First global certification for gender equality in the workplace announced at Davos
Posted By The Network Integrator, 28 January 2011
The Gender Equality Project provides multinational companies with standardized method for achieving gender equality.
Davos, Switzerland, 28 January 2011– The Gender Equality Project, a Swiss Foundation working in partnership with the World Economic Forum, today announced the launch of a ground-breaking global certification and assessment methodology for gender equality in the workplace.
“To stay competitive and maintain a leadership position in the 21st Century, it is critical that organizations engage in gender equality practices,” said Nicole Schwab, co-founder of The Gender Equality Project. “While companies have been talking about gender equality for years, there has been little action. The Project’s goal is to provide companies with a standardized tool for implementing change.”
Top multinational companies including Alcatel-Lucent, BC Hydro Canada, the Coca-Cola System in France (The Coca Cola Company France and Coca-Cola Entreprises), L’Oréal, Pfizer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Germany and WPP/Ogilvy worked with The Project over the last nine months to test and streamline the assessment methodology as part of a pilot program.
“We can no longer afford to squander the capabilities of half of our population because of old customs,” said Ben Verwaayen, global CEO of Alcatel-Lucent.
The methodology is designed to provide a clear picture of a company’s progress on gender equality as measured in terms of equal pay for equivalent work, recruitment and promotion, training and mentoring, work-life balance, and the company culture.
“The methodology provides a roadmap for multinational organizations to chart their progress as they strive to accelerate the pace of change towards gender equality. It is an impactful assessment tool which will not only allow companies to hold themselves accountable, but also turn the talent, creativity and the valued reputation that comes with gender equality into a business success,” said Aniela Unguresan, co-founder of The Gender Equality Project.
The participating pilot companies are organizations that proactively manage gender diversity with a long-term commitment and have reached successful outcomes in terms of gender equality.
‘’We are delighted to be part of this ground-breaking initiative,’’ said Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP.
Women MPs Limited by the Patriarchal System
By Mantoe Phakathi
MBABANE, Jul 8, 2010 (IPS) – Minah Ndzinisa spends every day selling fruit and vegetables at the outdoor Mbabane Market, braving the rain, wind and cold for almost 20 years. “I was in the same cold even in the 1990s when we used to have only one woman Member of Parliament.”
Ndzinisa regrets that she voted twice for a woman candidate who eventually secured a seat for the second time in the House of Assembly. For her it no longer makes a difference whether her representative from Mbabane East is a man or woman.
“I thought life would improve for poor women like me if a large number of the womenfolk occupied more seats in Parliament,” said Ndzinisa. “I was wrong.”
The number of women elected to Parliament increased from two in 1998 to seven in 2008. Through a quota system women now occupy 25 percent of the 106 seats in the current Parliament.
But unfortunately, Ndzinisa believes, women in the country are still in the same position they were 20 years ago when there were no women in Parliament. The 47-year-old mother of eight argues that women MPs are failing to advocate for policies and legislation that will help women get out of poverty.
“We need someone who will ensure that the municipal council provides us with shelter as a basic condition for economic empowerment,” Ndzinisa said.
Sizakele Hlatshwayo, a gender and development consultant concurred with Ndzinisa adding that women empowerment issues are still raised by men in Parliament despite the growing number of women MPs.
“Save for a few women, most women MPs remain indifferent,” said Hlatshwayo.
She said most women MPs do not seem to appreciate their mandate to women because once they are in Parliament, they fail to identify with poor women.
“Because women MPs live comfortable lives, some of them tend to disassociate with women rights issues,” said Hlatshwayo.
Women in Law in Southern Africa-Swaziland national coordinator Lomcebo Dlamini acknowledged that the policy and legislation making processes of Swaziland is very problematic because it operates from a system that is patriarchal.
Although Dlamini said women MPs were trying hard to uplift the standard of women in the country, she said they are limited by the patriarchal system in a country where governance is considered a man’s issue.
“We also need to deal with the system because … the fact that we are using a system where men are the ultimate decision makers is making it difficult for women to make a difference,” warned Dlamini.
She observed that the inherent marginalisation of women, even in Parliament, is a result of socialisation where women themselves lack confidence in carrying out their duties as MPs.
Dlamini said some women MPs are out of depth because the legislation making process is very complex and needs a lot of understanding of the technical language yet some of them are not educated or exposed to issues of women’s rights and gender equality.
“Here we’re dealing with issues of low self esteem, lack of confidence, lack of education and socialisation which are some of the things that lead to the marginalisation of women,” said Dlamini.
However, chairperson of the Women Parliamentary Caucus Thuli Dladla disputes that women are marginalised in Swaziland. She believes this idea is a foreign concept that does not apply to Swaziland.
Dladla said the reason why Swazi women were not participating in elections was that they lacked confidence and that no one had barred them from politics. “We just need to work on activities that would make women regain self esteem,” she said. “We should not use a western tool because people don’t understand it.”
By western tool, Dladla was referring to international conventions such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women which Swaziland ratified in 2004.
Dladla said the women’s movement should use language that is in line with the values and traditions of Africa if they want more women to go into Parliament.
The contribution of women MPs is visible during the debates of the Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill, which has since been passed into law, and the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill.
While acknowledging the contribution of women MPs, Dlamini said the fact that Parliament is not legally constituted because Parliament has not adhered to Section 86 of the constitution.
It provides that the House of Assembly should elect four women, one from each region, if women do not make up 30 percent of the House during Parliament’s first meeting. Because in the current Parliament women occupy 25 percent of the seats, four additional women were supposed to be elected in line with the constitution.
Almost two years later after the first meeting of the Ninth Parliament this has not happened.
“Government said there is no space for the four women which I find to be a ridiculous reason because I’ve been to Parliament and I know there are enough seats for four more people,” said Dlamini.
She said this showed government’s lack of commitment towards the empowerment of women. Dladla disagreed with Dlamini, arguing that the country is still grappling with the constitution adopted in 2005.
“Many countries in the world have not met the required number of women representation in Parliament,” said Dladla.
The election of the women is at the hands of the Elections and Boundaries Commission and its chairperson Chief Gija Dlamini said they are still working on it. He had said the same thing a year ago about the same issue.
Making 2010 a Turning Point for Women’s Health
By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 8, 2010 (IPS) – As the international community readies to commemorate World Population Day Sunday, the United Nations is reviewing the state of the world’s women – and how they stack up against the risks of maternal mortality and the lack of universal access to reproductive health.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants 2010 to be “a turning point for women’s and children’s health”.
Hundreds of thousands of women – 99 percent of them in the developing world – die annually as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, he said, adding, “We know how to save their lives. We can do it with quality health systems, qualified medical staff, information and tools for preventing and treating diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.”
A U.N. report on the status of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including drastic reductions in hunger and poverty, says there has been slow progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women primarily for two reasons: poverty and lack of education.
“The use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women, and those with no education,” it says.
The study points out that “the unmet need for family planning remains moderate to high in most regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa”.
At least one in four women aged 15 to 49, who are married or in a relationship, have expressed the desire to use contraceptives but do not have access to them.
Still, progress has been recorded by many countries on maternal mortality.
“We welcome the MDG reports indication of progress, with some nations significantly reducing maternal death ratios,” Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS.
However, as the report notes, the reductions fall far below the rates required to meet the MDG target of 5.5 percent annual reduction.
“Therefore, to speed up progress, we must invest more in reproductive health for women and girls,” said Obaid.
“If every woman received reproductive health care, maternal death and disability would cease to be the devastatingly common tragedy it is today,” she added.
Obaid said that evidence from research and from the progress made so far prove that investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it is also smart economics.
“When women are healthy and survive, they provide enormous social and economic benefits for their families, communities and nations,” she added.
In a report released last year, Population Action International (PAI) said the number of African women who died from pregnancy and childbirth in 2008 was much higher than the number of casualties from all the major conflicts in Africa combined.
“Maternal mortality continues to be the major cause of death among women of reproductive age (15-49) in sub-Saharan Africa,” it said.
Most of these women die from complications that can often be effectively treated in a health system with adequate skilled personnel, and a functioning referral system that can respond to obstetric emergencies when they occur, the report pointed out.
Kathy Calvin, chief executive officer of the United Nations Foundation, told IPS, “If world leaders put women and children at the top of the global agenda, we can make real progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals.”
She said hundreds of thousands of women die needlessly during pregnancy and childbirth every year. Every death is one too many.
As the U.N. secretary-general has made clear in his Joint Action Plan, everyone has a role to play in ensuring the health of the world’s women, she added.
“Women around the world are counting on the global community to insist on universal access to family planning and to satisfy the unmet need for contraceptives,” said Calvin.
Obaid said UNFPA asserts the right of everyone to be counted, especially women, girls, the poor and marginalised.
Population dynamics including growth rates, age structure, fertility and mortality, migration, and more influence every aspect of human, social and economic development.
“With quality data we can better track and make greater progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and promote and protect the dignity and human rights of all people,” she said.
Obaid stressed that data can reveal striking situations in countries.
“Girls may be delaying marriage, an indigenous population may be drastically underserved, and higher rates of contraceptive use and skilled birth attendance may show progress towards improving maternal health,” she said.
The MDGs include a 50 percent reduction in poverty and hunger; universal primary education; reduction of child mortality by two-thirds; cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters; promotion of gender equality; environmental sustainability; reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and a global partnership for development between the rich and the poor.
Posted on May 10, 2010.
With the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 coming up in October, the UN is under a lot of pressure to implement the resolution.
UNSCR 1325 calls on States to put an end to impunity and prosecute perpetrators of sexual and other violence on women and girls; increased participation of women in peace process; the protection and respect of women and girls post-conflict; and a framework for engendering peace negotiations, peacekeeping, planning of refugee camps and reconstruction.
The Security Council proposed penalties for perpetrators in the form of prosecution and targetted sanctions as well as strengthening the mandates of peacekeeping operations to prevent sexual gender based violence and to remind parties to conflict of their responsibility to protect women.
But very little progress has been made in protecting women and girls from rape in armed conflict. We have already celebrated many times over the fact that it UNSCR 1325 is a landmark resolution that recognises sexual gender based violence as a weapon of war. But beyond that, implementation has been so poor its not clear what we will be celebrating come October other than a statement of intent backed by more recent statements of intent in the form of resolutions 1888 and 1889 adopted in September 2009.
Resolution 1888 mandates peacekeeping missions to protect women and girls from sexual violence in armed conflict. Resolution 1889 reaffirms resolution 1325 and “condemns continuing sexual violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations”. It urges Member States, United Nations bodies, donors and civil society to ensure that women’s protection and empowerment is taken into account during post-conflict needs assessment and planning, and factored into subsequent funding and programming.
Approximately 20 000 women were raped during the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina in the early 1990s and violations continue around the world with the most well-known case being the Democratic Republic of Congo where it is estimated that up to 500,000 women and children have been raped during the 14 year long war. Human Rights Watch and other rights and humanitarian organisations have reported sexual gender based violence in numerous other conflicts, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Chechnya/Russian Federation and Uganda.
Efforts at remedying the situation in DRC by training police and government forces to protect women are limited by the fact that the government forces are amongst the worst perpetrators of sexual gender based violence. The Security Council is due to conduct a visit to the DRC from 14th to 21st May mainly to negotiate the gradual withdrawal of the the UN’s 20,000-strong peacekeeping force in that country. But it has already been criticised for its failure to include anything on women in its terms of reference for the visit. The TORS do, however, specifically mention children and “other affected civilian groups”.
The International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s visit to Kenya to investigate the country’s post election violence will also need to be watched closely. In Kenya this week, Ocampo says he will speak with victims and government officials. Many of those victims are the women who were raped, beaten and had their homes burnt down. Ocampo’s mission should target them as a specific group and aim to deliver the justice that has so far evaded them and many other female victims of sexual gender based violence in conflict. As long as women affected by conflict continue to be lumped in the group “civilians” we are unlikely to ever give them the particular attention or action they need or address the fact that the rape of women in armed conflict is a very specific method of warfare meant to humiliate, terrorize, punish and dominate the enemy.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan rebel group, the Lords Resistance Army, continues to operate with impunity, extending their murderous campaign and abductions of women and children into DRC. Clearly the resolutions have had little impact on governments and armed groups and failed to act as a deterrent. It is also obvious that 1325’s call for the inclusion of women in peace processes is not being taken seriously. Women continue to be excluded from negotiating tables.
First Woman PM Takes the Helm in Trinidad
By Peter Richards
PORT OF SPAIN, May 25, 2010 (IPS) – When she is sworn in as prime minister later this week, Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she will bring the same kind of care and attention to governing Trinidad and Tobago that she has devoted to her own family.
“I will lead a government of compassion. As a mother and grandmother, I will not let you down,” she told supporters, after voters here made history by electing the twin-island state’s first woman head of government.
Monday’s general election, called by outgoing Prime Minister Patrick Manning, came more than two years ahead of the constitutional deadline.
“We believe in democracy. The people have spoken and we accept the results and I take full responsibility for it,” Manning said, adding, “I wish the first female prime minister well.”
What a year it has been so far for the 58-year-old Persad-Bissessar, an attorney who guided an amalgam of five opposition political parties and trade unions to an overwhelming victory over the incumbent People’s National Movement (PNM) – taking 29 of the 41 seats in Parliament.
In February, she became the first woman to hold the post of opposition leader, one month after she ousted the leader of the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), Basdeo Panday, in a bruising campaign in which she was portrayed as everything from a drunk to a weak leader.
Now she joins the late Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Janet Jagan of Guyana and Portia Simpson Miller of Jamaica who have headed governments in their respective Caribbean countries.
“As prime minister-elect of our great republic of Trinidad and Tobago, let me say how overwhelmed I am, humbled to deliver the government of Trinidad and Tobago to you,” she said after Manning conceded defeat.
Persad-Bissessar has promised an end to the nation’s divisive ethnic politics, saying, “We will all rise. Every creed and race will find an equal space and place.”
She said that the main task of the People’s Partnership would be to stabilise the economy, rebuild society and restore trust in the government.
“My immediate goal will be to introduce greater transparency and accountability in government and to ensure that our oil and gas wealth is truly used for the development of our nation and our people,” said Persad-Bissessar.
The Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women (The Network) called her victory “well deserved” and predicted it would forever change the political landscape of the oil-rich republic.
“We are looking forward to more inclusive government, one that takes the voices and needs of the people in decision-making. The election has demonstrated that it is not just enough to tell politicians that we have elected you, go and govern,” Dr. Kris Rampersad, the international relations director of The Network, told IPS.
She said that the inclusive campaign style of Persad-Bissessar was both a victory for women and “for the entire country”.
“As we welcome our first female prime minister we believe she will bring to the office those qualities that are stereotyped as female qualities but which have been definitely lacking in our politics and governance,” Rampersad said.
In the 2007 general election, The Network said it was encouraged by the number of women who not only participated in the electoral process, but were actually elected to Parliament and also served as ministers in the Manning government.
In the last election campaign, there were more than 25 women candidates.
Persad-Bissessar has said that she will choose a “capable and competent” cabinet “without fear or favour” and is also promising to lead a “consultative government of compassion”.
Political analyst Dr. Indira Rampersad described the victory as a “tidal wave”, noting that the voters have made a strong statement.
“But she will be under intense scrutiny. The focus now will be on her and her performance,” said Rampersad.
The former deputy speaker of the Trinidad and Tobago parliament, Penelope Beckles, agreed, saying that how Persad-Bissessar administers the affairs of the new government will be most important.
Finance Minister Karen Nunez Tesheira, who was among the casualties of the May 24 general election, said Persad-Bissessar would need to implement her agenda without getting bogged down in the historical position of being the first woman prime minister.
“I think at the end of the day, it is how good you are,” said Nunez Tesheira, who herself was appointed the first female finance minister when the PNM won the 2007 general election.
Political scientist Prof. Selwyn Ryan said the People’s Partnership, the coalition which Persad-Bissessar led into the election, “best suits the political and economic circumstances in which we find ourselves at this juncture”.
“It is time for a change. We need to open up the political system and consider other governance options. We also need to lay to rest the ghost of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (that in 1986 inflicted the first defeat on the 54-year-old PNM, but later collapsed due to internal fighting), and the fear of coalitions which it has left us,” Ryan said.
Despite the crushing defeat, Manning – whose party went from holding 26 seats to 12 – insists that his view on coalition governments “still stands and only time will tell” whether it will collapse.
This is the second time in 15 years that Manning has gambled on a snap election and lost. In 1995, his government was removed from power, ushering in the first Indo-Trinidadian as a head of government.
He has hinted that this latest defeat could signal the end of his 40 years in public life, telling dispirited supporters on Monday night, “The best decision will be taken in the interest of PNM.”
Women Changing the Face of Politics, Slowly but Almost Surely
By Suvendrini Kakuchi
TOKYO, May 23, 2010 (IPS) – Junko Hamada, 59, is now in her 12th year as an elected member of the city council of Isehara, a sprawling bed town west of Tokyo with an estimated population of 150,000.
The former women’s rights activist, married and with three adult children and a grandchild, exudes energy and elegance and talks quietly. She shows no sign of what analysts say she represents – today’s breed of plucky Japanese women who are making inroads into politics, one of Japan’s toughest male-dominated arenas.
“Their determination,” says Nori Araki, “is all the more valuable when you consider that Japanese women, 65 years ago, had not a single female politician to represent them.”
National women’s suffrage was enacted after Japan lost World War II in 1945.
Araki is the spokesperson for the League of Women Voters of Japan, a leading organisation dedicated to encouraging women to vote as well as enter politics.
Indeed, Japan, according to the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, citing a November 2009 survey, ranks 106th among 189 countries in terms of the proportion of female parliamentarians in the House of Representatives.
Japan just has 45 women parliamentarians in the powerful lower chamber, occupying just 9.4 percent of the total 480 seats. The corresponding proportion in the 242-member Upper House is 18.2 percent.
Still, as analysts point out, the overall level of women’s representation in local politics is not as dismal as it may seem. Overall, women represent 20 percent of local assembly seats across Japan.
In the city council of Isehara, where Hamada resides, women comprise seven, or 40 percent, of the total 24 assembly members.
On a few rare occasions, in some areas such as Oiso town, located in Kanagawa, a densely populated suburb south of Tokyo, the percentage of women representatives climbs to 52 percent, equivalent to eight of the total 14 members.
Let it not be said that outside of parliament, at the national level, Japanese female politicians have not made it to the top. A landmark was the appointment in 2001 of Takako Doi as the first female speaker of parliament. She also used to head the Social Democratic Party, now led by another female, lawyer Mizuho Fukushima.
Even the conservative Liberal Democratic Party-led government two years ago appointed the first female defense minister, Yuriko Koike, who was often cited in the Japanese media as the equivalent of U.S. State Secretary Hilary Clinton, and admired for her strong personality and fashion sense.
Still, such national positions are not common and should not be taken as the norm for Japanese female politicians, cautions Masae Wada, the second in command of the influential Shufuren (or Japan Housewives Association as it was initially known), launched in 1945 by women who were struggling to support their families soon after the defeat of Japan in World War II.
The Association, which Wada says is now ready to change the outdated term ‘Housewives’, is spearheading efforts to lobby for the passage of certain laws such as those requiring higher standards on food and electronic product safety and has also seen some of its members enter politics on that platform.
Wada explains female politicians at the local level, either at the city or prefectural assemblies, enjoy widespread public support because of their advocacy for grassroots social issues that are more crucial to women in Japan.
“The key to understanding Japanese gender politics is our gender-based society. Traditionally, women are assigned to look after the family while men work outside,” she says. “Thus, women do better in local politics when they focus on regulations that will improve the quality of life rather than grandeur accomplishments such as changing defense policy.”
Hamada agrees. She says her political ambitions were stirred when she started caring for her aged and ailing mother with very little support from her husband, who was too busy at work.
“I struggled on my own and realised women had to change such a situation by getting out there and demanding better conditions,” she says.
Hamada entered politics as an independent, supported by her female friends who had formed the grassroots-based Kanagawa Network Movement as an advocate of women’s issues. At the top of the movement’s agenda is the increase in publicly funded elderly care services to help ease the caregiver burden of homemakers for the sick elderly.
In the city assembly, Hamada says the women members are actively advocating new regulations and budgetary allocations for better health care and support systems for children and the disabled.
The male counterparts are often supportive, says a delighted Hamada. “Most often, it must be because the older men are forced to give in. But the main point is, women in local politics are successful in changing lives for the better,” she says.
Analyst Wada says as Japanese society ages, the role of women politicians will strengthen as elderly care increasingly becomes a central issue and the national economy becomes more affected by demographics and reproductive issues.
“Both male and female politicians will have to collaborate as partners to tackle emerging social issues that will become national ones, thus weakening the traditional gender divide in politics,” she insists.
Monday, May 03, 2010 10:05 AM
Asia-Pacific Must Step Up Gender Equity, Says Panel on the Economic Empowerment of Women
BY ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK: NEWS RELEASE
TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN – Asia and the Pacific must do more to improve the welfare and economic empowerment of women in order to unlock their full potential and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a panel discussion heard at the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Annual Meeting here today.
The civil society panel discussion, Economic Empowerment of Women: Some Experiences from the Asia Pacific Region, examined the key role that girls and young women play in supporting economic growth in the region and discussed the actions needed to narrow gender gaps. Panelists also shared experiences on improving access to employment for women, and on gender-related labor standards in Asia and the Pacific.
Panelists included Uzbekistan Deputy Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan, Farida Akbarova; Erna Witoelar, former MDG Ambassador for Asia and Pacific; Annie Geron, Vice President, Public Services International; Maha Cubarubia, Director, Plan International Thailand and Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, Vice President, Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, ADB. WooChong Um, Deputy Director General of ADB’s Regional and Sustainable Development Department, moderated the event.
Asia and the Pacific has made good headway on achieving gender parity in primary and secondary education enrolments, but progress on the health and welfare status of girls and women has lagged badly, threatening the achievement of related MDGs by 2015. The failure to improve women’s welfare is, in turn, hurting the broader regional economy, with one United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific study estimating that the region loses up to $47 billion annually due to restrictions on women’s access to employment. The global recession has also had a severe effect on women’s employment, with females making up the bulk of workers in many export industries which were hard hit by a slump in demand from US and Europe.
To address gender parity issues, panelists stressed that civil society groups should work more closely with governments, the private sector and multilateral agencies, such as ADB, to boost access to capital and infrastructure for women.
“There is no excuse for policy makers and practitioners not to invest in women’s empowerment and I see a greater role and responsibility for an organization like ADB, together with other partners, to improve effectiveness in our policy dialogue with governments to accelerate improvements in gender-related MDGs,” said Ms. Schaefer-Preuss.
She noted that under its recently approved education sector operations plan, ADB will support capacity development reforms and improved resource allocation to boost gender equity and it is also planning to scale up incentives for young women undertaking technical and vocational education, to increase the number of female graduates.
In Uzbekistan, ADB has supported skills training and financial literacy programs for thousands of women entrepreneurs which have significantly raised their incomes and these initiatives have now been expanded into neighboring Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.
The panelists also discussed the need to ensure gender-related labor standards to achieve greater male/female parity in the workplace, and stressed the role that civil society and labor groups can play in strengthening and monitoring labor standards.
In this area, Ms. Schaefer-Preuss noted that ADB has supported rural infrastructure projects where jobs are specifically set aside for women, with equal wages for equal work, which is closely monitored.
JakartaGlobe, 5 May 2010
Indonesian Gender-Equality Accord Signed
The government is working to improve conditions for female workers and transmigrants by paying more attention to their problems and empowering them, ministers said on Wednesday at the signing of an agreement to promote gender equity in state programs.
Linda Gumelar, the minister for women’s empowerment and child protection, said female workers and migrants, especially in the informal sector, had not been given serious attention in terms of capital, education, technology, training and wages.
Gumelar said 70 percent of women worked in informal sector.
“They should be given the same access as male workers to empower them and create equality,” she said.
She made the comments after she and Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhaimin Iskandar signed an agreement to strengthen the effectiveness of gender-equality mainstreaming in the government’s labor and transmigration programs.
Gumelar said one of the biggest issues facing women was low pay, if they were paid at all.
“There are many unpaid female workers in this country, and half of the women still receive low incomes. This needs to be changed,” she said.
Gumelar said one area that had been addressed in the agreement was the fact that women would now be allowed to apply for the government transmigration program to move families to the less-populated outer islands of the archipelago.
“Women used to be unable to take part in transmigration programs, as they were targeting men. Now women, whether they are single parents or heads of families, are able to take part in the programs. They have the right to get preparation and education before they move to a new place,” she said.
Thirty million women living in Indonesia were the head of their household.
Muhaimin said he had a strong commitment to mainstreaming gender equality in government programs and would punish anyone who did not comply with regulations laid out in the agreement.
“We are going to give them serious sanction, as gender inequality remains a problem in the manpower and transmigration sector,” Muhaimin said.
“We are going to give the same chance for women to take part in labor-placement training in villages throughout the country,” he said.
The Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration has distributed notices to its offices across the nation ordering that women be assured of equal access to education as men, private rooms for breast-feeding, maternity leave and salaries on par with their male colleagues.
“By mainstreaming gender equality, we will improve women’s conditions, and that will improve the wealth of families in villages and cities, even in remote areas,” Muhaimin said.
Manpower Ministry Secretary General Besar Setyoko said that to promote the issue, the ministries would jointly hold a television talk show to discuss gender-equality issues, as well as establishing strategic policy guidebooks and programs, training and advocacy initiatives.
Yulfita Raharjo, a gender expert at the Indonesian Institute for Sciences (LIPI), welcomed the agreement as a “positive sign” of the government’s seriousness in empowering both genders.
“The key is management and evaluation to monitor progress,” Yulfita said.
Posted by admin on March 18, 2010
By Selina Rust
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 18 (IPS) U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s
decision to appoint a 19-member, all-male high-level advisory group on
Climate Change Financing (CCF) has triggered strong protests from
women’s groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) outraged by
the composition of the panel.
The new panel was announced on Mar. 12 when the United Nations,
ironically, concluded a two-week meeting on gender empowerment.
“That is incomprehensible,” Karen Hardee, Population Action
International’s vice president of research, told IPS.
Since women are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,
Hardee was surprised when she first saw the list.
“In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be nice if half of the people
who are qualified to be on the panel were women?” she said.
Elizabeth Becker of OXFAM America and Suzanne Ehlers of Population Action
International wrote an article in the online environmental magazine
“Grist” complaining that “leaving women out is unfortunate
and reflects a persistent bias in climate change decision-making
Ban himself gave a speech last September underlining the importance of
“an environment where women are the key decision makers on climate
change, and play an equally central role in carrying out these
“We must do more to give greater say to women in addressing the
climate challenge,” he said at the time.
“Why have they been ignored yet again?” Ehlers and Becker asked.
The group will investigate potential sources of revenue to support
developing countries in their efforts to cope with the impacts of climate
The Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009 called for 30 billion
dollars in climate financing until 2012 and then 100 billion dollars a
year until 2020.
The group of 19 experts will be co-chaired by British Prime Minister
Gordon Brown and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
The body’s other members, who will be appointed for 10 months,
include ministers, officials of central banks, and experts on finance and
development, like financier George Soros, economist Nicholas Stern, and
director of the National Economic Council Lawrence H. Summers.
According to Ban’s spokesperson Ari Gaitanis, a multitude of factors,
such as nominations by governments, geographical representation and
balance between developed and developing countries, influenced the
Mentioning also the time constraint, Gaitanis admits that these factors
precluded appropriate attention to the gender balance.
He said that in response to other demands of women’s organisations
and NGOs, the secretary-general has made efforts to ensure the
representation of women and has since appointed the French finance
minister, Christine Lagarde, to the Climate Change Financing Group.
“It is likely that there will be further additions and we will
provide information on these as soon as there is confirmation,”
Gaitanis told IPS.
For Hardee, that represents a first step in the right direction.
“Hopefully it is a signal to the secretary-general and the whole
global climate organisation that is has to be absolutely more
equitable,” she said.
She already has women in mind to join the high-leveled advisory group,
like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, an African head of state, or the president of
the Centre for Global Development, Nancy Birdsall, who has expertise in
global financing mechanisms.
It is the group’s task to frame and shape climate change financial
flows to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, but women
are disproportionately represented among both of these groups.
Amy North, a researcher working on gender, education and global poverty
reduction initiatives at the Institute of Education at the University of
London, told IPS that climate change is exacerbating existing gender
inequalities – with a devastating effect on the quality of life of poor
women and girls.
According to a report by the British-based Women’s Environmental
Network (WEN) published this month, more than 10,000 women die each year
from weather-related disasters such as tropical storms and droughts,
compared to about 4,500 men.
Women are also the main producers of food, providing 70 percent of
agricultural labour in sub-Saharan Africa, and so are particularly
affected by reduced agricultural output.
In many developing countries, increased water scarcity due to climate
change is linked to the increased distance women must travel to collect
water and fuel.
That means that children, especially girls, are excluded from education in
order to follow the exhausting tasks, the WEN report states.
“It is essential that these demands are taken seriously and that all
future agreements around climate change recognise the differential impacts
that climate change has on men and women,” North stressed.
The advisory group aims to identify sources for the funds pledged by
countries in Copenhagen, which will in large part provide assistance to
the people, including women, who are most vulnerable to the impacts of
climate change, Gaitanis told IPS.
Black presidents and women MPs do not alone mean equality and justice
Representation is a start, and an important one. But equal opportunities should be pursued above the photo opportunities
During a recent playdate, one of my son’s white four-year-old friends looked up from Thomas the Tank Engine and pointed out the obvious. “You’re black,” he told my son. As a parent, these have never felt like particularly teachable moments. Toddlers have plenty of time ahead of them to acquire anxieties, affiliations and attitudes about race. But what they see primarily at their age is not race but difference – a fact that need prompt neither denial nor panic, rebuke nor rectification, unless some derogatory meaning is attached to that difference.
When my son looks to me for a cue, my aim is not to interrogate or chide but to acknowledge and deflect. In the past, I have said: “And what colour are you?” or “And you are white”. But this time new material came to mind. “That’s right,” I told them both. “Just like the president.”
This was the long-presaged moment I had been warned to prepare for. My son was born on the weekend that Barack Obama announced his candidacy. Since then, people have been telling me that his presidency would mean great things for my son. Indeed, this was one of Obama’s privately stated aims. When his wife Michelle asked what he thought he could accomplish if he became president, he said: “The day I take the oath of office, the world will look at us differently. And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently. That alone is something.”
True, it is something. But when Thomas is safely back in the station and the moment is over, it is not very much. Because for all the white noise emanating from the Tea Party movement, it has been black Americans who have suffered most since Obama took office. Over the last 14 months the gap between my son’s life chances and his friend’s have been widening. Unemployment, which has held steady in the rest of the country, is still rising among African Americans and stands at almost twice that of white people. For black teens, unemployment is 43.8%. Meanwhile, foreclosures among African Americans are increasing almost 50% faster than for whites. At this rate, my son will certainly look at himself differently after Obama’s presidency – and not in a good way.
This could legitimately be the starting point for an indictment of Obama’s presidency. Certainly if a Republican president were behind statistics like this, few liberals would be offering him or her the benefit of the doubt. But like most other criticisms of Obama, particularly regarding the economy, you would have to make the case that another viable contender could have produced better results in the same circumstances. He entered in a moment of freefall. Calling on him to provide a softer landing or a parachute is one thing. Demanding that he suspend the rules of gravity is another.
I think that case could be made, but it is not the argument I’m making here. The fact that the first black president is presiding over deepening racial disparities is just one of the more potent illustrations of how the relationship between identity and electoral representation has become untethered from broader social, political or economic advances and rendered purely symbolic. The corporate model of diversity, which seeks to look different and act the same, has firmly stamped its imprimatur on a kind of politics that owes more to Benetton ads than black advancement. Where we used to seek equal opportunities, we have now become satisfied with photo opportunities – a fact that satisfies some liberals, annoys most conservatives and does little, if anything, for the lives of those whose interests are ostensibly being championed.
“We have more black people in more visible and powerful positions,” Angela Davis told me before Obama won the Democratic nomination. “But then we have far more black people who have been pushed down to the bottom of the ladder. When people call for diversity and link it to justice and equality, that’s fine. But there’s a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference, the change that brings about no change.”
This is not just true for race. India’s upper house last week passed a bill to reserve a third of all legislative seats for women. Given that India ranks 99th in the world for female representation, this would make a significant difference to the Indian parliament if it becomes law. The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, described the vote as a “historic step forward toward emancipation of Indian womanhood”.
Not necessarily. There is no absolute causal link between gender representation and gender equality. Six of the countries that rank in the top 20 for women’s representation are also in the top 20 for per capita rapes. Meanwhile, a global gender gap index, compiled by the World Economic Forum, which assesses how countries distribute resources and opportunities between the sexes, reveals glaring discrepancies. Angola and Nepal, which stand 10th and 17th respectively in terms of representation, are 106th and 110th in terms of equality. Ireland and Sri Lanka, which rank eighth and 16th respectively for equality are 87th and 125th for representation. In 2008, two female party leaders locked horns in elections in Bangladesh, producing the second female prime minster for the country in a decade. According to the WEF, gender inequality in Bangladesh is bad (it is 94th) and getting relatively worse (in 2008 it was 90th).
This does not undermine the campaigns for more diverse political representation but should sharpen the arguments that support them. Representative democracies that exclude large sections of the population are not worthy of the adjective. Nor should the power of symbolism be underrated. Black Americans may have fared worst under Obama, but they are also the most likely to approve of his presidency. A Pew survey released in January showed the highest number of African Americans believing they are better off now than they were five years ago – even though economically they are not.
Moreover, in most cases difference does make a difference. While there may be no black or female experience, evidence suggests that a critical mass of certain groups can have an affect on outcomes. A 2008 study in the Columbia Law Review discovered: “When a white judge sits on a panel with at least one African-American judge, she becomes roughly 20 percentage points more likely to find” a voting rights violation. A 2005 Yale Law Journal study revealed not only that women judges were more likely to find for plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases than men, but that the presence of female judges increased the likelihood that men would find for the plaintiff too.
The fact that five of the 10 countries with the highest female representation are also in the top 10 for gender equality is no mere coincidence. Since the push for parliamentary parity is often part of a larger effort surrounding equal rights, greater representation is more likely to be the product of progressive social change than a precursor to it. The relationship between identity, representation and equality is neither inevitable nor irrelevant, but occasionally contradictory and always complex.
It’s comforting to know there are simple words of racial reassurance I can tell my son when he’s three. It would be even better to imagine that he would not be in need of that kind of reassurance by the time he reaches 23.
Gary Younge’s book Who Are We and Why Does It Matter will be published in June
Harriet Harman threatens official action to get more women into boardrooms
Harriet Harman is threatening to force companies to do more in appointing female directors, in an attempt to end the “old boy network” in boardrooms.
The Equality Minister wants businesses to be ordered to disclose what they are doing to improve gender equality in the ranks of senior management.
Her move, which is backed by Gordon Brown, comes on top of provisions in the controversial Equality Bill that allow employers to give jobs to women in favour of men with the same qualifications.
However, it is likely to be resisted by business leaders who resent more Government interference in their recruitment practices, and who argue that women are under-represented among executives because they value their families more than their careers.
Miss Harman said on Monday, the 99th anniverstary of International Women’s Day: “Too many British boardrooms are still no-go areas for women. Women are important consumers and employees. We’ll never get a proper meritocracy or truly family-friendly workplaces from male dominated boards.
“Businesses that run on the basis of an old boy network and do not draw on the talents of all the population will not be the ones that flourish and prosper in the 21st century.”
According to figures published by the Cabinet Office, only one in 10 directors on the boards of FTSE100 firms is female while 25 leading companies have no women at the top.
The gender pay gap in Britain is one of the highest in Europe, with men earning 21 per cent more in gross hourly earnings than women compared with an average of 18 per cent across the continent.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, Britain’s equality watchdog, is trying to improve women’s salaries in the City after an enquiry found that women in the finance sector earn up to 55 per cent less than their male colleagues.
Miss Harman’s flagship anti-discrimination bill, which enters its final stage in the Commons this week before receiving Royal assent, will mean companies with more than 250 workers are asked to disclose how much more they pay men than women, a measure that could become obligatory.
It also allows employers to use “positive action” in order to improve the gender balance in their workforce if women are under-represented. However they will only be allowed to choose between equally qualified candidates, as “positive discrimination” in giving preferential treatment to an under-qualified applicant is illegal.
However Miss Harman is now taking further action by asking the Financial Reporting Council, an independent regulator of corporate governance, to consider putting a new clause in its code of conduct “to require firms to report on what they’re doing to get more women into their boardrooms”.
It is claimed this would “help diversify the talent pool available to business, which in turn can drive success and competitiveness, benefiting the wider UK economy as a whole”.
The Prime Minister, who is hosting a business breakfast at Downing Street to mark International Women’s Day, said: “A new principle in the governance code on diversity would build on the provisions in the equality bill, which allow employers to take positive action when recruiting to balance their workforce.
“But if we do not see a dramatic change in the composition of company boards in the future, we will need to consider taking more serious action to ensure companies recruit from the diverse pool of exceptional talent we have in the UK.”
A survey published to accompany the planned measures shows that 80 per cent of those questioned believe balanced management teams would be better at understanding customers, while 61 per cent think firms are losing out on talent by not having enough women in senior roles.
Theresa May, the shadow women’s secretary, said: “Before Labour start lecturing businesses about equality Harriet Harman should look a bit closer to home and examine the government’s woeful record at getting women into senior positions in the civil service.
“It seems under Labour it’s one rule for them and one for everyone else. You have to question the motive of such an announcement this close to an election.”
Women & Gender Texts from COP-15: a compilation
New York, February 24 — The outcome of the Copenhagen climate negotiations resulted in “Draft decisions presented to the Conference of the Parties at its fifteenth session for consideration and adoption”. WEDO has compiled all of the women and gender equality texts included in that outcome, as well as some related text that is not specific to women or gender equality.
Access the compilation pdf here.
For the original document (Annex 1), click here.
All Advocacy Documents, Climate Change, News
DEVELOPMENT-ASIA: ‘Poverty Still Has a Woman’s Face’
By Diana G. Mendoza
MANILA, Feb 17, 2010 (IPS) – Women and poverty still share an uncomfortable spot on the development matrix of countries across Asia-Pacific that are struggling to end deprivation, according to the newly launched third joint report of the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“A woman’s face remains the picture of poverty,” Dr Noeleen Heyzer, U.N. under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, told IPS following the launch today of the report at the ADB headquarters in the Philippine capital Manila.
“Some countries have moved forward but this picture keeps recurring. Sadly, it is a disservice to women,” she said.
The Asia-Pacific Regional Report 2009/10, titled, “Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in an Era of Global Uncertainty,” said “most countries across Southeast Asia have reduced extreme poverty by half, but the other half has a woman’s face.”
Across the region, some countries have managed to cope with multiple threats of economic crisis, health shocks and pandemics, and natural disasters, but most are still hurting from the impact of these crises and have yet to cope with the little time left to realise the development goals they pledged to achieve by 2015, the report added.
“The report is a wake-up call to Asia to put an equal and clearer direction towards growth,” said Dr Ajay Chhibber, U.N. assistant secretary-general and concurrently United Nations Development Programme assistant administrator and director for Asia and the Pacific.
Among vulnerable populations in the region, women are among those likely to be hurt most by the impact of the crisis on poverty in the region. According to the report, this sector constitutes the majority of Asia’s low- skilled, low-salaried and temporary workers – part of the flexible workforce that can easily be left behind during economic downturns.
Many of them have lost their jobs in export manufacturing, including garments, textiles and electronics – and in tourism and related services. Employers are also more likely to lay off women workers if they consider that they are not the primary heads of households.
Women form nearly two-thirds of the total Asian migrant population, said the report. Yet, they have little protection.
In most Asian countries, less than 20 percent of female workers belong to labour unions. The loss of female income is likely to have a greater impact on welfare, as women tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on meeting the basic needs of household members.
Dr Heyzer cited the Philippines as one of the countries in the region that has achieved gender parity and maintained economic stability while dealing with the economic crisis, but it is still wanting in protection for women in migration and employment.
“Migration patterns of Filipino women are phenomenal, and although they helped caution the economic crisis through remittances, but they do not receive the care that they need,” she said.
She also said the Philippines registered a five percent growth rate in its remittances, totaling 17 billion pesos (368.72 million U.S. dollars) in 2009. This helped push the growth of the South-east Asian country’s national economy from three percent in 2009 to 3.5 percent in the first months of 2010, she said. Yet, she noted the disturbing problem of de-skilling, where educated and professional Filipino women are forced to work as housemates and domestic helpers in other countries.
Between 1997 and 1998, the report said male and female labour force participation rates increased, but while the weekly work hours of employed men fell, those for unemployed women rose – partly because women working at home did more work on a subcontract basis. Moreover, women in the Philippines typically spend more than eight hours a day on housekeeping and child care compared to about two and half hours for men.
Prior to the global economic crisis in 2007, the International Labour Organisation estimated that there were some 86.5 million people unemployed in the Asia-Pacific region. The number of unemployed had been projected to rise to more than 98 million in 2009, an increase of nearly 12 million. Between 2007 and 2009, the regional unemployment rate was expected to increase from 4.7 percent to 5.1 percent.
The report warned that the global crisis could trap an additional 21 million people in the Asia-Pacific region living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than 1.25 dollars a day. It noted that in 2009, the crisis forced an additional 17 million people into extreme poverty, and in 2010, another four million, translating to a total of 21million or roughly the equivalent of the population of Australia.
ADB vice-president Dr Ursula Schaeffer-Preuss said the region is still home to the largest number – at more than 50 percent – of people in rural and urban areas without basic sanitation, of under-five children who are underweight, of people infected with tuberculosis and without access to clean water.
“To most of Asia-Pacific, the MDGs are still a distant reality,” she said during the launch. But there is still time to reach the targets with the five years left, she said. “Countries must pour more investments in human capital, specifically in health and education. They also have to care to protect their physical environments.”
The MDGs are development targets intended to be achieved by 2015.
The region had been making notable gains, including being on track to achieve three important targets: gender parity in secondary education, ensuring universal access of children to primary school, and halving the proportion of people living below the 1.25 dollars poverty line.
But the report also said the economic crisis undermined the momentum. These factors were categorised in the “on track” list. In the “achieved” list, the region made it in such targets as providing access to safe drinking water, reduction of gender disparities, and slowing down HIV transmission and the incidence of tuberculosis,
UNDP’s Dr Chhibber said that overall, the region is doing well but it is a scattered picture of development.
While many communities have access to clean water, he said, there are still 406 million people without access, and this is only one of the specific areas, or “multiple threats,” that can undermine any improvements in the next five years if countries do not do more. He added that 98 million children under five years of age are still hungry and malnourished.
“What happens in Asia will have a great impact on global targets,” he said. “With the build-up of a new generation of poor people, the region has to reinvest through regional cooperation so that countries on track can help other countries who are struggling.”
Worldwide, Asia-Pacific as a whole has made more progress than Sub- Saharan Africa, but less than Latin America and the Caribbean. Among the sub-regions, the greatest advances have been in South-east Asia, which has achieved the targets in 11 out of the 21 indicators assessed in the report.
February 6, 2010
Bolivia Tackles Gender Equality in Government
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 3:06 a.m. ET
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — After reinventing Bolivia’s government to reflect the country’s multi-ethnic, Indian majority, President Evo Morales is championing gender parity at the highest levels of government.
Women now account for half of Bolivia’s Cabinet ministers — 10 out of 20 — as Morales embarks on his second term following his Jan. 22 swearing-in ceremony.
Announcing the changes, Bolivia’s first Indian president called the new arrangement ”fifty-fifty” — or ”Chacha Warmi,” a Quechua-language reference to the indigenous principle of two complementing sexes as the basis of equilibrium in the cosmos.
”We must weave a patchwork of regions, sectors of society and gender, and that combination is not easy,” Morales said.
Cabinets with gender parity are no longer a novelty in the region. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet had one and influential female ministers are common across Latin America. And none of Bolivia’s female ministers yet belongs to the president’s inner circle of most trusted and influential advisers.
But the gender shift has shocked a country where Indians, and especially indigenous women, have long been treated as second-class citizens.
Nemecia Achacollo, a 39-year-old mother and grandmother who rose through farmworkers unions, was tapped to become minister of land and rural development just days after she became a member of congress.
”Fifteen days ago I took office as a lawmaker and now I’m a (Cabinet) minister,” said Achacollo, who already accompanied Morales on a diplomatic mission to Venezuela. ”I still can’t digest so many changes in so few days.”
Morales has broken a long tradition of presidents from the Bolivian elite as the nation’s first leader from the indigenous majority. His political movement forged a new constitution that gives Bolivia’s 36 ethnic groups the right to self-determination at the municipal level.
The new constitution also speaks of gender equality in the Cabinet, but few expected the president to apply it immediately as he tapped new ministers from all walks of life.
At a photo session for the new Cabinet, men and women in black and pink power suits stood next to indigenous women in traditional ”pollera” skirts, knit shawls and hats — each unique to a different area of Bolivia.
The president of the Senate is a woman. Another heads up Customs, the public institution that is most vulnerable to corruption. The chief of ruling party representatives in congress is a woman. In all, women occupy 28 percent of congressional seats and 47 percent in the senate.
But women still have difficulty advancing in local government, according to the Bolivian Association of City Councilors. On the municipal level, there are 25 women among 327 mayors and 327 of 1,671 council members are female.
Electoral slates are required to be 50 percent women, but parties have found ways of skirting the law.
Beyond the halls of government, Bolivian women often confront grinding poverty and a bleak lack of opportunity.
Until 1952, women — like Indians — were not allowed to vote. Until recently, they could not inherit land or have their names on the title to farmland unless they were married or widowed.
”That has been changed under this government, because it was wrong,” Achacollo said.
A land redistribution program created during Morales’ first term granted 10,300 property titles to women between 2006 and 2008, or roughly one in three titles.
But a proposed law against gender harassment and violence has failed to gain traction during four years before congress, and even ruling party legislators have opposed it.
In recent history, women dissidents and activists have been catalysts for major political events.
In 1978, six wives of exiled mine union leaders went on a hunger strike and thousands joined their cause demanding the return of hundreds of exiled political and labor leaders. The movement is credited with forcing the de facto president, Gen. Hugo Banzer, to declare an amnesty — and with bringing about the return of democracy after 14 years of military rule.
In 1980, women banded together to create the Bartolina Sisa Federation of Indigenous Peasant Women to foster union and political activities. Two women in Morales’ new Cabinet, including Achacollo, came from its ranks.
”We still have men who don’t want women to participate, but we have fought against that and here we are with more power than ever,” said Leonilda Zurita, a former coca growers leader who is now head of the Bartolina Sisa women’s group.
The United Nations has begun giving aid to foster management and public policy skills among women and Bolivia’s Indian population, and Morales has created a public school with the same goal.
”There’s no school for being president or a (Cabinet) minister,” Morales said. ”The school is in the permanent debate with social forces.”
The Gender Gap-Revisited
by Toby Glick on February 13, 2010
In the past when the “Gender Gap” was discussed it usually pertained to the discrepancy between boys’ and girls’ achievement – with girls not doing as well academically. However, all that has changed and the main concern now is that boys (in all socio-economic levels) are in trouble and falling behind in their achievement test scores and in their graduation rates from college. This has been brewing for about twenty years and there is apprehension that if the trend continues, there will be a negative economic and cultural impact. There’s already a social impact as demonstrated on the front page of last week’s (2/7/10) Sunday/Styles section- The New Math on Campus – no men.
In trying to understand how this developed, Richard Whitmire has just published a new book called “Why Boys Fail.” His thesis, in a nutshell, is that as schools have put greater emphasis on verbal skills –reading and writing in every subject area- the unintended consequence was that many boys became turned off to school and to striving to do well. They were no match for their female peers. He states that as a society we need to focus our efforts on this problem, see where boys are succeeding and failing and make the changes that are needed. Mr. Whitmire blogs on the topic of”Why Boys Fail” at Education Week.
Many of us who work with children in the schools have witnessed this “gender-gap” and are convinced that one of the main problems is not so much the emphasis on verbal skills but the push for literacy into kindergarten and even pre-kindergarten classes. Kindergarten children are expected to do more seat work than in the past, copy from the board, and have basic reading and writing skills before entering first grade.
While this works well for some, it is stressful and discouraging for those youngsters (often boys) who just can’t sit for extended period of time, don’t yet have the fine motor control to copy letters and aren’t ready for the sound/symbol associations needed for reading. It’s no wonder that many boys end up feeling discouraged about learning basic skills which they could master easily at a later date. Many more boys than girls are referred for evaluations due to learning or behavioral problems and some of these referrals are certainly due to unrealistic expectations.
We seem to have forgotten that there’s a great deal to be learned from play, from circle games and from free time –for all children. I liked the approach of my son’s kindergarten teacher – she asked “Who wants to learn to read?” and most of the girls in the class ran to her – the boys continued playing with blocks. It made no difference in their ultimate reading competence.
Parents are now waiting eagerly for the decisions from private schools. It’s essential to keep in mind that not every school or every program is right for every child. It’s important to match the child with the school and if a child isn’t ready for a rigorous academic setting, then it’s not the right place. In the long run he’ll feel better about learning and about himself.
About the Contributor: Toby Glick is a regular contributor to the NYC Private Schools Blog in the area of families with special needs.//
- Private Schools and Single Sex Education Studies
- Same-Sex NYC Private School Education
- Private School Admission for Students with Special Needs
- For What It’s Wor
Some research mentions that in decades to come, Kuantan, Klang and Kuala Lumpur may suffer the same fate as Kiribati (watch video below):
The President’s Dilemma tells the story of Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati – a nation made up of 33 low-lying atoll islands in the middle of the Pacific Oceans. Climate scientists predict that much of Kiribati could be under water in as little as 30 years due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Tong’s “dilemma” is to decide what to do with the country’s 108,000 residents and how quickly to act. He resists the idea of mass migration which he says would turn his people into “climate change refugees” but, at the same time, he realizes time is not on his side and that he needs to address immediate problems, like growing poverty and shrinking food supplies, as evironmental conditions worsen.