Rights for Women around the World
Achieving universal human rights means achieving gender equality. Beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has campaigned to enshrine gender equality into international law and practice — a campaign has garnered support from the international community. In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created U.N. Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to accelerate progress on women's equality in international policy and procedure.
The U.N. Women office has outlined seven areas for this endeavor, from addressing violence against women to enabling economic empowerment. At the same time, grassroots organizations throughout the world are working to implement strategies to achieve gender equality. UUSC supports international policy and human-rights law — such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) — and partners with these grassroots groups that are focusing on issues that affect women and girls in their communities. The coordination of both of these powerful tactics makes UUSC's approach unique.
So much of UUSC's work lines up with U.N. Women's seven focus areas. One of their focus areas is human rights, which touches on all of UUSC's work. Below, explore the ways that UUSC is engaging in their six other focus areas for gender equality around the world.
Violence against Women
Violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights around the world. The effectiveness of laws protecting women are only as strong as our ability to enforce them and the strength of grassroots groups that organize to protect women and girls in their community.
Addressing sexual violence in Haiti
The Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV is its Haitian acronym) has been courageously confronting the growing prevalence of sexual violence in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake by coordinating with camp leaders, police, and health-care providers.
Creating alternative incomes for practitioners of female genital mutilation
The Women Make Change project with the Nandi women of the Kakamega district in Kenya has provided alternative sources of income for women who relied on performing female genital mutilation to support themselves. As a result of this program, funded in part by UUSC's Small Farmer Fund, 18 practitioners of female genital mutilation in a village have abandoned the practice. Families also became aware of changing cultural values and began to celebrate girls' puberty with more positive rituals.
Peace and Security
Rape and other forms of sexual violence are routinely used as weapons of war in conflict situations. The U.N. Security Council demanded an immediate and complete end to women and girls being "targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse, and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group." International law protecting women is important — but it is the work of women and their community allies that keeps women safe.
Weaving a web of protection for women and girls in Darfur
Since 2004, UUSC has developed and implemented practical, straightforward measures to keep women and girls living in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) safe. Most recently, UUSC partnered with Sudanese religious leaders to provide trainings on the theological basis for the rights of women in Islamic texts.
Picking up the pieces, one family at a time
After the 2008 postelection violence in Kenya, UUSC worked with Kakamega Grassroots Initiative to support women and their children who fled from Narobi to Kakemaga for safety. The Kakamega Grassroots Initiative identified displaced women, organized them in a group, and provided them with training and small loans. For instance, 20 women completed a poultry course, secured a loan in November 2008, and worked to fatten chickens to sell during the Christmas season. This provided them with the means to earn a living and rebuild the businesses they lost in the violence.
Leadership and Participation
Although women make up half the population, women's positions of power, whether in politics or business, are lagging behind. In order to help women realize their full potential, UUSC works with grassroots organizations that support women leaders in politics and business.
Fostering a new generation of female leaders in Iraq
UUSC's partner Asuda in Iraqi Kurdistan held five election workshops in Sulaymaniyah. Training women on how to vote and run for public office in the region's second largest city, these workshops reached over 150 participants. They also made banners, leaflets, and t-shirts to raise awareness about women's political rights and responsibilities.
Organizing women workers internationally
UUSC partner STITCH connects the struggles of women workers in the United States and Central America, and strengthens ties of solidarity between them. Through their Women, Labor, and Leadership curriculum, STITCH helps women face the unique challenges of women workers in the informal economy by providing them with the skills to address and overcome the violations they face and empower them to take on positions of leadership.
Working towards economic security is an essential for equality of women. Women bear a disproportionate burden of the world's poverty, which stems from systematic discrimination they face in education, access to credit, and control of assets. To combat this, UUSC partners work with members of their communities to secure sustainable livelihoods.
Building from the ground up
UUSC's partner the Kenya National Alliance of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT) is doing groundbreaking work by organizing street vendors and informal traders, some of the most marginalized and vulnerable of the world's workers. UUSC supports KENASVIT's efforts to organize women street vendors through building women's leadership and by training them to have a bigger voice in policy advocacy and negotiations with local authorities.
Growing economies for the community
UUSC's partner the Southern Alternatives Agricultural Cooperative (SAAC) is the only African-American-owned pecan-shelling facility in the United States — and it is run by women. The women who lead this cooperative are lifelong advocates who are determined to run a fair-trade pecan-processing plant in a way that creates new jobs for workers while strengthening local economies in southwest Georgia.
National Planning and Budgeting
A government's budget is a road map for its social and economic plans. By outlining how funds will be used, a government determines who benefits from government-funded programs. Gender-responsive budgeting — budgeting that contributes to gender equality and women's empowerment, along with supporting legislation — signifies a government's commitment to addressing inequalities between men and women.
Budgeting for human rights
Ensuring that governments and international aid organizations use gender-responsive budgeting and legislation is one of the key areas of UUSC's disaster-relief public-policy agenda. UUSC works with policy makers to promote legislation and budgets to address specific needs of women. This is done by ensuring there is a gender analysis of how resources are being allocated and how gender is being integrated into programming and evaluation.
Making a difference with money
UUSC partner the Tanzania Gender and Networking Program (TGNP) has used its gender-responsive budgeting program to address gender inequality issues in Tanzania's national budget. In particular, TGNP's gender analysis of decades of the Tanzania government's budget revealed gross inequities in the funding of sectors, such as water, that have serious implications on women and girls.
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight goals adopted by the international community in 2000, set targets for 2015 on eradicating poverty. These goals include particular benchmarks for promoting gender equality and empowering women — among them, access to education and the human right to water, two issues that UUSC works with partners to address.
Addressing how water affects women
Nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water — and women, most often the primary procurers of water for their households, bear the burden for its collection. Improved access to safe, sufficient, and affordable water would give women more time to earn income and girls a greater chance to attend school. The Coalition Against Water Privatization, UUSC's partner in South Africa, conducted a Women and Water campaign to end the use of prepaid water meters. As they put it, "Water and sanitation is dignity for women."
Recognizing that knowledge is power
UUSC provides grants to Barakat — in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan — to support teacher training programs that promote literacy among girls and incorporate information about individual rights and human rights into their lesson plans.
Featured stories about women's rights
November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence
adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1999 to raise
public awareness of the prevalence of violence against women.
The Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR) recently issued groundbreaking recommendations to the
government of Haiti to address and prevent gender-based violence (GBV) in displacement