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Feminist perspective of the War,Peace and Politics in International Relations

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India is a land where Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas of non-violence were born, but it is also the land where Mahatma Gandhi was assassin by Godse for preaching ‘Feminine’ ‘non-violent’ politics and for making Indian men less ‘manly’ by promoting peace. Masculinity is a social definition given to men and boys in society, it is associated with strong, powerful, brave, and macho characteristics. The understanding of security is limited for many years in International relations(IR) and hence the understanding of a secured state is associated with a leader who has masculine characteristics capable of handling security.

Politics across the world is understood in the terms of power and strength of the leader and other masculine characteristics associated with being ‘manly’ enough to control a state. While feminine characteristics are associated with weak, soft, and gentle behavior, even when women are elected as leaders, they are expected to hold strong manly characters to stay in politics. Indira Gandhi, the first female prime minister of India, prefer being addressed herself as ‘sir’ and her policies did not include a gender perspective.

In Gender, Justice and the Wars in Iraq (2006), Laura Sjoberg demonstrates that women’s presumed status as innocent civilians make wars harder, not easier, for them, by defining them as protected without regard for their actual safety . On Iraq’s economic sanctions, feminist insights from the study of economic sanctions as the war in international relations are not only valuable for their contribution to IR’s theories of sanctions, but also for their generalizability to IR’s crucial questions, such as what constitutes foreign policy, what counts as war, and how war affects people

Feminists see that war and military are often threats to women’s and other vulnerable groups’ security as they are competitors for scarce resources during and after a war on which women may depend more than men, instead of seeing military power as part of a state’s defense against security threats from other states, it should be seen as a product of patriarchy. The large defense spending on soldiers and military weapons rather than creating a safe society for women at home or spending on climate action that could create safer lives for women is an example of a masculine approach to war.

The feminist approach in IR demonstrates how the security of individuals is related to national and international politics and how international politics impacts the security of individuals even at the local level. IR feminist theories focus on social relations through gendered lens,rather than power relations or anarchy, they see an international system constituted by socially constructed and gender hierarchies that contribute to gender subordination rather than traditional understanding of security.

In 2019 In the Lok Sabha elections of India, Narendra Modi, and his party used his 56-inch chest in the election campaign to associate his capability of handling the security of India with ‘manly’ characteristics. While more than 3 lakhs of children die due to starvation in India every year, the Indian prime minister wins elections by boasting about his 56-inch chest capable of defeating terrorists. Feminists believe that the social construction of masculine characteristics is reflected in politics especially in IR because political theory and practice are both dominated by men. The understanding of war and violence is also associated with men, it praises soldiers, diplomats, and leaders that promote protection from war.

Modern Enlightenment science has incorporated a belief system that equates objectivity with masculinity and a set of cultural values that simultaneously elevates what is defined as scientific and what is defined as masculine. The western liberal and realist understanding of masculinity and politics are limited and discriminatory towards women. While the world is facing nationalism wave in politics, leaders like Narendra Modi, Donald Trump and Putin promote a masculine idea of Security in the world to protect their national interest and secure nation through military expansion.

The understanding of security, war, and politics are interlinked in creating the foreign policy of a country. In a country like India, the United States, or Russia where leaders promote masculine characters through their election campaigns, where the state controls the reproductive decisions of women, or in a country like India where weapons are worshiped, the foreign policy and politics of the state are influenced by masculine characters and are valued for national security.

Rape, domestic violence, harassment against women in their own country is not subjected to war but a traditional understanding of the war in IR as feminists have pointed out is as if women require protection during war and soldiers are fighting to protect the honor of women, in reality, it is often women’s protectors (men) who provide the greatest threat in everyday life. Rape, domestic violence, harassment against women in their own country is not subjected to war but a traditional understanding of the war in IR as feminists have pointed out is as if women require protection during war and soldiers are fighting to protect the honor of women, in reality, it is often women’s protectors (men) who provide the greatest threat in everyday life.

For feminist scholars, a security that is global and multidimensional with political, economic, and ecological facets that are as important as its military dimensions. The security of individuals and their natural environment is considered as much as the security of the state.  National security needs to be inclusive of security of all from security threats such as domestic violence, rape, poverty, gender subordination, and ecological destruction as well as war. For example, Sweden has a feminist foreign policy, which means the understanding of security is through a gendered lens, feminist foreign policy not only broadens what security means but also who is guaranteed security in the world.

While feminism is a new approach of though in IR, the case study of Sweden explains the importance of feminist foreign policy that believes in gender equality in decision making, promoting peace and does not promote masculine characteristics associated with war and use of force in foreign policy and makes secure, happier nations. While the discourse of security is dominated by masculine characteristics in IR, states can be secured with wider perspective of human security associated with gendered lens.

Ishita Dutta is a student of Global Affairs at the Jindal Global University. She is currently working as aresearch Intern with the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies at Jindal School of International Affairs- Jindal Global University, Haryana, India.

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New Social Compact

Social Matters: Valuing Employee Well-being

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Authors: Birger Kydland, Ynna Abigail Olvida, Yuanda Pangi Harahap*

Highlighting the “social” aspect of ESG

As the world becomes more aware of the need for sustainable and responsible business practices, the Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework has gained significant traction in recent years. While the importance of environmental sustainability and good governance is widely acknowledged, the “S” is often overlooked or underestimated. Based on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, it talks about promoting well-being for all at all ages while SDG 8 aims to promote the protection of labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers.

So, in this article, we will focus on the social aspect of ESG, specifically on employee well-being in the workplace. We will explore its importance and the strategies that companies can adopt to promote employee well-being. We aim to raise awareness about the importance of social matters at the corporate level and encourage companies to prioritize employee well-being in their sustainability agendas as well.  

Importance of well-being in the workplace

Studies reveal that employee well-being has a significant impact on productivity, engagement, and overall success. By promoting employee well-being, businesses can create a positive and supportive work environment that fosters employee satisfaction and ultimately leads to a more engaged and productive workforce. It helps reduce workplace stress and mitigate the negative impacts of mental health issues on employees, resulting in reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs for employers.

Main indicators related to employee well-being

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) identifies several main indicators of well-being in the workplace, including physical, psychological, social, and financial well-being. Physical well-being involves creating a safe and healthy work environment, offering healthy food options, promoting physical activity, and providing ergonomic designs. Psychological well-being includes mental and emotional states such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Employers can support psychological well-being by creating a positive work culture that values open communication, offering resources and support for mental health issues, such as counseling services, and promoting a healthy work-life balance. Social well-being is another main indicator of well-being in the workplace, which includes factors such as relationships with colleagues and social support networks. Lastly, financial well-being as financial stress can have a significant negative impact on employees’ well-being, leading to increased anxiety, poor physical health, and reduced productivity. Employers can support employees’ financial well-being by offering competitive salaries, bonuses, and benefits packages, as well as providing financial education and resources for personal finance management.

By addressing physical, psychological, social and financial well-being in the workplace, employers can help improve employee well-being, leading to better job performance and increased productivity.

Increased well-being to improve mental health in the workplace

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that creating a supportive work environment that prioritizes employee well-being can help reduce work-related stress and improve mental health. By promoting employee well-being and providing resources for mental health support, employers can reduce the negative impacts of mental health issues in the workplace and improve employees’ overall well-being.

The importance of well-being in improving mental health is supported by Champion Health’s research. Their report found that employees who rated their well-being as high reported significantly lower levels of stress and anxiety, indicating a correlation between well-being and mental health. Furthermore, organizations that prioritize employee well-being have a 63% lower rate of workplace stress, indicating the positive impact of well-being initiatives on employees’ mental health. By providing resources such as mental health support programs, flexible work arrangements, and training on stress management, employers can help reduce workplace stress and promote employees’ mental health, leading to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Effective strategies for promoting employee well-being in the workplace

Fortunately, there are several strategies that can be used to prevent, protect, and support well-being in the workplace. Prevention is a crucial strategy for promoting well-being in the workplace. Employers can take steps to prevent workplace hazards and risk factors that may impact employee well-being. This can include providing training on how to recognize and manage stress, reducing workloads and managing deadlines, ensuring adequate rest and recovery time, and creating a safe, open, and supportive work environment. For example, employers can offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, to help employees manage their work-life balance.

Protection is another key strategy for promoting well-being in the workplace. Employers can take steps to protect employees both physically and mentally. This can include providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring that work equipment is safe and well-maintained for workplace hazards that cannot be eliminated entirely. Employers can also provide resources for employees to help them manage their mental and emotional well-being, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs) and access to counseling services.

Finally, support is critical for promoting employee well-being and it goes both ways. On one end, employees can take steps to support their own well-being by practicing self-care, such as getting sufficient sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in physical activities. They can take an active role in advocating for workplace policies that promote well-being. This includes advocating for fair wages, flexible work arrangements, and adequate rest periods. They can also work with management to implement policies and programs that prioritize their well-being. Employers can also offer support to their employees by creating a culture of openness and support, providing opportunities for feedback and input, and fostering a sense of community and belongingness in the workplace. By taking a proactive approach to well-being, employers and employees can create a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.

Employee well-being for organizational success

This article highlights the importance of employee well-being in the workplace as a key social aspect of ESG, which can have a direct impact on the success and sustainability of an organization. The focus on employee well-being is becoming increasingly crucial as it can boost productivity and increase employee satisfaction and retention. The article explores the main indicators of employee well-being, which include physical, psychological, social, and financial well-being, and offers strategies for promoting well-being in the workplace, including prevention, protection, and support. Ultimately, prioritizing employee well-being is not only the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, but it is also an essential aspect of a company’s long-term success.

*Yuanda Pangi Harahap from Indonesia, Birger Kydland from Norway, Ynna Abigail Olvida from the Philippines are studying for the ASEAN Master in Sustainability Management, a dual degree program from Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia and the University of Agder, Norway.

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New Social Compact

Fighting back against violence against women – a stain on modern-day society

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One in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence – around 62 million women.

Now EU policymakers have finally declared that;” Enough is enough”.

Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted to back a “convention” that aims to crackdown on this “hidden” crime, one that has been with us for far, far too long.

The EU ratification of what is called the Istanbul Convention is, in some ways, the final achievement of a long political battle

Many have said that anyone voting against this is, in fact, effectively in favour of tolerating domestic violence.

All EU Member States had previously signed up to the convention but six countries have yet to ratify the accord. Council – the EU body representing EU member states –is expected to ratify the convention on behalf of the EU as a whole in June. 

The Istanbul Convention is the first instrument in Europe to set legally binding standards specifically to address violence against women and domestic violence. It was actually adopted way back on 7 April 2011 and came into force on 1 August 2014. All MSs have signed it, but as of today, 6 member states – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia – have not ratified it yet.

The EU accession to the convention was a priority in the EU 2020-2025 Gender Equality Strategy.  

However, the EU Court of Justice has confirmed that the European Union can ratify the convention without having the agreement of all member states.

The Court found that the appropriate scope for the EU’s accession is asylum, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and obligations of the EU institutions and public administration. In line with this, on 10 May, MEPs voted to give their consent in two separate votes:

MEPs have urged the remaining six countries to ratify the convention without delay, so that it can protect women to the full extent of the Convention’s intended scope.

Commenting on the issue, Lukasz Kohut, a Socialist MEP from Poland and lead MEP for the Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said: “Gender-based violence is the biggest unsolved daily problem in Europe. One in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence – around 62 million women. Enough is enough. The Istanbul Convention is recognised as the most effective tool for combating gender-based violence, as it imposes concrete obligations. A European law anti-violence umbrella will protect women and girls in Europe, through the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention.”

Further reaction has come from Arba Kokalari (EPP, Sweden), lead MEP for the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, said: “It’s time for the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention. The EU must step up and go from words to action to stop gender-based violence, protect victims and punish perpetrators. I am very glad that the EU is finally taking the necessary steps for the safety and fundamental freedoms of women in Europe. After almost ten years of pushing from the European Parliament, now the ratification of the Istanbul Convention will raise standards in combatting and preventing gender-based violence.”

So, why is all this so important?

Well, the WHO says that violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.

Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.

Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.

From the Argentine province of Chaco, 48-year-old mother of seven, Diana suffered for 28 years before finally deciding to separate from her abusive partner.

“I wasn’t afraid that he would beat me, I was convinced that he would kill me,” she said.

At first, she hesitated to file a police complaint for fear of how he might react, but as she learned more about the services provided by a local shelter, she realized that she could escape her tormentor. She also decided to press charges.

The “good” news, if there is such a thing on such a matter, is that violence against women is preventable. The health sector has an important role to play to provide comprehensive health care to women subjected to violence, and as an entry point for referring women to other support services they may need.

In 2020, COVID-19 touched our lives in nearly every way, everywhere, as countries went into lockdown and restricted movement to contain the spread of the virus. As doors closed and isolation began, reports of all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, began to rise.

The pandemic of violence against women is not new. Even before COVID-19 hit us, globally, 243 million women and girls were abused by their intimate partners in the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the violence, even as support services faltered and accessing help became harder.

A group called UN Women has sought to shine a light on the need for funding, essential services, prevention and data that shapes better-informed responses.

It has listed ten ways you can make a difference, including listening to and believing survivors, teaching the next generation and learning from them and also learning the signs of abuse and how you can help.

Survivors of such abuse include people like 48-year-old mother of seven Diana, from Argentina, who suffered for 28 years before finally deciding to separate from her abusive partner.

“I wasn’t afraid that he would beat me, I was convinced that he would kill me,” she said.

At first, she hesitated to file a police complaint for fear of how he might react, but as she learned more about the services provided by a local shelter, she realized that she could escape her tormentor. She also decided to press charges.

Living with an abusive father, her children also suffered psychological stress and economic hardship.

Leaving was not easy, but with the support of a social workers, a local shelter and a safe space to recover, Diana got a job as an administrative assistant in a municipal office.

“I admit that it was difficult, but with the [mental health] support, legal aid and skills training, I healed a lot,” she explained.

Essential services for survivors of domestic violence are a lifeline.

“I no longer feel like a prisoner, cornered, or betrayed. There are so many things one goes through as a victim, including the psychological [persecution] but now I know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to”.

Diana is among 199 women survivors housed at a shelter affiliated with the Inter-American Shelter Network, supported by UN Women  through  the  Spotlight Initiative in Latin America. The shelter has also provided psychosocial support and legal assistance to more than 1,057 women since 2017.

Her experience shows that help is at hand for victims but there needs to also be the political will to enforce legislation and that is why this week’s vote on the Istanbul  Convention is so important.

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New Social Compact

The Social Ostracism of the Disabled:  A Tale of Discrimination, Deprivation, and Disregard

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A first-of-its-kind report on disability produced jointly by World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank suggests that more than a billion people today experience disability, with a vast majority of people with disabilities living in developing countries.

People with disabilities tend to face adverse multifaceted socio-economic impediments with lower rates of literacy, the prevalence of poverty, poorer health outcomes, and a dearth of economic opportunities available to them. The high rates of poverty engender a further risk of disability due to malnutrition, lack of access to health care and education, clean water and sanitation, and a polluted environment. It also exacerbates poverty levels due to inadequate economic and sustainable living opportunities, lower wages, and increased costs of living due to disability.

According to the World Report on Disability, the number of people with disabilities is increasing. This is largely because populations are aging as older people tend to be at a higher risk of disability and with an increase in global chronic diseases and health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental illness.

Despite being the world’s largest minority, people with disabilities are often forgotten and excluded from the mainstream paradigms and mechanisms dealing with the issues of minorities. Not only they are a minority, but they’re also one of the most vulnerable groups in the world facing heightened discrimination and inequalities, as their needs are often overlooked by governments and international organizations.

A statistical analysis by UNICEF further entails the depth of deprivation as according to it, there are nearly 240 million children with disabilities around the world with disability experienced by every 1 in 10 children across various indicators of education, health, well-being, and protection. Children facing multiple disabilities face multiple compounding challenges and are less likely to be included or heard on every measure and all too often, are completely left behind.

Their lack of social-economic inclusion is cataclysmic as they face discrimination and exclusion across all forums and are left to their devices with little to no assistance which exacerbates the severity of the inequalities and injustices they face regularly. The wide-reaching ramifications of Covid-19 have further debilitated their conditions and deprived them of any opportunity to participate as well-functioning members of the society with affected sectors such as education, health, sustainable living, and transport considerations.

In societies where social ostracization has become a norm, the promise of hope for people with disabilities seems bleak. What adds further to the dismal is the lip service or mere tokenism of the international organization on the issue of rights and justice for people with disabilities. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that disability cannot be a reason for the lack of access to development and realization of human rights. However, no concrete mechanism or operational modalities exist in a place that focuses on mainstreaming the rights of people with disabilities and working towards their socio-economic inclusion across all development frameworks.

Even though the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include seven targets that explicitly refer to persons with disabilities, and six further targets for persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities, we are yet to witness a groundbreaking framework solely focused on the needs and rights of the disabled population of the world.

Disability covers a great variety of people including old age, youth as well as children with disabilities however they are not a homogenous group. There exist significant inequalities across different indicators with old age and women with disabilities are likely to experience higher inequalities than others. For instance, women and girls with disabilities face double discrimination on account of their gender first, and their disability, and are also particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse. School enrollment differs for children with impairments; children with physical disabilities fare better than those with intellectual and sensory impairments. The most excluded from the economic machinery are the ones with intellectual disabilities or mental health issues.

Some efforts are underway for the socio-economic inclusion of people with disabilities such as the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Education (GPE) which aims at making schools safe, healthy, and inclusive. GPE also focuses on equity and inclusion across all its policies and programs to ensure the realization of human rights without discrimination.

With a higher population of people with disabilities residing in developing countries, initiatives such as Darul Sukun, Sirat-ul-Jannah, Karachi Vocational Training Centre for the Differently Abled (KVTC), and many others in Pakistan are note-worthy. All these organizations in Pakistan are working towards building an inclusive society for people with disabilities whereby they get a preferential status in access to health, education, food, shelter, and employment opportunities, providing them with the necessary skills and training to empower them for all walks of life.

Given the gravity of the injustices faced, there’s a dire need for disability-inclusive policies and programs, and implementation strategies that ensure proper funding and resource allocation. The international community must take up the cause in all its seriousness and commit to the social, economic, and cultural inclusion of the differently abled and invest in strengthening their capacities and delivering services to people with disabilities. Policymakers and health providers must guarantee a human rights-based approach, people-centric, and non-discriminatory health services.

It is high time to rectify the cultural stigma through appropriate awareness and sensitization around disability. Global leaders, as well as the relevant UN bodies, should address the intersectional dimensions of discrimination faced by disabled people such as poverty, gender inequality, gender-based violence that further aggravate their vulnerability. Interventions to be undertaken to mitigate entrenched patterns of inequality and injustices by establishing supportive and nurturing environments giving them a fair chance to lead a dignified life.

Life is full of ups and downs for a person with a disability not only due to their mental and physical incapacitation but especially due to the neglect and apathy of the society they live in. Realization of the feelings and needs of the differently abled is the first step towards their social inclusion, which inculcates actualization of the challenges they face and mobilizing efforts to reduce their daily impediments. No human being in this world should feel left out due to his/her limitations and feel deprived of experiencing a holistic and healthy life. It is our duty as responsible citizens that those people feel welcomed and included in all walks of life and their disability and impairments do not contribute to their experience of discrimination, but rather to one of love, empathy, and unconditional support.

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