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The State of Women in Iraq

Yesterday, women's rights activists and UN officials testified in Stockholm about the escalation of violence against women in Iraq since U.S. occupation:
The United Nations' special representative to Baghdad, Staffan de Mistura, cited a recent UN human rights report on Iraq as saying that 'in Basra 100 or more women had been killed or mutilated because they were wearing what was considered by some as inappropriate dress. The dress was not inappropriate at all.' De Mistura also mentioned the high number of so-called 'honour crimes' in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. 'Since the (2003 US) occupation we have seen a deterioration of women's rights,' said Lena Ag, the secretary general of the Swedish organisation Kvinna till Kvinna (Woman to Woman).
The testimony took place the day before the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) conference, which looks at the political and security status since its peace plan they launched five years ago. Iraqi women's rights activists also stressed the importance for more women, and civil society in general, to take part in development efforts in Iraq.
'Women are a potential factor for democratic and development processes in Iraq,' said Hanaa Edwar Busha, one of the founders of the Iraqi Women Network, stressing that women represent around 55 percent of the Iraqi population.
For more information on Iraqi women's rights, check out the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and the Iraqi Women's Rights Coalition.
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Australia to sign UN protocol for women’s rights

It looks like Australia will soon be making an admirable move regarding women's rights:
The Federal Government says steps are being taken to sign a United Nations protocol that aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. Signing the optional protocol would enable women to complain to the United Nations if Australia violates its obligations and domestic remedies have been exhausted.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said, "We're committed to the promotion and protection of women's rights and making gender equality a reality in Australia." He adds, "Obviously if we're to promote the rights of women within our region we need to at least set the example domestically." Indeed.
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Taking On Maternal Death, One Cause at a Time

UNFPA officials are calling on governments to address the high rates of maternal death, and to find the root causes behind them. Deputy Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, Jaime Nadal-Roig, said in a recent interview:
"This should be from the perspective of reproductive health, which is more holistic. we have to look at root causes of the problem and the broader picture."
Tackling the specific causes of maternal complications, such as fistula incontinence, hypertensive disease and obstructed labor, can help reduce numbers. RH Reality Check has a piece up addressing the fact that nearly 13% maternal deaths that are caused by unsafe abortions. Here's a snippet:
Reducing maternal deaths is a laudable goal, and one that must be achieved if the rest of the millennium development goals are to be realized. But reductions in maternal mortality can never be fully realized unless the global community of donors, governments, and public health starts including abortion in realistic approaches to protecting women's health. If the world wants to promote development, it needs to start promoting comprehensive reproductive health care.
Read the full piece here.
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UN Envoy: Women’s Rights Critical to Liberian Development

As Liberia recovers from a decade of civil war, the country's top UN official is not only pushing for an advancement in women's rights, but also saying that women's empowerment is critical to improving peace and development:
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Addressing participants at the start of a five-day national women's conference in the capital, Monrovia, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Liberia, Ellen Margrethe Løj, yesterday highlighted the need to take the message of women's empowerment and the advancement of human rights to the community level. 'When discussing these issues, ensure that they are not only discussed with intellectual women in Monrovia; make sure that all women of Liberia are involved in these efforts,' she told the gathering, which included UN and Government officials, diplomats, local women leaders, female traditional and religious leaders and members of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Løj also addressed women's participation in agriculture in reference to the rise in food prices, as well as the prevalence of rape in Liberia, which is currently the single most frequently committed serious crime in the nation.
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Louise Arbour Tells It Like It Is

While the UN tackles the global food crisis, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour reminds us that marginalized groups must not be left out any efforts made, and the equality of food distribution and analysis of community needs must be ensured:
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"More fundamentally, and for the more medium and longer term, the underlying inequalities and inabilities to access food must be addressed by a comprehensive solution. . . When we focus on those most in need, we must include not only the poorest but also those that are particularly vulnerable to discrimination on any other grounds, including gender, ethnicity, or disability."
She included that all voices within those communities, whether it be directly or through local organizations, must be heard. I like this woman.
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Louise Arbour Tells It Like It Is

While the UN tackles the global food crisis, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour reminds us that marginalized groups must not be left out any efforts made, and the equality of food distribution and analysis of community needs must be ensured:
65683-arbour.jpg
"More fundamentally, and for the more medium and longer term, the underlying inequalities and inabilities to access food must be addressed by a comprehensive solution. . . When we focus on those most in need, we must include not only the poorest but also those that are particularly vulnerable to discrimination on any other grounds, including gender, ethnicity, or disability."
She included that all voices within those communities, whether it be directly or through local organizations, must be heard. I like this woman.
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Getting an Education for Afghan Girls

Via UN News Centre:
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Although over 6 million children returned to Afghanistan's classrooms a month ago at the start of a new school year, United Nations agencies said today that half of the war-torn country's young people are excluded from receiving an education, the bulk of them girls. This is the case even though the enrolment of girls, who were barred from going to school under the repressive Taliban regime, has increased significantly in the past five years, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). 'We still have 1.2 million girls of school age who do not have access to schools,' said Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Country Representative in Afghanistan. 'We have a lot of work to do to make sure all conditions are met so that schools are friendly to girls.'
UN agencies have been working with the government to build new schools, conduct teacher trainings (particularly female teachers), and talking to communities about the importance of education in attempts to fill this huge gap. This week is actually Global Action Week for Education. Their "Education for All" goal has a large focus specifically on education for girls, whom are effected disproportionately throughout the world.
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Getting an Education for Afghan Girls

Via UN News Centre:
04-21-afghan-girls.jpg
Although over 6 million children returned to Afghanistan's classrooms a month ago at the start of a new school year, United Nations agencies said today that half of the war-torn country's young people are excluded from receiving an education, the bulk of them girls. This is the case even though the enrolment of girls, who were barred from going to school under the repressive Taliban regime, has increased significantly in the past five years, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). 'We still have 1.2 million girls of school age who do not have access to schools,' said Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Country Representative in Afghanistan. 'We have a lot of work to do to make sure all conditions are met so that schools are friendly to girls.'
UN agencies have been working with the government to build new schools, conduct teacher trainings (particularly female teachers), and talking to communities about the importance of education in attempts to fill this huge gap. This week is actually Global Action Week for Education. Their "Education for All" goal has a large focus specifically on education for girls, whom are effected disproportionately throughout the world.
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UN Report Released Today on Maternal and Child Deaths

While over 10 million women and children in developing countries continue to die every year from preventable and treatable causes, a new report released today by UN agencies and partners calls for improved health care systems to reduce maternal and child deaths:
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'Tracking Progress in Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival' finds that few of the 68 developing countries that account for 97 per cent of maternal and child deaths worldwide are providing the necessary health care to save lives. The 2008 report was released today as leading global health experts, policy-makers and parliamentarians convene in Cape Town, South Africa, to address further efforts to slash maternal and child mortality by 2015, part of a set of internationally-agreed targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
And this is not to mention that donor funding for maternal, newborn and child health has actually increased over the past few years. So while there has been much improvement, the fact that health care needs are so high in these countries still result in health care programs being "grossly unfunded," says the report.