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International Women’s Day: Eight actionable areas for women’s empowerment

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By Arpit Gupta

Today i.e. March 8, marks the 108th observance of International Women’s Day that celebrates the social, economic, and political achievements of all women across the globe.

The roots of this celebration of feminity can be traced back to 1909 when women across America, marched for their better social status and equality on February 28. The event was known as National Women’s Day. International Women’s Day was initiated two years later in 1911 after Luis Zietz, a German socialist, stressed on the need for a global celebration of the event at a socialist International meeting in Copenhagen in 1910.

Even though many measures have been implemented for the empowerment of women in the last 100 years, still there are many issues facing women, which are yet to be tackled. Here are the eight important things that need to be done for women’s empowerment:

1. No violence against women: Violence against women is an affront to the foundation of fundamental rights, women’s dignity, and their decency. Even today rape and sexual violence are very frequent and their perpetrators are getting indirect support of their communities. Men and boys have a critical role to play in reversing the pandemic of violence against women.

2. Justice and security for women: Laws are there for women, but they need to be enforced within legal frameworks. Women need to know their rights and be able to access legal systems. Customs, traditions, or religious beliefs should never serve as an excuse or as justification for any abusive act against women.

3. Expansion of women’s participation and leadership: Women need skills and motivation to lead their lives on their own terms and contribute to all sectors of society. Women are often denied access to business transaction, land ownership, etc. This could be rectified by allowing women equal opportunities in all spheres of life and imparting them skills to take up leadership roles.

4. Involvement of women in all peace processes: Women must be involved in all stages of peace talks as negotiators. Peace agreement offers opportunities for inclusiveness, democratic reform, and gender equality. Gender provisions must be included in peace agreements and given priority.

5. Promotion of gender equality in disaster risk reduction: Women need to be incorporated in the analysis of disaster risk and in designing risk reduction process.

6. Promotion of women as leaders: Women should be given equal opportunities for livelihood, including access to land and credit. Rebuilding in key sectors such as transportation, shelter and health must benefit women. They should be groomed to take up leadership in various initiatives, as well as to innovate and become entrepreneurs.

7. Transformation of government to deliver for women: There is a need to engage women in the decision making process on government policies and resource mobilization.

8. Working together to transform society: Women organizations and networks need to be united in their work towards empowering women.

We must all be dedicated to give women, their rights and make them walk along with men not behind them

The author is an undergraduate student pursuing Mechanical Engineering at IIT-Roorkee. His twitter handle is: @Arpit2476667

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Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely.

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Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda, women
Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the throes of its worst-ever Ebola outbreak, with more than 420 cases in the country’s volatile east, and a mortality rate of just under 60 percent. But this outbreak — the nation’s tenth known Ebola epidemic — is unusual because more than 60 percent of patients are women.

Among them is Baby Benedicte. Her short life has already been unimaginably difficult.

At one month old, she is underweight, at 2.9 kilograms. And she is alone. Her mother had Ebola, and died giving birth to her. She’s spent the last three weeks of her life in a plastic isolation cube, cut off from most human contact. She developed a fever at eight days old and was transferred to this hospital in Beni, a town of some half-million people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 400 people have been diagnosed with Ebola here since the beginning of August, and more than half of them have died in a nation the size of Western Europe that struggles with insecurity and a lack of the most basic infrastructure and services. That makes this the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, after the hemorrhagic fever killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

This is 10th outbreak to strike the vast country since 1976, when Ebola was first identified in Congo. And this particular outbreak is further complicated by a simmering civil conflict that has plagued this region for more than two decades.

Guido Cornale, UNICEF’s coordinator in the region, says the scope of this outbreak is clear.

“It has become the worst outbreak in Congo, this is not a mystery,” he said.

What is mysterious, however, is the demographics of this outbreak. This time, more than 60 percent of cases are women, says the government’s regional health coordinator, Ndjoloko Tambwe Bathe.

“All the analyses show that this epidemic is feminized. Figures like this are alarming. It’s true that the female cases are more numerous than the male cases,” he said.

Congo, Uganda, ebola, Women
Health workers walk with a boy suspected of having been infected with the Ebola virus, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, near Congo’s border with Uganda. VOA

Bathe declined to predict when the outbreak might end, though international officials have said it may last another six months. Epidemiologists are still studying why this epidemic is so skewed toward women and children, Cornale said.

“So now we can only guess. And one of the guesses is that woman are the caretakers of sick people at home. So if a family member got sick, who is taking care of him or her? Normally, a woman,” he said.

Or a nurse. Many of those affected are health workers, who are on the front line of battling this epidemic. Nurse Guilaine Mulindwa Masika, spent 16 days in care after a patient transmitted the virus to her. She says it was the fight of her life.

“The pain was enormous, the pain was constant,” she said. “The headache, the diarrhea, the vomiting, and the weakness — it was very, very bad.”

Congo, Ebola, Women
Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiology Team Lead, talks to women as part of Ebola contact tracing, in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely. Masika and her cured colleagues face weeks of leave from work to ensure the risk of infection is gone. In the main hospital in the city of Beni, families who have recovered live together in a large white tent, kept four meters from human contact by a bright orange plastic cordon. They yell hello at their caretakers, who must don protective gear if they want to get any closer.

And for Baby Benedicte, who is tended to constantly by a nurse covered head to toe in protective gear, the future is uncertain. Medical workers aren’t entirely sure where her father is, or if he is going to come for her.

Also Read: Congo Start Trials For Drugs Against Ebola

She sleeps most of the day, the nurse says, untroubled by the goings-on around her. Meanwhile, the death toll rises. (VOA)