Archive for March 11th, 2008

Small loans could help millions of poor women create jobs, support their families and narrow the gender gap, United Nations and banking experts said. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) data released on Friday, there are now 1.2 billion women working around the world, some 200 million more than a decade ago.

But the female share of the global work force has been stuck at 40 percent over the same period, with relatively few women employed in North Africa, South Asia and other poorer regions, the U.N. agency said on the eve of International Women’s Day. “Remaining outside of the labour force is often not a choice but an imposition. It is likely that women would opt for remunerated work outside the home if it became acceptable to do so,” it said in its Global Employment Trends for Women report.

Many women are held back from employment because they lack adequate education or training, because of child-rearing and other family duties, and because of cultural obstacles.

Barriers To Finance

In developing countries, barriers to financing are another impediment to would-be female entrepreneurs who have no property or other collateral needed to secure traditional loans. Susan Maybud of the ILO’s bureau for gender equality said that microfinancing – small loans given to the poor, generally at slightly elevated interest rates – could play an important role empowering women with no other economic lifeline.

“Microfinance is really their one glimmer of hope, their one way out of poverty,” Maybud told Reuters. “I do see it as a potential for bridging the gender gap.” She said that households where women have borrowed from institutions such as Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, have been shown to invest more in education, nutrition, and shelter, with broad knock-on effects. “Microloans can go a very, very long way,” she said. “We have just started with this, and I think it is something that can be scaled up and will be scaled up.”

A recent survey of 3,000 microfinance institutions by Microcredit Summit Campaign showed 133 million people had received the tiny loans by the end of 2006, up from 13 million nine years ago. Many of those clients were women earning less than $1 a day. Citigroup , one of the global leaders in the sector, has said that microfinance would probably continue to grow despite signs of trouble in the global economy.

The founder of the New York-based organisation Women’s World Banking, Michaela Walsh, said the scale of microfinance lending stood to grow severalfold in coming years. “If you calculate the total amount of loans given by all the microindustry in the world, it covers about one third of its potential – not even – for getting loans out to low-income and poor people,” she said in a telephone interview. Walsh, who was the first female manager of Merrill Lynch International , said that microfinance was critical to creating businesses and enterprises that could spawn more jobs.

“Micro grows to macro,” she said.


Global Employment Trends for Women 2008: More women enter the workforce, but more than half of all working women are in vulnerable jobs

More women are working than ever before, but they are also more likely than men to get low-productivity, low-paid and vulnerable jobs, with no social protection, basic rights nor voice at work according to a new report by the International Labour Office (ILO) issued for International Women’s Day.

Download Global Employment Trends for Women – March 2008–en/docName–WCMS_091225/index.htm

The UN refugee agency on Thursday launched an important guide for the protection of females as the organization’s leader, António Guterres, reaffirmed UNHCR’s commitment to the rights of women.

The launch of this important protection tool – which replaces UNHCR’s 1991 “Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women” – is directly linked to International Women’s Day on Saturday.

The handbook denounces “a massive culture of neglect and denial about violence against women and girls” and outlines strategies to answer the protection challenges faced by women and girls of concern. It also sets out international legal standards and responsibilities in this area.

Feller said the document was designed to promote gender equality by using a rights- and community-based approach, by mainstreaming age, gender and diversity, and through targeted actions to empower women and girls in the civil, political and economic sectors.

The Assistant High Commissioner also highlighted the practical suggestions for concrete actions contained in the handbook, mentioning “a total of over 60 field practice examples which show how offices [around the world] have approached these challenges.”

High Commissioner Guterres, in a special International Women’s Day message to staff released on Thursday, highlighted the importance of raising awareness on gender-based issues and described the handbook as “an important new tool” that “describes the protection challenges faced by refugee women and ways of resolving them.”

Noting this year’s theme of “Investing in Women and Girls,” Guterres said the refugee agency would be directing US$1.5 million in 2008 to special projects aimed at countering and raising awareness about sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in 14 countries.

One of those countries is Uganda, where the High Commissioner has been reviewing UNHCR operations, meeting officials and talking to refugees and internally displaced people since Monday. He leaves later Thursday for a four day-visit to Tanzania.

Guterres, in his staff message, noted that UNHCR had last year “channelled special funds to projects in a first group of 14 countries – Tanzania, Syria and Jordan among them – as part of our contribution to the global fight against SGBV and to help find solutions for the tens of thousands of displaced women and children affected by abuse.”

The High Commissioner also urged all UNHCR staff to take part in the various activities being organized worldwide in the coming days to celebrate International Women’s Day. He stressed that “more than ever, UNHCR should be doing everything possible to support women and girls of concern and to invest in their protection and welfare.”

More links:
* The handbook in full: UNHCR Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls
* It is a UNHCR policy priority to ensure that refugee women and girls have equal access to protection, basic goods and services as they attempt to rebuild their lives. More on our special pages: Refugee Women

Hundreds of thousands of women have been made destitute, homeless, or lost custody of their children as a result of their husbands going missing in war, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The Geneva-based ICRC, which helps victims of armed conflict and monitors compliance to international law, said too little attention is paid to those left behind when battlefield deaths go undocumented, or when people are detained in secret.

Women who have lost their spouses in countries such as Bosnia, Sri Lanka and Nepal are no longer wives yet not officially widows, making their legal status unclear.

Without a death certificate, women are kept from gaining access to or claiming inheritances and other compensation. They can also lose guardianship of their children and the right to live in their homes, and be prevented from remarrying.

“Some of these women are completely destitute,” Florence Tercier, who heads the ICRC’s programme to help women in war, told a news conference.

She said that many women spend years and all their savings searching for their loved ones, and can often fall prey to those seeking to take advantage of their exhaustion and desperation.

Tercier said there were 12,832 people unaccounted for more than a decade since the end of war in Bosnia, of whom 1,402 are women. In Sri Lanka, there are 5,966 people registered as missing with the ICRC, including 223 women. And in Nepal 105 of the 1,128 people missing from conflict are female.

In Rwanda, Tercier said that 23 percent of adult women were widowed by the 1994 genocide, and discriminatory laws in place had initially prevented them from inheriting land or getting loans to start rebuilding their lives.

“Women may not be able to seek help from the authorities due to financial constraints, safety concerns, cultural barriers or a lack of information,” the ICRC said in a report issued ahead of International Women’s Day, March 8.

“It is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to support women in their struggle for their own survival and that of their families,” it said.

The ICRC and its national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies work on behalf of families who have lost contact with relatives during armed conflicts, visiting places of detention, hospitals and mortuaries, and asking authorities to investigate.

It also covers transport costs so families of the missing can visit mass graves or exhumation sides, and provides women with assistance dealing with questions related to inheritance, pensions, child custody and property rights.

Sahar Zeidan Abdel Wareth, who helps her father on the land, could not attend school until she was 12 when a “girl-friendly” school was built near her home in Assiut Province, some 375km from Cairo. “I have three sisters and four brothers. My father wanted me to work with him on the land to support the family. When the [school] facilitator told him that education, stationery and health insurance would all be free, he agreed to send me to school,” she said.

There are thousands of girls like Sahar in poor areas who do not attend school for numerous reasons, including lack of nearby schools, poverty, child labour, perceived low financial returns from education, traditional perceptions of a girl’s role in society, early marriages, and the priority given to boys’ education. However, thanks to a government and UN-sponsored drive to build over 1,000 “girl-friendly” schools in seven provinces (partly in response to the UN Secretary-General’s Initiative on Girls’ Education launched in October 2000), the situation is changing.

Task force set up

A task force including representatives from a number of ministries was set up in 2000. “Once the plan was ready, the government allocated 157 million Egyptian pounds [about US$29 million] for its implementation,” Moushira Khattab, secretary-general of National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), a government body, told IRIN. “NCCM took the coordinating role between the partners that included eight UN organisations, led by the UN Children’s Fund [UNICEF], the national task force, a local voluntary taskforce, non-governmental organisations and the private sector,” she said.

From 2003-2007 the initiative targeted villages and hamlets in the provinces of Bani Suef, Assiut, Al-Menia, Al-Fayyoum, Sohag, Al-Beihera and Al-Guiza, which had a disparity between boys and girls attending school gender gap of between 5 and 15.7 percent. The plan was to build 1,047 “girl-friendly” schools and enrol 31,410 girls aged 6-13. About 1,063 schools have so far been built and 27,784 students enrolled. The “girl-friendly” schools also accept boys but their number should not exceed 25 percent of classroom capacity.

Scaling up

In 2008 the initiative started its scale-up phase. “The first step for us now is to cover the seven governorates, then move to other areas. I believe by 2011 we will be able to cover them [the seven governorates] completely, and by 2015, we hope no Egyptian girl will be out of school,” Moushira said.

Support also came from the private sector: A number of local and international companies operating mainly in the construction, oil and gas industries, have built schools in different areas.
“When private companies came to us to contribute money, we asked them to build a school instead, after providing them with the specifications,” said Moushira.

“We built 125 schools in Al-Fayyoum, 38 in Al-Giza and 39 in Al-Menia,” said Salma Zaki, project assistant at Apache, an international oil company that participated in the initiative along with other companies, including CEMEX, Sawiress and Al-Hamza. “Our role does not stop here. We pay weekly visits to the schools we built and provide them with stationery. We take care of maintenance issues as well,” she told IRIN.


Ronald Sultana, director of the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Education, who wrote a book on the initiative for UNICEF, said there were still challenges ahead.

“As long as a project is small, people are still very enthusiastic and ready to work without money and with a lot of ownership and commitment. As the project goes now to scale, I wonder if they will keep the spirit,” he told IRIN.

Sultana said that in some cases schools were built too fast before local communities had fully accepted girls’ education. “Some of the people started sleeping at the schools and using the toilets. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it means that people feel comfortable in these buildings, but this is not the purpose for which the schools were built,” he said.

These schools can be replicated in other countries, according to Malak Zaalouk, UNICEF regional education adviser. “At first glance one might feel these schools are needed only in countries that have a wide gender gap in education like Yemen or Sudan. However, there are pockets of poverty where girls are denied their right to go to school even in countries where the gender gap is narrow,” she said.

India is offering to pay poor families nearly $3,000 to bring up their girl children, and discourage the widespread practice of aborting the female foetus which has led to a skewed gender balance in parts of the country.

Many families prefer boys, as future breadwinners, to girls, on whom dowries have to be spent to find husbands. According to a study published in the British medical journal, the Lancet, about 10 million female foetuses may have been aborted in India over the last 20 years – after illegal sex determination tests.

The government hopes a cash incentive will change that.

“We will pay the money in stages and monitor how they are brought up,” Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury told a news conference.

The government will pay 15,500 rupees ($385) to poor families in phases, with a lump sum of 100,000 rupees when the girl reaches the age of 18, provided she meets criteria including education, immunisation and nutrition, and she is not married.

“We will start the project shortly,” Chowdhury said, adding that it would be rolled out in seven states where girls face the most acute discrimination. We think this will force the families to look upon the girl as an asset rather than a liability and will certainly help us save the girl child.”

India has already implemented a number of schemes for women to encourage the social and economic empowerment of women, but Chowdhury said she was confident that the new cash-driven policy would work better.

According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio is 933 females to 1,000 males. ($=40.3 Indian rupees)

Salary: PO(5) £35,852 to £38,404
Subject to experience – Permanent Post

The WISH Project (established for 18 years) provides temporary accommodation, resettlement and floating support to homeless women.

This is a great opportunity for an enthusiastic, dynamic and self motivated person, to take the lead in managing and developing the charity. The successful candidate should have had experience with SUPPORTING PEOPLE requirements. In addition they need to possess proven ability in strategic development together with promoting an innovative and creative approach to service delivery.

For an application form please contact Shirley Lunn (Team Manager) 01484 549621 Previous applicants need not apply

Closing date 26/03/08

P.O. Box 152, Huddersfield, HD1 1UN

Women’s Aid Leicestershire Limited (WALL) works across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland to assist women and children in dealing with the impact of domestic violence. We provide specialist outreach services and support, temporary refuge accommodation and training for external agencies.

Salary: £30,843.00-£33,315.00 (under review)
Hours: 37 hours per week, including some evenings and weekends

This is a very exciting time for WALL. We are looking to expand services and are reviewing policies and procedures, including HR, H&S, ICT and finance, as well as developing staff training. We are looking to appoint a committed and enthusiastic woman to lead on this and to work closely with the Director.

If you want to be part of a dynamic organisation that aims to make a difference then we would like to hear from you. Please contact Emma Charlton on 0116 2426440 to request an application pack.

Previous applicants need not apply.

Closing date: 12 noon on 19th March 2008, interviews to be held 26th March.

*Section 7 [2] of 1975 Sex Discrimination Act applies.

Salary scale: £28,221 to 32,436 NJC Points 36 – 40
35 hours per week

You will lead on the strategic management of the organisation ensuring our future sustainability. You will have a clear commitment to women victims of domestic abuse and proven management skills.

Initial appointment for fixed term of 12 months with extension subject to successful outcomes.
This post is open to women only under S7 (2) (e) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975

Closing Date: 26th March
Interviews: 7th April

For an application pack:
Write to Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline, PO Box 390, Manchester M16 7WE
Or go to to download an application pack.