We are at a pivotal moment for women’s rights. The historical and structural inequalities that have allowed oppression and discrimination to flourish are being exposed like never before. From Latin America to Europe to Asia, on social media, on film sets, on the factory floor and in the streets, women are calling for lasting change and zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination of all kinds.
Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.
The activism and advocacy of generations of women has borne fruit. There are more girls in school than ever before; more women are doing paid work and in senior roles in the private sector, academia, politics and in international organizations, including the United Nations. Gender equality is enshrined in countless laws, and harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage have been outlawed in many countries.
But serious obstacles remain if we are to address the historic power imbalances that underpin discrimination and exploitation.
More than a billion women around the world lack legal protection against domestic sexual violence. The global gender pay gap is 23 per cent, rising to 40 per cent in rural areas, and the unpaid work done by many women goes unrecognized. Women’s representation in national parliaments stands, on average, at less than one quarter, and in boardrooms it is even lower. Without concerted action, millions more girls will be subjected to genital mutilation over the next decade.
Where laws exist, they are often ignored, and women who pursue legal redress are doubted, denigrated and dismissed. We now know that sexual harassment and abuse have been thriving in workplaces, public spaces and private homes, in countries that pride themselves on their record of gender equality.
The United Nations should set an example for the world.
I recognize that this has not always been the case. Since the start of my tenure last year, I have set change in motion at UN headquarters, in our peacekeeping missions and in all our offices worldwide.
We have now reached gender parity for the first time in my senior management team, and I am determined to achieve this throughout the organization. I am totally committed to zero tolerance of sexual harassment and have set out plans to improve reporting and accountability. We are working closely with countries around the world to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse by staff in peacekeeping missions, and to support victims.
We at the United Nations stand with women around the world as they fight to overcome the injustices they face – whether they are rural women dealing with wage discrimination, urban women organizing for change, women refugees at risk of exploitation and abuse, or women who experience intersecting forms of discrimination: widows, indigenous women, women with disabilities and women who do not conform to gender norms.
Women’s empowerment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals means progress for all women, everywhere. The Spotlight initiative launched jointly with the European Union will focus resources on eliminating violence against women and girls, a prerequisite for equality and empowerment.
Let me be clear: this is not a favour to women. Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all.
There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries.
Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous. Where women face discrimination, we often find practices and beliefs that are detrimental to all. Paternity leave, laws against domestic violence and equal pay legislation benefit everyone.
At this crucial moment for women’s rights, it is time for men to stand with women, listen to them and learn from them. Transparency and accountability are essential if women are to reach their full potential and lift all of us, in our communities, societies and economies.
I am proud to be part of this movement, and I hope it continues to resonate within the United Nations and around the world.
Celebrating the girl child
Worldwide, girl children are precious beings cherished by their parents and by all. It is remains an acknowledged fact that the girl child is a powerful being who possesses unique virtues that makes her an icon of vitality and nature. She is indeed a channel through which the balance of human existence is built. Even though, in a typical African society where boys are more appreciated and given larger sense of worth, making her less appreciated , relegated, shoved aside and given second place where she is shoulder to shoulder with her male counterpart, it is a vivid fact that she is life!
This is one of the reasons the Alimosho local government area of Lagos in collaboration with the United Nations celebrated girl children on the International day of the girl child at the council Secretariat.
At the event, students were groomed on etiquette. They were also educated on why they should be proud being a girl child as they are as normal as their male counterparts are and can be anything they wanted. Actually, the sole aim of the program was to educate the girl child on her right and the opportunities available for them as well as create a platform for interaction, amongst others.
The event was graced by the presence of about 500 hundred students from various schools around Alimosho, presentations of sorts were also made by the students.
The executive chairman of Alimosho LGA, Hon Jelili Suliamon, in his speech stated that “The Nigerian society is infested with so many challenges that tend to prune down the potentials of women folk in some areas, even the girl- child is considered as an endangered species.”
Hon. Jelili emphasize that gender balancing is possible, also the women and girl child can be liberated from both self imposed and societal prisons.” He added that once there are policies and resources that create right developments environment, the gender imbalance and other problems facing the women and girl child would be solved.
Speaking to one of the students Precious Adebayo who said she was happy and proud to be a girl child and this makes her free to express herself. She advised her fellow girl child to be bold enough to go for what they want and not be intimated by their male counterparts as they are capable of doing what the boy child can do and even do better.
The local government deemed it fit that a girl child be empowered and as such, introduced a skill acquisition program, which include training in cake making, bead making, hair styling and amongst others.
The event sponsored by Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, Tastee Fried chicken restaurants and Action Health Incorporated was well attended. Among the attendees was the Oba of Shasha/Alimosho and other notable personalities.
Seeking better welfare package for widows
To make widows become self-sufficient and better equipped to take care of their families and in turn grow the economy, the Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation (AAAF) and other non- governmental organisations, (NGOs) have advocated for better welfare packages for them from both public and private institutions in Nigeria.
Their position was made known at the special 10th anniversary lecture of the Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation which was held in Lagos with the theme: ‘Widow’s Economic Empowerment through Gender Analysis Lens.’
Speaking at the foundation 10th anniversary, President of the foundation, Deacon Wale Afolabi, noted that attention given to widows in the society is still at its lowest ebb. He explained that one of the cardinal focal point of the Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation is to empower widows. “Empowering a widow will go a long way in making our society better. The rate at which widows are emerging due to the rate of death among men is alarming. These women are most times left alone to fend for themselves and their children, also pay bills. It is usually a cumbersome task for them to surmount.
At AAAF, we accommodate these women, pay the school fees of their children and train them with skills that will make them self-sustaining. We also give grants for them to establish their various businesses.
“These gestures will help in improving the economy. This is because a woman multiplies whatever is given to her and widows have been known to be very prudent in managing the resources given to them,” he said.
The AAAF President added: “Ten years ago, we began a journey to give hope and succor to less privileged in the society in line with the philanthropic outlook of our beloved mother, Alhaja Ayisatu Ajoke Afolabi. The Foundation has kept the dreams of our beloved mother alive through various intervention programmes ranging from school fees payment for indigent students, empowerment for women and widows through skill acquisition training and SMEs funding, free rural medical treatment, pilgrimage sponsorship among others.”
The former deputy governor of Lagos, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, noted that, the continued supports AAAF has given to widows have not gone unnoticed. “The continued support you have given to widows and other less privileged in the society have brought me here today. You have continued to touch lives despite the fact that you are a lone financier of the foundation. I urge you to continue this good work,” she said.
In similar manner, Mrs. Olufunsho Amosun, First Lady, Ogun State, who was represented by Mrs. Oyeleye Okeowo, explained that the partnership between her foundation Uplift Development Initiative and AAAF that started few years ago has yielded great benefits. “We started a partnership with the AAAF few years ago and today, we have together touched various lives in Abeokuta and other states. I am happy that the foundation is waxing strong. The saying that God is the husband of the widow is true. However AAAF has through their various intervention programmes, been a true friend for widows along life’s journey,” she noted.
Aderonke Oguntoyinbo, representative of Abimbola Fashola, urged all Nigerians to support widows around them to alleviate their sufferings. The AAAF is on course with her widow programmes as it is yielding the desired dividends.
Executive Coordinator, AAAF, Foluke Ademokun, in her address, said that in the foundation’s 10 years, thousands of widows and their children have benefitted from its various social intervention programmes.
Executive Director, SIFAX Group, Dr. Fola Rogers-Saliu, who represented Dr. Taiwo Afolabi (MON), Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group assured that widows that the group will not relent in making the plight of the widows better in Nigeria. “Plans are now at an advanced stage to establish AAAF in the South East so that we can reach more women and other less privileged. AAAF’s presence in the South-West and the North has added great value to the country. We will keep striving to put smiles on their face through improved intervention packages,” she said.
Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation is a non-governmental organization established by SIFAX Group to cater for the less privileged in the society through various social intervention programmes such as school fees support for indigent students, medical support, skill acquisition programme for widows, small scale business financing, medical outreach and others aimed at bringing succor to the less privileged in Nigeria.
Moms who use egg donors lack confidence in parenting ability – Study
Mothers who give birth using donor eggs may react less sensitively to their babies and have a lower confidence in their parenting ability, a study says.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge found “subtle yet meaningful differences” in the ways egg donor mothers interacted with their children, compared to mothers who had children using their own eggs.
The team interviewed 85 families who conceived using egg donation and 65 families who had children through the mother’s own eggs. They also observed mothers playing with their children as they normally would. During interviews, mothers who used a donor’s eggs were more likely to express a lack of confidence in their own parenting ability, the paper says. But changes were not detected in fathers. The study suggests this may be associated with the older age of mothers who had used donor eggs.
Other differences included how quickly mothers read signals given by babies, such as boredom, and the study also noticed that egg donor infants were “less emotionally responsive and involving of the mother” than babies who were genetically related to their mothers.
“Egg donation mothers were responding slightly less sensitively and they were structuring their play slightly less” than mothers who had used their own eggs as part of in-vitro fertilization, the study’s lead author, Susan Imrie, a research associate at the University of Cambridge, told CNN.
But the authors stressed that the overall cohesion and strength of relationships between mother and baby were not tested.
“The main takeaway is that the parents and babies are doing well,” said Imrie. “Although we did find these subtle difference in the play task, egg donor mums and IVF mums did look more similar than different.”
The authors did not suggest that mothers who used egg donors were less capable mothers, and the study is “no basis for saying anything much about child welfare,” said Ellie Lee, director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent. Lee was not involved in the study. “These mums have no need to worry any more than they do already about themselves or their children,” Lee added. “Overall, it’s wonderful that technology allows women and men who otherwise would not be able to, to have children, and society would do well to keep its eye on this, rather than anything else.”
An estimated 3,924 women underwent IVF using a donor egg in the UK in 2016, the last year for which figures are available, compared to 1,912 in 2006, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
In the US, 76,930 total IVF births – including donor and non-donor eggs – occurred in 2016, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the procedure became available 40 years ago, at least 8 million babies have born using IVF worldwide. Today, more than two million treatment cycles from IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection are performed each year, resulting in half a million babies globally.
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