Mobile app tackles gender-based violence

News for Friday 24 August is taken from Women’s Views on News

Natalie Calkin
WVoN co-editor

A Kenyan woman, Anne Shongwe, has pioneered a mobile phone application to help address violence against women.

The app, called ‘Moraba‘, is a free game aimed at children and teenagers.

The idea is to teach them about issues related to gender-based violence including what constitutes unwanted advances and how to report and give testimony for violent and inappropriate acts.

‘Moraba’ is based on a popular South African board game called Morabaraba and incorporates quiz show style questions to enable children to become informed in a fun and practical way.

Shongwe, an international development specialist and social enterpreneur, created the app following 25 years experience of working at the United Nations Development Programme.

Keen to apply her knowledge to find solutions to social problems, Shongwe started asking young Africans about their perceptions of the opposite sex.

It was then that she realised education was key to preventing negative gender stereotypes that can manifest as violence in later years.

After conducting interviews with the young people, Shongwe told Al Jazeera in a recent interview that:

“We didn’t realise that actually at the core [of much gender violence] is really just misunderstanding and misinformation”.

This realisation informs every design aspect of the app, which has already won the App Circus 2011 competition and funding and support from UN Women.

Shongwe is now looking for sponsorship to expand the game to predominant handsets in the market as well as developing distribution.

This is just the start of an ambitious goal to reach 100 million young Africans at risk of gender-based violence and to change choices and conversations around the treatment of women and girls.

With 200 million young Africans accessing mobile phones and using them for one to eight hours a day, Shongwe has a captive audience on which ‘Moraba’ could have a significant impact.

Girls working for a better world send strong message to the G20 Summit

News for 20 June has been taken from Women’s News Network.

Currently there are 3.5 billion girls and women in the world. This actually means to global advocates that there are 3.5 billion ways to change the world. The G(irls)20 Summit, in its third session, brought together 22 young women as delegates representing the G20 countries, including the African Union, to discuss issues and solutions for economic growth.

Gathering before the official G20 conference kicked off in Mexico City’s ITAM University (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México), only weeks ahead of the G20, girl delegates proposed specific actions for world leaders countering the shortage of food supply, the work for women in agriculture and the rising violence that faces girls and women today.

They came to Mexico City to send a strong message to the leaders who have gathered for the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, opening a critical debate and dialogue on the influence of girls and women as drivers of economic improvement for their communities and beyond. One of the goals — to deliver a document to influence the international Heads of State at this year’s G20 Summit.

“Too often we see decisive economical opportunities get lost when girls and women are underestimated and undervalued”, says Farah Mohamed, President of the G(irls)20 Summit. “By recognizing the important role that girls and women play in building strong economies and stable communities, the G20 has the opportunity to make strategic investments and make decisions that will allow significant results all over the world”.

During the first phase of the G(irls)20 Summit, the delegates talked leadership, media and public relations and how to become politically engaged. They also learned the value of business planning and storytelling to reach the public. As they attended panels and side-conferences given by top specialists they learned how society is changed by women. And how the impacts facing women cause all of society to change. Two of the key discussions covered: “opportunity gained: investing in women in agriculture” and “opportunity lost as a result of gender based violence”.

The ultimate goal of the G(irls)20 Summit is to present their message to the Mexican government as well as the leaders of the G20.”While women comprise nearly half of the agricultural labour force [globally], their potential remains unleveraged. It has been shown that secure land rights [for women] can increase agricultural production by 60 per cent and income by 150 per cent”, outlines the ‘official communiqué’ from the G(irls) Summit.

It is hoped that all delegates will go back to their communities and put their new ideas into practice.

“I think the potential for change is enormous, in terms of bringing together fresh ideas”, said Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank Group, recently to WNN. “The group of girls itself has a lot of credibility because of its diversity and their caliber -they’re very impressive and thoughtful- and by connecting them, by giving them a sense of possibilities, the potential for making significant difference in their lives, and them in turn making significant change in the lives of others, is quite high”.

Delegates for the G(irls)20 Summit have been chosen because of their ‘strong’ will to bring about innovative solutions to problems they see affecting their countries and the world. Magdaly Santillanez, a delegate from Mexico and a high-school student from the state of Sinaloa, currently working on issues of global poverty by applying scientific research to help pilot a new and innovative program for global microfinance.

“…today I write about what we perfectly know: the humankind and our actions to take care of our home, the Earth, where more than seven billion of us live and out of those seven billion, 3.5 billion are girls and women”, Santillanez shared in her recent blog release made to The Huffington Post.

By putting the data in place, Santillanez wants to understand how microcredits and business training together is useful to improve the economic and social situation for those suffering under highest degree of global poverty.

“We must not think that this event is feminist or for women only”, Santillanez emphasized recently in an interview with WNN. “We are half of the world’s population and by empowering a girl or a woman you will improve not only her life, but her family’s and all the people around her as well”, she added.

This same idea resonated among many keynote speakers during the G(irls) Summit. “Men are [also] part of the solution and they’re benefited from whatever we do for women”, said Isatou Jallow, Chief of Women, Children and Gender Policy for the United Nations World Food Programme.

Delivering a ‘heartfelt’ speech during the G(irls)20 Summit outlining the role men can take in preventing violence against women, Jimmie Briggs, former journalist and founder of the Man Up Campaign, recalled having what he calls a, “life-changing moment”. When he met a woman in the Congo region of Africa who confessed to him her tragic story his life changed immediately.

She told Briggs she was gang-raped by the militia during the conflict in Congo, and saw her children and father killed in front of her. The shock of making such close contact with a woman who’s traumatic experience under conflict was so overwhelming to Briggs, caused him to discontinue his work as a journalist. Deciding to start instead the Man Up Campaign, Briggs now aims to activate global youth to stop all violence against women and girls worldwide.

“Women’s rights are human rights”, he declared to all those attending the Mexico City based G(girls) ‘pre-summit’ to the G20 Summit meetings in Los Cabos. Describing itself as a “bold initiative and the first of its kind in that it is both youth led and informed,” the Man Up Campaign is changing lives, both men and women’s lives.

But how can women gain strength in the public sector? And how can this strength improve our world?

Securing women’s access to safety, nutrition and a job with equality standards, opportunities and access to education can make positive impacts on economic growth and social development, outlined the conference. This is an effort that has to be made by all the sectors of society though the conference stressed. It’s essential that the government as well as the private sector and civil society jumps in, stressed the G(irls) Summit.

As Jeni Klugman reminded, there has been progress. According to World Bank 2012 data on gender equality and development, gender gaps in primary education have lowered in almost all countries. Women are also more than half the world’s university students. Over half a billion women have also joined the work force over the last 30 years.

However other gaps persist in many areas reveals the girls summit. Women still have unequal access to education. They also face death more often because of their gender. through gender selective abortion; in early childhood as the ‘less valued girl-child’; and in their reproductive years as they face the ‘real’ dangers of maternal mortality.

“We live in a globalised world where a significant event occurring today in a given place has direct and immediate consequences in the rest of the world”, says Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Relations and G20 Ambassador Patricia Espinosa.

“Undoubtedly, we must either accept our shared future, or we will have none”, she continued.

Unequal access to economic opportunities can greatly limit a woman’s power as decision makers in their own households, as well as their own society. Although general household financial wealth has gone up 5.14 percent in Mexico since 2004, according to the Paris based OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, that works to help governments work together to solve problems that face women everywhere, “Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market”, outlines the OECD.

Jeni Klugman, from the World Bank, explains the issues of women and inequality more closely. “They’re a real drag on development, that’s why last year over 25 billion dollars were invested in gender-informed projects”, she said. One of the programs funded by the World Bank in Mexico is the GEM – Gender Equity Model, run by the National Institute for Women.

“Mexico has made substantial progress in recent years in reducing gender gaps in education, reducing the maternal
mortality rate, and increasing women’s participation in the labor force. Yet much remains to be done.Women in Mexico still represent only 35% of the labor force”, says a 2010 outline of the GEM program.

Working to bring equal opportunities for men and women to the table throughout the region, 300 Mexican organizations have already been certified as ‘gender equitable’.

According to their report: “Participating firms have eliminated pregnancy discrimination from recruitment practices, communication has improved, and 90% of participating organizations reported that workers’ performance and productivity have increased”.

Other sources are saying that women are seeing improvements in regions including Mexico. “Mexico continues to climb the rankings, gaining two positions this year because of an improvement in the wage gap”, says an October 2011 report by UNESCO.

“Things can change”, Klugman outlines. “Not by itself but with the work of civil society, political will and domestic policy and the private sector”.

Some of the most inspiring advice for the G(irls)20 Summit came from women in the private sector only days before the G20 Summit. The last panel,  called “Women in Mexico”, stressed “never giving up and being fearless”. The G20 ‘pre-summit’ was left with a simple idea: “If you don’t try, you have already failed”, reminded Nicole Reich from Scotiabank Mexico.

India leads the way for businesswomen

News for 19 June 2012 has been taken from Women’s Views on News.

India is the best place for female entrepreneurs to set up in business, according to a study by PC maker, Dell.

Women in India can expect 90% business growth in one year, compared to half this in the UK and the US.

The study, which examined 450 female entrepreneurs, shows that females in the UK and the US turn to family and friends for money, whereas in India, angel investors are more common.

Karen Quintos, from Dell, said: “The difference between funding issues between female and the male entrepreneurs is that women have issues even in approaching for funds”.

In its women’s global entrepreneurship study, Dell focussed on business confidence, motivation, financing options and support networks.

According to the study, 71% of female entrepreneurs in India say that their business is successful and 80% are looking to expand and hire more staff.

In terms of having a positive impact on society, Indian female entrepreneurs were far ahead of the west with 80% thinking that their business did, compared to just 21% in the UK.

Dell released the results at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur network event in New Delhi, which was hosted by Moira Forbes, publisher of Forbes Women.

Trending: Behind every ad man is a ‘real’ woman

News for 18 June 2012 has been taken from The Independent.


Special K Multigrain Oats & Honey Cereal

Photo: theimpulsivebuy

The red swimsuit-clad model has been given her marching orders by Special K cereal, which is using “plus-sized real women” in its ads for the first time. The new campaign, called “What will you gain when you lose?”, shows a gaggle of nervous women stepping onto scales in Covent Garden expecting to be weighed, but instead of revealing how many pounds they are, they are given inspirational messages such as “Amazing”, “Stylish”, “Glowing”, “Patronised”. Sorry, I added that last one.


While companies should be applauded for steering away from using identikit waifs, why do the “real women” they use (what is a “real woman” anyway?) come across as simpering fools? And while they might not be models, are we really expected to believe they’re not being paid? (Please tell me they’re being paid.)

Ever since Dove started featuring women of all shapes and sizes in their ads back in 2004, everyone from Nike to WeightWatchers has jumped on the bandwagon. It’s great to see diversity, I only wish the adverts weren’t so painfully cheesy, perpetuating adland’s warped idea of what female empowerment actually means.


More female judges appointed

News for 14 June 2012 has been taken from The Guardian.

(Original headline: More female judges appointed – but ethnic minority candidates making slower progress)

Women and ethnic minorities are under-represented in the judicial system.
Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

Women have a made a strong showing in the latest appointments to the bench, according to the latest statistics released by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).

But the figures, which cover more than 700 recommendations for appointment over a six-month period from October 2011 to March 2012, show less pronounced progress by those from minority ethnic backgrounds trying to move up into more senior judicial roles.

The Ministry of Justice is eager to promote judicial diversity while preserving the principle of selection on merit. The Crime and Courts Bill, which is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords, contains measures changing the rules to extend part-time working patterns to enable senior judges to help balance their work and family lives.

It also introduces ‘positive action’ for appointments, so that if two candidates are deemed of completely equal ability, a selection can be made between them with the aim of improving diversity on the bench.

Christopher Stephens, chairman of the JAC, said: “In our merit-based selections women continue to perform well and are being selected in greater proportions than men in some exercises. Almost a thousand women have now been selected by the JAC.

“Their strong performance in competitions for entry and middle level roles bodes well for the future if they choose to seek more senior positions. The government’s commitment to more salaried part-time working at senior levels should also help make a difference for women and other groups.”

Forty-three percent of the candidates recommended for appointment as district judges (civil) were women, even though women only made up 19% of the eligible pool. However, would-be female circuit judges for heavyweight crime cases were less successful. A fifth of the eligible candidates were women, but they made up 14% of those who applied and eight percent of those recommended for appointment.

Those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, the JAC said, have continued to apply in much larger numbers than their level in the eligible pool, but the proportion being selected compared to the proportion applying was poor. Some did not provide sufficient “supporting evidence” of previous judicial experience.

Christopher Stephens said: “There are some good results for BAME candidates. It is positive to see successes in both the courts and tribunals and in a salaried legal exercise. We will discuss these findings with BAME groups and the judiciary to help make further progress in future exercises.”

The justice minister Lord McNally said: “This report is very encouraging and I am pleased progress is being made. We are keen to see a more diverse judiciary that is more reflective of our society, without diluting the very high quality of judges we already have.

“However, we must not rest on our laurels and it is important that all involved in the appointments process continue to build on the achievements to date. The government is in the process of making a range of changes to help remove obstacles to this, such as extending part-time working patterns for senior judges to help them better balance work and family lives. I hope that this welcome trend encourages more women and BAME members of the legal professions to consider the judiciary as a realistic career ambition.”

Sandals help women take small step towards independence in Tanzania

News for 13 June has been taken from Women’s Views on News.

Last year, Jennifer VanderGalien founded Shining A Light, a comprehensive project that empowers women in Tanzania through employment, training and education. Their workshop is based in Arusha in the north of the country.

VanderGalien arrived in Tanzania about four years ago to work with children. What she soon realised was that many of their mothers were vulnerable because they had no education or vocational training. If they are neglected, abused or abandoned by their husbands or families – for whatever reason – they have no way of providing for their family.

“That really touched my heart,” said VanderGalien.  ”After a year here in Tanzania, I began to pray about what I could do to help these women.”

Jennifer realised she could provide a training ground to give these women employable skills. She had already been selling Masai-style sandals to family and friends back in the US as a fundraiser, but soon realised she could set up a company where the women could manufacture these beaded, leather sandals.

“I really didn’t want to set up a project to be a handout, I wanted to it to be a hand-up. I started to develop relationships with the women in this village, while trying to figure out who was going to be able to take advantage of this project.”

By creating a project which would set outcast women alongside eminent women of the community, VanderGalien would challenge social stigmas.

“I also wanted to work with women who were able to grasp the opportunities that they were being given,” she said.

VanderGalien found it hard to source someone in Arusha who had a good working knowledge of leather. She initially wanted to hire a woman.

“But no one would tell me who could make me these type of sandals – because everyone wants you to buy the sandals from them,” she said.  ”We couldn’t find anyone; no women in this area know how to work with leather.”

Rather than be disheartened by this, she was encouraged.

“It’s amazing because we would be opening up a whole new industry to women in this area: leather,” she said. “How to work with it, how to treat it, finish it, sew it. They wouldn’t just know how to make sandals; they’d know how to make bags and furniture and all sorts of things.”

So how did VanderGalien eventually source someone to train the women in leather?

“I had been trying to find someone for just ages. Then one day I traveled to this restaurant in the middle of nowhere. It’s a bit of a Westerner’s oasis – where you can get a cheeseburger and milkshake and french fries. Tanzanians don’t go there but as I walked out of the bathroom, a Tanzanian guy was standing in front of me. I asked him, ‘Can I help you?’ And he said, ‘I’m looking for someone who wants to buy Masai sandals because I make them.’

“So last year we opened this workshop and started training the women to bead sandals. We soon realised that it wasn’t enough to just give them a salary. Most of them had not really had a paycheque before. Most of them didn’t have healthcare knowledge or money management skills.

“And so we came up with a four phase programme. The women would all start out in phase one where they’d bead the sandals while being paid a certain salary. We would then train them how to budget a salary and also introduce them to healthcare and disease prevention.”

Healthcare education may not be what we think of in the West.

“We have a doctor come and talk about a rape and abuse clinic that’s in town,” VanderGalien explained.

If the amount of chatting and laughter I heard from the women is anything to go by, VanderGalien has certainly created a safe environment.

“We also started a literacy programme, both for Swahili and English, which would no doubt educate and empower them further,” she said.

VanderGalien ‘s aim is twofold – that the women will be able to eventually run the shop themselves, and that the project becomes a sustainable business.

“We hope by phase three and four that we’ll see the real champions of the programme who will be able to take over the project,” VanderGalien  said, ”and we’d be able to teach them business skills such as inventory and production.”

Last year, they sold around 1,100 pairs of sandals, and they hope to double that this year. Most of our donations are put towards the project’s growth and development,” she said, “but we’re looking for this workshop to run off the sale of the sandals.”

VanderGalien describes her inspiration as from God, and desires to share the peace she found with others who suffer from the same emptiness she once experienced.

If you would like to order some sandals or find out more about the project, please visit their website.  

Tonight, we honor 21 who lead us toward equality

News for 3 May 2012 has been taken from Women’s eNews.

Tonight is Women’s eNews’ big night, our annual gala celebrating 21 leaders committed to improving the lives of women and girls and raising the funds necessary for Women’s eNews to continue delivering the news.

Each day, I read our daily news story before it is ready to be posted and sometimes my breath is taken away. A reporter’s command of the facts, depth of research, connection with the interview subjects and compelling use of language can all inspire this. I feel humbled as well; grateful that my work results in the journalism Women’s eNews reporters and editors produce.

It’s been a great year for Women’s eNews. Our growing readership is now about 100,000 readers a day. We were honored to receive’s 2012 Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite Women’s Rights Blog or Website. Coverage of women throughout the Middle East post-Arab Spring continues to be a strong suit and reaches an expanding audience of Arabic-speaking women through our Arabic-language sister site, Arabic Women’s eNews, which has a new logo and top-notch design.

Rita Henley Jensen
Editor in Chief

More women seen rising to CEO rank

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News for 29 April was taken from Women’s eNews.

From Marissa Mayer at Google to Michell Gass at Starbucks, more women are being groomed for corporate leadership.

The Wall Street Journal  quotes a variety of sources who say companies are cultivating more women for CEO status.

A list of 10 such female executives  includes Marissa Mayer, 36, at Google, and Michelle Gass, 44, at Starbucks.
Although there are only 35 female chief executives at Fortune 1000 companies, Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier Communications Corp., says “she wouldn’t be surprised if the number of major-company female CEOs doubled by 2017.”
Meanwhile, Catalyst, a New York research group, found that nearly 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies now have at least one female executive officer, though women are still just 14 percent of executive officers.
The Journal article also mentions a study by McKinsey & Co., to be released Monday, that finds 24 percent of senior vice presidents at 58 big companies are now women.

UK women have greater sense of wellbeing than men

News for 13 April 2012 was taken from Women’s Views on News.

Women in the UK are happier and more satisfied with their lives than men, but, according to recent government statistics, they worry more.

Between April and September 2011, respondents to the Annual Population Survey were asked questions about their well-being for the first time.

They were asked to rate satisfaction with their lives, whether they found them worthwhile, their happiness and anxiety levels on a scale of one to ten.

Women scored an average 7.44 overall, against 7.34 for men.

Younger women and older women tended to be happier, found life more worthwhile and were more satisfied than the middle-aged, but levels of well-being started to decline for women over 80.

Women also reported higher levels of anxiety than men.  Female respondents said they had an anxiety level of 3.29, whereas men put theirs at 3.09.

Women aged 50-54 were most anxious, while 16-19-year-olds rated themselves as the most carefree.

What We Do, a recent study of work and leisure activities produced by the Office of National Statistics as part of its National Measuring Well-Being Programme suggested one reason may be because fewer women work long hours.

But women fared less well when it came to participating in sport and fitness activities, widely believed to improve health and well-being.

Only 47 per cent of women had participated in sport and physical activity in the last four months, compared with 61 per cent of men.

Ugandan women find new possibilities in art world

News for 2 April 2012 taken from Women’s eNews.

From literature and theater to music and art, women in Uganda are gaining social recognition. But playwright Adong Lucy Judith still had to take her play “Just Me, You and the Silence” outside the country to have it produced.

In the middle of a small street flanked by fragrant jacaranda trees blooming with purple flowers, a group of actors jostles for space with passersby and a succession of big, white government vehicles outside the Uganda Museum.

It could be just another street theater rehearsal in the capital. But it’s not. This one includes two women among the performers, a rarity in a society where women are often discouraged from seeking public attention.

When the Bayimba Cultural Foundation sent out calls for a street theater workshop, the two women–Moreen Duudu Hazel and Rehema Nanfuka–showed up. They didn’t know they had become pioneers in a challenging art form. It was just something they wanted to do.

Hazel and Nanfuka say sexual harassment is a problem when they perform on the streets of Kampala as well as in other towns.

“Guys were pulling my hand, saying, ‘I want this one, and I want that one,’” Hazel said, recalling a recent performance.

Both women said the other actors in their troop have helped contain the situations.

In 1990, Makerere University, the country’s leading academic institution, located in Kampala, introduced an affirmative action plan to increase women’s access to public universities.

Five years later, the country’s constitution was amended to say, “Women shall have the right to affirmative action for the purposes of redressing the imbalances created by history, tradition or custom.”

Twenty years later, female students had closed the gap with male counterparts in the humanities, especially in arts studies. At Makerere University’s January 2012 graduation, young women were 55 percent of those earning arts degrees.

But there’s still a gap outside school.

Positive Signs

With the exception of church choirs, women in the arts are still pushing for wider recognition. Positive signs exist that they are making progress.

One big one breakthrough came recently when the country’s curriculum-setting agency added “A Season of Mirth” by Ugandan writer Regina Amollo to the list of books for studying literature in English. It’s still listed among the non-examinable texts, which are meant for leisure and not for obligatory study in school.

Even so, women see it as a breakthrough in the male domination of Ugandan literature.

Creative writing has also spurred political discussion of gender issues in Uganda. Most notable was “Beyond the Dance,” a 2009 anthology of short fiction and poetry about female genital mutilation.

Artist Sarah Tshila fuses spoken word poetry, African traditional music and hip-hop.

In 2007, the BBC World Service’s talent search program, “The Next Big Thing,” named her as one of the 20 best unsigned artists in the world. In August of the same year, she recorded her first album, “Sipping From The Nile.”

“This was great positive feedback,” she says. “It opened doors for me internationally.”

Tshila says that the low number of women in the performing arts is not always a deliberate exclusion.

“Sometimes it is about the way we’ve been raised and the lack of courage to pursue our dreams,” she says.