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UN chief calls for gender equality as world marks Women’s Day | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Antonio Guterres [center], United Nations Secretary-General, Margaret Kenyatta [right], Wife of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Sahle-Work Zewde [left], Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) attend International Women’s Day celebrations in Nairobi. This year’s theme is “Be Bold For Change.” XINHUA PHOTO - CHARLES ONYANGO

UN chief calls for gender equality as world marks Women’s Day

by Njoroge Kaburo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday joined Kenyans as they commemorated the International Women’s Day (IWD) in Nairobi where he stressed that chauvinism must be defeated all over the world for gender equality to succeed.

Guterres said the world is far from realizing the much talked about gender parity because many societies across the world are male dominated.

"Many societies have the tendency to hide family violence," he said during the celebrations, adding that it was much better to resolve conflicts with the involvement of women.

Guterres regretted that there was significant resistance for gender parity in many societies all over the world where initiatives towards gender equality face many obstacles.

"Everywhere we have a male dominated culture.

"We are still far from achieving gender equality all over the world," he told participants who included First Lady Margaret Kenyatta who delivered the keynote address from President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Guterres said many violations against women and girls were taking place in families where serious abuses were always put under cover.

He said many institutions including the government, parliament, corporates and schools are better off when they practice gender equality.

Speaking earlier during a joint news conference with Kenyatta, the UN chief said he had seen in his past capacity as High Commissioner for Refugees, the suffering of women in the most tragic circumstances that one can imagine.

"I have seen women being the great victims of poverty, of conflict, of violations of human rights in different parts of the world.

"The protection of women in these circumstances in absolutely essential but I believe that the only way to make that protection effective is to give full priority to the empowerment of women," he said.

He called on governments to give full priority to the full presence of women in government institutions, in political systems, in the business community, on the board of companies, in peace negotiations, in all aspects of society of today’s world.

"We do believe with a full presence of women in our societies, development will be stronger, peace will be easier to maintain, human rights will also be better protected," Guterres said.

Analysts say the presence of the UN boss at the celebrations where he was recognized as a special guest symbolically underlined the pole position the global body places on women in the world.

President Kenyatta reaffirmed the government’s zero-tolerance to any violence or discrimination against women and girls across the country.

He said the IWD was a special occasion the world over, to not only celebrate the gains made towards women empowerment, but to take stock of challenges and make renewed commitments toward gender parity.

He said no country can claim to be modern and progressive unless it recognizes the importance of gender equality.

"Let me underscore that gender empowerment is important to any society that considers itself modern and progressive.

"But equally and more fundamental is the need to ensure the protection of the rights of women and girls," said the president.

In a speech read on his behalf by the First Lady, the president said Kenya has made remarkable progress in implementing global, regional as well as national commitments on gender equality and empowerment of women.

He said Kenya’s record on women is clearly elaborated in major continental frameworks like the Maputo Protocol which is the Bill of Rights for women in Africa, the AU solemn Declaration of Gender Equality in Africa and most recently Africa’s Agenda 2063- a development framework that aims to achieve a continent that is integrated, peaceful, prosperous and people-centred.

Kenyatta said Kenya takes pride in the many achievements the country has made by investing in priority intervention that are of great benefit to its women.


United Nations encourage gender parity in Kenya’s corporates

by Ronald Njoroge NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A UN official on Tuesday called for greater participation of women in senior management positions in Kenya’s corporates in order to promote inclusive growth.

Arjmand Banu Khan, UN Women’s Programme Specialist for Women Economic Empowerment programme, told journalists in Nairobi that the low participation of women poses a challenge to the country’s development efforts.

"Studies globally have indicated that firms that have gender parity tend to perform better compared to their peers that don’t have strong representation of women in senior positions," Khan said during a forum to raise awareness on the importance of Gender Equality to the Capital Markets.

Khan noted that Kenya has made tremendous strides in the appointment of women to boards of state owned enterprises. "However, the private sector is still lagging behind in gender parity," she added.

The UN official said that there is need to identify the gaps that exist that led to low participation of women in senior positions in corporates.

According to Khan, the amount of men and women who join corporate annually is almost similar.

"However men tend to rise the corporate ladder much faster as compared to women," she said.

According to UN Women, women face challenges in the workplace such as the need to balance family life and careers.

Khan said that due to family commitment, women have a higher exit rate at their workplace as compared to their male counterparts.

She said that having women in senior positions helps the firm as they tend to be more consultative before making critical decisions.


Rwanda marks Women’s Day, calling to close gender gap

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- The International Women’s Day was marked Wednesday in Rwanda with a call to close the gender gap.

Speaking at the national celebrations in Nyabihu, in western Rwanda, First Lady Jeannette Kagame said national development cannot be achieved if the biggest percent of the population is excluded.

Women make up 52 percent of the about 12 million of Rwanda’s population.

The First Lady observed that Rwandan women’s capacity cannot be doubted because women are already key contributors in national development.

Rwandan women are in the public sector, been elected into leadership positions, in private sector business and in security organs, she said.

Up to 64 percent of Rwandan parliamentarians are women, highest proportion of any parliament in the world.

"As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we also take the time to reflect and celebrate great achievements accomplished by Rwandan women.

"We remember the incredible strides that have made Rwanda one of the pioneers in championing efforts that promote and advocate causes for women and girls," the First Lady said.

International Women’s Day is dedicated to the continued fight for gender parity and global celebration of the achievements of women in society.

Gender rights are enshrined in Rwanda’s Constitution.

Mrs Kagame recalled that after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandan women were left to pick up the pieces left behind.

"Most found themselves as widows, having to assume the role as heads of households.

"A new responsibility arose, as women were not only taking up roles as heads of their households, but securing positions of leadership in the country," she said.

"Through years of hard work and dedication, women in Rwanda have helped the country cement its place in history as a country that not only takes pride but sets the standard in promoting and advocating women’s causes."

Several activities are lined up across the country in March 2017, a month dedicated to further empowering women in Rwanda.

The activities include family planning awareness, education, early childhood development initiatives and sanitation.

The First Lady meanwhile urged concerted efforts to check the problem of teenage pregnancies.

Pregnancy among teenage girls in Rwanda rose from 6.1 percent to 7.3 per cent, according to the demographic and health survey 2014/2015.

Mrs Kagame hailed development partners and government institutions involved in the promotion of women and girls empowerment.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Rwanda Lamin Manneh noted that though there is a lot to celebrate in Rwanda with regard to women empowerment there is still long way to go for the country to reach UN’s Planet 50-50 goal.

South Sudan marks women’s day amid calls
for punitive measures on sexual violence

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudanese officials on Wednesday urged stronger punitive measures to deter rampant sexual violence against women that has largely been used by warring factions as tool of war in the more than three years of violent conflict.

The minister of Wildlife Nunu Kumba said in Juba that the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) will not hesitate to punish sexual violence offences, and added that the law would not segregate.

"Men who rape women are not men. For us as SPLM whether it’s SPLM member that does that (rape) we condemn and we call for the law to take it’s course," she said.

Kumba added that South Sudanese women have the power to influence the prevailing political discord in the war-torn country.

"The women of South Sudan have the power to change what is happening.

"We have also again gone to say that 25 percent political representation is not enough and we demand 35 percent," she revealed.

The minister of Gender and Child Welfare Deng Awut called on humanitarian agencies to do much on economic empowerment of women.

"Humanitarian agencies should focus much on empowering women economically who are disadvantaged due to conflict," she said.

Meanwhile, Consular of Sweden in South Sudan Ola Nilsmo said all forms of violence against women and girls must stop.

"We should collectively demand that all violations against women must end and bring perpetrators to book," he said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar resulting in killing of tens of thousands and displacement of more than two million.

However, renewed July fighting in 2016 threatened to tear apart the fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict.

150,000 South Sudanese girls receive cash grants for education

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Wednesday said it granted cash grants for education of 150,000 girls in 2017 in a bid to prevent them from early child marriage that has kept majority girls out of school, its official said.

The minister of General Education Deng Hoc revealed in the capital of Juba that they are working toward making education free for all South Sudanese children, with majority out of school due to poverty and conflict.

"We have worked together with British government on supporting girl education of 150,000 girls.

"These girls will receive cash transfer from Girl Education South Sudan (GESS)," he revealed.

Girls in South Sudan face serious disadvantages in education.

The country has the worst indicators for girls’ education in the world.

Not only are they less likely to enter school, girls are also more likely to drop out compared to boys.

"We are working to make education free for all from the age of three.

"I have reminded the people of South Sudan about this provision in our constitution.

"All children must be allowed to go to school unconditionally," Hoc said.

Women and girls in South Sudan are more likely to die during child delivery than complete primary education.

The World Bank has estimated that only seven girls for every ten boys attend primary education, while five girls for every ten boys are enrolled in secondary education.

In 2013 only 500 girls were in the last grade of secondary school in the whole country.

South Sudan joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2012, and received a 36.1 million U.S. dollar grant from the Global Partnership for the period 2013 to 2016.

This grant, combined with an additional grant from USAID for a total of 66 million dollars, finances the Global Partnership for Education Program which is implemented by UNICEF South Sudan.

Zimbabwe marks 2017 International Women’s Day

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe on Wednesday joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 2017 International Women’s Day.

Thousands of women and girls gathered at the Harare International Conference Center where they celebrated the day at a colorful event that was punctuated by song and dance.

Speaking at the event, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe Bishow Parajuli said Zimbabwe has made great strides in women empowerment and gender equality although more effort is still needed to create an environment where women and girls can achieve their full potential.

He noted that Zimbabwe has performed well in women representation in parliament which currently stands at 35 percent, higher than the global average of 23 percent.

Zimbabwe had also achieved gender parity in primary education and had enacted several laws to protect women and girls from gender based violence and other abuses, Parajuli said.

He voiced UN’s commitment to continue supporting gender equality and women empowerment in Zimbabwe, saying these were key to achievement of sustainable development goals.

He said Zimbabwe, however, needs to continue working hard to ensure women and girls have access to education and resources as well as remove structural barriers, gender discrimination and gender stereotypes.

Ending child marriage was also key to protecting the rights of girls and ensure they reach their potential, Parajuli said.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that still has a high number of girls that marry under the age of 18 mainly due to poverty and harmful cultural and religious practices.

"As the UN we would like to voice our strong commitment to collaborate with the government of Zimbabwe to provide space for women and girls to achieve their potential," Parajuli said.

Guest of honor and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) deputy governor Charity Dhliwayo said the RBZ regarded women empowerment as one of the factors important for the development of the nation.

The central bank had put in place several financing mechanisms targeted at women to ensure they have easy access to affordable financing for businesses, according to Dhliwayo.

"The RBZ has realized that women empowerment cannot be achieved without ensuring their access to and usage of appropriate and affordable financial products and services," she said.

Women’s Affairs Minister Nyasha Chikwinya challenged women to play their part in the development of the nation.

She said her ministry was at an advanced stage of setting up a women’s bank to cater for financial needs of women.

The Day was celebrated under the international theme "Be Bold For Change" while Zimbabwe’s theme was "The woman we want: bankable, business-minded, brainy, beautiful, bold, blessed and balanced."

Campus march in Egypt marks Int’l Women’s Day

CAIRO Egypt (Xinhua) -- The Cairo University of Egypt organized Wednesday a march on its campus under the theme of anti-sexual harassment to mark the International Women’s Day.

Held by the university’s anti-sexual harassment unit, the event was attended by large numbers of students, academics and civil society activists, who chanted slogans calling for gender equality.

During the demonstration, a number of university students and artists performed a pro-women show that was largely applauded by the audience.

Head of the Cairo University, Professor Gaber Nassar, said that the university shows solidarity with all women worldwide, stressing that the society should protect women and grant them all their legal rights.

"No community can improve without gender equality.

"Our university, which was built by donations from an Egyptian princess decades ago, will always champion and support women," Nassar said during the event.

Head of the University’s anti-sexual harassment unit Maha al-Saeed said that they seized the occasion to raise awareness about sexual harassment and penalties of verbal and physical harassment.

"There is no difference between men and women...we both have rights and duties, we should respect each other," she said.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year and it was adopted by the United Nations in 1975.



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