Monday, 22 December 2014

Women’s rights movement launch

A Women’s Rights Action Movement (WRAM)was launched on Wednesday to support the advancement of women and girls human rights in the Solomon Islands.
WRAM Vice-chair, Afu Billy launched the organisation that marks the end of the 16 days of Activism campaign against gender-based violence.

Speaking at the launching, WRAM president, Rose Isukana said WRAM was founded by like-minded women and men who believe in the cause for gender equality.

“The founders saw a need to effectively and consistently remind government of gender issues in the country, and their commitments to addressing these issues, focusing on the need to reform laws and policies.”

Mrs Isukana said WRAM also recognises the need to be robust and work with civil society organisations to constantly remind and work with WRAM duty bearers to ensure that the needs and concerns of women in Solomon Islands are addressed.

WRAM was established in 2011, a registered charitable organisation under the charitable Act of Solomon islands.

In 2013, the movement was fortunate to get some funding from the International Women’s Development Agency to setup its office.

WRAM has recruited two staff to begin implementing its three years strategy. The board consists of nine members and has 18 financial members. The organisation welcomes anyone who would like to become a member and its next AGM will be in May 2015.

“WRAM is a new organisation, but those behind it are not new to working with and on issues affecting women,” Mrs Isukana said.

“These issues must not be seen as women’s issues only, but issues that once addressed shall contribute positively towards a stronger Solomon Islands.”

Mrs Isukana pointed out the organisation recognises the work of various women NGOs in the country and the work of the government through the ministry of women and would like to be an effective partner in addressing women’s issues.

She said the organisation also recognises the work of all NGOs and development partners and donors.

“We would like to see WRAM grow to be a key player in promoting gender equality, to help build its capacity and the capacity of other local women’s NGOs to enable us to effectively lobby and advocate for changes that will benefit our communities and a safer Solomon islands.”

The launching was attended by women organisations, ministries and invited guests at the Iron Bottom Sound hotel.



Sunday, 21 December 2014

Indonesian women’s rights under siege

On Nov. 18, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the Indonesian government subjects female police recruits to discriminatory and degrading virginity tests. Indonesia’s National Police law division head, Inspector General Moechgiyarto, defended the tests as a means to ensure the morality of female applicants.
“The procedure has been practiced for a long time,” he told reporters in Kuningan in South Jakarta on Nov. 19, referring to the use of virginity tests. “If [a candidate] turns out to be a prostitute, then how could we accept her for the job?” Indonesia’s coordinating minister for politics, law and security, Tedjo Edhi, confirmed that virginity tests have long been obligatory for female military recruits.
The police’s and military’s use of a degrading, unscientific and discriminatory test is not an isolated example of women’s rights abuse in Indonesia. It is part of a wider pattern of attacks on women’s rights that has been in the making for more than a decade, despite guarantees in Indonesia’s Constitution against such discrimination.
In many parts of Indonesia, local laws compelling women and girls to don the hijab, or headscarf, are increasingly common in schools, government offices and public spaces. While many of these laws specify traditional Sunni Muslim garb both for women and men, research by HRW shows they disproportionately target women.
In January 2013 the mayor of Lhokseumawe in Aceh province barred women from straddling motorcycles in the name of Sharia. In May 2013 the district chief in neighboring Bireuen barred women from dancing in public places. In Gorontalo on Sulawesi Island the government removed its entire female support staff in July 2013, replacing them with men as part of an initiative supposedly to discourage extramarital affairs. In Meulaboh, another Aceh regency, the local government has restricted women to wearing skirts since 2012.
The HRW is not alone in highlighting the proliferation of regulations that deny women the right to freedom from discrimination under international law. In August 2013, Indonesia’s Commission on Violence Against Women reported that since 1999, national and local governments have passed 342 discriminatory regulations, including 79 local laws requiring women to wear the hijab. Although the number of the discriminatory local laws has doubled, from 154 in 2009 to 334 in 2013, in July 2013 the Ministry of Home Affairs said it would revoke only eight of them.
The United Nations has also sounded the alarm. “The committee is deeply concerned about the persistence of a large number of discriminatory laws at the national level … [as well as] discriminatory bylaws,” the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, said in its 2012 compliance review (PDF).
Failure to act on women’s rights will mark a betrayal of Indonesian women and haunt President Joko Widodo’s administration for years to come. 
Indonesian women’s rights groups have opposed the passage of these discriminatory regulations. The National Commission on Violence Against Women linked a sharp decline in the enactment of such rules from 2006 to 2009 to the “strong reactions from civil society at the national level.”
This is not the Indonesia I knew growing up. I was born in Jember, a small town in East Java in 1965. At the time, there were no regulations that required women to wear the hijab. There was no multiplicity of local regulations and ordinances curtailing women’s freedom to dress, dance or ride pillion. To be sure, Indonesia was no paradise for women’s rights in the 1970s and 1980s. For example, the 1974 Marriage Law contained many discriminatory provisions, including the legalization of polygamy. But it also recognized women’s right to marital property.
Although Indonesia’s dictator Suharto flouted many basic human rights during his 33-year-long reign, he established the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment in 1983. A year later he allowed Indonesia to sign and ratify the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the first human rights convention the country signed. In October 1998, Suharto’s successor President B.J. Habibie formed the National Commission on Violence Against Women. In concert with the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, the agency was explicitly tasked with integrating women’s rights as a key component of government policy formation.
Indonesia’s democratization and decentralization after Suharto’s fall in 1998 has emboldened Islamic activists who have spearheaded the calls for laws and regulations that limit women’s rights. Ironically, the rise of discriminatory laws occurred despite the fact that Indonesia elected its first female president in 2001 and enacted a domestic violence law three years later. The 2010 gender equality bill, aimed at ending discrimination, remains stalled in parliament because of opposition from Islamist politicians.
The government’s failure to prevent the erosion of basic rights of women and girls is not accidental. Opening the Indonesian Ulama Council congress in 2005, former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, wooed members of the country’s top Muslim clerical body, promising to integrate fatwas (Islamic edicts) into government policies. He appointed a handful of conservative politicians and Islamic clerics as advisers and Cabinet members.
President Joko Widodo, who replaced Yudhoyono in national elections on July 9, was sworn into office on Oct. 20. Widodo’s challenge is to prove that his administration will not tolerate abusive virginity tests or trade women’s fundamental rights for political support from Islamist militants.  Widodo should send that message by boldly banning virginity tests and lifting Islamist-imposed restrictions on women’s rights. Failure to act on women’s rights will mark a betrayal of Indonesian women and haunt his administration for years to come.


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Turkish women’s rights beyond Islamists and secularists

On Nov. 24, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at a women’s rights conference that he did not believe in gender equality because it contradicted the laws of nature. Erdogan’s comments angered many people within and outside Turkey, who accused the president and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of misogyny. Secular critics of Erdogan and his party argue that women’s rights have regressed in Turkey under the 12 years of AKP rule since 2002. They are right about the scope of the problems facing Turkish women today, but wrong to blame those deeply rooted problems only on Islamists.
Turkey before the 2002 election of the AKP was no feminist utopia. In 2001, under the rule of a secular coalition government led by the social democrat Bulent Ecevit, Turkey ranked only 81 out of 175 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Gender-related Development Index, which measures the gender gap in human development in terms of health, education and income. Turkey lagged behind not only the Western European democracies but also such Muslim-majority states as Saudi Arabia (68), Lebanon (70), Jordan (75) and Tunisia (76). Similarly, according to the UNDP’s 2001 Gender Empowerment Measure, which captures inequality in key areas of economic and political participation and decision-making, Turkey ranked 66 out of 70 states, again coming behind such countries as Namibia (29), Botswana (31), Malaysia (45) and Pakistan (58).
In pre-AKP Turkey, about one in 10 women in the east lived in polygamous marriages (despite the prohibition of polygamy since 1926), and about 200 girls and women every year were killed by close relatives in the name of protecting “family honor.” In July 2001, the social democratic-led coalition government passed a regulation requiring female nursing students to undergo virginity tests before being admitted into their studies. Merve Kavakci, a democratically elected member of parliament, was expelled from the National Assembly because her head was covered. To prevent Kavakci from taking oath with her headscarf, Ecevit, the left-leaning prime minister at the time, chanted from the podium “put this woman in her place!” Such was the “place” of women in Turkey before the AKP ascended to power.
The first AKP government under Erdogan’s premiership was actually cause for some hope among many Turkish women. In 2004, Erdogan’s government passed a new penal code greeted by many as an important step toward gender equality and protection of women’s sexual and bodily rights. It criminalized marital rape, eliminated the old penal code’s patriarchal and gender-biased language and imposed a number of measures to prevent sentence reductions traditionally granted by Turkish courts to perpetrators of honor crimes. In August 2012, the AKP-controlled parliament also adopted a new domestic violence law.
Despite these positive legislative initiatives, things have not improved on the ground. Indeed, Turkey has become one of the worst countries in terms of violence against women. For example, between 2002 and 2009, the murder rate of women skyrocketed by 1,400 percent. Since 2002 about 7,000 women have been murdered in Turkey. According to official figures, in 2013 alone, about 28,000 women were assaulted. As many argue, Erdogan’s sexist policies and perpetuation of machismo culture are largely responsible for the country’s rampant gender-based violence problem.
Nor has economic growth offered significant improvements. According to the UNDP, Turkey’s GDP per capita income (in 2011 purchasing power parity terms) rose from $13,090 in 2000 to $18,167 in 2012. In other words, there was about a 39 percent increase in per capita income over a period of 12 years – the last 10 years of which were under AKP rule. According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, in 2013 Turkey ranked 123 out of 136 countries in terms of women’s participation in the labor force with only 30 percent. In comparison, the ratio of female participation in the labor force in neighboring Greece was almost double at 59 percent.
On the same index, Turkey ranked 103 in terms of women’s political empowerment. In the 2011 parliamentary elections, 22 percent of seat victories on the AKP list went to women, compared to 17 percent of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) list victories. In the last municipal elections, of the 662 city and borough mayoralties won by the AKP, only six were won by women. CHP’s results were a little better but still shamefully low: of 186 mayoralties won by the party, only seven went to female candidates. When it comes to women’s empowerment, Turkey’s Islamists and secularists have a lot to learn from the Kurdish Peace and Democratic Party (BDP) – 23 of 83 mayoralties the party won in the last elections went to female candidates.
What is more, according to the UNDP, economic expansion did not translate into better health and education opportunities for Turkish women. In 2002, Turkey ranked 70 out of 169 countries on UNDP’s GDI. In 2007, about five years after AKP came to power, Turkey was still 70 on the GDI index, even though its rank on the Human Development Index improved from 88 to 79 over the same period. In 2008 on UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index (GII, a composite index that replaced the earlier GDI and GEM) Turkey ranked 77, while in 2013 it ranked 69 out of 187 countries. Over the same period, Turkey’s HDI rank also improved from 83 to 69. Despite an overall increase in income and access to education and health care, the Turkish government has largely failed to improve the status of women and reduce persisting gender inequalities, especially with respect to women’s participation in the labor force and political empowerment.
While this sorry record reflects poorly on the AKP governments, it should not be used to forget the long history of struggles for Turkish women. Turkey was one of the worse places in the world to be a woman before the AKP, and it still is today.
Yüksel Sezgin is an assistant professor of political science and the director of Middle East Studies Program at Syracuse University.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Our Mental State.

It hurts that we are somewhat satisfied being the symbol of weakness, uneducated decisions and inepititude. Offcourse, it's nice for someone else to take the whole blame, i mean yeah! we can blame the world for defining but then who is to blame for accepting, who is the blame for letting them? We can blame every other person all we want but at the end we played a huge part in getting to where we are right now.
  This war we are fighting is not just a physical one but mostly mental. Our mental state. The world and this context, especially African women have agreed to the society's idea of who and what a woman is in some way. I mean yes we can go out and claim that we are feminist because we have the kids and the job or because we let our hair grow natural and so on. The real question is where are the female inventors and ground breaking scientists coming up with cures being role models to the little, anxious girl in secondary school who is most excited when she is in chemistry class or that get inspired just by looking up at the sky, but nooo we can't stay too long in school studying those kind of courses cause then who is going to be left to marry us, while, those that dare to take up this courses then move on to be frustrated by the same society that is supposed to be embracing them.
  Let me tell you were a lot of us are failing. I often hear guys say "I'm looking for a reserved girl, or oh! she stays with her folks she's definitely the marriageble type a good girl". They sure didn't come up with that on their own. So where are the mothers, aunties teaching what really to look for in a lady, not naive, gullible, submissive and obedience, which mum will not freak out when they see their son come in with a lady that has a strong opinion of what she wants her home to look like. Do you know that men are attracted to omen like their mothers. Granted our moms and their moms before that did not teach them any better. So we have refused to teach our kids to dream , dream beyond society limitations. We have let the word feminist to even exist and noe become irky in conversations. Well at least we get to go school around here right? Still it won't hurt to move forward and allow these girls use  them to build skyscrappers and walk through the glass doors of their companies instead of just having a flashy marriage resume.
We need people and i don't mean 5 or 10 amoungst millions though that's a start to pave the way for those budding girls, those that have have tuned out the world telling them they've got "big eyes" or how impossible their dreams are and question them at every turn. They want it and they are willing to do the work for it. They are wondering if they'll need to sleep with everyone who they give a proposal to or if they must take on a male business partner before they can be taken seriously. All they need is a chance to prove themselves.
Yes,there is a movement though not as loud as it needs to be, or fast because most of us are too ashamed to stand with this cause which is our birth right, and yes we now have songs, books, papers, calling us out to this remarkable awakening but still they are still those of those tht are letting people use the word "feminist" as an inside joke for women that are either are sucessful and strong that it intimidates or threaten their egos or for those ladies that are either unattractive or unmarried. We will keep sharing the joke until our daughters can't even say the word "feminist" because then it has become a curse word.
We need to fight it little by little but everyday, it could be as small as giving a thumbs up! and a sacarstic smile to that lady that says "you drive like a lady" or do something like a lady to tell them we are glad we are the best at whatever we do. When you here someone explain with "oh it's cause she's a woman" nicely say "Your mom is a woman".

Finally, i would like to say amounggst every division that humans have found to fight about in the world Race, religion, countries when it comes to gender we are not struggling for supremacy, we are just asking for Equality. How hard is that?

By George Agba