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Feminists from different continents give their take on the most pressing issues

Today is International Women’s Day. To mark it NIKK and have asked activists, researchers and debaters from different continents to share their most important feminist issue. Read their responses below.

1. What’s the most important feminist issue right now?
2. What needs to be done?
3. What role can the Nordic countries play?

Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia and the Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education

Julia Gillard. Press photo
 Julia Gillard. Press photo

International Women’s Day presents us a powerful opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a girl or a woman worldwide. Sadly, for far too many girls and women, the picture remains grim. In 2016, I will be honing my focus on girls’ education, because 63 million girls are not in school across the world, and millions more are in school but not learning the basics of reading, writing and math. When we know that education is key to human development, this is simply unacceptable. And we know that educating girls in particular is a virtuous cycle: more educated women tend to be healthier, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their own children, all of which can lift households out of poverty.

  1. The under-education of girls is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. We need to move beyond well-meaning but scattered advocacy and toward helping countries to build strong education systems that deliver quality education to all students. These systems need to be responsive and accountable to communities, and they must deliver quality education in line with global best practice.  We should demand nothing less for the world’s children.
  2. The most successful countries in this mission have been committed to education and brought the political will to follow through on a clear plan. As an international community we can support developing countries by sharing research, help identifying gaps and solutions, and most importantly, by bringing additional funding. Our Nordic partners who are fervent supporters of education have been generous funders of global education and we hope they will continue. When we break it down, it costs just $1.18 USD a day to educate a child in a developing country. Surely every child is worth that.

Douce Namwezi Nibamba, journalist in Democratic Republic of the Congo and driving force behind AFEM-SK – an organization for women in media. 

Douce Namwezi. Press photo
 Douce Namwezi. Press photo

Women’s political participation, at all levels, is the most important feminist issue In Democratic Republic of Congo. I know that if women are participating, their needs and issues will be addressed.

  1. We need access to information on human rights, gender, good governance, democracy and women leadership. There is also a need of nomination of women in different decision making spheres and elections where women candidates gives opportunity to run. Two other important issues are the empowerment of girls and youth, and the fight against sexual and gender based violence.
  2. The Nordic countries can get deeper involved in the fight against war crimes and blood minerals. They can also support youth women´s network at grassroot level, and overall, give technical and/or financial support to developing countries.

Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women´s Lobby.

Viviane Teitelbaum. Press photo
 Viviane Teitelbaum. Press photo

It is difficult to pinpoint one specific issue as everything is linked, I would say: ordinary sexism that leads to or tolerates violence against women, poverty and under representation in political, social and economic areas of decision-making

  1. We need to strengthen our collective voice, to implement the aspects of cultural transformation, sexual rights, ending violence against women. But also tackle the labor market and raise awareness around feminist transformation of the economy.
  2. Act as a role model for other European countries so we can strengthen our ways to engage for more equality, sustainable change and for …a feminist Europe, free of prostitution!

Londa Schiebinger, USA, Professor of History of Science, Stanford University.

Londa Schiebinger. Press photo
 Londa Schiebinger. Press photo

Integrate sex & gender into science, health & medicine, engineering, and environmental research. Gendered Innovations add value to research and engineering by ensuring excellence and quality in outcomes and enhancing sustainability. They add value to society by making research more responsive to social needs, and to business by developing new ideas, patents, and technology.
Support the EU Horizon 2020 Gender Dimension in Research.

  1. Integrating sex and gender analysis into medical education, and integrating sex and gender analysis into engineering education.
  2. The Nordic countries can take leadership in this endeavor.

Nancy Sanchéz, Colombia, journalist, human right activist, the last ten years with the “Alliance Women Wavers of Life” from Putumayo.

Nancy Sanchez. Press photo
 Nancy Sanchez. Press photo

Violence against women. In Colombia, there is another war- the war at home where women, girls, boys, and adolescents are violated in overwhelming proportions. According to official statistics, inter-personal violence is responsible for 47.71% of homicides, higher than the 14.40% of homicides attributable to the armed conflict.

In the country, the most dangerous place for a woman is her own home. Colombia is one of the countries with the highest assassination rates for women by partners or ex-partners. According to official data, a woman dies every three days at the hands of the man who supposedly loved her; they take place during domestic tasks as she complies with her role as housekeeper, wife, and mother. Generally there is a painful history of submission, domination, slavery, and physical and psychological violence preceding assassinations, which tend to be brutal, vicious, women burned alive, strangled, knifed, and beaten into disfiguration. The motive comes from jealousy, intolerance, and the belief that women are property.

  1. Strengthening Justice is key for deterring violence against women. Special Units should be created in those institutions that investigate and sanction. Laws that protect women (Law 257 and Law on Feminicide) are a step forward but the reality remains the same. Working with women, especially those from the countryside, is crucial. The creation of solidarity networks, support, safe places, training, and economic empowerment are key if women are to overcome the submission which afflicts and degrades them.Working with men, boys, girls, and adolescents is likewise important. Although there is a significant process involving women’s organizations promoting women’s rights nationally and locally, much remains to be done with men, which is still incipient.
  2. Provide support to national and local-level women’s organizations to strengthen their struggle against gender-based violence.Continue socializing Resolution 1325 as a key instrument for women’s participation in decision-making and peace processes.
    The Academy and Gender Institutes in Sweden could build strategic alliances with local organizations and institutions for broader research into the phenomenon of this type of violence and the formulation of gender-based public policies.

Dolly Anek Odwong, South Sudan, one of the founders of the network “Women’s Agenda for Peace and Sustainable Development in South Sudan”.

Dolly Anek Odwong. Photo: Kvinna till kvinna
 Dolly Anek Odwong. Photo: Kvinna till kvinna

Gender-Based Violence threatens the social and economic well-being of women and girls around the world. Education is the tool to achieving women’s social and economic empowerment. It has always been my belief that the fight we face on the domestic front and the fight we face on the global front for women’s rights are not two separate battles: they are uniform. Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

  1. I want to make a change in women´s lives in South Sudan and be a role model for them. It is a journey I started long time ago, during the past war in South Sudan. I think we should commit to empowering women and girls around the world. I would like to advocate for women and girls in South Sudan and around the world for funding of on UNSCR: 1325 Women’s Peace and Security.  With help and campaigns around the world to raise awareness of the issues, together we can work to stop these violations of human rights.
  2. Nordic countries should continue to work for better conditions and opportunities for women. Women are still regularly denied the most basic human rights including freedom from violence.  Gender Based Violence occur all too often in South Sudan and around the world.

As women let us live our dreams to improve lives of women and girls around the world for a better world that women should belong to.  A country without women is not a country so we must be treated with Love, Respect and Dignity.

Updated 3 July 2020