Thursday, 28 February 2013

Invisible Women: Making Women Count

As part of the Wikiprogress on Gender Equality series, this progblog article is bought to you by Angela Hariche and Karen Barnes Robinson. 

They graduated together five years ago, and took a job in the same firm in the same city. Three years later, he can afford a down payment on a house and she cannot.

Her day starts with fetching water and firewood and cleaning the compound. Once she has taken care of the needs of the men and children, she leaves for the marketplace to sell vegetables.

She has three young children. Finding it difficult to make ends meet, she is caring for her elderly neighbour on an hourly basis, while working a part-time job as a maid in a local hotel. Neither job comes with healthcare benefits.

These women are not victims. They are agents of change who bring resources, knowledge and capacity to their households, communities and societies. Without these women, the world would be worse off. Yet, they are still not being recognised, paid or valued for the work they do, and society as a whole suffers. Why is it this way? For much of the past two decades, the global economy has experienced a period of significant growth and overall rates of poverty have declined. However, inequalities between men and women, between rich and poor and between urban and rural communities remain rife. Why are women, in particular, not benefiting from global progress?

First, women are not being recognised. They are undervalued. In 2009, the European Commission launched a campaign to address the fact that on average, women earn 17.4% less than men. In the US, research has shown that one year after college, women earn only 80% of what their male colleagues earn. Why aren’t enough women being represented on boards or in politics? Can any of our current measures for economic performance address this issue? There are indicators that measure the percentage of women in senior positions over time but  if a country’s success was based on it, you can bet leaders would work a little harder to appoint women in top positions. If this indicator was important and recognised, imagine what might change.

Second, women are not being counted. They are invisible. Women are 50 percent of the population yet up until now, a lot of the work they do isn’t being considered in current measures of economic resources. What would it mean if all of the work that women do around the world was actually counted and measured over time? Recent research from the UN Research Institute for Social Development argues that if unpaid care work, mostly done by women, was assigned a monetary value, it would amount to between 10 to 39 per cent of GDP. Clearly there is a powerful economic argument for beginning to value women’s work. Unless this work is acknowledged in economic data, then policies will fail to target and support women and their contributions to the global economy will remain invisible. Once we are able to see the work they are doing, we can start counting it. What if there was an indicator called the household work indicator and it too was just as recognized as GDP?

Third, women are not able to access the same opportunities as men. They are marginalised. Globalisation and development processes have transformed men and women’s roles and relations, but this has not necessarily translated into more access to resources and greater empowerment for women or more gender equality. More women end up in the informal sector in ‘bad jobs’, and as recent research by the OECD Development Centre has shown, there is a ‘feminisation of bad jobs’, where discrimination against women leads to them being stuck in jobs with poor working conditions and low or no pay. This has major implications for the health and welfare of their households and their own economic and physical security. Little or no income means that women are also not saving or driving consumption and economic growth. What if there was an indicator called the well-being indicator and it was a measure of economic health of a society and it was fully recognised and supported like the mighty GDP?

We are now in 2013. The world has changed since 1930s when GDP was created. While we recgonise that GDP is a good measure of production, we call for equally powerful indicators that incorporate a broader range of factors including informal work. If these existed, we might see a difference in the world. Can we have sustainable economic growth and global progress when not only are there more women in worse jobs, but they are also consistently paid less for the work that they do or not paid at all? It is a question of supporting women’s rights and gender equality, but it is also a question of supporting smart economics by making sure that measures for progress in societies take women into account. There is considerable work being done on this at the OECD and around the world. However, unleashing the economic and social potential of women and making them visible in government policy is a major global challenge, one that would reap significant economic benefits if  really and truly supported. This would be revolutionary. In the end, it comes down to the fact that what doesn’t count isn’t counted, and we only count what we can see. We have to start seeing women and the work they do.

By Angela Costrini Hariche and Karen Barnes Robinson

See the Wikiprogress Focus on Gender Equality article for further reading. 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Social Media for Girls: The Potential is Explosive

As part of the Wikiprogress on Gender Equality series, this progblog article by Girl Effect focuses on the power of social media to empower girls in Africa and around the world.

Image courtesy of Girl Effect

Social media is a powerful tool in today's world - it connects people across continents and has affected massive social and cultural change. I believe that for girls in particular, the potential it holds is explosive.
Working as a female entrepreneur in Nigeria, I've been able to see first-hand how using it smartly is one of the best ways to overcome communication barriers.  This week, I'll be at Social Media Week Lagos, discussing how social media has the power to change the lives of adolescent girls. As part of the ' Mobilize! Social Media For Social Change' event hosted by Girl Effect, I'll be debating how tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have given Nigerian girls the opportunity to use social media to take part in the global development dialogue.
The importance of social media is clear to me. I'm always using platforms like LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook to make contacts, create links and develop relationships with others. Tools like these expand the communication and engagement I have with those around me, giving me the chance to join the right groups, meet the right people and get my voice out there.
Networking with others on LinkedIn is absolutely crucial in my professional life - it gives me the chance to reach out to new projects and opportunities, as well as share my experiences with influential professionals. On a more personal level, using Facebook means that I can connect to old classmates, friends and family, plus keep them up to date with what's going on in my life on a regular basis.
The same benefits apply to girls, as there are huge opportunities available to them as a result of using social media.
Social media should not just be seen as social networking and having fun. It is fun, but there's also an art to getting it right, and I think it's important that girls discover how they can make their communication with the wider world successful. When used effectively, social media gives them a voice, helps create noise around a cause and brings both local and global attention to issues that matter to them.
An example of how this can be done is the youth social media advocacy campaign I am championing, which uses social media to educate, inform and empower young girls. With programmes like these, girls can learn how to use social media to their advantage; be it to further their career, meet influential business people or simply have their voice heard - learning these skills is vital to them.
Social media is also cheaper - a lot cheaper - than the alternatives. You can reach 1,000 people through the power of social media for a fraction of the cost that you can through television or print. It's also interactive and this two-way relationship is key to the power of social media, and therefore key to the argument for girls using it more.
Through conversations that they can now have with high-level decision makers, NGOs and policy-makers, girls can affect the global agenda for change.
Girls have the potential to be an incredible force in the social media world. By using the technology in the best way possible, they will be able to change their lives and the lives of generations of girls to come.
Follow Girl Effect's session at Social Media Week Lagos using the hash tag #SMWMobilize
To read more articles on Gender Well-being check out our Wikiprogress on Gender Equality Page and we look forward to bringing you more similarly themed articles for the rest of this week.
The Wikiprogress Team 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Highlights of the week

As part of the Wikiprogress on Gender Equality series, this progblog brings you the ‘highlights of the week’. 

This week's highlights are focused on gender and include: Lebanese women taking on judges; the challenges facing Italian women; and a British political party attempts to increase female representation in parliament. Women also continued to make headline news this week as campaigns on gender such as One Billion Rising and Half the sky gain momentum. Finally, Wikigender recently organised an online discussion on Violence Against Women. Perhaps the subject of gender equality is starting to be taken seriously by the media?

Gender and Justice  
Lebanese women took to the streets to demand that their government introduce laws to protect them from domestic violenceCriminalizing marital rape "could lead to the imprisonment of the man," Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a judge in the Sunni religious court, told CNN, "where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights."

This report by the International Development Law Organisation “highlights the critical role legal empowerment strategies can play in changing and challenging oppressive gender relations that are justified under the name of culture, by showcasing an impressive range of legal empowerment approaches in diverse geographical and cultural settings”. The study profiles a great selection of case studies and also discusses the role of discriminatory social institutions
"As we seek to build the world we want, let us intensify our efforts to achieve a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable development path built on dialogue, transparency and social justice." 
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -  Message for the World Day of Social Justice (20 February 2013)

Gender and Politics

Lib Dems draw up job-share plans to boost number of women MPs

As British political parties struggle to find ways to increase female representation in parliament, plans for Members of Parliament (MPs) to job share in parliament are being developed by the Liberal Democrats (currently part of UK coalition government) to up the number of women elected and break up the 'male culture' that still dominates politics.

The six things wrong with Italy – and how to solve them

This Guardian articles outlines the 6 primary challenges that face Italy today, including: a stagnating economy, corruption, organised crime, political apathy, youth unemployment and the “treatment of women”, which came in second! Italy's female employment rate is, according to the OECD, at 46.5% (among the OECD members this is only better than Greece, Mexico and Turkey).

This weeks videos

Women of the (Arab Spring)Revolution - This is a great selection of videos on how women reflect on the changes that have occured in their countries, how they were a part of it, and whether attitudes have changed.

It’s nice to see children’s voices being given a serious platform. This talk is by 13 year-old Logan LaPlante, who wants to be happy and healthy ‘when he grows up’. He discusses how hacking his education is helping him achieve this goal. 

I leave you with a few words in Bangla (my mother tongue) paying tribute to International Mother Language Day which was held on 21 February.

আগামী সপ্তাহে আমি আপনাকে দেখতে হবে

Salema Gulbahar
(Wikiprogress Coordinator)

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Gender Empowerment in India – Challenges and Opportunities.

As a part of the Wikiprogress on Gender Equality series, this progblog on gender empowerment in India is brought to you by one of our favourite bloggers Shailaja Chandra.

Shailaja Chandra gave a  talk on “Gender Empowerment in India – Challenges and Opportunities” to the National Defence College, New Delhi on 8th February 2013. Below is a copy of her slide show, please click on the screen to see the full presentation. 

(A former civil servant, Shailaja Chandra is the Vice President of Initiatives for Change-Centre for Governance, a think tank that supports social reform.)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The voices of young women. Do you hear them?

As a part of the Wikiprogress on Gender Equality series, this progblog on empowering girls and young women is brought to you by Robbie Lawrence, Wikichild Coordinator. 

City Dump in Siem Reap - Courtesy of 10x10 
If you read our Spotlight! Gender Equality and Well-being posted last Friday you would have watched the trailer for ‘Girl Rising’, the feature film made by social action campaigners 10x10 which tells the story of nine girls from nine different walks of life, all seeking self empowerment through education.  The 10x10 team has set out to create a new form of social-issue moviemaking by combining production and advocacy right from the outset of the project’s fruition. The campaign, which brings together the intimacy and emotional thrust of its film with photos, videos, blogs and tweets is an exemplar of the dynamic methods in which organisations today seek to engage their audience. It also represents a ripple in a rapidly growing wave of protests around the world against the social, economic and political inequalities suffered by girls and young women. A wave that is likely to crash down on the impending Post 2015 agenda.

It was, perhaps, the attempt of a heavily male dominated institution to silence the voice of a young Pakistani girl that brought the issue of girl’s rights to the forefront of the Post 2015 discussion. When Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen as she returned home from school she immediately became an icon for voiceless and oppressed girls globally. By expressing her right to an education, Malala almost lost her life, but her attacker’s brutal actions only served to amplify her demands for equity in a transcendently male controlled world.  

Following the attempt on her life, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Malala’s name demanding that children from every continent be in school by 2016 and last week hundreds of thousands of people mobilized to strike and dance for the One Billion Rising campaign in a bid to make her dream become a reality. When the Commission on the Status of Women convenes in New York next month, the weight of the ‘I am Malala’ campaign will undoubtedly weight heavily on the shoulders of the committee.

As the months leading up to the 2015 slip away, activists in favor of empowering girls and young women will hope that the fires ignited by the likes of ‘Girl Rising’ and ‘Malala’s Dream’ will not have cooled. In her recent article, ‘Young People and Inequalities: Recommendations for the post-2015 Development Agenda’, Sara Gold emphasizes the importance of forums like the UN’s ‘Global Online Conversation’, as it provides a platform for people to share their vision of a gender equal world.

We at Wikigender and Wikichild also plan on adding our voice to the global conversation on empowering young women, or should we say, your voice. In line with past online discussions, including this month’s Transforming social norms to prevent violence against women and girls, Wikigender and Wikichild will collaborate to host a forum on adolescent girls and social norms, which will include featured topics such as early marriage, missing women and female genital mutilation. By implementing a recognized location where information can be freely exchanged on topics like gender equality, it is our hope that over time, policy makers will use the reports formed from these discussions as points of reference. As Estelle pointed out in yesterday’s blog Rising against sexual violence! Wikigender will present the findings from their latest discussion at the 57th CSW on the 4th of March. 

Join us for our next online discussion in May on adolescent girls and the social norms getting in the way of their progress. We value your views and will keep you posted.

Wikichild Coordinator