The Human Impact

Did you know that supporting gay rights is good for business?

People often approach the issue of gay rights (if one can even call it an issue) from the “doing the right thing” perspective, meaning that supporting the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people is the right thing to do because everyone should be free to be who they are without facing discrimination of any kind.

This argument is, of course, extremely valid, but perhaps not the most effective when seeking the support of big businesses and financial institutions.

I recently interviewed Todd Sears, founder of Out on the Street, the first global LGBT leadership organization in the financial industry, and he told me that the ability to demonstrate that “diversity makes business sense” was at the heart of the success of his initiative.

“What we were able to do is reframe that conversation – there’s definitely a ‘right to do thing’ piece here… but there’s very much a business piece, and unlike a lot of other issues you can actually come at it from both sides,” Sears said.

Prior to founding Out Leadership, the umbrella organization which includes Out on the Street, Sears was a private banker at Merrill Lynch. There, he started the first team focused on LGBT financial planning and financial advising in the United States.

Girls for sale: “A Day in the Life”

A diverse, fresh-faced group, the 20 American girls standing still and expressionless on stage create a striking opening tableau. Between the ages of 13 and 17, they could be anyone’s daughter or sister or cousin – or any sex trafficker’s prey.

Their voices ring out, one after another, in a litany of the ways in which girls become ensnared in youth sex trafficking.

“I was recruited at my school.”

“I met him at McDonald’s.”

“I was 12.”

“I was 14.”

“And now look at me.  I’m for sale. On your street.  On your browser.”

It can happen to anyone.

That is one of the points of “A Day in the Life,” a one-act play drawing on the real experiences of ordinary teenage girls whose lives have intersected with the world of commercial sexual exploitation.

Can the world get rid of tuberculosis?

It would be easy to think that tuberculosis is under control. TB, one of the world’s top two infectious disease killers, has been declining slowly but steadily and in some parts of the world it has been almost eradicated.

But one of the oldest epidemics afflicting mankind has come back with a new face: drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is on the rise globally and experts warn that deadly strains are spreading at an alarming rate, threatening to unravel much of the progress made in tackling TB.

Around 450,000 people fell sick with these dangerous superbug strains of TB in 2012, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Fewer than one in four were diagnosed, putting the rest at risk of dying due to the wrong medicines or no treatment at all.

Where does human trafficking happen? Right in front of you

Human trafficking has many faces and forms. There’s the pimp enslaving and exploiting young girls in cities across the United States – where an estimated 100,000 girls are trafficked at present. There are the men who buy young boys in Ghana, forcing them into lives of servitude and hard labour, spending long days in flimsy boats in the Lake Volta region, hunched over their fishing lines under a scorching sun.

Not My Life, a powerful documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Robert Bilheimer, tells the stories of survivors of human trafficking around the world, painting a picture of this horrific crime that many people still think of as a phenomenon confined to remote corners of the developing world.

But virtually no country is free of trafficking and most of the victims are poor, said panelists following a screening of the film in New York this week. It’s a crime characterized by three main elements: force, fraud and coercion – which can happen  anywhere.

Ms Kalashnikovs: Meet Congo’s fearless women fighters

Copyright and all photographs taken by Francesca Tosarelli.

Brutalised. Repeatedly raped. The first to gather the children and flee attack. Weak, poor and uneducated.

Women in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are so often cast as voiceless, nameless victims of a conflict that has raged for decades in the region’s lush jungles and hilltops that it is almost impossible to imagine them as fearless warriors.

But that’s exactly what Italian photographer Francesca Tosarelli found when she travelled to Congo’s North Kivu province early last year – driven by a curiosity to explore how gender identity shifts in times of conflict.

Burmese journalist beseeches brethren: Stop with the Muslim hate speech

The slight, soft-spoken woman onstage called on the media and the rest of the country to let go of narrow-minded nationalism.

“This is a time to fight for democratisation. We have to respect each and every ethnic (group) as a human being,” beseeched Mon Mon Myat, whose meek bearing veils her ferocity as a powerful freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

It was refreshing to hear these words in a public forum in Myanmar because – let’s face it – such sentiments have been sorely lacking.

Who’s key to gender equality? Hint: It’s not women

When it comes to women’s rights, it turns out it’s really all about men.

A recent World Bank report underscored that strong economies and greater education for women, once thought to be silver bullets against gender inequality in the world of work, are effectively trumped by persistent social norms.

Entrenched social attitudes and traditions remain among the greatest obstacles to realising women’s rights globally – and most of those attitudes and traditions are held or enforced by men, according to experts.

An emerging theme at this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women  (CSW58), is an increasing acknowledgment of the importance of addressing and changing the attitudes of men and boys to achieve the stubbornly elusive goal of gender equality.

Male breadwinner and (unpaid) female bread maker? Outdated

Unrecognised, undervalued and under the radar of most economic measures, the unpaid care work done by the world’s women is finally getting some long-overdue attention at the U.N.’s 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

In the world of work, the global unpaid daily labour of women caring for families – including children, the disabled and the elderly – across the life cycle is one of the most valuable and costly resources routinely discounted by those assessing economic strength in economies, according to experts.

As a result, some women’s rights activists are lobbying for unpaid work to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will replace the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.

Helped by quotas, more women enter Latin American politics

When Michelle Bachelet takes office as president of Chile for the second time on Tuesday, the person who places the blue, white and red striped presidential sash round her neck will be  Isabel Allende – the first woman in Chilean history to be leader of the senate.

One in four lawmakers in Latin America are women, a proportion second only to Europe, and a continent better known as the home of machismo is now leading the way in drawing more women into politics – enabling them gradually to push women’s, social and educational issues to the fore.

A key reason for the growth in the number of congresswomen and female senators in Latin America is the adoption of quotas for women in parliament by 16 of the region’s countries in recent years.

Celebrating women’s rights around the world

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), we have gathered contributions from the likes of Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) who writes that “there is still not one country in which women and girls are equal to men in political or economic power,” and that ” for far too many women and girls, the ability to live a healthy and productive life free from violence remains an aspiration.”

In another post, journalists at the Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera reflect on the status of women’s rights in Italy, three years after creating  “La 27ora”, a popular blog about women’s issues. It’s “time to smash female stereotypes in Italy,” they say, pointing to the long way Italians still have to go to achieve gender equality in a country where patriarchal attitudes are still deeply entrenched in society.

For more contributions, photo blogs and articles on women’s rights, visit our special International Women’s Day coverage page here.

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