The Human Impact

Art brings solace to sexually abused Filipino women

Worldwide, women battle patriarchal systems daily to own what is rightfully theirs, be it their right to land or household finances – as highlighted by delegates at the world’s largest global women’s rights conference in Istanbul this week.

Yet when it comes to women and girls who have suffered sexual violence, the property they often strive to reclaim is their own body.

So how can women regain a sense of ownership over bodies that have been physically and emotionally shattered?

Among several strategies to empower women, discussed at the International Forum of the Association For Women’s Rights In Development (AWID), art is one approach for treating survivors of sexual violence.

“Women who are victims of sexual violence cannot embrace and celebrate their bodies,” Alma Quinto from the Philippines, co-founder of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that uses art to rehabilitate abused women and girls, told TrustLaw at the conference.

Expert urges unity in dialogue over water security

Disconnected approaches to water security are hindering efforts to launch more effective talks on providing universal access to fresh water and sanitation, an expert said at an international conference this week.

The division between discussions on boosting access to water for the poor and those on the challenges of managing water as a resource was plain to see at the water security conference at Oxford University, according to Tom Slaymaker, a senior policy analyst at WaterAid.

“The dominant narrative on water security reflects rich-country concerns and we mustn’t forget that in developing countries huge amounts of people still lack basic facilities,” Slaymaker said.

Do climate change funds neglect women?

People funding initiatives to tackle climate change effects would channel money towards the worst-affected people, right? And towards those who play key roles in mitigating the effects of climate change?

It certainly sounds logical. But in reality, many donors aiming to help communities to weather climate change often overlook the needs of women. So says Mariama Williams, a senior fellow at the Geneva-based South Centre, an intergovernmental think tank of developing countries.

Distributing funds in the area of climate change “has to have a gender dimension,” Williams told delegates at a women’s rights conference in Istanbul on Thursday.

Safer water, sanitation could save 2.5 mln lives – WaterAid

The lives of 2.5 million people could be saved every year if governments committed to universal access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, charity WaterAid has said.

Citing the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), WaterAid said in a report that boosting access to clean water and sanitation could save people by reducing deaths from diarrhoea, malnutrition and related diseases.

Although the global Millennium Development Goal (MDG 7) water target to reduce by half the proportion of people living without safe water by 2015 has now been met, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Oceania are lagging behind, WaterAid said.

Cash aid transfers should be standardised – report

Aid agencies and donors should develop a “tool box” for the use and distribution of cash transfers to improve effective aid delivery, according to a new report from the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP).

Cash and voucher programmes are increasingly being used in regions where security problems interfere with the delivery of such traditional forms of aid as food.

An estimated 4 million people in the Horn of Africa are now receiving famine assistance via cash and voucher programmes from non-governmental charities and United Nations (U.N.) agencies, according to CaLP.

Fernanda’s story: The dark side of the Guatemalan baby trade

“Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child and a Cross-Border Search for Truth (Cathexis Press 2011).” It is journalist Erin Siegal’s chronicle of the terrible personal cost to two families ensnared in the corruption and human trafficking that fueled the Guatemala’s booming adoption industry until 2008.

Insecurity hinders aid distribution in northern Mali

As Mali tries to restore order after the recent coup, a key challenge for the interim civilian government will be getting aid to people as the country verges on a humanitarian disaster.

Dioncounda Traore took over as Mali’s interim president on Thursday after leaders of a March 22 coup agreed to return power to civilians. Nearly 80 percent of Malian territory comprising the northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal is under the control of a mix of Tuareg-led rebels, who have declared an independent state in the north, and armed Islamic groups.

Aid agencies say about 100,000 internally displaced people urgently need assistance including shelter. Residents of some northern towns say they are trapped without food, water, electricity, money and medical care.

New MSF emergency health clinic in Haiti an “advance”

Medical aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has opened a new emergency health referral centre in Haiti, which will celebrate its official launch on Wednesday in conjunction with Haiti’s health ministry.

The move is part of a much-needed campaign to improve conditions in a country where the vast majority of people live below the poverty line.

“MSF is now supporting the Ministry of Public Health and Population with 600 hospital beds in Haiti for emergency care,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF’s head of mission in Haiti.

Trafficking: When women are brutalised as “assets”

Last month I was writing on an “asset” widely traded globally: Women.

In early March, I came across the Saraniya tribe of the west Indian region of Gujarat, where women in a drought-ridden village have for decades been pimped by their male relatives for “easy money”.

Then, there were Bangladesh’s teenage girls trapped in the squalid brothels – forced to take cattle steroids to fatten them up and “make them look healthy” for the clients who prefer girls with a bit of meat on them.

Sri Lanka’s war-traumatised at risk as aid group leaves?

It was with a heavy heart I read the press release this morning.

A desperately needed aid programme run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) – in English, Doctors without Borders – in Sri Lanka’s war-torn north has shut down after only 18 months of operation.

I had visited the project last September and I must say what MSF was giving was no ordinary aid.

It was not distributing food to survivors of the Indian Ocean island’s almost three-decade long conflict. Nor was it reconstructing the shelled and bullet-ridden homes, schools and hospitals of Kilinochchi district.

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