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Time running out for the children of South Sudan

27 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

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After nearly 100 days of conflict in South Sudan and with rain threatening already limited humanitarian access, the situation for South Sudan's youngest is dire, says UNICEF.

Unless the humanitarian situation inside South Sudan improves rapidly and radically for children and families, nearly a million people - mostly women and children - will face an even greater crisis both inside the South Sudan and in neighbouring countries.

Read more: Time running out for the children of South Sudan

Jimmy Carter rails against worldwide 'abuse of women and girls' in new book

24 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

A Call to Action sees 39th US president blame false religious interpretations for female genital mutilation and child marriage

Alison Flood, Monday 24 March 2014 11.11 EDT

Jimmy Carter is making a "call to action" over discrimination and violence against women, addressing issues from female genital mutilation to child marriage in a new book out in the US this week.

The 39th US president writes in A Call to Action of his belief that "the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls", which he says is "largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare, unfortunately following the example set during my lifetime by the United States".

Read more: Jimmy Carter rails against worldwide 'abuse of women and girls' in new book

Addressing Violence Against Women and Children Is Critical to Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation and the Millennium Development Goals

21 Mar 2014  |  News and Press - Related News
Woman Feeds Water to HIV Patient

Posted by Catherine Russell and Deborah von Zinkernagel
March 20, 2014

During this week's 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the global community will come together to reflect on key achievements and challenges in advancing progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls. This provides an opportune moment to examine the impact of one such challenge: violence against women and girls.

Violence against women and girls has impeded progress on nearly every MDG. This includes efforts to reach the MDG 6 target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS--an epidemic that still disproportionally affects women and girls in many countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three women worldwide has experienced physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime. Women who experience violence also often face serious health consequences, including higher rates of unintended pregnancies, mental health problems, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.

Read more: Addressing Violence Against Women and Children Is Critical to Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation...

Malawi: End Widespread Child Marriage

18 Mar 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

Pass Marriage Law, Adopt Comprehensive Approach

MARCH 6, 2014



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Iraq Child Marriage Bill Would Allow Girls To Wed, Severely Limit Women's Rights

14 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

Posted: 03/14/2014 4:33 am EDT Updated: 03/14/2014 12:59 pm EDT

BAGHDAD (AP) — A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could open the door to girls as young as nine getting married and would require wives to submit to sex on their husband's whim, provoking outrage from rights activists and many Iraqis who see it as a step backward for women's rights.

Read more: Iraq Child Marriage Bill Would Allow Girls To Wed, Severely Limit Women's Rights

Malala Fund calls for new school models to improve education

14 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

By Adva Saldinger13 March 2014

Schooling models haven't been adapted for decades, and The Malala Fund is shining the spotlight on key educational issues that need fixing and innovations that show promise.

Since starting in October 2013, the organization that rose as a response to the tragic shooting of then 14-year old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, is finding its stride.

Read more: Malala Fund calls for new school models to improve education

WOMEN: Experts call for engaging men and boys as allies in fight for gender equality

12 Mar 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

12 March 2014 – Gender equality is not just a concern for women and girls, a panel of experts gathered at the United Nations in New York stressed today, highlighting the need to engage men and boys as allies and agents of change in this global struggle.

"Gender equality isn't just a women's issue. It is an issue for all. It is a rights issue because women's rights are human rights," declared Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), as she kicked off an event on the margins of the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Read more: WOMEN: Experts call for engaging men and boys as allies in fight for gender equality

UNESCO on Gender Imbalance in Global Education

12 Mar 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

By Lusha Chen

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 2014 (IPS) - In order to go to school, Sarah, a girl living in rural Ethiopia, escaped the village and an arranged marriage at 14, returning to her home at age 23, when she could finally enter a classroom again. In a conversation with a youth advocate for education, named Chernor Bah, Sarah asked, "Why does it have to be so hard for me, just because I'm a girl?"

Sarah used to be one of the 100 million women, mostly from least developed countries (LDCs), who could not read.

According to a report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), titled Education for All Global Monitoring Report, over 15 million young girls out of school are never expected to enroll for classes.

These figures have stirred a number of concerns over gender imbalance in global education, as the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) got underway.

"There are serious setbacks," said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, "which will affect all sustainable efforts for development to the international community."

The gender disparity in education is "unacceptable," said Bokova. As stated in the report, "If recent trends in the region continue, the richest boy will gain universal primary completion in 2021, while the poorest girl will not be able to catch up until 2086."

Such slow pace in developing education equality is largely resulted from two factors: war and poverty.

About half of the world's out-of-school population lives in conflict-affected countries, which are usually low and lower middle-income countries that lack early childhood care as well as access to education.

As conflict and poverty bar girls from education, cultural and social perceptions also hinder access and allow for illiteracy to grow.

Without enough female teachers or male teachers trained with gender sensitive courses, girls in the Arab States witness a greater disadvantage. Nearly 60 percent of females are out of school compared to 57 percent in South and West Asia and 54 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women called the efforts on girls' education the "investment that could get the best return ever," because girls, "represent the whole humanity."

Mlambo-Ngcuka called for more attention to education from member states and agencies. She said the "issue (of education) is not central enough in the UN".

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One Billion at Risk of Extreme Poverty

12 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

Joe DeCapua
Last updated on: March 10, 2014 11:32 AM

Climbing out of extreme poverty -- and staying there – can be very difficult. A new report warns up to one billion people are at risk of extreme poverty by 2030 unless more is done to support them in hard times.

Unemployment, poor health, high food prices, conflict and natural disasters – these are some of the things that can drive people below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Listen to De Capua report on extreme poverty

The Overseas Development Institute and the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network have released the Third Chronic Poverty Report. Network Director Andrew Shepard -- the lead author -- warns of poverty's "revolving door."

"People fall into poverty as well as escape it. And once they've escaped it they can fall back in again."

He said there are three legs of poverty that must be addressed.

"You can be poor the whole of your life, chronically poor. And policies, generally speaking, don't deal very well with that. You can become poor. You can be impoverished. Policies are beginning to address that a little bit better than they did 10 years ago, but there's still a long way to go on that, especially in Africa, and actually also in Asia. And then once you escape poverty, you need to keep on in an upward trajectory. You need to keep on moving away from poverty because you can easily fall back in again," he said.

It's estimated there were 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty in 2010. That's a decline of 700 million since 1990. Shepard says that's good news, but the trend may not continue.

"People who are chronically poor, they're poor over their lifetimes for reasons and those reasons can be quite hard to tackle. For example, they might be discriminated against. And some countries now have good policies against discrimination, buy many countries don't yet or they don't implement them."

Shepard said that the most frequent cause for falling back below the poverty line is ill health.

The report recommended three approaches to – what it calls -- zero poverty.

"The first of these is providing some sort of cash relief, if you like -- cash transfers or an employment guarantee. Something which provides a safety net. The second thing is a massive investment in education because education works to help people out of poverty – to keep them going in the right direction. And education, of course, works to sustain peoples' escapes out of poverty provided that you can get them up to a high enough level," he said.

Primary and secondary education levels are a must, he said.

The third step to reduce poverty is called "pro poorest economic growth."

Shepard said, "You need jobs, of course. And those jobs can be agricultural, non-agricultural, but jobs also need to be decent. They need to pay some kind of minimum wage. That can be underpinned by an employment guarantee. And you need health and safety provisions."

The report called on all countries to have universal health coverage and good disaster risk management to deal with the weather extremes of climate change.

It also said international aid "will continue to be extremely important in low-income countries." However, it adds, "few donors have displayed real interest in tackling chronic poverty."

"The report does an analysis, which shows that there are about 44 countries which spend a total of less than $500 per person per year. That's on everything. And the report also indicates that quite a few of those countries – I think it was 19 – won't be doing very much better by 2030," he said.

Shepard said countries also can find more money to help tackle poverty by doing a better job of collecting taxes.

He said some of the success stories in reducing poverty in recent years include China, Vietnam, Brazil, Ethiopia, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The issue of chronic poverty is expected to be addressed as the international community decides how to replace the Millennium Development Goals. They come due next year.

Last October, the World Bank reported the number of people living in extreme poverty had declined sharply in the past three decades. But it warned about 400-million children continue to live in "abysmal conditions."

Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the goal of ending poverty -- and boosting shared prosperity -- can be achieved, but only if nations "work together with new urgency." Those efforts, he said, must include education and health care for children.

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UN: 2.8 Million Syrian Children out of School

12 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

By JOHN HEILPRIN Associated Press

Nearly half of Syria's school-age children — 2.8 million and counting — cannot get an education because of the devastation and violence from a civil war now entering its fourth year, the U.N. children's agency said Tuesday.

Most of those — 2.3 million Syrian children who should be in classes — remain within Syria's borders, as education and health services collapse and classrooms are bombed or used as shelters and military barracks, UNICEF said in a new report that shows the tragically expanding effects of a conflict on the region's youngest victims. In total, 40 percent of all school-age children in Syria are out of school, the report said.

Agency officials told reporters in Geneva that another 300,000 Syrian children are out of school in Lebanon, along with some 93,000 in Jordan, 78,000 in Turkey, 26,000 in Iraq and 4,000 in Egypt.

"When one says that it is the worst place to be as a child, in Syria, for now, I would agree," said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF's deputy representative in Syria's capital Damascus. "Children are missing from education, they are out of school. Children have the hidden wounds, and these wounds form scars."

UNICEF estimates 2 million children affected by the fighting are in need of psychological support or treatment. Thousands have lost limbs, parents, teachers, schools, homes and virtually every aspect of their childhood, according to agency officials. And those are the ones lucky enough to be alive.

More than 10,000 children have been killed in the violence, the agency said, and 1.2 million are now refugees living in camps and overwhelmed neighboring communities where clean water, food and other basic items are scarce.

Overall, the number of children suffering from the civil war has more than doubled to 5.5 million in the past 12 months alone, UNICEF said. Many are forced to grow up fast: One in 10 refugee children is now working, the agency estimates, while one in five Syrian girls in Jordan is forced into early marriage.

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