The Human Impact

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.

“We can empower women more and more, but if men remain the same, what’s the point?” Waruna Sri Dhanapala, minister counselor at Sri Lanka’s permanent mission to the United Nations, told a panel discussion on Monday.

Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), agreed that equality can’t happen without boys and men being on board.

Community project frees 24 million from open defecation – UNICEF

At least 24 million people living in 39,000 communities in 50 countries have eliminated open defecation over the past five years, signalling that progress is being made in the fight to help 1.1 billion people who do not use proper facilities, the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) reported on Monday.

Under its Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) programme, UNICEF aims to eliminate open defecation by encouraging social and behavioural change among villagers leading to the construction of latrines.

“No aid operation in the world can provide toilets for 1.1 billion people,” said Therese Dooley, UNICEF’s senior advisor on sanitation, on World Toilet Day.

U.N. considers ban on female genital cutting

At seven years old, Khady Koita’s childhood was torn apart when she was pinned down and attacked by two women wielding a razor blade. The violence inflicted on her that day would change her life forever.

Last week the global campaign to end female genital mutilation (FGM) took a major step forward when a draft resolution on eliminating the practice was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly.

“FGM is horrific, brutal, degrading and indefensible,” said Koita, a leading figure in the campaign against FGM. “My big hope is that one day no girl will have to go through what I have been through.”

Will Twitter put the U.N. out of the disaster business?

How is communications technology transforming disaster response?

A business that doesn’t communicate with its customers won’t stay in business very long — it’ll soon lose track of what its clients want, and clients won’t know what products or services are on offer.

In the multi-billion dollar humanitarian aid industry, relief agencies are businesses and their beneficiaries are customers. Yet many agencies have muddled along for decades with scarcely a nod towards communicating with the folks they’re supposed to be serving.

That’s because relief agency “lines of accountability” – to use a much-loved piece of aid jargon – are to the donor governments who fund the bulk of their activities, rather than to the people on the ground who are caught up in the crisis.

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