Criminality, School Dropout and Gender Equality

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

I assume it was the Swedish author Stieg Larsson´s Millenium trilogy (2005-2007) that generated the popularity of Scandinavian Crime Fiction, as well numerous movies and TV-series that followed in its wake. A typical Nordic Noir novel takes place within a gloomy landscape of dreary towns, or a semi-deserted countryside, where under the thin surface of an apparently well-ordered society, murder, misogyny, rape, racism and international crime syndicates are thriving.

As a Swede with my roots in a sleepy provincial town where nothing sinister seemed to happen I was inclined to consider Nordic Noir as some kind of Scandinavian magic realism, quite removed from Swedish everyday life. However, reality seems to be changing. In Sweden, as well as in the rest of the world, men are losing their traditional hold on power, as well as occupations that once craved more physical strength than brain power quickly are disappearing, making a woman just as capable as a man to manage any branch of human activities. A development that makes several young men bewildered and foster feelings of powerlessness and misogyny.

During a brief visit to my hometown I recently had a cup of coffee in one of the cafés and became involved in a discussion with one of the locals who use to hang around there. He was a retired police officer and told me:

– Things are changing fast around here. We are now getting our fair share of drug pushers and violent crime. Criminals are better connected, have more money, improved mobility and they actively recruit young guys around here. Youngsters who do not know anything, have dropped out of school and thus cannot get a decent job. They believe through crime they might become somebody, earn money and gain some respect. Most of them are as lost there as they were in school.

I hope he did not talk about any of my former pupils. I had for some years worked as a high school teacher in my hometown. When I made my first stint as teacher not one of my pupils had dropped out, though when I twenty years later returned to the same school, five boys and one girl disappeared from my classes during their first year. Something had happened, but I was unsure of how and why.

In Sweden, women in 2006 surpassed men in educational attainment and since then the gender gap has been widening. In 2016, 48 percent of Swedish women had at least two years of tertiary education, while the corresponding level for men was 35 percent. Gender ratio for applicants to higher education was 60 percent women and 40 percent men.1 PISA2 results from 2012 demonstrated that school performance of Swedish boys was considerably lower than that of girls and this gap was bigger than in any other OECD country. It was speculated that Swedish boys’ extensive computer gaming stole time from their homework. The situation was described as a national crisis and Swedish school policies are currently being overhauled.

In virtually all countries and economies girls do on average outperform boys in reading. Even if gender differences in science performance tend to be small, the share of top performers in science and mathematics is generally larger among boys than among girls. However, with every year this tendency is changing. Even if Finland currently is the only country in which girls are more likely to be top performers in science, other countries are approaching the same condition, while in Finland, Macao, Albania, Macedonia, Georgia, Jordan, Malaysia, Qatar and Trinidad/Tobago, girls scored higher than boys in mathematics.3

In the United Arab Emirates where some earlier barriers to girls schooling have been removed, they now out-perform boys at all levels and across all subjects, while in higher education, women make up 71 percent of graduates. Across the Emirates boys are dropping out of secondary school at rates of up to 20 percent in a single year. This trend has been explained by the fact that boys view connections in pursuit of employment opportunities as more potent in achieving social and economic success, while women consider education as a means to gain social freedom and influence.4 However, there are indications that boys school dropout is becoming a globalized trend. In the Caribbean region, boys´ dropout rate is generally 20 percent higher than the one for girls and similar trends are apparent in the entire LAC region.5 In countries like India, Senegal, the Gambia, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Nepal, where there were far fewer girls than boys enrolled in secondary school in 2000, the situation had by 2016 been reversed, leaving boys further behind than girls.

Does it matter if more boys than girls drop out of school, and/or to a lesser degree attend higher education? I asked the retired police officer if he thought boys were more inclined to commit crimes than girls:

– Without doubt, he answered. If a girl ends up in crime it´s due to her background, her earlier experiences and not so much because she had left school too early. With boys it´s different. The fact that they are out of school too early makes them inclined to commit crime. I think that for some of them it´s a status thing, if they fail with everything else they can at least succeed in crime.

The modern world increasingly requires specific knowledge and skills, making people with limited schooling ever more marginalized. The risk of becoming poor, socially excluded and having poor health, as well as being trapped in delinquency is dramatically higher among youth who exit education before having reached an upper secondary/high school diploma. The old police also appeared to be correct about girls and crime – research indicates that much fewer girls than boys are trapped in crime due to school dropout.6

For example, in Sweden high school dropouts are much less likely to be able to support themselves from a regular income. They have a mortality risk three times that of graduates, and are five times as likely to have been sentenced to prison by the age of thirty. Furthermore, dropouts tend to be inhibited by the social bonds the school and/or a steady job may provide and instead find security in criminal bonding. They become frustrated when aspirations cannot be fulfilled due to their miserable socioeconomic status. A recent Swedish Government report pointed out school failure as the single most important predictor for becoming a member of the NEET group, i.e persons “Not in Education, Employment or Training.” In EU countries the numbers of NEETs are estimated to 15 percent of people between 15 and 29 years of age. According to the police officer I met it is among this group of people criminals are recruited.

While I after my meeting with the retired police officer was driving home through the dark Swedish forest I imagined that if nothing was done to address men´s feelings of powerlessness, Nordic Noir could soon shift from being magic realism to becoming a description of an actual, global reality.

1 https://english.uka.se/
2 OECD´s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study evaluating educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading.
3 http://www.oecd.org/pisa/
4 https://www.thenational.ae/there-are-many-reasons-why-boys-drop-out-of-school-1.687412
5 https://gemreportunesco.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/promoting-changes-in-gender-norms-in-latin-america-why-boys-education-matters/
6This and much of the following is based on Bäckman, Olof (2017) ‘High School Dropout, Resource Attainment, and Criminal Convictions’. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, No. 54.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

Three Ex-UN Leaders Form Women’s Group to Save Multilateralism

In Dakar, staff members from UN Women Senegal and other UN agencies attend a presentation on sexual harassment in the workplace, part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 2016.

By Dulcie Leimbach
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

As multilateralism takes a beating from President Trump amid the “new world disorder,” as one European diplomat put it, three women who know the United Nations inside and out through previous top leadership jobs have originated a Group of Women Leaders for Change and Inclusion.

The goal is to bring together former UN female colleagues who held top jobs as well to “partner and raise our voices on matters regarding women equality and multilateralism,” said Susana Malcorra, one of the three women who started the group.

“By now we are more than 25 and keep adding.”

The other two former UN leaders behind it are Helen Clark, who ran the UN Development Program from 2009 to 2017 and was the prime minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008; and Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian politician who was the director-general of Unesco from 2009 to 2017.

Dulcie Leimbach

They plan to advocate for gender equality and multilateralism through op-eds, papers, conferences, mentoring and other sources in multiple languages “to shed light into matters that each one of us have worked in our different fields of expertise,” Malcorra said.

Malcorra, an Argentine, was the chief of cabinet for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from 2012 to 2015 and previously led the UN Department of Field Support.

She left the UN to become foreign minister of her country under President Mauricio Macri. She left that post in 2017 to move to Madrid to be near her family, she said.

All three women were candidates in 2016 for UN secretary-general, to succeed Ban, a South Korean.

Of 13 candidates, seven were women. António Guterres, who ran the UN Refugee Agency for 10 years and was a prime minister of Portugal, was selected by the UN Security Council for a five-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

No woman has ever headed the UN.

The three women are now affiliated with different academia, think tanks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The idea for the initiative, which has no outside financing yet, came from a conversation among the women, Malcorra said, at last fall’s annual General Assembly open debate. It took shape in November and December, when the “scouting” process began.

“We felt that, as candidates to become SG” — secretary-general — “it would be very powerful to launch this together.”

The trio are introducing the group as the International Women’s Day approaches, on March 8, and the yearly UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) kicks off for 11 days on March 11.

They will use their personal Twitter handles to promote the group and these hashtags: #WomenLeadersForPositiveChange; #WomenForMultilateralism; and #WomenLeadersForInclusiveChange.

The timing of the group’s debut coincides as other international efforts to reinforce multilateralism — the policy of countries working jointly to solve global problems — include France and Germany partnering for the first time as rotating presidents of the UN Security Council for March and April, respectively.

The launching also occurs as France and Germany work jointly to keep Europe unified while Britain exits from the European Union and some politicians elsewhere in Europe — such as in Hungary and Italy — seem intent on fragmenting the continent further.

This is a “loosely connected” network of women, former colleagues and friends, Malcorra said of the new group, “who share some serious concerns about the state of the world, the multilateral institutions and, particularly, about a trend to pushback policies regarding gender parity and women empowerment. The signs we see are very worrisome in this regard.”

The group has written an open, two-page letter, which begins: “We join our voices as women colleagues who have worked in governments and in multilateral organizations in support of promoting humanitarian relief, advocating for human rights principles and normative policies, advancing sustainable development, and resolving some of the world’s most complex conflicts.

“We ourselves have leveraged multilateralism in order to drive positive change for peoples and our planet. Now we collectively call attention to the need to achieve full gender equality and empowerment of women across all ambits of society and the critical importance of multilateralism as a vehicle in support of that.”

The space that women leaders now collectively occupy, the letter warned, was “not opened up easily and can never be taken for granted.”

It is signed by, among others, Sahle-Work Zewde, the president of Ethiopia who served as UN envoy to the African Union; Baroness Valerie Amos, a Briton who ran the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; Ertharin Cousin, an American who directed the World Food Program; Louise Fréchette, a Canadian diplomat who was a UN deputy secretary-general; Navi Pillay, a South African judge who was most recently the UN’s high commissioner for human rights; Mary Robinson, an ex-president of Ireland and former UN high commissioner for human rights; Zainab Bangura, a politician from Sierra Leone who was the UN’s envoy on sexual violence in conflict; and Radhika Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan who served as a UN envoy for children and armed conflict.

What can women bring to multilateralism that is different from what men can offer?

“What women always bring to the table: a different and enriching perspective,” Malcorra said. “But multilateralism is also key to the advancement of policy discussions about gender as the Beijing Conference [on women in 1995] proved. CSW is not moving as envisioned and we must keep pushing.”

The initiative, Malcorra added, will not finish in March. “We expect to continue until UNGA” — the annual UN General Assembly opening debate, in the fall.

*Previously, Dulcie Leimbach was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association (UNA) of the USA, where she edited its flagship magazine, The InterDependent, and migrated it online in 2010. She was also the senior editor of UNA’s annual book, “A Global Agenda: Issues Before the UN.” She has also worked as an editorial consultant to various UN agencies. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed.

Building Successful Social Enterprises

By Stella Paul
Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

Marie Lisa Dacanay is the president of Manila–based Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia. With 20 years of experience in development management, social entrepreneurship and enterprise development, Dacanay is also a university professor and an acclaimed author with several books on social entrepreneurship in Asia.

Today, Dacanay was at the Regional Assembly of Organisations of People Affected by Leprosy in Asia where she presented some valuable ideas and advises on how to build successful models of social enterprises. The assembly was supported by the Nippon Foundation (TNF)/Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation (SMHF).

In this video she tells IPS what models of entrepreneurship can especially be tried by how people from the most marginalised and vulnerable sections of the society – such as those affected by leprosy.

Leprosy Survivor Creates Hope and Support for Others Affected by Disease

Filipino businessman Ariel Lazarte was diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease in 2014. Since his treatment he has built a successful business and has become a patron for those affected by the disease. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

By Nalisha Adams
MANILA, Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

When Ariel Lazarte from Quezon City, Philippines, was first diagnosed with leprosy in 2014, his life seemed as if it were falling apart. But now more than four years later Lazarte’s life is a huge contrast from the poverty and isolation he experienced as a person affected by leprosy.

Now the owner of multiple businesses, including ones in transport and construction, and the owner of a large family home as well as an in-patient home for persons receiving treatment for leprosy, Lazarte was driven to become a success by his strong desire to help others.

“I didn’t get any help from my family, my friends, my relatives. I only trusted the doctor,” Lazarte tells IPS of the year he spent receiving treatment for leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s Disease. “I was very thirsty for the help from others. I was in need.”

He was one of the participants of the Regional Assembly of Organisations of People Affected by Leprosy in Asia. The assembly is being held in Manila, Philippines, Mar. 3 to 5 and is supported by the Nippon Foundation (TNF)-one of the biggest private foundations in Japan that has been working to provide assistance to people with leprosy since 1975.

At the time of the diagnosis, the then 32-year-old who worked as a manager in a fast food store, was able to afford treatment at a private hospital. But instead of being cured, his condition worsened.

Eventually, he lost his job and felt more and more alone as his wife stopped sharing a bed with him and his friends stopped visiting. His wife’s dried fish kiosk business become their sole support of income and much of the money was spent on survival and not medicine.

And while he kept receiving treatment, he kept thinking: “I’m dying.”

Eventually Lazarte’s doctor told him he couldn’t cure him and referred him to the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital. He began an 8-month treatment course that eventually cured him.

“The doctor promised me I would be helped. And I promised that I would help those with leprosy,” Lazarte says, explaining that it didn’t want others who were affected by the disease to experience what he did.

According to Dr. Maria Francia Laxamana, Assistant Secretary in the Philippines Department of Health, the country has 1,000 new leprosy patients a year. Of these only one in four receive treatment because many fear the social stigma.

Unique to the Philippines, jeepneys are long wheel based taxis, converted from American jeeps left in the country after World War II. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

But after a year of treatment that cured him of Hansen’s Disease, Lazarte started fulfilling his promise.

Lazarte started small. With 15 dollars, he bought some shorts and pillows and began selling them. Soon he bought a tricycle – a Filipino transport bicycle with a small cab. And soon he owned seven of these.

And then later he was able to afford a jeepney. Unique to the Philippines, jeepneys are long wheel based taxis, converted from American jeeps left in the country after World War II.

He is now the owner of 12 jeepneys.

With the money from the businesses he built a 4-bedroom in-patient home for those receiving treatment for Hansen’s disease. Situated just outside the capital, it houses people receiving treatment at the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital. The property also has a car so the patients can drive to the hospital, which is some 45 minutes away, for their check ups.

He’s very clear about what he spent the income from these business on in the early days. “I knew that my wife was able to support my children …so I kept on dreaming of having enough money to buy my afford to the house [for the leprosy patients].”

While they now have a large home and not all Lazarte’s income goes into the in-patient home, Lazarte says that wants the Hansen’s Disease patients to learn to self-sufficient. They have a garden to plant vegetables for resale and recently received funding for a poultry project.

“I started my own pathway for my own direction,” he tells IPS.

Violence Fuels Mobilisation by Women against Brazil’s Anti-Gender Equality Government

Landscaper Elaine Caparroz, 55, nine days after being brutally beaten in her residence by a man with whom she had an eight-month Internet relationship. Aided by the doorman of her building, she survived with bruises on her entire body, a broken tooth and 60 stitches. Hers is just one of the more high-profile cases of women murdered or assaulted in Brazil, which in 2018 totaled 4.7 million or 536 every hour. Credit: EBC

Landscaper Elaine Caparroz, 55, nine days after being brutally beaten in her residence by a man with whom she had an eight-month Internet relationship. Aided by the doorman of her building, she survived with bruises on her entire body, a broken tooth and 60 stitches. Hers is just one of the more high-profile cases of women murdered or assaulted in Brazil, which in 2018 totaled 4.7 million or 536 every hour. Credit: EBC

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

Crime, a key issue in far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s election in Brazil, has a dimension that is gaining in visibility and could turn against his government: gender violence.

Elaine Caparroz, a 55-year-old landscaper, was beaten for four hours in the early hours of Jan. 16 in her own home. As a result, she was unrecognisable, lost a tooth and needed 60 stitches.

This was the highest-profile case in recent days in this country of 209 million people, where so far this year, up to Feb. 22, there were 176 victims of femicide and 109 unsuccessful gender-based murders, according to the daily monitoring of cases by Jefferson Nascimento, a lawyer and researcher from São Paulo, based on press reports.”The new laws encourage women to report the attacks, but many cases of violence remain hidden, because women are afraid, they do not believe in the judicial system, many depend financially on their violent husbands, and there is a lack of effective policies.” — Ana Miria Carinhanha

Caparroz’s attacker, with whom she had an Internet relationship for eight months before taking him into her home, was caught in the act, arrested and charged with attempted femicide, which was specifically defined as a crime in Brazil in 2015, with stiff penalties as it is considered to have aggravating factors.

Other cases of women killed or wounded by gunshots or knives, sometimes in front of their children, have shaken Brazil so far this year, drawing more attention to the statistics and the perception of an increase in gender-based violence in Latin America’s giant.

There were 4.7 million physical attacks in 2018, or 536 per hour, according to the report “The Victimisation of Women in Brazil” by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, in its second edition released on Feb. 26. In the first edition, with data from 2016, there were respectively 4.4 million in total, or 503 per hour.

In 2018, the attacker was known by the victim in 76.4 percent of cases, compared to 61 percent in 2016 – most often the partner, ex-partner, ex-boyfriend or neighbor.

The data is based on a survey carried out by the Datafolha Institute, which interviewed 2,084 people across Brazil on Feb. 5-6.

“We have laws and protocols, but there is a lack of public policies to deal with violence. Women’s police stations, for example, cover less than 10 percent of Brazil’s 5,570 municipalities, and most are concentrated in the wealthier regions, the South and Southeast,” said Marisa Sanematsu, director of content at the Patricia Galvão Agency, a women’s rights organisation based in São Paulo.

This is a result of the apparent contradiction between the passage of several laws that stiffened the sentences for crimes against women and the rise in gender-based violence.

In 2006, the Maria da Penha Law established harsh penalties for domestic violence and discrimination against women, in addition to creating specific courts and mechanisms to protect and assist victims.

The Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves, inherited functions from the now-defunct secretariats of Policies for Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights. She describes herself as "extremely Christian" and forms part of the ultraconservative religious core of Jair Bolsonaro's government, which defends the traditional family, rejects "gender ideology" and prioritises the fight against organised delinquency but not against gender violence. Credit: EBC

The Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves, inherited functions from the now-defunct secretariats of Policies for Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights. She describes herself as “extremely Christian” and forms part of the ultraconservative religious core of Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which defends the traditional family, rejects “gender ideology” and prioritises the fight against organised delinquency but not against gender violence. Credit: EBC

The law is named after a woman who was left paraplegic by two murder attempts by her then husband in 1983.

The mother of three, now 74 years old, became an activist for women’s rights.

In addition, since 2015, a new law on femicide has classified it as an “atrocious crime” which is an aggravating factor that leads to harsher sentences than other homicides.

“Legislative advances in and of themselves are of little use if they are not accompanied by protective measures, support networks for victims, and actions to ensure that the laws are enforced,” argued Sanematsu.

Because of this, many women are afraid to report the attacks, as they have no protection against possible reprisals, and have nowhere to turn for the defence of their rights, she said.

“The new laws encourage women to report the attacks, but many cases of violence remain hidden, because women are afraid, they do not believe in the judicial system, many depend financially on their violent husbands, and there is a lack of effective policies,” said Ana Miria Carinhanha, a lawyer who works with Criola, an organisation that advocates for the rights of black women.

And the situation is getting worse due to the economic crisis and the consequent scarcity of public resources and also due to the conservative orientation of the extreme right-wing government, which came to power on Jan. 1 with a markedly sexist discourse whose 22-member ministerial cabinet includes only two women.

In addition to prioritising the fight against alleged “gender ideology,” which is supposedly poisoning education and society, Bolsonaro signed as one of his first measures a decree that makes it easier to keep firearms at home and at work.

The government has also pledged to extend to civilians the authorisation to carry weapons in public places, which is becoming more and more widely permitted – as well as criticised – in the United States, in the wake of a spate of school shootings and other mass killings.

“This increases the risk of femicide and also further inhibits women for reporting attacks, out of fear of guns,” which are traditionally used by men and are “a deceptive defence mechanism,” lamented Sanematsu, a journalist who specialises in gender violence.

Millions of women poured onto the streets in demonstrations ahead of the October elections, under the slogan #EleNão (#NotHim) to prevent the triumph by Bolsonaro, known for making misogynistic, racist and anti-democratic statements during his years as a lawmaker, between 1990 and 2018.

The protests failed to block the election of the former army captain, although a lower percentage of women than men voted for him.

It is now clear that for the government the priority is the fight against organised crime, especially drug trafficking, and corruption. Its approach to the question of domestic violence, “is still unclear, which is a bad sign, even though society considers it an important problem and is demanding solutions,” said Sanematsu.

For this reason, women’s rights groups are organising protest marches throughout Brazil on Mar. 8, International Women’s Day, against femicide and other sexist violence, general violence, and the expansion of access to firearms.

According to a report by the Brazilian Public Safety Forum, 42 percent of attacks on women occur in the home, compared to 29 percent on the street.

Black women are the most frequent victims. The survey found that 28.4 percent of black women suffered physical aggression in 2018, against 27.4 percent of all Brazilian women over 16 and 24.7 percent of white women.

The “structural racism” in the country also means that more black people in general are murdered, and that black women are less covered by public policies and earn lower wages, said Carinhanha.

That is why Mar. 8 will also be marked by demonstrations by black women and campaigns against racism, she announced.

“The new government promotes institutional and personal violence, and is aggressive and intolerant of civil society organisations,” and in response society must mobilise, she argued.

“Women are the great force against violence and for equality in Brazil today, along with the new generation of young people,” said historian Daniel Aarão Reis, a professor at the Federal University Fluminense, in Niterói, a city near Rio de Janeiro.

In his opinion, they should avoid the fragmentation that occurred in the United States, where the recent growing female protagonism has been marked by “identity patterns separating black and white women.”

He also warned that in the early days of Bolsonaro’s government, women’s advocates took sometimes contradictory actions and decisions, and said they should be “more cohesive” and more forceful now that the opposition and popular protests are growing.

Hope Springs Once Again for Nigeria’s Returnee Migrants

Many returned migrants in Nigeria are involved in an IOM sponsored initiative aimed at sensitising potential migrants about the dangers of irregular migration. Credit: Sam Olukoya/IPS   

By Sam Olukoya
BENIN CITY, Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

Nigeria accounts for some of the largest number of irregular migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa.

Since April 2017, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has assisted over 10,000 stranded migrants in Libya, Niger, Mali and other transit or destination countries to return to Nigeria. 

This is being done under the European Union (EU)-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

Some of the returned migrants have successfully settled down to a new life of business under the EU-IOM initiative. But beyond this, some of them are taking time off their business schedules to volunteer for an IOM-sponsored advocacy programme called Migrants as Messengers, which is aimed at sensitising potential migrants about the dangers of embarking on irregular migration.

 

Saving for a ‘Rainy Day’ Takes on New Meaning in Caribbean

Extreme weather associated to climate change has resulted in million of dollars in loss and damage in St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the past few years. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

In the tiny eastern Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, proverbs relating to the weather are very common.

Everyone knows that “Who has cocoa outside must look out for rain”, has nothing to do with the drying of the bean from which chocolate is made or the sudden downpours common in this tropical nation.

So when the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines announced in 2018 that there was a need to put aside some money for “a rainy day” because of climate change, citizens knew that the expression was both figurative and literal.

In this country, highly dependent on tourism, visitors stay in hotel and other rented accommodation have to contribute 3 dollars per night to the climate change fund.

They join residents who had been contributing to the Climate Resilience Levy, for over one year, paying a one percent consumption charge. The funds go into the Contingency Fund.

As with many other small island developing states, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has had to struggle to finance mitigation and adaptation for climate change.

In the year since the Climate Resilience levy was established, 4.7 million dollars has been saved for the next “rainy day”.

The savings represents a minuscule portion of the scores of million of dollars in damage and loss wrought by climate change in this archipelagic nation over the last few years.

In just under six hours in 2013, a trough system left damage and loss amounting to 20 percent of the GDP and extreme rainfall has left millions of dollars in damage and loss almost annually since then.

The 4.7 million dollars in the climate fund is mere 18 percent of the 25 million dollars that lawmakers have budgeted for “environmental protection” in 2019, including climate change adaptation and mitigation.

However, it is a start and shows what poorer nations can do, locally, amidst the struggle to get developed nations to stand by their commitments to help finance climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“Never before in the history of independent St. Vincent and the Grenadines have we managed to explicitly set aside such resources for a rainy day,” Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves told lawmakers this month as he reported on the performance of the fund in its first year.

He said that in 2019, the contingency fund is expected to receive an additional 4.7 million dollars.

“While this number remains small in the face of the multi-billion potential of a major natural disaster, it is nonetheless significant. If we are blessed with continued good fortune, in the near term, the Contingency Fund will be a reliable, home-grown cushion against natural disasters,” Gonsalves told legislators.

He said the fund will also stand as an important signal to the international community that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is committed to playing a leading role in its own disaster preparation and recovery.

Dr. Reynold Murray, a Vincentian environmentalist, welcomes the initiative, but has some reservations.

“I am worried about levies because very often, the monies generally get collected and go into sources that don’t reach where it is supposed to go,” he told IPS.

“That’s why I am more for the idea of the funding being in the project itself, whatever the initiative is, that that initiative addresses the climate issues.

“For example, if you are building a road, there should be the climate adaption monies in that project so that people build proper drains, that they look at the slope stabilisation, that they look at run off and all that; not just pave the road surface. That’s a waste of time, because the water is going to come the next storm and wash it away.”

Murray told IPS he believes climate change adaptation and mitigation would be best addressed if the international community stands by its expressed commitments to the developing world.

“My honest opinion is that a lot of that financing has to come from the developed countries that are the real contributors to the greenhouse problem,” he told IPS.

“That is not to say that the countries themselves have no obligation. We have to protect ourselves. So there must be a programme at the national level, where funds are somehow channelled into addressing adaptation and mitigation. The mitigation is more with the large, industrialised countries, but small countries like us, especially the Windward Islands, mitigation is our big issues…”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is making small strides as a time when the finance minister said the 437 million dollar budget that lawmakers approved for 2019 and the nation’s long-term developmental plans, must squarely confront the reality of climate change.

“This involves recovery and rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure, investing in resilience and adaptation, setting aside resources to prepare for natural disasters, adopting renewable energy and clean energy technologies, and strengthening our laws and practices related to environmental protection,” the finance minister said.

South Africa elections 2019: Journalist safety kit

Art: Jack Forbes

By Editor, CPJ
Mar 4 2019 (IPS-Partners)

South Africa, one of the media freedom beacons in sub-Saharan Africa, will hold national and provincial elections on May 8. As the country celebrates 25 years of democracy, the press in South Africa faces old and new challenges, including physical harassment and cyber bullying. The press freedom environment, including the safety of journalists, will be one of the key indicators for the health of the country’s democracy and the freeness and fairness of its polls.

CPJ’s Emergencies Response Team (ERT) has compiled a Safety Kit for journalists covering South Africa’s election. The kit contains information for editors, reporters, and photojournalists on how to prepare for the election and how to mitigate digital, physical and psychological risk.

Journalists requiring assistance can contact CPJ via emergencies@cpj.org.

CPJ’s Journalist Security Guide has additional information on basic preparedness and assessing and responding to risk. CPJ’s resource center has additional information and tools for pre-assignment preparation and post-incident assistance.

Menu:
Editor’s Safety Checklist
Physical Safety: Covering rallies and protests
Physical Safety: Covering hostile communities
Physical Safety: Covering crime
Digital Safety: Basic device preparedness
Digital Safety: Identifying bots
Digital Safety: Online harassment
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International Women’s Day: Don’t Let Anyone Tell You How Far You Can Go

By Leire Gurruchaga Iraola
BARCELONA, Mar 4 2019 (IPS)

The data – with its sexism and its gaps – shows us that many of the barriers girls experience are determined merely by their gender.

This inequality, present in all societies, is by far the most widespread bias. At Educo we are determined, like the women and girls we work with, to put a stop to this injustice. And not just on International Women’s Day March 8, but every day.

During the next decade, 14.2 million girls under the age of 18 will be married each year. That’s 39,000 girls every single day. In Mali, where Educo works, 52% of girls are married before they turn 18.

Meanwhile, of the 57 million primary-school-age children out of education, 31 million are girls. In Bolivia, another country where Educo operates, women in urban centres have an average of 10.2 years in school, and in rural areas just 4.9 years.

Overall the most dangerous place for women is considered to be India, due to the high risk of sexual violence and slave labour. Educo has been present in India since 2009 working with some of the most vulnerable – but resilient – members of society, such as Priya Mitra.

Priya was spotted one day loitering in a red-light district in India’s Mumbai by a team from Prerana, a local NGO Educo supports. The seven-year-old had come to Mumbai from West Bengal with her mother, Neelam, after her alcoholic father died suddenly. Vulnerable, broke and in search of work, Neelam was sold into the sex trade.

The team made contact with Neelam through Priya. Three months after this first encounter, Neelam was attending regular life skills workshops for mothers, while Priya was enrolled in an education support program.

The project Priya attended was primarily focused on instilling in the children and mothers from red-light areas the importance of formal education.

The following year, Priya started school where she excelled receiving a scholarship, much to the joy of her mother. “I will support her education as long as she wants to study. I will stay in Mumbai and give her the best education I can,” says Neelam Mitra.

By the age of 11, Priya was an active member – and the youngest – of a children’s collective focused on equal participation and democracy. As well as her activism and volunteering at a local youth centre, Priya is a keen and skilled singer who was one of eight children selected for a cultural exchange program in Canada.

Receiving an education like this is critical for girls but is often overlooked due to deep patriarchal structures. In Mali, where child marriage as a tradition is being challenged, girls are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of school.

This means that despite government efforts to promote gender equity, the education gap between girls and boys remains wide.

In 2015, Educo in Mali set up a scholarship program aimed at primary-school-age girls, while their mothers learnt more about income generation and budgeting for school supplies.

The increase in these mothers’ economic capacity has not only enabled them to cover their daughters’ school costs but has improved their status within the family and community.

So far, over 2000 girls have benefited from this program, of which 95% have remained in primary school and 80% have gone on to secondary school. “The project officers give me a lot of courage because every day they come to my school with advice on how to study at home and how to be diligent in class,” says Fadimata Dramé.

This rural community in central Mali has subsequently changed in many positive ways for the women and girls there. Most notably, there has been a significant decrease in the number of child marriages and none of the girls involved in the scholarship program have been wed early.

Gender discrimination is enough of a hurdle for women and girls but add a disability into this mix of injustice and it is an even more difficult scenario. In Bolivia, 3 out of every hundred people has a disability. But this has not stopped Andrea Cornejo from achieving.

At 9 years old Andrea was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 2, a rare degenerative disease that took away the strength in her muscles. She had to wait until the was sixteen for an operation, which led to her becoming a wheelchair user.

This operation marked the before and after in her life. Aware of the discrimination women and girls faced in Bolivia already, she was now struck with the additional bias against people with disabilities.

It was not only these physical barriers, from schools to public transport not being wheelchair-friendly but also the sheer attitudes of so many people, that led Andrea to become an activist.

“Children and adolescents with disabilities must stop being seen as victims and become protagonists,” she says. In 2015 she was elected as a municipal councilor in Bolivia’s La Paz.

Like for Andrea, Educo’s work is built upon the belief that all children should have the opportunity to fulfill their rights, irrespective of their gender, ability or any other status. But as the data show us, girls and women are severely discriminated against across the world.

Promoting gender equity and the rights of women and girls is not only a question of social justice, but an inherent principle of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an essential requisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN theme for this International Women’s Day is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”. Through Educo’s work, we know that women and girls can and do think equal, build smart and innovate for change as long as they are given the opportunity. Just like Priya, Fadimata and Andrea.

We call for every woman and girl to have the right and the real possibility to decide and to build the future she wants for her body and for her life. We call for a diverse and colourful world in which pink and blue do not impose limits, where no one tells any woman or girl how far she can go today or any day.

* Some names have been changed