Malayah Harper

7 March, 2017

I often reflect on the tremendous organising energy that came from the 1994 clarion call “women’s rights are human rights”. Yet despite more than 20 years of progressive international commitments for gender equality, in the last five years, the space for civil society engaged in gender equality and women’s empowerment has been shrinking. This diminishing space has been most profound for those civil society organisations (CSOs) working to secure the most basic right of all – control of our own bodies and destinies.

Every woman, adolescent, and girl, has the right to decide whether, with whom, and at what moment to have children. We have the right to choose whether and whom to marry.  This is the central pre-condition to reduce unintended pregnancies, end child marriage, keep girls in school and expand opportunities for young women, not just to survive but to thrive.  This is the corner stone for gender equality, women’s empowerment and Planet 50:50.

Credit: World YWCA

It is often said that change takes a long time, but change can also be sudden, severe, and profound: on 23 January, just two days after ½ million women and men marched on Washington in support of Women’s rights, and after only three days in office, US President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City policy, also referred to as a global gag rule (GGR).

The GGR stops any and all US government funds to international organisations that provide abortion counselling, referrals or services or education on reproductive choices. The US is the biggest funder of reproductive health across the globe, and this backtrack on women’s rights will lead to an immediate loss of USD$575 million annually in funding, and threatens up to USD$9.5 billion as it extends to other US global health programs such as those working on Zika virus, HIV, etc.  It is predicted that the cut will lead to an alarming increase of 4.8 million unintended pregnancies, 1.7 million unsafe abortions, and 20,000 maternal deaths annually.  The global gag rule has used women’s reproductive rights as a bargaining chip in US politics for years, and is put in place with each Republican administration and removed with each Democratic one. The Trump administration, however, has expanded the GGR’s reach to all global health funding, with the impact hitting almost exclusively civil society organisations and the greatest consequences falling upon the most marginalised women in poor countries. MORE

Patrick Watt

17 May, 2016

Asha* was just 13 when she was forced to move in with her aunts because her parents had to move away for work. Despite the change, she was optimistic. She was looking forward to starting secondary school – and felt lucky in a country, Tanzania, where three-quarters of girls don’t get more than a primary education.

But when Asha moved, her aunts broke the news that they could not pay for her school fees. Devastated, Asha had to drop out of school and put her future hopes on hold.

That same year, aged 13, she was forced to marry. Her husband quickly became abusive, beating her daily and often withholding food. Soon she was pregnant and felt like she lost all hope to continue her education.

It’s the situation of children like Asha, denied the right to survive and learn through a combination of poverty and discrimination, which has driven Save the Children to launch its new global campaign, Every Last Child.

RS54883_Save the Children Tanzania 1-4-13 Sala Lewis_Verve 043

We know the world has made unprecedented progress for children. Since 1990, the world has halved child mortality and the number of out-of-school children. But it’s also the case that there’s a huge unfinished agenda. Each year, over six million children die from preventable causes. Almost 60 million children remain out of primary school, and four times that number are in school but failing to learn. Increasingly, these children are being denied the opportunity to survive and learn because of who they are and where they live. We need new and innovative approaches to reach the most excluded children and deliver on the ambition set out in the Global Goals. MORE

Joanna Maycock

8 March, 2016

At the European Women’s Lobby, we unite women’s organisations from across Europe fighting for a Feminist Europe in which gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving the well-being of all people and the planet. As part of our campaigning platform, we call for women to be at the heart of decision-making in politics, government, business, institutions, and in civil society.

EWL Young Feminist Summer School 2015 © Isabella Borelli

There has been increasing public attention to the lack of women in political and economic decision making overall: more than 75% of national parliamentarians and more than 80% of members of corporate boards are men. However, very little attention has been paid to the failure of our own sector to address gender inequality in leadership. Most of the evidence I have seen suggests that around 75% of all the staff employed in civil society organisations (CSOs) are women, but less than 30% of the leaders of the largest CSOs are women. But this is not only about having more women operating within a system, it is also about transforming the nature of the systems of decision-making to ensure they are more inclusive, diverse and effective. At its core it is about reconsidering what leadership skills and attributes, and what institutions and structures, are needed for transformative leadership in the 21st century. MORE