Women in Afghanistan: To Be Seen But Not Heard

By Catarina Santos

Visitors to Afghanistan today might see a visible sign of the nation’s progress toward gender equality – women walking to university.  While women were not allowed to attend university under the Taliban, today around 26,000 women participate in higher education. However, despite significant improvements in the past decade, critical challenges still impact Afghan women’s ability to fully participate in society. Lack of female empowerment is still a barrier to sustainable development in Afghan society, economy, and governance.

An upcoming opportunity to discuss further developments will be the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, which will be co-hosted by the Afghan government and the European Union in October. This conference will be a chance for the Afghan government to share their vision, establish plans for the future, and discuss how the international community can help. To achieve the goal of equal access for women, Afghan leadership will need to first understand the status quo of women in Afghanistan and consider two key hindrances to gender equality. First, female government officials are figureheads instead of agents of change. Second, there is an empowerment gap between those women sitting in governmental offices and the majority that is still constrained by traditional conservatism. After looking at these challenges, stakeholders must decide what opportunities lie ahead? What else can be done to advance women’s integration and recognition?

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Preventing Violence Against Women in the DRC: A Lesson in Aid Effectiveness

By Elizabeth Melampy

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was coined the “rape capital of the world” by UN Special Representative of Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom after her 2010 visit. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, 48 women are raped per hour in the DRC. This statistic, as well as public outcry to news coverage of a 2012 mass rape in Minova, DRC, led to the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI).

As part of PSVI the UK organized a 2014 summit aimed at combatting sexual violence in conflict areas. Angelina Jolie, the special envoy for UNHRC and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague co-chaired the “Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.” Over 120 countries, more than 100 NGOs and other international partners, and nearly 900 experts from various fields attended the summit in London.

Possible Caption: Thousands of Congolese live near Goma, DRC, where rape rates are still high. Photo courtesy of Marie Cacace/Oxfam 2012

Thousands of Congolese live near Goma, DRC, where rape rates are still high. Photo courtesy of Marie Cacace/Oxfam 2012

According to the summit report, there were four major areas of focus: strengthening accountability, providing support for victims (especially children), integrating and promoting gender equality, and improving strategic international cooperation. These topics provided the framework for recommendations, which were general in nature due to the global focus of the summit. The summit ended with a vague Statement of Action.

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Mobile App Helps Women Report Abuse in India

By Melanie Abzug

Responding to India’s high rate of violence against women and low rate of reporting, a Mumbai NGO recently launched an Android app that enables virtual reporting of incidents by trained volunteers. Part of the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Actions (SNEHA)’s “Little Sister Project” with UNDP, the app is called EyeWatch. It began operations in Mumbai’s multi-ethnic Dharavi slum in 2014.

In India 43.6 percent of gender-related crimes are committed by a husband or relative of the victim. This fact, along with societal stigmas applied to victims of sexual assault, often discourages reporting. SNEHA’s initiative seeks to encourage reporting while providing complementary training for women and building cooperation with the police. The initiative has trained 160 local women called “sanginis” so far on how to properly identify and report cases of violence. Sanginis can use their mobile devices to record incidents they witness on the spot. In other cases they are approached by survivors or hear about incidents and then approach the women to provide assistance with reporting. Survivors are also connected with trained professionals who offer medical and legal support.

In slums like Dharavi, it can be difficult to deliver public goods and services.  Apps like EyeWatch can help bridge this gap.

In slums like Dharavi, it can be difficult to deliver public goods and services– apps like EyeWatch can help bridge this gap.

In addition, 4,500 police officers and more than 2,100 public hospital staff have been trained to identify domestic abuse. Incidents are stored in SNEHA’s database, which helps the organization map violence assist NGOs to understand the situation in the community. Continue reading

MCC’s Legacy in Burkina Faso: Secure Land Rights Support Burkinabè Agricultural Development

By Caitlin Allmaier

The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s 5-year compact with the Government of Burkina Faso concluded in July and has set the stage for the next chapter in Burkinabè agricultural development. The compact focused on the reduction of poverty and the stimulation of economic growth through strategic investment, with one of four projects focusing on improving rural productivity through land tenure security and environmentally-sound land management. However, some issues related to land rights and tenure remain.

Burkina Faso’s economy is mainly agrarian, with 85 percent of Burkinabè carving out livelihoods in agriculture, livestock rearing, or forestry. Traditional Burkinabè methods of land tenure place great authority in the hands of a chef de terre, who allocates community-accepted land and establishes a colloquial model of plot ownership. However, the efficacy of such a system has been challenged by Burkinabè officials, who have repeatedly facilitated international industrial agricultural investment to attempt to improve livelihoods and spur economic growth.   These actions have had the unforeseen consequence of further marginalizing smallholders as well as jeopardizing the long-term health of land, soil, and water resources.

Photo courtesy of CIDSE Flickr photostream

Photo courtesy of CIDSE Flickr photostream

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