents urged their governments to use this forum as an opportunity to increase funding for gender equality initiatives. “2021 promises to be a milestone year for accelerating global progress on gender equality.

The Generation Equality Forum will call on governments, corporation, civil society and people of all ages and backgrounds around the world to step up with bold commitments to make gender equality a reality,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women.

“At such a critical moment it is invigorating to see that global public opinion is not only behind us, but pushing us to do more. The world is affirming that gender equality cannot wait. We can and we must achieve it in our generation, and it must be intersectional and intergenerational.”

Despite 25 years of progress since the landmark World Conference on Women in Beijing, no country has fully met its commitments to gender equality. More than half of the world’s girls and women – as many as 2.1 billion people – live in countries that are not on track to reach key gender equality-related targets by 2030.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on gender equality over the last 25 years, but there’s so much work left to do. Now, with COVID-19, just as women are assuming an outsized role in responding to the pandemic in their communities and at home, they are also experiencing enormous added burden, and we could see the consequences of that strain playing out for years to come,” said Divya Mathew, Senior Manager, Policy and Advocacy at Women Deliver.

“This survey shows us where the world has fallen short, but it also delivers the encouraging news that the vast majority of women and men around the world expect their leaders to take action to advance gender equality.”

Fielded in July and August of 2020, the survey offers a comprehensive picture of public experience and perception across six major gender equality issues, in addition to insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected respondents’ lives, livelihoods, and emotional health.

It also asked participants about their personal experiences with gender discrimination, their attitudes about sexist practices, and their beliefs about the causes of gender discrimination.

Key findings on these questions include:

-Theglobal public supports the need for women to play a role in all aspects of the pandemic response, with 82% of survey respondents on average saying they believe women should be involved in the response at all levels. However, facts bear witness to another situation: although women make up 70% of frontline workers, they currently make up only 24% of COVID-19 response committees.To address these realities, a gender lens must be applied to COVID-19 response and recovery plans.

-COVID-19 has had a significant impact on women (ages 18-44), who are more likely to report both increased household burdens and greater emotional stress. In 13 of the 17 countries surveyed, women report experiencing more emotional stress and mental health challenges compared to men during the pandemic.

-Young people, especially young women, have the highest expectations of their governments to advance gender equality. Three in four young women (aged 18 to 24), across all 17 countries, call on their government to increase funding for equality in their country on the occasion of the Gender Equality Forum, compared to two in three respondents on average.

-57% of women on average reported experiencing some form of gender-based discrimination in their lifetimes, with the highest rates of discrimination reported in middle-income countries like Kenya (83%), India (81%) and South Africa (72%).

-Overall, the top priority for improving gender equality is ending gender-based violence, including online harassment, sexual assault, forced and child marriage, and female genital mutilation. This was selected as first choice by 32% of respondents on average across the 17 countries.

-In the United States, self-identified Black or African American respondents are less likely to say that gender equality has improved over the last 25 years, in comparison to respondents who self-identify as white. This trend was not observed, to such a large extent, in any other country including countries with a documented history of racial discrimination, such as South Africa. The public’s support for gender equality cuts across generations, political leanings, and socioeconomic groups.

While women are stronger supporters of most gender equality issues than men, a great majority of men also support gender equality. Young people under the age of 25, women in particular, are especially likely to hold their governments accountable for advancing gender equality initiatives.

The survey asked respondents for their opinions on six major gender equality issues, all of which the public resoundingly expects governments to address:

  • Violence against women
  • Women’s economic justice and rights
  • Women’s movements and leadership
  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • Women and climate change
  • Technology for gender equality

Despite the widespread support for greater gender equality, persistent discriminatory attitudes towards women continue to hinder progress towards ending domestic violence and closing thegender pay gap. At the current rate of progress, it will take another century to achieve professional, political, and economic equality between women and men worldwide.

Against this backdrop, the survey offers a roadmap for actions that the public most wants to see, spotlighting where leaders’ and decision-makers’ focus and investments can have the most striking impact.

“The onus is on the world’s decision-makers to respond to the most pressing needs of girls and women and deliver real progress toward gender equality,”said Fabrice Ferrier, Director of Focus 2030. “Beyond that, women must have a seat at the tables where decisions about their lives and wellbeing are made. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers have a duty to match their words with action on gender equality, and value the insights and leadership that women bring. Decision-makers should remember that their constituents are watching – and have very high expectations.”

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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New Social Compact

The Death News of Sidharth Shukla: In the remembrance of Sidnaaz

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For most individuals, the death news of Sidharth Shukla seems implausible. Sidharth Shukla, popular actor, and 13 winner Bigg Boss died on Thursday 2 September suffering a severe cardiac arrest at Cooper Hospital in Mumbai.  Actor Sidharth constantly challenged the odds in his profession. For many in the TV and movie sector, it is a last-ditch and sometimes fruitless effort to stop a slide into irrelevance in the popular reality program Bigg Boss. But Shukla was the household name that became a feather reality TV sensation for himself who won the 13th show edition in 2019. For the first time, Shukla entered the television limelight, working on BalikaVadhu (2012), in which he tried the part of District Collector Shivraj Shekhar. Shukla portrayed the character throughout the space of three years and won several accolades. A few whiles later, in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), he was reputed to a costar, once again receiving acclaim. Born and reared up in Mumbai, Shukla began as a model by taking a position as a leader in the Manhunt and Mega model Gladrags contests and then starred in Bajaj and ICICI Banking television commercial campaigns. Shortly thereafter, he premiered on Babul Ka Aangann Chootey Na, followed by a range of dramatic TV shows such as CID and Aahat, which include criminal dramas. In 2016 Khatron Ke Khiladi won Fear Factor as well. Shukla has also been a popular television host with such series as Savdhaan India and the Got Talent 6 of India. His death caused a shock to the television and film industries.

Police authorities in Mumbai claimed that at around 9 a.m. before death, Shukla complained about cardiac pressure in his home in Oshivara, Mumbai.  At that time, his sister, his mother, and brother-in-law were in the house. A physician who came to the house found that he was pulseless. “The family went to Dr. RN Cooper hospital and requested an ambulance. They reached about 9.45 am and before admission he had been proclaimed dead.” The Forensic department leader, Dr. R Sukhdev, verified that on Thursday morning, Shukla was brought dead. The afternoon postmortem exam was performed. No external damage on his body was detected before the autopsy by physicians and police. The Dean of Dr. RN Cooper Hospital, Dr. Sailesh Mohite, refused to comment on the autopsy findings.

Many Celebertities Condolences

“Siddharth, gone too soon. You’ll be missed…” said Actor Salman Khan, who gave him the trophy of Bigg Boss. Kapil Sharma TV comedy host tweeted, “Oh god, it is truly shocking, my condolences to the family, and prayers for the the departed soul” Several TV and film fraternity members, like Rajkummar Rao, came to Mumbai to pay their final honors in Shukla Residence. On Friday his last rites will be conducted.

Shehnaaz Gill on Sidharth Shukla death

Sources close to the actor and individuals who went to his house and told Sidharth Shukla’s family that Shehnaaz is in a condition of shock and cannot cope with his loss today. Source further stated Shehnaaz was deeply impacted by the untimely death of the Balika Vadhu actor. Shehnaaz was very near to Sidharth, and she frequently publicly demonstrated her affection for him. Her compassion and caring for him never shied away. She said she was even in love with him openly. Fans liked their duo much after BB 13, and invented their moniker with affection, Sidnaaz. In two recent programs, Back-to-Back Bigg Boss OTT and Dances Deewane 3, the reported couple had featured.

Sidharth Shukla breathed his last in Shehnaaz Gill’s arms

Sidharth was still complaining of discomfort, and Shehnaaz and his mother begged him to relax. Sidharth was unable to sleep, on the other hand; thus Shehnaaz was requested to remain with him and pat on his back. Sidharth lay on the lap of Shehnhaaz at 1:00 a.m., and the latter walked away gently. She slept, too, and when she woke up at 7am, she found Sidharth sleeping in the same position without moving, and he didn’t stir when she tried to wake him up. From the 12th story to the fifth level, where his family resided, Shehnaaz was terrified and hurried. She notified Sidharth’s sister and phoned their doctor of the family, who told Sidharth that he hadn’t been there anymore.

Ye ‘Dil’ hai Muskil

Why are young people suffering from heart attacks? The death of Siddharth Shukla, 40 years old, has stunned everyone. Initial stories indicating that a heart attack is the reason for Thursday’s death were killed, along with the big boss winner Season-13. In recent times, heart disease has been a worry for health professionals among young Indian people. The question is why in very young age groups in India there has been an increase in cardiac attack.

Concluding Remarks

The greatest way I can escape the trap of thinking that you have anything to lose is to remember that you will die. No excuse to not follow your heart. Nobody wants to die. Nobody wants to die. Such people don’t even want to die to go to paradise to get there. And yet death is our common destination. Nobody has ever avoided it and this is why death is perhaps the finest invention of existence. Life is the agent of transformation. The old one is clearing way for the new one.

Death is, however tragic, probably God’s most beautiful creation. Death is merely another trip; birth and life will never take place without death. It’s unavoidable to lose somebody. Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, illustrates this wonders: Death is transitory and the meaning of life and death. Death is temporary. Death is a normal part of life, we have to realize. Death gives life its full significance. Let life be like summer flowers, let life be lovely and death be like fall leaves. But would it not be much easier to face our own mortality, rather than being unhappy, knowing that our life has been fully and without regret? Even if we don’t want to go to die, it’s just as unavoidable for the sun at night. In conclusion, when your time comes, you don’t have to die happy but you need to die satisfied, since from start to finish you have lived your life.

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New Social Compact

4.1 billion lack social safety net

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More than four billion people live without any welfare protection today to cushion them from crisis, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday, while highlighting how the COVID-19 crisis has pushed up government spending by some 30 per cent.

Leading the call for countries to extend social safety nets far more widely than they do now, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder insisted that such a move would help future-proof workers and businesses in the face of new challenges.

“This is a pivotal moment to harness the pandemic response to build a new generation of rights-based social protection systems,” said Mr. Ryder.

“These can cushion people from future crises and give workers and businesses the security to tackle the multiple transitions ahead with confidence and with hope. We must recognize that effective and comprehensive social protection is not just essential for social justice and decent work but for creating a sustainable and resilient future too.”

In a new report the UN body acknowledged that the COVID-19 crisis had led to greater social protections worldwide, albeit mainly in wealthy countries.

It noted that only 47 per cent of the global population are covered by at least one social protection benefit, while only one in four children has access to national welfare safety nets.

Newborns’ needs unmet

Further research indicated that only 45 per cent of women with newborns worldwide receive a cash benefit, while only one in three people with severe disabilities receive a disability benefit.

Coverage of unemployment benefits is even lower, ILO said, with only 18.6 per cent of jobless workers effectively covered globally.

On retirement welfare, the UN body found that although nearly eight in 10 people receive some form of pension, major disparities remain across regions, between rural and urban areas and women and men.

Regional imbalances

The ILO report underscores the significant regional inequalities in social protection.

Europe and Central Asia have the highest rates of coverage, with 84 per cent of people having access to at least one benefit.

Countries in the Americas are also above the global average (64.3 per cent), in stark contrast to welfare roll-out in Asia and the Pacific (44 per cent), the Arab States (40 per cent) and Africa (17.4 per cent).

Highlighting differences in government spending on social protection, ILO said that high-income countries spend 16.4 per cent of national turnover (above the 13 per cent global average, excluding health), while low-income countries budget just 1.1 per cent.

Billions more needed

The UN body noted that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have had to increase spending massively to ensure minimum social protection for all, by around 30 per cent.

And it maintained that to guarantee basic social protection coverage, low-income countries would need to invest an additional $77.9 billion per year, lower-middle-income countries an additional $362.9 billion and upper-middle-income countries a further $750.8 billion annually. That’s equivalent to 15.9 per cent, 5.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent of their GDP, respectively.

“There is an enormous push for countries to move to fiscal consolidation, after the massive public expenditure of their crisis response measures, but it would be seriously damaging to cut back on social protection; investment is required here and now,” said Shahra Razavi, Director, ILO Social Protection Department.

Underscoring the multiple benefits of social welfare protection, Ms. Razavi insisted that it could promoted “better health and education, greater equality, more sustainable economic systems, better managed migration and the observance of core rights…The benefits of success will reach beyond national borders to benefit us all”.

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New Social Compact

Hell for Women?

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35-years-old woman and her daughter were raped by rickshaw driver and his accomplice in Lahore; On independence day of Pakistan, a TikToker was sexually harassed in Lahore; woman on rickshaw was harassed publically in Lahore and people were cheering; Noor Mukadam, daughter of a Diplomat, was brutally bumped off in Islamabad; a female school teacher was raped by owner of the school; a minor girl was raped by principal of seminary; a woman was gang raped by robbers in front of her family in Sheikhupura; a man with his three friends gang raped his fiancée and snatched jewelry; 16-years-old girl was raped by her stepfather in Lahore; mother of four children was raped in Bhagatpura; a 10-years-old was raped in Manwan; 17-years-old girl was raped after being promised a job; a minor girl was raped and sent to cemetery in Korangi; a woman was abducted and gang raped; an elderly woman was tortured, dragged and attempted to rape. Few cases have been quoted here. Sorrowfully, numerous other cases are remaining to be mentioned here. Unfortunately, a tiny figure of cases have been reported, still beaucoup cases are unreported.

Given obnoxious incidents give women sense of insecurity and uncertainty. Wretchedly, women in our society are deemed as prey and an open invitation by mad dogs (rapists) which they cannot evade and leave no stone unturned to assault them. The exponential rise in gender-based violence has proselytized our society into a hell for women, where they are considered as inferior segment of the society. This abysmal picture of our society adversely impacts our international image.

 The study conducted by Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, despite improving in women’s perception of community safety, still ranks Pakistan fourth among the worst countries for women to live in.

In accordance with the official data- collected from law enforcement agencies and human rights commission of Pakistan- at least 11 rape cases are reported regularly in Pakistan. More, the last six years data unearthed an icky tally of 22,000 cases registered to police in Pakistan. Dolefully, the conviction rate stood at 0.3% of total figure. 

Research conducted by Geo News revealed that only 41 per cent of cases have been reported to the Police. A police official estimated the actual number could be as high as 60,000 in last five years.

Furthermore, the Cyber Wing of the FIA in Lahore told that they have received 6,168 sexual harassment complaints out of total 14,108 in less than eight months. It further explained that mostly the complaints were lodged by University and College students relating to blackmailing by peers through the use of doctored videos and photographs.

Regarding violence against women, Punjab made up to 73 per cent of total cases, Ministry of Human Rights Toll-free helpline data showed. Besides, recent data by Punjab police divulged 1,890 rape cases and 88 gang-rape cases have been registered just in first six months of this year.

The reasons behind alarming rise in rape cases, which are mostly opined and observed personally, are rivalries, perpetrators remain scot-free, and incompetency of police.

In rivalries, various women have been raped because perpetrators think that it is better mean to smirch antagonist and avenge. As of the June of this year, when a boy tied love knot with daughter of an influential person, in avenge his mother 50-years-old was kidnapped, tortured, dragged, burned half-naked body with cigarette butts and attempted to rape by that influential people in Mazaffargarh. Exclusively, in village sides, women are raped in compensation, if victim’s father, brother or guardian has raped any girl.

Besides, since 2015, more than 22,000 cases of harassment have been registered to police, more than 4000 cases are still pending in the courts and only 18 per cent cases have managed to reach prosecution. Backlog of cases, takes too much time to provide justice to women and deter others to execute same. Thereby, executors remain unpunished and rape another woman with impunity. In some cases, rapists are granted pre-arrest bails. Afterwards, they threaten victim and her family to withdraw case; which fingers out the competency and justice of honorable courts and provides free space to those rapists to continue harassing women.

Apart from this, various cases are not reported due to family or social pressure, because they have to undergo another victimization. Karachi-based organization, War Against Rape (WAR), exposed that women who report the crime are coerced to visit male-dominated police stations and asked unnecessary questions that is why people remain silent and do not register complaints to shun answering gratuitous questions, which creates obstacle in the way of justice by sparing space to rapists.

Apart, victim blaming also desists victim to register complaint. Victim’s character is questioned, she is blamed for the rape and some misogynists and advocates of patriarchal society put allegations on victim giving illogical reasons. In consequence, victim find it easy to be silent rather than being pilloried countrywide and does not register her complaint, which indirectly paves the way for rapists to feel free from being brought to book and harass women whenever and wherever they want.

To counter this evil, Punjab Police has launched a safety App that will enable women to contact police through a message and it will enable Police to trace location of complainants through smart phones. Senior Police official assured that App will be launched in all districts of Punjab soon and a special squad will be formed soon in this regard. This initiative is praiseworthy and can be fruitful, if cooperated. All women should download this App so that in any emergency they can contact Police easily.

Additionally, separate courts for rape cases should be operational as soon as possible in order to evade years of pending cases. More medico-legal officers should be appointed to speed up medical process. Police should enforce all anti-harassment, anti-rape and anti-crimes against women laws and all women should be acquainted to these laws so that they can report crimes easily and immediately.

To sum up, society will remain hell for women, until our society is patriarchal and culprits remain scot-free. No society can be stable and prosperous, if women of that society are not secure and honored by every individual. If mentioned laws are implemented effectively, women of our society can live respectfully and society can be a heaven for them.

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