Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category
Every week I will post a short biography from The United Nations Who’s Who of Women and the Environment. This week is featuring Mei Ng from China:
From meeting rooms to pollution hotspots, from lobby platform to legislative chambers, from recycling sweatshops to landfills, from congested streets to country parks, from consumer wasteland to green homes, from kindergartens to university lecture halls, from freezing air-conditioned offices to wind farms in southern China, from urbanized Hong Kong to unsustainable villages and drought plagued provinces in developing China, Mei Ng’s green footprint has travelled far and wide. In the last 15 years, her effort to promote awareness and transfer NGO experience has helped to catalyze the budding green movement in China since 1992. Mei Ng’s green message has travelled 26500 km to 15 provinces and touched over 860,000 people.
Mrs. Mei Ng is the Director of Friends of the Earth (Hong Kong). She was elected to the UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honor in 2000. In the same year, she was appointed by the State Environmental Protection Agency as China Environment Envoy. In 2003, Mrs Ng was decorated with the Bronze Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong SAR Government for her environmental contribution to Hong Kong.
Mrs. Ng has actively participated in environmental policy development and community mobilization. She was appointed to the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) since 2001 and invited as an advisor to the Hong Kong Sustainable Industry Council.
Leading a dedicated team to catalyse sustainability thinking, environmental governance and public participation, her priority campaigns include responsible consumption, renewable energy, community participation and sustainable development through women and youth empowerment.
Her millennium vision is to mobilize women folks to safeguard their environmental and quality of life. Turning pig waste-to-energy in China’s arid western region to halt logging and desertification and raising awareness of women factory workers in Southern China’s pollution hotspots, Mei Ng believes in lighting a candle rather than curse darkness.
As a sustainability pathfinder, Mei Ng has been lighting small candles in Hong Kong and China. She believes in Do-It-Yourself Environmentalism in keeping with the spirit of Sustainability.
Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but there was a week long internet breakdown here on the Ashram. Now I’m back and decided to share my excitement about traveling to Nepal with a Nepal-themed story.
From Women’s E-News:
Rajin Rayamajhi, a lawyer with Women for Human Rights, likened the proposal to “buying and selling a woman.”
Many single women, as widows here prefer to be called, are illiterate and only 2 percent have higher education. Rayamajhi said the proposal would be difficult for many to understand. This makes them vulnerable to men who would marry them for the money and then leave, taking all the funds.
She also slammed the payments for increasing the risk of violence and trafficking once widows were again under the control of a husband. Critics further say that the proposed legislation encourages a different kind of dowry, though the Nepali government has been trying to eliminate that system, and advances the notion that a woman’s security and empowerment is dependent on marriage and men.
Although the group encourages young widows to marry, they stress the importance of independence before remarrying. Widows in Nepal face many rules as single women.
Single women are not to wear jewelry or bright colors, especially red; they are not to eat meat or seasoned food; not allowed to participate in celebrations; and often not even allowed to touch other people. Their increased dependency on living relatives makes them more vulnerable to, and often the victims of, verbal, physical and sexual abuse and frequently their property and inheritance rights are violated. The practice of Sati, where women were ritually burned on their husband’s funeral pyres, was outlawed a century ago.
“One minute you have everything and the next it’s gone,” said Thapa, whose own husband died 20 years ago while serving as a physician with the United Nations in the first Iraq War. She was left with three sons aged 4, 9 and 10.
Almost immediately her relatives forcibly removed her treasured diamond nose ring, which she’d worn since receiving it at 14 from her parents as a gift for completing high school. She was made to wear colorless clothing and at her brother’s wedding she was not allowed to help with the preparations. As a widow, she was considered bad luck.
Read the rest here
Every week I will post a short biography from The United Nations Who’s Who of Women and the Environment. This week is featuring Parveen Abrar of Hyderabad, India:
Recycling is the only suitable way to stop the damage caused to sanitation systems by plastic bags. Youth Sciences Association for the Environment (YSAE) has developed a method by which polythene bags can be recycled and converted into decorative items like tea mats, caps, hats, mats, handbags, wall hangers, ladies’ purses, baskets, school bags, key rings and more.
This recycling method has gained great popularity amongst women. Ms.Parveen Abrar, a founding member of YSAE, has trained over 1000 girls in recycling plastic bags, presenting them also with the means to generate income, by marketing household items made of recycled bags. In 2000, 2001 and 2005, she organized training workshops in Karachi, Tando Allahyar, Tando Muhammad, KhanVillage, Abri Kather and Hali Road in Hyderabad.
Parvenne Abrar holds an MA in Economics and a Master’s in education. She is a Master trainer for the ESRA USAID Program in Sindh, Pakistan.
Eight women from commonwealth countries Cyprus, Ghana, India, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Jamaica and the United Kingdom are undertaking what seems like the impossible – skiing over 900 kilometers from Antarctica to the geographic South Pole.
Marking the 60th aniversary of the Commonwealth, the expedition aims to demonstrate the potential of greater intercultural understanding and exchange, while at the same time highlighting the achievements of women across the world.
The team members from Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana and Jamaica will be the first person from their nation to ski to the South Pole. Those from India, Singapore and New Zealand will be the first women from their country to do so.
Fantastic as these achievements will be, the expedition is about much more than national and global records. The team members will return to their home countries as role models to inspire others, particularly women, to reach beyond the expectation of others and follow their own path.
Representing a Commonwealth of 52 nations and 2 billion people around the globe, the expedition team is a diverse group of real women selected from over 800 applicants. Before joining the expedition many of the team members had never been in sub-zero temperatures, put on a pair of skis or spent the night in a tent – a fact which makes the challenge they are undertaking even more remarkable.
The 900km journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole will take around 40 days. The team will survive on lightweight dehydrated rations and melted snow. They will sleep in tents on the ice at night and pull sledges containing all the food, fuel and equipment they will need. Travelling without a guide, the team will need to rely on each other to navigate themselves safely to the bottom of the world.
The team expect to arrive at the South Pole around New Year’s Day 2010.
Latrice Davis of Women’s News reports that even though there are efforts to get clean, safe drinking water to the women who need it most, it is unlikely any of the programs working toward that goal will have much of an impact.
Here’s the full story:
Improving water quality and access can help lower maternal mortality rates, say advocates. Now a new fellowship program is being launched to explore various solutions to the maternal health problem in the world’s poorest nations.
(WOMENSENEWS)–Knowledge has long been cited as the tool most needed to lower maternal mortality rates, but Global Water, a volunteer organization based in Oxnard, Calif., says what women in developing countries also need to combat this problem is water.
“Not having the proper amount of water on a daily basis puts stress on the body, which affects a woman’s life span,” said Ted Kuepper, the organization’s executive director, in a telephone interview. “It also affects their ability to further their education and break out of poverty.”
To help disrupt this cycle, the New York-based international reproductive health organization EngenderHealth is launching a fellowship program with Ashoka, an organization of social entrepreneurs with headquarters in Arlington, Va., to focus on improving maternal health in the world’s poorest nations. The initiative will concentrate on parts of the world with the highest maternal and child mortality rates, says Tim Thomas, senior advisor of the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth.
“The rates are highest in Africa and South Asia,” he said in a telephone interview, but added that “we’re not committing to any particular countries at this point.”
That’s because EngenderHealth and Ashoka–who plan to recruit 32 candidates through its Changemakers online competition–are seeking proposals that focus on applicants’ areas of interest. Those selected for the program will spend nine months working on a tangible solution to a specific maternal health challenge, starting in September 2010.
Water Use Soars
Water use has grown at more than twice the rate of the world’s population over the past century, mostly for agricultural purposes, according to the 2009 United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report. This has left 884 million people at risk for–or already facing–a water shortage. The situation poses a huge threat to maternal health, but Thomas said it’s not the only contributing factor.
“There’s a panoply of factors that contribute to maternal mortality–everything from (the drug) misoprostol not being available to treat postpartum hemorrhage to the insufficient distribution of magnesium sulfate for preeclampsia in rural clinics,” he said. “This is where research is needed to coalesce and bring consensus, and that’s one of the jobs of the task force.”
Grace Lusiola, director of the EngenderHealth office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, works in conjunction with the government on strategies like the One Plan, a federal campaign unveiled in April 2008 to reduce maternal and child deaths. The campaign’s contributions to policy development include providing post-abortion care.
“Unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal death in Tanzania,” Lusiola said in an e-mail interview. “We’re increasing the number of facilities at the community level where women who have had unsafe abortions can go for medical care. Being able to get emergency care locally and not having to travel (long distances) saves lives.”
Another way to improve maternal health is through building latrines and hand-washing stations. Global Water assembles such facilities for elementary schools in rural areas, working with the Peace Corps to promote good hygiene and halt the spread of waterborne illnesses such as cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis and typhoid fever. On one visit to a village in Guatemala, Kuepper said, volunteers taught children about hygiene–despite lacking the basic tools.
“Those schools didn’t have any water, so they had the students pretend to wash their hands and brush their teeth,” he said. “It was an amazing sight.”
Still, good hygience practices are not common in many countries. A 2009 study published in the journal Health Education Research found that only 29 percent of 802 women surveyed in Kenya washed their hands with soap after using the bathroom, often due to lack of time and energy. (Washing one’s hands with just water is the norm throughout the country.)
“Key motivations for hand washing were disgust, nurture, comfort and affiliation,” wrote lead author Valerie Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Fear of disease generally did not motivate hand washing,” as 43 percent of the women polled felt that diarrhea “is a normal part of growing up.”
Contaminated water is also commonplace in developing countries. The World Health Organization, or WHO, and the United Nations Children’s Fund issued a report in 2004 that found the definition of “safe water” varied from region to region. WHO has issued guidelines for maintaining water quality around the world since 1982, but leaves it up to each country to implement their own standards. Such inconsistency is why Global Water bypasses the government when it comes to installing water treatment systems.
“We’re trying to fill a void that’s been created by the leaders of the developing world themselves,” Kuepper said. “There’s a real lack of concern among these leaders to take care of their own people.”
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that at the global level maternal mortality rates fell by less than one percent annually between 1990 and 2005–far below the 5.5 percent annual improvement needed to reach the world body’s 2015 target. Of the eight Millennium Development Goals–U.N. benchmarks to reduce poverty and improve health–originally set in 2000, it’s the area that has seen the least amount of progress.
“Women’s health and empowerment is at the heart of all the development goals. I don’t think any of them can be achieved unless we scale up a full range of reproductive health services and policies for women in every part of the world,” Thomas said. “There’s such great momentum around maternal health because the crux of women’s reproductive health and rights is the saving of lives of women who are dying needlessly because of pregnancy or childbirth.”
Improving women’s access to clean water is directly linked to increasing their life expectancy. For example, a 2006 WHO survey found that women in countries such as Tanzania were only expected to live to the age of 51; one of the causes of death was consuming excessive levels of fluoride found in contaminated water. Those who do survive in countries with unsafe water have to deal with side effects like stiff joints.
“The body acclimates to some degree to accommodate the level of contamination in the water,” Kuepper said. But he pointed out that such adaptation only applies to microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, not minerals like fluoride and arsenic. Since water contamination remains an environmental hazard to women and children in the world’s poorest nations, he doesn’t envision the development goals being fulfilled within the next six years.
“I don’t see anything on the horizon to fix the problem. There’s not enough funding efficiently being spent in water-short areas of the world,” he said.
A gem from the feministing community:
By Annushay Hossain
I grew up knowing my country was drowning. My childhood memories are full of flashing images of annual monsoon rains making rivers out of our roads, lakes out of our rice paddy fields, washing away farmers’ harvests, pushing the rural population into our already overpopulated capital city. Of course the yearly floods alternated with even greater natural disasters- cyclones, tornadoes, you name it growing up I saw it. The rumor in the playground was that in twenty years Bangladesh would be completely underwater.
Today that statement is no longer a rumor, but very much a reality. According to the UK ‘s Guardian publication, Bangladesh makes up not even 10% of the land mass of South Asia , but over 90% of the region’s water passes through it. Experts state that Bangladesh ‘s shifting and intensifying weather patterns are making a bad situation worse. The case of Bangladesh shows us that climate change is real, and is already impacting populations and ecosystems around the world.
But the case of Bangladesh shows us something more: That it’s the world’s poor who will feel the impact of this change the hardest. And who exactly are the poor? Women, who make up approximately 65% of the world’s poorest populations.
Because of the traditional domestic responsibilities which fall on women and girls, experts state that climate change is having a disproportionate affect them. Women are the primary caretakers of families, primary managers of everything from food production to water management in their households. As UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) puts it, women are the ones who cook, clean, and farm for their families, in addition to providing health care and hygiene. Women are not only on the “frontlines” of climate change, but their work and relationship with the environment is so intimate that their experience with it changing is often just as personal.
Let’s look at the issue of water for example, a natural resource especially sensitive to climate change, and one that traditionally women are the managers of in their households. According to UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), women and girls on average travel 10-15 kilometers, spending up to 8 hours a day gathering water for their families. Droughts caused by climate change are shrinking up and eliminating existing water supplies, making the distance to walk even longer. Because of the distances women and girls have to walk to fetch water for their families, millions of girls around the world are unable to go to school. Imagine that. The average person would never make the connection between accessing water and girls’ education. Yet it exists.
As the gendered impact of climate change becomes increasingly palpable, my question is- where are the feminist voices? Why are more women’s rights advocates and activists not picking up and rallying around this issue vigorously? Everyday you see articles in the news, but where is the real action? More importantly, where is the outrage? Just yesterday I read an article in the LA Times talking about how the newest kind of refugee is not from war, but from of climate change. They are called “climate refugees” and the LA Times states that almost 10million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes for “reasons ranging from rising (or falling) sea levels, lack of rain, and desertification.”
Back home in Bangladesh , the list of innovative ideas to combat and more importantly, adapt to climate change is endless. International aid organizations are working with local NGOs to build “floating villages,” clinics on boats, and help women educate their communities about securing flood and cyclone shelters.
But there has to be more. Women may be in the frontlines of climate change, but they are not only its victims. Their personal and intimate experience of the harsh impacts of climate change means that within them lies very real solutions to combat it. If the voices from the women’s rights movement don’t pick up this issue, loudly, clearly and unanimously, climate change will not only drown out countries, but the agents of change, women, with it. And that is simply not an option.
It is the responsibility of the women’s movement, both here in the US and abroad, to make the issue of our altering environment, our issue, otherwise everybody loses. Climate change is a human rights issue, but its very obvious gendered impacts make it a women’s rights issue.