Dr. Denis Mukwege

I want to tell you a story about Dr. Denis Mukwege; a man I consider to be incredibly inspiring and courageous.

When war broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Dr. Mukwege had 35 patients killed in his hospital in Lemera. He fled to Bukavu where he opened a hospital with what he had available (made from tents) and eventually built a maternity ward with an operating theatre. In 1998 this was also destroyed, so he started again in 1999.

In 1999, he had a patient come into his hospital who had been a victim of extremely brutal sexual violence – bent on destruction – and he treated her, assuming this was an anomaly. Within three months, 45 more women came to seek his services each with an equally brutal story. He saw a pattern and realized this was not just sexual violence, but that rape was being used to destroy communities.

Dr. Mukwege instigated several stages of care beginning with a psychological examination to determine whether the women have the resiliency to undergo surgery and recovery. The next stage involves whatever medical care is necessary; this is dependent on the type of violence and can range from basic medical care to reconstructive surgery. He then connects patients with socio-economic care as many patients arrive with nothing (not even clothing). Patients require the ability to be able to care for themselves after they leave the hospital, so they undergo skills and jobs training while in recovery, they can access education, and they build strong support systems with those who protect their dignity. Lastly, patients are connected with legal services as in most cases they are aware of who their assailants were but might not be aware of their legal rights.

Dr. Mukwege’s work is integral to the safety, dignity, and well-being of women within the DRC, yet as sexual violence is often used as a weapon of war Dr. Mukwege became a target because he was helping women live. Because he fought for these women’s rights to live, because he provides them with the tools to live with dignity he was targeted. Dr. Mukwege and his family were targeted and very nearly killed. Following the attack he brought his family to Brussels, however he could not leave his work. He came back to the DRC. In his words,

I was inspired to return by the determination of Congolese women to fight these atrocities. These women have taken the courage to protest about my attack to the authorities. They even grouped together to pay for my ticket home – these are women who do not have anything, they live on less than a dollar a day.

These women formed groups of 20 and stand guard at the hospital day and night to ensure that those seeking and providing care are safe. To date, he has treated over 30,000 women for injuries related to extreme sexual violence and currently sees roughly 10 patients per day.

This week he was recognized for his extraordinary work with the Sakharov prize – Europe’s top human rights prize. It’s this man’s extraordinary work, it’s the dedication and resilience of the women who stand by him and seek his services that inspire me to pursue the research I’m interested in. It’s people like this and the people that he sees every single day that remind me of the importance of this.

Learn more and look up his incredible work at the Panzi Hospital (most of it’s in French so you can also message me and I’ll explain it in English).

Advertisements

Abstract: Women’s Experiences of Urban Food Insecurity

In keeping with my earlier commitment to maintain this space better, I wanted to share an abstract from a paper I wrote in 2011. It was my first time approaching a topic using gender analysis and was the first time I realized how different the ways  we approach development could be as a result.

Abstract:

 ‘Women are both vulnerable and powerful – victimized and empowered – through food.’ –Van Esterik

Globally, urban regions are experiencing unprecedented levels of growth, which has caused urban food security to move to the forefront of international agendas, however a gendered analysis is often lacking. This paper will examine the ways in which women are affected by urban food insecurity and the ways in which they respond to the crisis. Through analysis of secondary sources and of the unique experiences of women in a community in Harare, Zimbabwe, this paper will demonstrate that women are affected by urban food insecurity much more severely than men. However, women are also in a better position to change their situation and the situation of their community into one that is more food secure.

Our Breasts Are Deadlier Than Your Stones

I want to bring attention to a particular line from this: “Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women.” If a woman’s actions and ideas are so radical that they could give other women ideas and encourage new thinking, then there is a larger problem. If we are going to be so afraid of having women think and act independently then we need to have change.

There is nothing radical about a woman’s breasts when she’s in porn or performing for men, but yet men feel so threatened by breasts when they aren’t being sexualized.

Lysistrata's Daughter

Apparently.

Because while the threat of stoning is just that-a threat-breasts are on display throughout the world today in support of Amina Tyler, the nineteen year old Tunisian woman who posted pictures last month of her bare chest and the words “My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor” in Arabic. A second photo, declaring “Fuck your morals” in English, was also posted.

Almi Adel,  who heads the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, now known (ironically) as the Moderate Association for Awareness and Reform is quoted as saying: “The young lady should be punished according to sharia, with 80 to 100  lashes, but (because of) the severity of the act she has committed, she deserves to be stoned to death,” he said. “Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women. It is therefore necessary…

View original post 480 more words

I can’t believe I still have to say these things

There are days when gender issues infuriate me and when people/problems just seem absolutely ridiculous. There are things/opinions that I actually cannot believe I have to voice or express. There are so many things that you would think would be common sense by now.

I can’t believe that I have to say I believe in gender equality.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I believe men and women should have equal rights, opportunities, responsibilities and receive equal respect.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that girls and boys should be able to go to school.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that every person should have access to family planning education, counselling, and support (through contraception, abortion, help with fertility, STD/HIV testing, treatment, prenatal and postnatal care, etc.).

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think men and women have the right to live free from fear of being assaulted (physically, sexually, emotionally), free from fear of rape, free from fear of being drugged, etc.

I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that all genders and people within genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, identity, religion, age, political beliefs, size, physical/mental ability or disability etc. are equal and should be treated equally.

Worst of all, I can’t believe that people think I’m radical for believing these things. Is it so radical to believe that all people (without conditions, no ifs, ands, or buts) are equal.

Period. All people are equal.

On Entitlement and Respect

I’ve experienced a fair share of battles here regarding how men treat women, and today was no different.

While on the bus, the bus attendant announced to someone that he thought I was beautiful; someone disagreed and said I was ugly. This was followed by a fair amount of debate while pointed at various parts of my body and garnering a small attentive crowd. I turned around and announced that I understand Vietnamese and was met with silence.

People felt as though they had the right, ability, and freedom to openly discuss what they did and did not like about my body, while pointing to the body parts in question and when it became obvious that I knew and understood what was going on there wasn’t even an apology. Then on the rest of my trek home I had several men try to get me to sit and eat with them; what is it a joke or game to try to get the girl to sit down and eat or drink with you? Do people really expect that someone they have never met or spoken with is really going to want to sit down right at that moment to enjoy a meal with a stranger? I sure wouldn’t. But when I say no I’m met with someone who is shocked and offended that I don’t want to sit down with a strange man and eat whatever he offers just because he asked.

Just because I’m female does not mean I’m your property. Just because I’m different than you does not mean you have the right to discuss or debate my body. Just because you ask me to do something does not mean I have to say yes. I am human, I am not your property, I do not exist as a source of entertainment for you, and I deserve the same level of respect you want to receive.

Verbal Abuse

Have you ever had someone insult you?

Maybe you were called a bitch, a slut, a whore? Perhaps it was a one-time thing uttered by a stranger and the words stung a little bit but you never heard it again.

But maybe it wasn’t said by a stranger, maybe it was said by someone close to you, someone you believe. Perhaps you were called a bitch, a slut, a whore. Perhaps you were told you were worth less than other people? Maybe you were belittled and made to feel as though you were constantly doing something wrong?

Many people don’t realize that verbal abuse is still abuse; that words are not meaningless. Each word, each syllable has meaning and has the power and ability to affect another human being, another person’s life. Words are used as weapons, as tools to inflict pain, to harm others. Words are used to reduce people to less than they are. Words are used to convince people that their lives will never be better. Words are used to convince people to stay with people in situations or places that they have a right to life free of, this is done by either convincing them that everything they believe is wrong (no person will love you, take care of you, believe you) or that they don’t deserve better.

KAFA, a Lebanese organization, discovered that 50% of Lebanese women are victims of verbal abuse (statistically are not-surprisingly lacking for most nations) and they sought to show that words hurt and that verbal abuse is a devastating and harmful form of abuse.

The photos are extremely powerful and extremely triggering, so if you feel safe enough to check them out, please do so here; this also links to a Lebanese helpline for victims of abuse.

To find an agency in your country and/or language of choice offering support for victims of domestic abuse and verbal abuse click here.

Female Police Officers

Some officials of traffic police teams said that traffic policewoman regulating traffic during peak hours in the morning and afternoon at the major intersection would “create beauty and make the people more comfortable.” 

After the peak hours, these female police officers will return to the office.

A representative of the Road and Railway Traffic Police Agency said that the traffic policewomen standing on the podium to regulate traffic in rain or shine are beautiful images and some cities have used traffic policewomen to regulate traffic for years.

Why not have the female police officers act in full capacity like all police officers? Reward them for their ability and work, not physical appearance..

A woman is human

“A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given.
A woman is human.”

Vera Nazarian

We should not be scared of going out…

“We should not be scared of going out and we shouldn’t have to protect ourselves with cooking ingredients.”

-Kajol Batra, a 28 year old student in Delhi responding to a senior Indian police officer who told women to avoid rape by not going out at dark and carrying chili powder to throw at offenders.

Family planning, contraception, and pregnancy

While reading this article, I came across a link to an incredible tool used to map access to basic family planning, sexual health, and reproductive health impacts. It shows the impacts of unplanned pregnancy (which account for roughly 50% of unplanned pregnancies in the USA each year), demonstrates the factors influencing this high number, shows the outcome of those pregnancies, the cost to public funding, and gives state-by-state suggestions for how to improve these numbers.

The Guttmacher Institute also has information on abortion, contraceptionpublic funding for contraception, teen pregnancy rates,  sexual health education, and so much more.

It’s definately worth checking out and is an incredible resource for anyone interested in learning about sexual health and family planning in the USA.

If anyone has information on similar databases for other countries please feel free to link them here.

Contraception is a Human Right

We have found that there are no mental health consequences of abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. There are other interesting findings: even later abortion is safer than childbirth and women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below the poverty level two years later.

That is a quote from the researchers who are two years in to a five year study abortion – specifically the first scientific study which looks at what happens to women who have been denied abortions. This study has been following 956 women who sought abortions, 182 of which were denied. This study takes place in the USA but I believe much of the information can be extrapolated to other nations.

I find it fascinating that less than halfway into the study researchers are already able to debunk many of the common reasons why women are denied abortions and protestors push for pro-life national agendas. Firstly, abortion does not cause mental illness. Secondly, abortion does not cause drug use. Particularly when combined with the emotional distress of carrying an unwanted child to term. In fact, the study found that giving birth to an unwanted child caused more physical damage than an abortion: “There were no severe complications after abortion; after birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection and hemorrhage. We find no differences in chronic health conditions at 1 week or one year after seeking abortion.”

What I also found interesting was that only 11% of those who were denied abortions put the child up for adoption and that there are higher rates of putting children up for adoption among those with a history of drug abuse. While there are plenty of people who desperately want to adopt children, particularly from within their home country, adoption is still looked down upon. Many people are discriminated against if they put their child up for adoption, there is a stigma associated with this that makes many people choose to keep the child.

Also notable is that this week the United Nations declared contraception to be a human right. About time, right? Family Planning is universally acknowledged to be critical for development; spacing children apart by a minimum of 2 years improves their health, developmental capacity, brain function, in-utero nutrition, and improves the health of the mother and ease of her delivery. Additionally, 82% of unwanted pregnancies could be avoided simply by increasing access to information and services regarding contraception. Who needs access? Women and adolescents as

Thai Minority Women in Dien Bien, Vietnam discussing the importance of family planning and maternal health (November 8-9, 2012)

those are the target groups and the people who need to be able to have control and power over decisions regarding their own bodies. This is a huge step forward for international development and a wake-up call for so called ‘developed’ nations to improve the dissemination of information and services regarding contraception. It also should indicate a need to not discriminate against such services on the basis of religion, funding, or personal beliefs.

Take a step forward with the United Nations and protect the rights and freedoms of people around the world by supporting family planning, improving access to contraception information and services, reducing the stigma surrounding adoption and abortion, and ensuring that women people are never denied the ability to live out their basic rights.

2012 USA Election

I’ve noticed an increased number of blog hits in the past while from people searching such things as ‘romney parental leave’ (or other variations of that) and ‘romney’s views on women.’ All I can say is that if you are taking the time to do your research, I commend you. Congratulations, an informed voter is my favourite kind.

Now all that being said, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have political representation that fights for basic human rights, and in my opinion, Romney is the farthest from that. Now, I’m not American, I am Canadian and living in Vietnam of all places. But I have seen first hand how American politics have the ability to influence politics and development around the world. No politician will be perfect, no one person or political party will meet all of your needs, but look beyond yourself and look at what is better for humankind in general. Do we want political representation that will force the world to take gargantuan steps BACKWARDS for womenkind? Do we want to regress (even more) on maternal health and gender equality? Do we want to spend money on ‘national defence’ that could be better used on health care and education? Not at all.

So I urge you, make the decision that is best for humankind, for people around the world, for the majority. Protect the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Protect existing human rights and women’s rights. Do not make the world move backward. We just can’t handle it anymore.

Why I will not be ‘put in a binder’ and other rants

I may not be American, but I recognize that American politics and issues have (and will continue to have) fairly significant impacts on Canadian politics (which still infuriates me to no end). I apologize as you read this, in fact maybe stop now. I seem to get progressively more and more angry as I think about this more..

I fail to understand why and how someone like Mitt Romney can be chosen to represent an entire political party and given the opportunity to speak in front of large crowds (for anything other than entertainment) when he so clearly fails to represent a significant portion of the population – women. When someone can make such horrendous comments as were made during the second debate, I can only hope that his representation ceases.

Women – 50.8% of the population of the United States  – should not be ignored. Women are not some obscure painting to be taken out of storage only for show, women are an equal, qualified, educated, MAJORITY of the population. Having equal female representation should not be a task or a chore, it should be a given that women have a fair share of positions in all levels of all employment sectors. You shouldn’t need a “binder full of women” to find qualified women, you should be working with women and working for women on a regular basis.

On top of that, you should learn how to cook, because if you think that women need flexible work schedules to take care of their family and get dinner on the table, you are part of the problem. You are part of the reason that women work a double day: the solution to women’s double work day is not to give them more job flexibility to do more housework; it’s to give ALL employees EQUAL job flexibility to have an EQUAL share of housework. You should be supporting men in taking parental leave and in taking time off work when their kids are sick.

In addition to that, single parents are NOT the reason that people walk around with weapons, the lax gun laws are the reason people walk around with weapons. We have plenty of single parents in Canada (I was even raised by divorced parents) and yet our gun violence is infinitely less of a problem here: why? Because we don’t walk around with handguns for ‘personal protection’. Maybe if you associated with single parents or really anyone other than white, upper-class Americans you would know that. Or, if you really want to have less households with single parents, increase sexual education, maintain access to abortions, and allow same-sex marriages! Why is that so hard to understand? I mean, I get it, and I was raised by divorced parents (which apparently means I should be violent and be carrying AK-47s around), I don’t have a university degree (yet), oh and I’m a woman..

Abstract – Genocide: Perpetrated through Sexual Violence

I’ve recently finished a paper which examined the ways in which sexual violence can constitute acts of genocide and it’s a paper I’d like to continue to develop with additional research and additional case studies to better represent a variety of geographical locations. For the meantime, I thought I would share my abstract and once the mark from class becomes official I will share the rest of the paper as well.

Genocide and sexual violence are relatively new topics in the realm of international humanitarian law, yet their interconnectivity has caused some of the worst humanitarian crisis from the twentieth century into the present time. In understanding the ways in which specific instances of sexual violence have contributed to and constituted acts of genocide it can be argued that, in context, sexual violence can be a means and act of genocide. Through analysis of secondary sources and government reports this paper will examine the experiences of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to demonstrate the ways in which sexual violence has been used as a tool of genocide. 

Sincere apologies

A small update for everyone!

I’m currently writing the last academic papers of my undergraduate degree titled “Genocide: Perpetrated through Sexual Violence” and “Gender Mainstreaming in Structural Adjustment: The Forgotten Element”. I’ll share more on these later.

Once those are submitted I’ll be back in full force and excited to share some of what I learnt while writing them (particularly the one about genocide).

What’s interesting about my degree is that while this is my last academic term (which will officially end tonight at midnight), I still have eight months left of my degree. However those eight months will be spent in Vietnam working for the Center for Sustainable Rural Development.

I will be leaving Canada September 9th around noon, but I will be leaving home (aka Northern Ontario) near the end of August, so in the mean time if there is anything you’re interested in regarding gender issues, my placement, or anything that you think I’d find interesting, please share it with me and I’d be happy to read/write about it.

How important is contraception?

Very.

Today marked World Population Day and the focus was family planning! There was a conference in the UK today discussing the importance and benefits of family planning (aka reproductive health, contraception, information, and access). At this conference, they pledged 3.6 billion dollars a year towards family planning that could drastically improve the state of maternal and women’s health.

Where should women live?

I’ve recently made a twitter account and I have to say I’m learning to love the way information is shared on it. I find that I’m able to scan and see way more data than I ever would have otherwise. Knowing my passion for gender equality and rights, I’m sure its not surprising that I focused on these topics. I came across this infographic and I have to say that I was a little bit startled to see some of the ratios and data regarding gender equality. Canada is currently ranked 17th among the best/worst places to be a woman, and that indicates a fall of 3 places from the last time these indicators were compared. What is most interesting, is that much of Canada’s failures regarding women’s rights and gender equality can be directly correlated to their relations with the Aboriginal population. Check it out, and tell me what you think.

Vagina

Vagina.

Linking to the above post from my classmate and friend Kyla at A Day in the Life. I felt as though my best response is a quote from Eve Ensler, activist, playwright, and creator of The Vagina Monologues;  “If we ever knew deep in our hearts that the issue about abortion … was not really about fetuses and babies, but really men‘s terror of women’s sexuality and power, I think it’s fully evidenced here.”

I believe that the fear and stigma associated with using words like vagina come from a deep rooted belief that if people talk about it, they run the risk of losing their honour and self-worth, which is in itself a dangerous concept. But I also feel it important to note that the same people who are waging this war against vaginas are also those who are ‘against comprehensive sexual education that would teach young people age-appropriate information about their sexual and reproductive anatomy, including the correct medical and anatomical terms for body parts. Information on sexually-transmitted infections that would preserve and protect these body parts are also taboo.’

If we move past the fear and stigma associated with simply using a word then there wouldn’t be a need for invasive and demeaning discussions on the rights that a woman has over her own body: she would simply have rights.

For more information, I recommend checking out Vagina is not a dirty word.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Let’s Talk About Sex.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Check it out!

Observations from Toronto

I spent this past weekend in Toronto and I had a few observations that I thought might be interesting to share..

Observation 1

One of the first places I went to was the World’s Biggest Bookstore; I love it there, I would go there everyday if it was feasible and wouldn’t destroy my bank account. I’ve been going there at least once a year for a pretty long time, at least 5 years now and my favourite section has undergone a few changes. If you go upstairs and head to the side wall there used to be a tiny section on international politics and international relations. You used to be able to hunt through a few books to try to find one that you hopefully hadn’t already read. Everything in that section used to be fairly similar, my bookcase at home can attest to that.. There would mainly be some books on HIV/AIDS, a few on democracy, maybe one or two on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now when you walk up those stairs and head to the side of the room there is an entire wall dedicated to international politics, the books fall into a wide range of topics, and new books are brought in weekly. I find it incredible how much interest and expertise has expanded on these topics, but I also find it disheartening how so many of the books are written too quickly to include the necessary background research to get a full grasp and thorough perspective on the topic of choice. What is also interesting is how the topics have expanded, the books have moved beyond looking at the western world as the ‘ideal model of development’ and have started to look for a wide variety of definitions of development and methods of achieving it. It’s moved past what we used to view development as and has almost made it undefinable. It’s looking at food politics, international governance, equality, access, education, health, and assessing each topic as an equal aspect. It’s brought ‘development’ into a multi-disciplinary, interwoven topic, which is where I think it should have been from the beginning..

Observation 2

In the past few years I’ve started to frequent the cultural studies section on the upper floor of the World’s Biggest Bookstore as well. This section includes anthropology, gender issues, aboriginal authors, and numerous other interesting topics, just last year each of these topics had their own mini section in the larger cultural studies section. This year gender studies had somehow disappeared from its home in cultural studies and has moved into a new section on ‘controversial knowledge’. What does that even mean? I view it as a smaller statement that gender issues isn’t considered common knowledge or always appropriate for ‘polite conversation’ as people have told me.. This scares me. It scares me that ideas that over half our population are influenced by, or experience can be considered controversial. Is it controversial that women have different experiences than men? No. Is it controversial that female authors share those experiences? Maybe, but it depends on who you ask.

Observation 3

For supper on Saturday night we decided to go to O’Noir, a restaurant where you eat in the dark. This experience is meant to demonstrate a very small part of how life is different for the blind. I simultaneously loved and was terrified by the experience. As most of you know, I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to control every aspect of my own life and know everything I’m doing well in advance. So this was difficult for me. It was hard to be in a room where I don’t know where I am, who else is in the room, where I’m sitting relative to others, or to guess that I’ve successfully put food on my fork. And to be honest, I probably had at least 20 forkfuls of air.

But, this really made me think about how much I take being able to see for granted. Everything that I experience is based on a combination of my sense and without access to one, everything changes. Many people in the room were talking much louder than normal to overcompensate for not being able to see (which scared me too). But I could smell my food more, smaller portions felt larger, it was delicious.

It was also a great experience to put myself out of my comfort zone again, like a test run for next year, and it was interesting to see how I adapted. As a people watcher, I couldn’t observe those around me, but instead I could listen and focus on the meaning of their words, I could imagine what people were doing. As someone who loves to cook, I couldn’t focus on the presentation or look at what I was eating, but I could really taste it and experience it in a different way.

100% true.

A Day in the Life

So far I have been failing at maintaining this blog, and have been dedicating my time to other things (school, guard team, Zikomo Bags, you know the drill). But today I have an incredible sense of accomplishment from FINALLY publishing the new Zikomo Bags website that I have put countless hours into and am inspired to blog.

Today I was browsing the Globe and Mail website (okay, I admit it, I was watching the Kony video now that I have Internet again), and came across an article about women and entrepreneurship. Since getting involved with Zikomo Bags, I have been drawn to the business side of development, so the article piqued by interest. In the article, “For women in business, modesty is not the best policy” Carolyn Lawrence argues that women’s modesty is the reason many entrepreneurs have limited success.

Most interesting though, were the comments from readers. Some readers…

View original post 112 more words

Millennium Development Goals (again)

 Water

There are news articles everywhere saying we’ve met the MDG target for access to clean, drinkable water and technically we have. We have halved the percent of population without access to clean water, with 2 billion additional people having access. But are we done yet?

While it is incredible that 89% of the population has access to clean, drinkable water (comparable to 76% in 1990), that means that 11% of the population is still forced to drink unsafe, unclean water every single day, 40% of which is in Sub-Saharan Africa. So are we done yet? Absolutely not, but at least progress is being made.

On another note, lets take a peak at the goal for maternal mortality.

Under this goal the UN is hoping to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters and ensure universal access to reproductive health. Now it is often said that these two indicators are often the best clue into the status of women’s rights and gender equality in a particular country. Some progress has been made, but this goal has seen the least progress and in many cases the least effort.

While nations around the world are making significant efforts to improve women’s rights, access to reproductive health (contraception, information, and abortion), increasing access to trained professionals prior to, during, and after birth, and increasing education and knowledge in general, we have countries closer to home where access to reproductive health (contraception, information, and abortion) is still considered fair game for public debate.

From 1998-2010 the USA actually regressed in terms of their maternal mortality rate showing an increase of twenty-five percent in a twelve-year period. Its appalling that such a thing can happen in a nation with health care readily available, and it demonstrates that gender equality and women’s health was not at the forefront of the nation’s agenda.

In Canada, we have the pesky little issue of abortion. Abortion is legal (huge win for women’s rights), but not available throughout the entire nation where some provinces and regions do not have the tools or facilities to perform abortions forcing Canadians to travel huge distances to seek out medical care. This drastically increases the cost, and decreases the availability of such reproductive health to girls and women who may not be able to travel and/or live in rural regions. Even more appalling is that we still have elected officials who are trying to make abortion illegal-may I add that I have yet to ever hear or see a female MP in Canada try to overturn our current abortion law? An MP from Kitchener has been trying to bring the abortion debate back into parliament since Christmas of 2011.

Does that mean that women’s rights are regressing? Maybe, but with absolute certainty it means that every nations must make a firm commitment to improve women’s rights, health, and access.

To check out international progress on the MDG’s go here.

Gender Mainstreaming in Development

Today is International Women’s Day and as many of you know, I have a fairly strong interest in gender issues and women’s issues so I thought I would put up some information on gender mainstreaming, something that isn’t often understood and even less often put into practice.

As Robert Zoellick, former director of the World Bank once said, “Investing in women is smart economics”. This brings light to the importance of putting gendered knowledge at the forefront of development, understanding the different needs of women and the ways in which women will be affected differently than man from the same policies – this idea can also be referred to as Gender Mainstreaming.

Gender mainstreaming in development is a relatively new phenomenon, which occurred from the realization that women have traditionally been excluded from development theory and practice and that gender relations had to be dealt with in the specific context that they occur. Gender mainstreaming has only been in practice for roughly thirty years and was defined for the first time in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women as the ‘integration of women and gender issues into mainstream policy areas… Gender mainstreaming is not something that has or should replace the efforts to focus on women separately. Instead it regards gender analysis as a base to any intervention’. This practice ensures that women are able to benefit directly from development work and signifies a shift away from the trickle-down theory and into a more productive, inclusive practice.

Now how does gender mainstreaming work? For effective gender mainstreaming a strong gendered analysis must be included in all aspects of the development program and policy. Examples of this can be found at the International Center for Research on Women and can include simply looking at how men and women are affected and react differently from the same policy or practice. The most famous case of this was in 1976 when it became clear that international development was benefitting men and women extremely differently and leading to unequal development, this occurred because of a misconception that there were no female headed households, and policies were therefore developed with the idea of male-led households in mind. Had the development agents gone into the communities at hand and met with community leaders their programs could have been tailored to suit male and female headed households and would have better benefited the entire community.

As development continues to change and grow, perhaps gender mainstreaming can move away from simply distinguishing between men and women and can start to include gender orientation, sexual orientation, and look beyond traditional views of households and communities.

I’ll be putting up more in the next few days about women and development, so keep your eyes peeled! And please feel free to leave feedback about any news or ideas you’d like to see me write about.