Category Archives: Women and Girls

Voices from Beijing: 20 Years After the Historic Conference

By Rose Foran This September will mark the 20-year anniversary of the historic 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which thrust women’s issues into the forefront of the international stage and solidified first lady Hillary Clinton as a formidable presence in the global arena. To commemorate the occasion, the Society for International Development DC Chapter’s Gender and Inclusive Development Workgroup is hosting 12 events throughout the year, signifying the 12 points of action coming out of the 1995 conference, as well as several special events. On the evening of Thursday April 9, Chemonics International hosted one of these special events, a panel of women who attended the Beijing conference 20 years ago. Indira Lakshmanan, senior correspondent on US foreign policy for Bloomberg News, led the discussion. The panel was comprised of heavy-hitters Lissa Muscatine, co-owner of the Politics … Continue reading

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Protecting Girls in Crisis

Girls are particularly vulnerable in conflict situations where they face increased risks of gender-based violence, sexual violence, exploitation, trafficking, and other dangers. Earlier this month the International Center for Research on Women, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Plan International, and the Women’s Refugee Commission hosted the Girls in Conflict symposium in order to examine the issues girls face in conflict and the ways humanitarian relief agencies and organizations can best help them before, during, and after crises. World Learning President and CEO Donald Steinberg moderated a panel on Women Peace and Security Framework at the symposium, which featured Anne Richard, assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; Salam Kanaan, CARE’s country director for Jordan; and Stella Mukasa, director of ICRW’s Gender Violence and Rights portfolio. They discussed the challenges of ensuring girls … Continue reading

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India’s Daughter Premieres in the United States

World Learning sent a delegation to the 59th UN Commission on the Status of Women. This is the first in a series of posts about issues and events from the Commission. The documentary India’s Daughter, about the brutal 2012 rape and murder of an Indian medical student, premiered in the United States last week to an audience which included celebrities Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto as well as women’s rights activists and NGO leaders. Vital Voices and Plan International hosted the premiere at Baruch College in New York City.  The premiere opened with a candlelight vigil led by Streep and Pinto, who were joined by celebrities including Dakota Fanning, Dev Patel, Marcia Cross, and a number of other celebrities, journalists, and women’s activists. Streep noted that Jyoti means “light” in Hindi and said the candles honored her “short, promising life.” “She … Continue reading

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Women as Political and Social Leaders

On March 8 we celebrated International Women’s Day, which recognizes women’s economic, political, and social contributions, past, present, and future. This year is particularly significant as it is the 20th anniversary of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women. It is also the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the 36th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In addition this year the UN is reviewing the Millennium Development Goals to determine how gender equality and women’s empowerment can be integrated into the post-2015 sustainable development goals. While international, national, and local actors have made a great deal of progress in women’s empowerment, many challenges still remain in ensuring women’s full and equal participation in all sectors of society. World Learning is committed to working … Continue reading

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Global Security and Gender

Not long after being appointed Sweden’s new foreign minister, Margot Wallström announced that her country would implement a “feminist foreign policy.” While addressing issues of gender in foreign policy is nothing new, a country announcing it will base its foreign policy on principles of feminism is. Wallström recently participated in a panel discussion at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to explain what Sweden’s feminist foreign policy will involve and talk about broader issues of global security and gender. World Learning President and CEO Donald Steinberg and US Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell joined Wallström on the panel, which was moderated by Johnnie Carson, senior advisor at USIP and former assistant secretary of state for the bureau of African affairs. Wallström said a feminist approach would seek to address the fact that in many countries “the systematic … Continue reading

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Ending Violence Against Women

November 25 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This year it is also the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence and the Orange Your Neighborhood campaign, ending on December 10, Human Rights Day. Up to 70 percent of women and girls will face some form of violence in their lifetime, according to the United Nations. This includes sexual violence, which is especially prevalent in conflict zones where rape is often used as a tool of war. In addition once the conflict is over and the peace process begins, the perpetrators are rarely ever held accountable. According to World Learning President and CEO Donald Steinberg, who was involved in negotiations to end Angola’s two-decade long civil war in 1994, one of the first actions taken by armed combatants in the peace process is to … Continue reading

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Honoring a Libyan Human Rights and Democracy Champion: Salwa Bugaighis

By Scott Lansell On the evening of July 16, I had the honor of participating in a gathering of friends and family of Salwa Bugaighis, a lifelong advocate for democracy and human rights in Libya. She was assassinated in her home on June 26 in Bengazi soon after voting in her home town in the parliamentary elections. In the well-attended reception at Vital Voices’ office, where participants joined together to share their stories of Salwa, I spoke of my chance to meet this great woman two years ago alongside my daughter, who was only 10 years old at the time. Despite our brief meeting, Salwa left a great impression on our lives. This became most apparent when after hearing of Salwa’s assassination less than a month ago, I told my daughter the tragic news. This was the very first time (and hopefully the last) … Continue reading

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Save Girls’ Education in Balochistan

By Gul Khan Naseer, Advancing Leaders Fellow 2014, South and Central Asia Region Legislative Fellows Program 2013 Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan by area, but has the lowest literacy rate in the country. Only 44 percent of children are enrolled in school, and only 36 percent of girls are getting an education. According to Pakistan’s constitution, every child aged 5–16 is entitled to free and compulsory education, so why are so few children in this province in school? With involvement from local private schools, Balochistan’s Panjgur district has the highest literacy rate in region, but it is facing a serious problem. In April 2014, the religious extremist group Tanzeem-ul-Islam-ul-Furqan showed its determination to prevent girls from going to school. The group left written threats on the doors of the Oasis School, saying if the school did not close, … Continue reading

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Bringing it All Back Home, to Darfur

Mastora Bakhiet has not lived in the Darfur region of Sudan for nearly 20 years, but her thoughts are never far from the conflict there. Since 2007, Bakhiet, an alumna of SIT Graduate Institute’s Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation program, has directed Darfur Women Network, which provides relief and development support to Sudanese refugees. Though Darfur Women Network is a small, volunteer-run organization primarily managed by Sudanese-Americans living in the United States, Bakhiet believes they provide opportunities for refugees other larger organizations have overlooked. “There are so many organizations working on political advocacy for Darfur,” said Bakhiet, “but Darfur Women Network works directly with refugees and displaced people in Darfur.” By working directly with refugees, the network is able to provide the most important resources and services quickly. To do this, Bakhiet and her fellow volunteers leverage their personal connections with … Continue reading

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President Steinberg Reflects on Gender and Inclusion after Attending Seminar in Helsinki

By Donald Steinberg, President and CEO of World Learning I’ve been in the field of women, peace and security for decades, but even I learned much from a recent seminar in Helsinki on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes, sponsored by the United Nations Department of Political Affairs and the Crisis Management Initiative. The program convened experts leading peace processes and post-conflict reconstruction in the world’s key hotspots—from Syria and Sudan to Ukraine and Yemen—to compare notes and share best practices on how these negotiations can better incorporate a gender lens, draw more fully on women’s contributions, and avoid putting men into stereotypical roles as simply the perpetrators of violence. I was pleased to be able to highlight the work I have done in my service on the UN Secretary General’s Civil Society Advisory Group on Women, Peace and Security; the Women’s … Continue reading

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