Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Sudanese police arrested dozens of women protesting last month against laws they say humiliate women after a video of a woman being flogged in public appeared on the Internet.

Floggings carried out under Islamic are almost a daily punishment in Sudan for crimes ranging from drinking alcohol to adultery.

But vague laws on women’s dress and behaviour are implemented inconsistently. One case sparked international furore when Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese U.N. official, invited journalists to her public flogging for wearing trousers.

The video, which was removed by YouTube, showed a crying Sudanese woman being lashed by two policemen in front of onlookers in a public place. She was made to kneel and the police laughed during the punishment.

“Humiliating your women is humiliating all your people,” the women shouted as they were being arrested on Tuesday.

Around 50 women sat down outside the justice ministry holding banners and surrounded by riot police telling them to move.

Three plain-clothed security men threw the BBC correspondent to the ground, confiscating his equipment.

All the women were arrested and taken to a nearby police station. Their lawyers were prevented from entering, but senior opposition politicians were allowed to go inside.

The women said they had tried to get permission for the protest but had been refused. The police declined to comment.

“The authorities here take the law into their own hands. No one knows what happens inside these police stations,” said one of their lawyers, Mona el-Tijani. “This video was just one example of what happens all the time.”

Sudan’s justice ministry said it would investigate whether the punishment was administered properly.

It was not clear what offence the woman being lashed had committed. Officials from the ruling National Congress Party offered conflicting explanations in the local press.

http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/sudan-police-arrest-women-protesting-at-flogging-video

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Women in south Sudan have been targeted in a string of abusive attacks by police cracking down on Western clothes. Many of the attacks over the Christmas period were by newly graduated members of southern Sudan’s police force.

Thousands of new cadets have finished police training courses backed by the United Nations, coinciding with the first reports of abuse in the southern capital, Juba, often directed at women wearing shorts and miniskirts.

The north eastern African country held a referendum on January 9 over whether its mostly Christian south should become independent from the Muslim north which is ruled by the strict Islamic sharia law.

But foreign women have also been targeted by police. On Wednesday, an non-uniformed man ordered a German woman to go home because she was wearing a dress that he decided was too revealing. He said: “If I see you like that pass here again, I will take you,” she told the International Herald Tribune newspaper.

Over the Christmas weekend, Joseph Lubega and his wife were out shopping when a uniformed police officer slapped his wife across the face, he said. The officer slapped her again. Then a third time.

“The reason, he said, was the blouse,” said Mr Lubega, a motorcycle driver from Uganda working in the southern Sudanese capital. “It had an open back.”

Talking about the attacks, Information Minister Benjamin Marial said: “In southern Sudan, you can dress in anything, everyone is free.” He said that the attacks were unjustified and that the officers involved have been set right. “This is not the policy of the government of southern Sudan, and we have taken the preliminary measures,” he said. “Sometimes police get out of control. These were individuals.”

A southern Sudanese army officer said that the police had been told to ‘counsel’ women on their dress, and that the officers had “mistaken the advice they were given.”

“Police have arrested women and girls for their dress on many occasions,” said Human Rights Watch researcher, Jehanne Henry. She added that in the past, police commissioners had authorized arrests of people with “bad behaviour,” which also included men wearing low-slung jeans and dreadlocks. “Police have a lot of work to do to educate and train officers in the applicable laws,” Ms Henry said.

January’s referendum was the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of fighting between north and south over religion, way of life and oil that killed two million people.

http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/women-attacked-by-clothes-police

Earlier this year Millicent Gaika, a 30-year-old South African woman, was tied up, beaten, strangled, tortured and raped for five hours by a man as he screamed that he would “cure” Millicent of her lesbianism.

Ndumie Funda, a local community activist whose lesbian partner was murdered in the course of a similar “corrective rape,” reached out to Millicent through a small local charity she set up to rescue and support survivors of “corrective rape.” But last month they both had to go into hiding after the South African government released the perpetrator they had helped to jail on 60 rand (less than $10) bail.

Ndumie, Millicent and others decided to fight back against the rapists and the lack of accountability for their crimes. From a Cape Town safehouse for survivors of ‘corrective rape,’ the women created a petition on Change.org targeting South African Justice Minister Jeffrey Radebe.

Please, they wrote, declare ‘corrective rape’ a hate crime, which would both empower and require South African police to take a harder line on the vicious crime.

More than 500 “corrective rapes” are reported in South Africa each year, and more than 30 South African lesbians have been murdered because of their sexuality over the past decade. Worse, for every 100 men charged with rape in South Africa, 96 of them walk free.

We can help here. Last year, South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority went on record refusing to formally declare ‘corrective rape’ a hate crime, saying “It is not something that the South African government has prioritized as a specific project.”

But with enough international pressure on the South African government, such heinous crimes might finally be taken seriously.

More than 2,000 Change.org members have added their name to the petition created by Ndumie and Millicent.

Click here to add yours: http://www.change.org/petitions/view/south_africa_declare_corrective_rape_a_hate-crime?alert_id=SlPqUMmEGV_HsABUUMuhg&me=aa

Thank you for taking action,
The Change.org Team

P.S. Every time a new person signs the petition, the Justice Minister’s office automatically gets an email. So once you join, will you forward this to friends and family, and post on Facebook, so that they hear a global outcry?

Ama Hemmah was allegedly tortured into confessing she was a witch, doused in kerosene and set alight. She suffered horrific burns and died the following day.

Belief in witchcraft is relatively common in Ghana but there was widespread revulsion at the killing.

Hemmah, from Tema, was allegedly attacked by a group of five people, one of whom is an evangelical pastor, Ghana’s Daily Graphic reported.

Three women and two men have been arrested. They are Nancy Nana Ama Akrofie, 46, photographer Samuel Ghunney, 50, Emelia Opoku, 37, Mary Sagoe, 52, and pastor Samuel Fletcher Sagoe, 55.

The suspects say the death was an accident and deny committing any crime. They claim they were trying to exorcise an evil spirit from the woman by rubbing anointing oil on her but it accidentally caught fire.

Newspaper pictures showing the woman’s injuries have caused anger in Ghana. The incident has been condemned by human rights and women’s activists.

Comfort Akosua Edu, of the country’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, said: “The commission finds the action of the perpetrators of this atrocious crime as very barbaric and one that greatly dims the nation’s human rights record. That they came and met her in their room does not in any way warrant branding her as a notorious witch who deserved to be subjected to such an ordeal.”

She added: “It is very disheartening that some men of God, whose responsibility it is to help save lives, could orchestrate the killing of innocent souls, all in the name of God.”

Part of a longer article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/29/ghanaian-woman-burned-death-witch

See also: Who killed Amma Hemmah?

This, they argued, was necessary to give mothers confidence to seek safe abortion of unwanted pregnancies and thereby reduce maternal mortality.

The research, conducted by Guttmacher, a United States-based health research and education organization in year 2008, studied Ghana’s unsafe abortion situation with a view to identifying effective ways of dealing with this.

The seminar provided the opportunity to discuss the findings with stakeholders in Kumasi.

The participants were mostly from NGOs and civil society groups in the health and reproductive health sector, the Ghana Education Service, prisons service, media, faith-based organizations and the youth.

They said the lack of adequate information about the abortion law among majority of Ghanaians had been responsible for the adoption of unsafe abortion methods resulting in severe health complications and deaths.

It is estimated that, 20 per cent of maternal mortality in the country is caused by unsafe abortion.

Dr Joana Nerguaye-Tetteh, presenting the report, said if care was not taken, deaths from unsafe abortions could surpass that of HIV/AIDS.

She warned that given the situation where more women were not using contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies certainly would occur and the likelihood of unsafe abortions would be higher.

Dr Nerguaye-Tetteh appealed to NGOs and civil society groups in the health sector to intensify their education campaigns in communities to create awareness on the use of contraceptives to raise the acceptance rate.

Mrs Josephine Addy, Programme Associate of Ipas, an NGO, said more women resorted to unsafe abortions because of ignorance of the legal regime.

Ipas, which is operating in 17 districts in the Eastern, Ashanti and greater Accra regions, is supporting the Ghana Health Service to provide a Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC).

Mrs Addy said unsafe abortion has now become a social problem and that her organization was engaging various stakeholders including queens, parliamentary select committee on health and population, women commissions in tertiary institutions, lawyers, journalists and the police service to enhance stakeholders’ support for safe abortion.

http://www.ghananewsagency.org/s_health/r_22643/

The Rev. Michael Kimindu, the Metropolitan Community Churches’ minister, said human beings were prone to worldly shortcomings and, therefore, need help from religious leaders to overcome temptations.

“It is common to hear a leader saying they are interested in the few who are righteous than many who are weak in faith. Religious leaders who look at abortion as immoral miss the point of seeking the other sheep,” Kimindu said at the regional conference on eliminating unsafe abortion in Africa held at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons in Accra last week.

Kimindu, who is also the coordinator of Other Sheep East Africa, a coalition fighting for Christians’ human rights, with offices in Uganda and Tanzania, suggested that human sexuality and rights be included in theological studies to help religious leaders understand human sexual and reproductive rights.

“If the so many religious groups on this continent embraced human rights and left judgement to God, Africa would be the happiest place to live in on earth.”

Participants expressed concern about the negative attitude that religious leaders have towards safe abortion. This, they argued, would increase maternal deaths in Africa since women will continue dying from complications resulting from unsafe abortions.

Kimindu noted that sometimes parents of a pregnant girl need help from religious leaders, but they choose to keep quiet for fear of being labelled supporters of sin.

“To say that all abortion is murder of a life that God has created when, for instance, a woman has been raped, is to say that God is responsible for the rape.”

The one-week conference under the theme, Keeping our promise: Addressing unsafe abortion in Africa, attracted over 250 participants across the continent.

Ipas, a global women’s rights advocacy NGO, in collaboration with African Network on Medical Abortion, African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Marie Stopes International, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Ghana’s health ministry and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa organised the conference.

http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/738555

Bullied by partners, relatives and other male contacts, some of the women succumb to the sexual advances of men, even when they knew they would be compromising their health, according to Ikhwezi Lokusa Wellness Centre’s programme director, Kazeka Somhlahlo.

She said some women were abused under the banner of cultural and traditional practices, being forced to have unprotected sex, sometimes in situations when they knew that multiple partners were involved. “That is where we come in with our psycho-social community responsibility programme,” she said.

Somhlahlo said her organisation provided care, support and treatment to close to 1900 patients in the province, some from as far as Aliwal North and Transkei.

The centre has full-time doctors, nurses, a pharmacy and other staff in East London, and also provides community outreach, social support and patient empowerment programmes to communities.

Established in 2002, Ikhwezi Lokusa caters for patients on anti- retrovirals (ARVs), and also works towards keeping those who have not started taking them healthy enough not to need them. “Because HIV, Aids and gender go together our role is not limited to the physical, but the social aspects of our patients as well.”

She said their role as facilitators in the well-being of people living with HIV and Aids became more pronounced during the ongoing international rally of 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children .

The campaign, recognised worldwide and commemorated between November 25 and December 10, is aimed at generating increased awareness about violence against women and children.

It also highlights the ways in which such violence manifests itself within the society, and the negative impact it has on vulnerable groups. “Women are reminded that they were ‘bought’ when the man paid lobola to their families, and they are left with no option but to give in to his demands against their better judgment,” said Somhlahlo.

She said some were raped, sometimes by people they knew.

“Then you have those in difficult housing situations, where too many people, both female and male, live together in a small shack.”

Describing such situations as “explosive”, she said indiscriminate sexual acts took place, and in some cases women are forced to provide sexual favours in order to have a place to live.

http://www.dispatch.co.za/article.aspx?id=453082

The disproportionate burden of HIV/Aids borne by women and girls in most developing countries requires urgent attention. At the heart of the problem is profound gender inequality and inequity, coupled with the systematic disempowerment of women, condoned by society for generations.

Although a global problem, it is particularly evident in developing countries and the HIV/Aids epidemic, therefore, is merely exposing the underlying failures of society.

Comprehensive sexual education for adolescent boys and girls is probably the single most important intervention in correcting gender stereotypes and imbalances and for preventing violence against women and the further spread of HIV.

Unfortunately, reproductive health services for women and girls in developing countries are universally not up to standard. Services that need urgent attention include family planning, antenatal, perinatal and postnatal care, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer of the cervix and access to safe and legalised abortion. In fact, criminal abortion is rife and extremely dangerous in developing countries, accounting for about 12% of all maternal mortality.

Female condoms have also not been given a chance as an important female-controlled method of preventing HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy. When women are properly counselled and trained in the use of female condoms, there is a high acceptance and demand for their availability. The female condom is particularly effective in violent or non-consensual relationships. Much greater investment into its research and development needs to be made.

Much publicity has been given to the microbicide gel containing the antiretroviral drug tenofovir in the prevention of HIV infection. The fact that it appears to be 40% effective shows promise for the female-controlled method of prevention.

Comment by Dr Brian Brink, chief medical officer of Anglo American and the chair of the International Women’s Health Coalition

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-11-26-social-inequity-behind-female-hiv-prevalence

More than one in three South African men questioned in a survey admitted to rape, the latest evidence in the country of a violent culture of patriarchy.

Researchers found that more than three in four men said they had perpetrated violence against women.

Nearly nine in 10 men believe that a woman should obey her husband – and almost six in 10 women also agreed with the statement.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Last year a survey by the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that 28% of men in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces said they had raped a woman or girl.

A new MRC study in Gauteng, the country’s wealthiest province, found that 37.4% of men admitted having committed a rape, while 25.3% of women said they had been raped.

The survey questioned 511 women and 487 men, of whom 90% were black and 10% white.

Rachel Jewkes of the MRC said: “We see a situation where the use of violence is so widespread that not only is it seen as being legitimate but I think quite often women forget it. They just see it as a normal effect.”

Jewkes cited her survey’s findings on gender attitudes. Although both largely agreed that “people should be treated the same whether they are male or female”, 86.7% of men and 57.9% of women also endorsed the statement that “a woman should obey her husband”.

Some 53.9% of men and 29.8% of women agreed that “a man should have the final say in all family matters”, while 37.3% of men and 23.2% of women supported the view that “a woman needs her husband’s permission to do paid work”.

Asked about sexual entitlement in marriage, only 55% of both men and women said they thought “it is possible for a woman to be raped by her husband”. Some 38.7% of men and 29.3% of women thought that “a woman cannot refuse to have sex with her husband” and 22.3% of men and 8.8% of women felt that “if a wife does something wrong, her husband has the right to punish her”.

The survey also found that 32% of men and women agreed that “in any rape case, one would have to question whether the victim is promiscuous”, while 20.1% of men and 15.6% of women said that “in some rape cases, women want it to happen”.

Jewkes said: “What we see here is a set of attitudes reflecting men’s views that they are legitimate in the use of violence against women, and women in many respects acquiescing to this.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/25/south-african-rape-survey

Mr Stephen Lewis, a former United Nations Envoy on HIV and AIDS for Africa challenged the membership of five countries on the UN Agency on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Executive Board.

He explained that he disapproved of the membership of Saudi Arabia, Libya, Bangladesh, Iran and Democratic Republic of Congo on the Executive Board because of their anti-gender laws and practices.

The UN Women was formed to support the Commission on the Status of Women and other inter-governmental bodies in devising policies and also helping member states to implement standards.

It is also to provide technical and financial support to the countries and assist them to forge partnerships with civil society.

Speaking at an international women’s conference in Accra on the theme: “Quality versus Quantity; How far have we come in promoting Africa women’s participation in politics,” Mr Lewis said the five countries’ membership ‘amounted to international trafficking of the rights of women.’

The Women’s Conference was organized by the African Women Development Fund to celebrate its 10th anniversary was attended by leading accomplished African women, including the Liberian President, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ; Vice President of Malawi, Mrs. Joyce Banda, Ministers of State and Parliamentarians.

He said: “In Saudi Arabia, women are not entitled to drive; women require a male guardian’s consent to have a passport and to travel abroad. In a Saudi Court of Law, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.

“Its impossible to know from day to day where Libya falls on any given issue, the rights of women included, and its presence on the Board is akin to farce, Bangladesh is a country that stands against gender equality…and now they sit on the Board of UN Women.

“Democratic Republic of the Congo’s membership is a true travesty of the integrity of the UN Women; rape has been used unimpeded as a strategy of conflict throughout the war. And even though Iran lost the election to be a member, it was included in a block of 10 countries for an election by acclamation.

“Iran is a country where domestic violence is legal; marital rape is legal. A charge of rape can indeed be brought by a woman, but four male witnesses are required, or three men and two women, and if the charge fails, the woman who made the accusation receives 80 lashes.”

The UN Women is also mandated to hold the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality. The UN Women will be officially established on January 1, 2011.

The 41 board members were selected on the following basis: 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, four from Eastern Europe, six from Latin America and the Caribbean, five from Western Europe and six from contributing countries.

Elected from the African Group were Angola, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Lesotho, Libya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste were elected from among the Asian States.

Estonia, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine were elected from among the Eastern European States, while Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden were elected from the Western European and Other States.

In addition, the Council elected Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada and Peru from the group of Latin American and Caribbean States.

The Council also elected Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Kingdom and United States from among the “contributing countries,” for three-year terms beginning today.

Headed by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, UN Women is the merger of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).

http://www.ghananewsagency.org/s_politics/r_22502/

Thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo marched against mass rapes, which have become increasingly prevalent in the country as a weapon of war. According to CNN, many of the marchers were rape survivors. The march took place in Bukavu, located in eastern Congo and followed a peace and development forum, reports Agence France Presse.

World March of Women, together with local women’s groups, organized the march. Organizers aimed to use the event to fight the stigma often faced by rape victims and to draw global attention to the use of rape as a tactic of war. Congolese women’s activist Nita Vielle commented to CNN,”they have had enough…enough of the war, of the rape, of nobody paying attention to what’s happening to them.” World March of Women representative, Celia Alldridge, told CNN, “it’s just great to have so many women out on the streets. We believe that women should not be made prisoners in their own homes.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been named the “rape capital of the world” by the United Nations. According to CNN, there were 15,000 women raped by armed rebel groups in eastern Congo in 2009. Between July 30 and August 2 of this year alone, more than 300 people, mostly women, were raped in the country’s North Kivu province. The United Nations has condemned the lack of civilian protection provided by Congolese police, military, and UN stabilization forces in the area. Since the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in 1998, tens of thousands of civilians have been raped.

http://www.msmagazine.com/news/uswirestory.asp?ID=12679

See also: British women march in The Democratic Republic of Congo in solidarity with Congolese women, issue call for end to violence

“Voice for the voiceless” is the slogan adorning the walls of Liberia’s first and Africa’s second radio station for women.

Situated down a bumpy, dirt track on the edge of the capital, Monrovia, the Liberia Women Democracy Radio (LWDR), claims it wants to advance women and promote change. In a country trying to rebuild itself after 14 years of civil war in which women bore the brunt of the violence, they remain the most vulnerable group in society.

“Before the radio station, we couldn’t get our voices heard. The big people wouldn’t take our problems seriously,” says Deborah Reeves, a mother of four in Monrovia. “Now they hear them over and over.”

The 30 year old lives on Pagos Island, a stretch of land surrounded by swamps completely cut off from the rest of the city. On an island without electricity, public schools, a police station and not one health centre, the four thousand inhabitants struggle to even make a living.

“I’ve seen things on this island that aren’t right in a civilised world,” exclaims Reeves as she shelters in the community church with around forty other women.

“We’re a forgotten community, just fending for ourselves.No one sees us. It’s like we’re not even here.”

Reeves has brought people from the community together to talk about how they, as women, can use the radio station to tell their stories in an attempt to get authorities to act. As they sit in the stifling heat, some with their babies strapped to their backs, others with a small child at their knees, slowly, one by one, they get the courage to stand up to tell their story.

One speaker, more a teenager than a woman, describes how she started walking to the nearest clinic when she felt her first contraction. It was dark, she was on her own and she had a two to three hour trek ahead of her. She ended up giving birth on the way.

As she stands in front of the women, with passion and sadness in her eyes, she explains how she tried to get the baby to take its first breath.She had no idea how to do it, so she lay there on the road as the baby died in her arms.

“I didn’t want to talk today,” she says. “But this is just disgracing women.”

This story is just one of thousands.

“In the rural areas, women are not heard,” says Lady Mai Hunter, as she looks over her microphone in the production studio at LWDR. These are the hard to reach groups the station wants to broadcast to. Funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and facilitated by the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM), LWDR broadcasts to eight of Liberia’s fifteen counties. Their aim is to increase their transmitter power and reach out to women all over the country.

At 22 years old and already a young mother herself, Hunter knows all too well the struggles women in Liberia still face. “We have a female President and outside of Liberia people think that everything is okay for women here, but it’s not. Sexual exploitation, rape and wife battering are all big problems here.”

In 2006, Liberia voted in Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. While this in itself is a great inspiration for women all over the country, female voices are still rare in high level discussions on peace and security. For President Sirleaf, LWDR is a way to get those often forgotten voices aired.

“I’m extremely pleased and I understand we’re the second women’s radio station on the continent and that again pleases us in that we’ve broken ground in this regard,” says Sirleaf she.

However, the president is aware of the challenges Liberian women face. “We still have some serious problems in Liberia; serious problems regarding rape, regarding the retention of girls in school. I hope through this station they will be able to focus on these problems.”

Rape is the number one reported crime in Liberia and children are often the victims. A recent survey of rape survivors in Monrovia found three out of eight were under the age of twelve, while one in ten was under five. But issues like rape, teenage pregnancy, female genital mutilation and prostitution are rarely, if ever, talked about on other stations across the country.

The media, run almost exclusively by men, seldom touch on these subjects, preferring to pontificate about politics and policy making. With the next elections in October 2011, LWDR is calling for women to start playing a crucial role in shaping their country’s future.

And so far, the Liberia Women Democracy Radio station is providing a glimmer of hope for women like Deborah Reeves. “LWDR is an eye opener for us. To be frank, women face such terrible conditions in this country and their voices are never heard. Now, if I’m hurt, I can use the radio to tell my story and reach authorities who can help us.”

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53102

Accra, Ghana September 28-30, 2010

“WE the 47 leaders representing women’s human rights organisations, national women’s machineries and the media from 12 African countries in the West Africa sub-region1;PARTICIPATING in a three- day workshop in Accra, Ghana entitled “Beyond Beijing +15: Implementing and Resourcing the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020)” organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), the Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD) and Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF- West Africa);

COMMENDING the collaborative efforts of FEMNET, NETRIGHT, AAWORD, and WiLDAF-WA with the support of the government of Ghana and UNIFEM;

UNDERSCORING the objectives of the said workshop listed below as follows:
* TO DISSEMINATE and discuss the outcome of the 15 year review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) at regional and sub regional level;
* TO POPULARISE the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 as an opportunity for states to deliver on their various commitment to women’s rights and empowerment;
* TO CATALYSE the development of action plans for operationalising the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 at national and regional levels;
* TO DELIBERATE on strategies for increasing funding for women’s rights agenda in order to deliver on commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment during the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 and;
* TO EXPLORE new opportunities for networking and movement building in order to support the work the gender machineries and women’s right organisations to deliver on the objectives of the Women’s Decade.
* TAKING COGNISANCE of the outcome of similar sub regional workshops convened by FEMNET in May 2010 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo for Central Africa, and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in June 2010 for East and Horn of Africa;

WELCOMING the decision of African Union (AU) Heads of State that 2010-2020 will be recognized as the ‘African Women’s Decade’ and launched in Kenya in October, 2010;

MINDFUL of the general goal of the Decade, which is to cascade, in concrete terms, the execution of commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment from the grass-roots, national, regional to continental level;

ALSO WELCOMING the decision by AU Heads of State to establish an African Women’s Fund to facilitate realization of the objectives of the Decade;

FOCUSING on the ten themes of the decade which include fighting poverty and promoting economic empowerment of women and entrepreneurship; agriculture and food security; health, maternal mortality and HIV and AIDS; education, science and technology; environment and climate change; peace and security and violence against women; governance and legal protection; finance and gender budgets; women in decision making positions; and young women’s movement; and discussing issues around these ten themes;

DEEPLY CONCERNED that 15 years after the Beijing World Conference on Women, and 10 years since States committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), insufficient progress has been registered in West Africa on issues around women’s economic empowerment, health, participation in development processes, and representation in decision-making;

DISTURBED that women’s issues and machineries charged with women’s affairs continue to be marginalized and under-resourced, and this has led to very slow implementation of international and regional commitments made to women’s empowerment and gender equality;

FIRMLY CONVINCED that the African Women’s Decade needs to bring about transformative change in the lives of African women, girls, and the community at large, requiring high level commitment, prioritisation and increased resources from African governments to make sure that women’s priorities and concerns are funded and monitored at all levels;

TAKING COGNISANCE of the participation of West African women’s organisations in the evaluation process of the Paris Declaration on Aid effectiveness and gender equality, adopted during a West African women’s consultative meeting in Lomé in June 2008;

WE CALL ON WEST AFRICAN MEMBER STATES TO:
* Develop comprehensive, multi sectoral, national plans of action for the African Women’s Decade, ensure budgets are allocated to implementing the plans, and further ensure the plans are integrated into the national development plans/ poverty reduction strategy papers;
* Recognise the contributions of African civil society organisations particularly women’s rights organisations for the complementary role they are playing to promote gender equality at national, sub regional and regional levels;
* Ensure that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) constitute 50% of organizing committees for the African Women’s Decade at all levels;
* Commit significant resources to the African Women’s Fund so that gender machineries and civil society can utilise the resources to meet the goals of the African Women’s Decade;
* Strengthen the national gender machineries to enable them to work in close partnership with women’s rights organisations to develop the plans of action that will respond to the needs of the African Women’s Decade;

RECALLING the recently established United Nations (UN) Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — also known as UN Women, which is the result of years of advocacy by the global women’s movement,

WE CALL FOR:
* An immediate increase in the capacity of UN Women offices at country-level in order to support the realisation of the objectives of the African Women’s Decade;
* Systems to be put in place to ensure women’s rights organisations working on the ground can access funding from UN Women in a timely manner for the effective realisation of the goals of the Decade;
* Mechanisms for civil society participation in the governance of UN Women to be put in place as part of the transitional process over the next 3 months;
* UN Country offices to respond to this new architecture by appointing women with the relevant technical competence in the area of women’s rights, gender and development;
* Member States of the United Nations to ensure the agreed threshold of USD 500 million for the UN Women budget is met by January 2011, with plans to scale up to USD 1 Billion to meet the expanded scope and mandate of the agency;

-END-

http://www.awid.org/eng/Women-in-Action/Announcements2/Communique-on-the-African-Women-s-Decade-2010-2020-From-West-African-Women-s-Organisations

Libya’s new nationality law granting women married to foreign spouses the right to pass their own nationality to their children is a significant move forward for women’s rights, Human Rights Watch said earlier this month. But the law still contains some contradictory provisions that could be interpreted to perpetuate discrimination, Human Rights Watch said.

The General People’s Committee (GPC) – the executive arm of Libya’s government – made public in July Law no. 24 of 2010 on the Provisions of Libyan Nationality, which it had adopted on January 28. Article 11 of the new law extends Libyan nationality to children born to Libyan mothers and foreign fathers, but leaves the interpretation of the provision to implementing regulations that the committee has not yet issued.

However, article 3 of the law appears to contradict article 11, and to perpetuate gender discrimination. Article 3 continues to define a Libyan as one who is born to a Libyan father or to a Libyan mother and a father who is stateless or whose nationality is unknown. There is no mention in article 3 of children born to a Libyan mother who is married to a man who has a nationality other than Libyan.

“The new nationality law will make it easier for some Libyan women married to men with other nationalities to pass on their citizenship to their children,” said Nadya Khalife, Middle East and North Africa women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But whether women gain full equality is going to depend on how fairly the new law is carried out.”

Officials should make sure that forthcoming regulations to implement the changes in nationality rights make clear that there is no difference between the rights of women and those of men to pass on their nationality, Human Rights Watch said.

The previous nationality law, Law no. 18 of 1980 on the Provisions of the Nationality Act and its Amendments, allowed Libyan women married to non-Libyans to retain their own nationality but not to pass it on to their children. Families in this situation found themselves denied the official documentation they needed to obtain some state services, such as medical care and subsidized food. They were also ineligible for the payments the state makes to families following the birth of a child.

In 2007 the government issued a decree ruling that children born to Libyan mothers and fathers of different nationalities were required to pay 800 dinars (around US$654) per year for their children to attend public schools. The GPC later ruled that fees could be waived for families that could not afford them.

In its first annual report on human rights for 2009, the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, an international non-governmental organization chaired by Saif al Islam al Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s leader, called for giving Libyan women married to men of various nationalities the right to pass on their nationality to their children. The report cited the issue as one of the country’s main human rights concerns.

Libya ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1970 with no reservations relevant to nationality or gender. The UN expert body that monitors implementation of the ICCPR has stated that to fulfil its treaty obligations, a government must ensure that women and men have equal capacity to transmit to children the parent’s nationality.

Libya has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but filed formal reservations to exempt itself from an obligation to comply with several provisions. It registered reservations to articles 2, on combating discrimination in all its forms, and 16, on equality in the family.

The UN expert body that monitors the convention says, however, that reservations to these articles are not permitted under the treaty. Â When the expert group reviewed Libya’s compliance with the treaty in 2009, it urged Libya to grant equal citizenship rights to men and women, including by amending the nationality law.

Libya is the only country in North Africa that has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which affirms equal rights for men and women with regard to the nationality of their children.

Numerous other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have nationality laws that continue to discriminate against women. These include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

“Authorities should amend Article 3 of the nationality law so that all Libyan women – just like all Libyan men – can pass on their nationality to their children, regardless of the nationality of their spouse,” Khalife said. “The forthcoming implementing regulations of the law should also guarantee identical rights for Libyan men and women in all nationality matters – with no exceptions.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/f3b3684ff3f3e571451c83e3d6799c4c.htm

The number of assaults is twice that previously reported in the country’s east, Atul Khare told the UN Security Council.

Aid workers who reached a village captured by rebels in late July found that 242 women and children had been raped in the course of four days.

A unit of two dozen armed UN peacekeepers stationed less than 20 miles away did nothing to stop the assaults.

“While the primary responsibility for protection of civilians lies with the state, its national army and police force, clearly we have also failed,” Mr Khare, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, said after returning from a trip to eastern Congo.

“Our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalisation of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better.”

The UN’s mission in Congo, MONUSCO, is its largest and most expensive in the world, but has regularly been criticised for being ineffective, weak and badly managed.

Peacekeepers have in the past been sent home after they were accused of sexual abuse of children in areas they are supposed to be protecting.

The UN had earlier said that it was not aware of the most recent attacks until after Congolese and Rwandan rebels had left Luvungi town, despite running at least one patrol there while the attacks were ongoing.

But emails reportedly sent between the UN’s humanitarian office, other UN agencies and aid organisations allegedly alerted officials to the rebel takeover, and of at least one rape.

Ban Ki-moon expressed his “outrage” at the attacks and dispatched Mr Khare to investigate last week.

During his visit, the chief peacekeeper found reports of the mass rape or sexual violence against at least another 267 people, including men and children.

Rape has been used as a weapon of war throughout eastern Congo’s two decade civil war, which was supposed to have ended with a peace deal in 2003.

But violence continues as armed groups battle for control of lucrative mines producing metals vital for consumer electronics, including mobile phones, laptops and games consoles.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/democraticrepublicofcongo/7989198/UN-peacekeepers-failed-to-stop-500-Dr-Congo-rapes.html

Congolese community leaders say they begged local U.N. officials and army commanders to protect villagers days before rebels gang-raped scores of people, from a month-old baby boy to a 110-year-old great-great-grandmother.

The rapes occurred in and around Luvungi, a village of about 2,200 people that is a half-hour drive from a U.N. peacekeepers’ camp and a 90-minute ride from Walikale, a major mining center and base for hundreds of Congolese troops.

The number of people treated for rape in the July 30 to Aug. 4 attacks now stands at 242 — a high number even for eastern Congo, where rape has become a daily hazard. The rebels occupied the area for more than four days until they withdrew voluntarily.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has declared his outrage — survivors say they were attacked by between two and six fighters and raped in front of their husbands and children. Ban has sent his assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, Atul Khare, to investigate the alleged lack of action from the U.N. mission in Congo.

Many question why the peacekeepers are not fulfilling their primary mandate, the strongest yet given to any U.N. force, which allows them to use force to protect civilians, and especially women and children. The U.N. says it passed through Luvungi but villagers did not say anything about the rebels.

Charles Masudi Kisa said his Walikale Civil Association first sounded the alarm on July 25, meeting with Congolese army and local authorities to say that the withdrawal of soldiers from several outposts was putting people in danger of attacks from rebels. The military had abandoned every post from Luvungi to just outside Walikale, for unclear reasons, he said.

Masudi said that on July 29, acting on information from motorcycle taxis, he warned the U.N. Civil Affairs bureau in Walikale, the army and the local administration that rebels were moving in on Luvungi. “Again we begged them to secure the population of Luvungi and told them that these people were in danger,” he said. Freddy Zanga, secretary of the association Masudi leads, confirmed his account.

When Luvungi was occupied on July 30, Masudi heard from truck drivers forced to turn back and passed information on to officials in the same offices. That same day, the United Nations sent text and e-mail messages to aid workers warning them to be aware that armed perpetrators were in the area, much of it dense forest that provides convenient cover for fighters.

On Aug. 1, Masudi said, his group heard from some raped women who had escaped and reported that scores of rebels had overrun the area.

Roger Meece, the U.N. mission chief in Congo, says a Congolese army patrol moved through the area on Aug. 2, apparently removed a rebel roadblock, exchanged fire with some fighters, and got information suggesting “a dramatic decrease” in rebel and militia activity. In fact, some 200 to 400 rebels were occupying villages alongside the road and into the interior, according to reports from survivors. The U.N. says there are 80 peacekeepers at its Kibua camp near Luvungi.

Also on Aug. 2, Indian peacekeepers accompanied some commercial vehicles to protect them from the rebel roadblock and stopped in Luvungi.

“How could they protect commercial goods but they could not protect the people?” Masudi asked.

The peacekeepers stayed long enough to arrest a Mai-Mai militiaman accused of trying to steal a motorcycle. But the village people did not make any reports of what had happened in the preceding days, Meece said.

The patrol also stopped in another village, Bunya Mumpire, from which aid workers reported many rapes. Meece said people there wanted to fight the militiaman with the peacekeepers but again did not report that they were under attack. It’s unclear what means of communication were available to the peacekeepers, who often travel without interpreters and generally do not speak the Kiswahili, French or Kinyarwanda spoken in the region.

On Aug. 4, the local chief came to Walikale and reported that the rebels had left and that large numbers of people had been raped. He spoke to Masudi’s organization, the International Medical Corps, the U.N. office in Walikale and to civilian authorities, Masudi said.

On Aug. 5, a convoy including medical corps workers and Masudi’s organization drove to Luvungi and the extent of the horrors began to unfold, as raped women began coming out of the forest.

Miel Hendrickson, regional director of the Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps, says her group briefed officials at the Walikale office of the U.N. Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs when they returned from their first trip to Luvungi the night of Aug. 6. “We told them the area had been attacked, that there had been no fighting and no deaths, but raping and looting,” she says.

Roger Meece, the top U.N. envoy in Congo, said U.N. peacekeepers in the area did not learn about the rape and looting spree until Aug. 12 from the International Medical Corps. Two U.N. officials in Kinshasa told The Associated Press that they got first word from media reports, even though the U.N.’s small Civil Affairs office in Walikale is charged with protecting civilians.

The United Nations did not send a team until Aug. 13, according to Reece.

The number of people treated went up from a couple of dozen on Aug. 5, to 154 by Aug. 16, 172 the following week and 242 by Wednesday, Hendrickson said.

Congo’s government has grabbed at past failures by U.N. peacekeepers to call for the withdrawal of the force, the biggest in the world at about 18,000. U.N. officials say soldiers are hampered by mountainous and rugged terrain and are sparsely deployed across a country the size of Western Europe. But aid workers say there is a well-graded dirt road from the U.N. camp at Kibua to Luvungi, and from Walikale to Luvungi.

Congo’s army and U.N. peacekeepers have been unable to defeat the few thousand rebels responsible for the long drawn-out conflict in eastern Congo, which is fueled by the area’s massive mineral reserves. Maj. Sylvain Ikenge, a spokesman for army operations in eastern Congo, would not say why soldiers had withdrawn from the area, allowing rebels to move in, only that they “are now concentrated around Walikale to concentrate our efforts to track down the rebels.”

“The FARDC (Congolese armed forces) cannot occupy each and every area to secure everyone and also track the rebels,” he said, adding that Walikale territory is greater than the combined size of neighboring Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jPEADE6LA6PT95DxLVS1noE80bwQD9HV9CQ80

See also:

    Wartime rape no more inevitable or acceptable than mass murder says UN

    Wartime rape is “the least condemned and most silenced war crime,” U.N. official says
    U.N. initiative aims to put sexual violence in conflicts on international policy map
    U.N. is monitoring five countries because of sexual violence in conflicts
    In Congo, more than 200,000 women have been raped in 12 years of fighting, U.N. says

    The United Nations is trying to put sexual violence on the international policy map, telling political and military leaders that wartime mass rape “is no more inevitable than, or acceptable than, mass murder.”

    Rape is being used by armed groups to reignite flames of conflict and to terrorize and humiliate communities in Africa, according to Letitia Anderson, women’s rights specialist with the U.N.’s Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative.

    article continues at http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/08/12/un.wartime.rape/#fbid=VN4pnUIr0jJ&wom=false

Zimbabwean women are denied access to land under the government’s land reform programme, a new report has found. According to the report, women make up 51 per cent of the population and yet there has been little mention of women, if at all, during the two phases of the land reform programme. The report argues that unequal power and gender relations in institutions such as the village have prevented women from accessing land.

“According to the government, land redistribution has been completed and yet most women failed to get access to land,” writes the author, Dr Dominic Pasura, a research fellow at the department of geography at the University College of London, UK.

Zimbabwe’s Land reform and Resettlement programme (LRRP) was introduced to “improve the welfare of the poor and landless” by Robert Mugabe’s post-colonial government in the 1980s.

Dr Pasura writes: “At independence, Zimbabwe inherited a racially skewed distribution of land that excluded most black Africans from access to land.”

According to the 2001 study by Annelet Hart-Broekhuis and Henk Huisman, 6,000 white large-scale commercial farmers controlled about 15.5 million hectares, and 840,000 communal area farmers controlled 16.4 million hectares at the time of independence in 1980. LRRP Phase I ran from 1980 to 1997 and resulted in modest transfers, the study reported. However, Phase II began in 1998 and saw a more radical approach.

During the first phase of the land reform programme, the study reports there was a bias towards men in the resettlement model. This is because “land was given to individual households, which tended to mean male households”, the report found. The second phase of LRRP saw an intensification of land redistribution. “War veterans, squatters, ruling party militants and state officials” were the main beneficiaries of the second phase of the LRRP programme, the study reported. Women were again missing from the programme.

However, women’s groups in Zimbabwe have been vocal about this issue. The Women and Land Lobbying group had limited success in lobbying the government, the study reported. According to the report, “President Mugabe announced in October 2000 that female-headed households would receive 20 per cent of redistributed land”. However, this did not include married women, the study reported.

In response to a question during a news interview given in 2000, in which the former Vice President Msika was asked why women did not have land rights, he said: “Because I would have my head cut off if I gave women land… men would turn against this government”. He added that giving wives land or even granting joint titles would “destroy the family”, the study reported.

“This is an explicit admission by the government that if there is a man and a woman: a man is entitled to land,” writes Dr Pasura, adding: “Women can only get land in their own right in a world devoid of men.”

Moreover, the report suggests that the male bias in Zimbabwean society and reflected in the Vice President’s statement stems from colonial times where “changes in social structure … eroded women’s rights to land along with the erosion of women’s status in general”. Whereas in pre-colonial times, women had access to land, the study reported.

The researcher analysed documents such as government papers on land reform and reports from women’s groups. Due to the political instability of the country, the author has not been able to conduct first-hand interviews, the study reported.

According to the study, the Zimbabwean constitution has outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender. However, this does not include rules relating to land allocation. Zimbabwe has a “plural legal system”, in other words, state and customary laws co-exist, the study reported. In the report, customary law refers to African traditions which have become an intrinsic part of the accepted and expected conduct in a community.

Many studies, such as the United Nations Development Programme 2002 Zimbabwe Land Reform and Resettlement report, have cited that customary law has blocked Zimbabwean women from accessing land.

However, Dr. Pasura’s study finds that customary law is used to refer to both “the constructed versions of African practices codified in statutes and to customary practices in daily lives”. Therefore it is important to distinguish between the two. He argues that it is not customary law per se but rather customary practices that discriminate against women in land issues. Although the state is a guardian for customary law, customary practices take precedence in rural areas. Therefore, “customary practices on the ground ultimately determine which persons, gender and generation will inherit resources in the country”.

The report argues that customary law should not be outlawed rather, there needs to be huge change in attitudes and institutions to ensure the rights of women to access land.

http://womennewsnetwork.net/2010/08/31/zimbabwewomenfarmer/

In the north eastern Ethiopian region of Afar, more than 91 percent of women undergo one of the most severe forms of genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Reproductive health education however, seems to be paying off, with the number of girls affected reducing, albeit gradually.

The eastern Somali region has the highest prevalence at 97.3 percent against 73.3 nationally, according to Ethiopia’s 2005 Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS).

In Afar, where the cut involves infibulation (or Type III FGM), the removal of the external genitalia, before sealing and leaving a small opening for menstrual blood, CARE Ethiopia is working with former traditional circumcisers to improve awareness of FGM-related effects. The women are trained in reproductive health education and equipped with skills to run alternative small businesses.

Aside from the immediate risks of severe blood loss, shock and infection, longer-term problems associated with FGM include: infections of the urinary and reproductive tracts, infertility and a range of obstetric complications, such as postpartum haemorrhage and death of the baby.

Interventions to enhance women’s and girls’ empowerment are aimed at helping address FGM/C.

FGM/C is among such preparations in a culture where the guarantee of a girl’s virginity is viewed as a prerequisite for an honourable marriage. The belief that FGM/C enhances a girl’s chances of finding a husband helps perpetuate the practice.

Besides being said to be hygienic and aesthetically pleasing, many communities also believe that women who are not cut are prone to break household goods. Taboos against uncircumcised women handling grain, serving food and drinks to elders put additional pressure, notes a report by the UN Children’s Fund.

Where women are largely dependent on men, economic necessity can be a major determinant to undergo the procedure” adds the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). “FGM/FGC sometimes is a prerequisite for the right to inherit.”

UNICEF and UNFPA are also working to reduce FMG/C in Ethiopia.

Nine circumcisers were recently arrested in Afar, with seven being sentenced to between three and five years in jail, Amibara woreda women’s affairs office head, Fatuma Ali, told IRIN.

“These circumcisers were caught red- handed by the community itself,” said Ali. “The anti-FGM/C law [passed in 2004] helped us a lot in the fight against FGM/C. But we don’t see the enforcement of the law as the only option. We are also working with the empowerment of traditional birth attendants, school boys and girls, as a key to eradicate FGM/C from our region.”

In Afar, the FGM prevalence has decreased by 7.5 percent since 1998, said a 2008 survey by the Ethiopia Goji Limadawi Dirgitoch Aswogaj Mehber, former National Committee on Traditional Harmful Practices. (Some agencies have challenged the methodology of this survey).

“We have to educate pastoral women in Afar and Somali. We have to create alternative sources of income for the women so that when they are empowered they will start to question the tradition that is against their life,” Netsanet Asfaw, the government whip, said at the meeting organized by anti-FGM/C advocate, the Somali model Waris Dirie.

Afar has registered at least 2,000 girls as free from circumcision in the past three years, according to CARE Ethiopia and Regional Women’s Affairs Office estimates. This is the highest number so far.

Studies revealed that in 2005, out of 15,000 women surveyed across Ethiopia, only 25.5 percent still supported FGM/C, down from 60 percent five years before, said UNICEF. “As FGM/C is deeply ingrained in the social fabric… any increase in opposition, even a small one, represents a significant indication of change” it noted.

Among the reasons for this is higher educational attainment among women, anti-FGM laws, social support and awareness-raising.

Access to education and control of economic resources would also “enable women to realize the full extent of their rights and may help them conclude that the practice of FGM/C can end”, said UNICEF.

Earning an income is helping women to speak up. “We have never talked to a man like this, we are now discussing equally with men as we save our own money,” Use, who, with 14 other women, formed a group that runs a small shop, told IRIN.

Part of a longer article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/746697c64ba4fe60b5da742ff6658852.htm

See also: Razor’s Edge – The Controversy of Female Genital Mutilation

A growing number of women in South Africa and other countries in the region have come forward in the last few years with stories of forced or coerced sterilization after an HIV-positive test result.

Local rights groups in Namibia, with the support of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, have helped uncover 15 such cases, and a trial involving three HV-positive women who say they were sterilized at public health facilities without their consent is due to resume on 1 September in the High Court.

“It does appear that in Namibia [the practice of sterilising HIV-positive women] has been fairly widespread and systemic,” said Delme Cupido, coordinator of HIV/AIDS policy at the Open Society Institute of Southern Africa (OSISA), which is providing funding for the legal action.

Similar cases have been uncovered in Zambia, and Promise Mtembu, an AIDS and women’s rights activist who was herself sterilized in 1997, is gathering stories from South African women living with HIV whose reproductive rights have been violated.

Some of the 12 cases she has so far documented occurred several years before prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services were available, but the most recent took place in 2009, by which time public health facilities were using a dual-antiretroviral therapy regimen that can reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission to less than five percent.

Aside from the availability of PMTCT, performing a medical procedure without informed consent is a serious human rights violation and yet, according to Mushahida Adhikari, an attorney at the Women’s Legal Centre in Cape Town working with Mtembu to compile cases with a view to taking legal action, “A lot of women didn’t know it was wrong that they’d been sterilized. In many cases [the women] knew what they were signing, but didn’t feel like they had a choice.”

Mtembu and Adhikari hope to collect enough strong cases to take to South Africa’s High Court and, in the event of a ruling in their favour, to present them to the country’s Constitutional Court, but “It’s going to be a long, hard slog,” Adhikari warned. “A lot of the women don’t necessarily want to be part of a big class action, they just want an apology.”

Often the women do not want to go to court because they have not told their families about being sterilized. Adhikari said the stigma associated with not being able to have children could be as strong as being HIV positive.

Reversal may be possible, depending on how the sterilization was performed, but the procedure is difficult and too expensive for most of the women.

Part of a longer article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/1847b302fcc73a35d9e924154abc71c2.htm

1956 march a victory for all South Africans

South Africa celebrated Women’s Day in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the 1956 anti-pass march led by Lillian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Sophie de Bruin.

Hundreds of women in Pretoria replicated the 1956 women’s anti-pass law march from the city centre to the Union Buildings. Led by Tshwane executive mayor Gwen Ramokgopa, the marchers paid tribute to the pioneers of women’s equality under the theme “Working together for equal opportunity and progress for women”.

Ramokgopa encouraged women to follow in the footsteps of the 1956 marchers and said they needed to be involved in relevant initiatives. She called the march a “day of victory for women”.

Continues at http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2010/08/10/1956-march-a-victory-for-all-south-africans

Helen Zille: Women’s Day statement

Today we pay tribute to the women of South Africa. They are the daughters and granddaughters of the women of 1956 who had the courage to stand up for themselves, and each other, as many South African women have done — before and since.

Over half a century later, on Women’s Day, we have an opportunity to assess our progress in expanding opportunities for women. There is cause for some celebration, but much needs do be done.

Continues at http://fromtheold.com/news/helen-zille-womens-day-statement-2010080920102.html

South Africa to act on workplace gender equity

President Jacob Zuma has called for action to address transformation in South Africa’s workplace, saying the country is not achieving the kind of gender parity required by its democratic rule.

Addressing a packed Women’s Day event at East London’s Absa Stadium on Monday, Zuma pointed to a recent employment equity report, compiled by the Department of Labour, which found that transformation in the workplace, particularly in the private sector, was slow.

Unless something was done urgently, he said, South Africa would struggle to achieve its set targets of workforce gender balance.

Continues at http://www.southafrica.info/services/rights/womensday-100810.htm

Winnie lashes ANC and its failed policies

In an interview Winnie Madikizela-Mandela lashed out at the African National Congress (ANC) for failing to implement its own policies, especially those that impact women.

“It is time for the ANC to go back to the drawing-board and to assess how it will realistically implement policies,” Madikizela-Mandela said in the article.

The National Executive Committee member said the ANC should be giving themselves a better reflection after 16 years in government.

She said the party needed to revisit their strategies and tactics in the upcoming national general council meeting in September, by getting concrete suggestions from ministries as to how they would deliver on their promises.

Madikizela-Mandela passed judgement on the country’s record of gender empowerment saying that Lilian Ngoyi, a women’s liberation icon, would be turning in her grave.

Continues at http://africannewslive.com/?p=13041

Women still suffer alone

Women’s Day, along with the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, is rapidly becoming a special little female ghetto.

It’s time to put sexual violence on the public media Increasingly, these are the only two occasions during the year when some brief discussion around the status of South African women becomes possible.

Otherwise, the political space is largely taken up with men’s battles to be the Big Boss, dodgy tenders and kickbacks, nationalisation debates and general rudeness and incivility.

These are all important – even occasionally entertaining – issues but they push sexual violence right off the public agenda.

For rape is not the individual tragedy of the woman or child concerned, but a matter of serious political concern. Consider the role of the state in the following:

Last year a study by the Medical Research Council (MRC) revealed that one in four men was willing to admit to a researcher that they had raped at least once (and some more often).

Article continues at http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/columnists/2010/08/10/women-still-suffer-alone