Our Perspectives

Afro-Brazilian women are taking to the streets. How about also taking up seats in Parliament?

More than 20,000 women took to the streets during the March of Black Women on 18 November in Brasilia, calling for the protection of human rights. Photo: Vinícius Carvalho/Marcha das Mulheres Negras

“The power structure [in our region] is macho, white and old,” said Creuza Oliveira, President of the National Federation of Domestic Workers of Brazil. Creuza’s speech during the ECLAC-UNDP Regional Conference on Social Development brought many ministers and country delegates – men and women – to tears. Her words give witness to the experience of African descendants, who make up around 30 per cent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean. Throughout the region Afro-descendants face discrimination and experience disproportionate levels of poverty and social exclusion. Often they face multiple and intersecting forms of inequity based on other factors such as gender, religion or disability. Creuza became a domestic worker when she was only 10 in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia. Working long hours during the day and studying at night “whenever the boss allowed”, she managed to finish elementary school by age 16 and high school by 32, she told me in an interview in Lima, Peru. Black women compose 62 percent of the domestic work force in Brazil, according to official figures. More than 70 percent do not have a formal contract. Moreover, 60 percent of women who die giving birth are black. And in the last … Read more

Cooperation and sharing can help combat climate change

China has pledged RMB 20 billion (US$3.13 billion) to support other developing countries in combating climate change through South-South cooperation. Photo: UNDP China

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in the lead up to COP21 in December. Around the world, countries are working towards ways to reduce climate change. And while individual countries must take into account local contexts, it is unnecessary to always “reinvent the wheel” with each new solution.  Through the South-South cooperation (SSC), UNDP connects various stakeholders to form partnerships across the developing world for pursuing these solutions.  On climate change and environmental sustainability, UNDP delivers a portfolio of US$2.3 billion, supporting over 140 countries in pursuing low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways. A central element of this work is South-South cooperation, as the majority of developing countries are critical players who have joined the middle income club, with impressive economic growth, high savings and investment rates and a larger share of trade in goods and services. Under the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility, countries like Cambodia, Cape Verde, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Sudan are learning from each other’s national experiences to design and implement adaption approaches to agriculture and water management. As a result, for example, the countries now have improved climate information systems for informed decision-making and integrated planning approaches. … Read more

Surviving bad love

One in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of someone they know. UNDP photo

One in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of someone they know in their lifetime. Growing up, I never thought I’d become that one in three. For five years, alcoholism drove my ex-boyfriend’s worsening Jeckyll and Hyde personality. It took me four years to realize this man was abusive from the start. It took another year to get out. Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This year’s theme is prevention. We as a society must do more to prevent sexual and gender-based violence so that it doesn’t take five years for fellow victims of domestic violence to free themselves from a dangerous relationship. This is why UNDP supports countries and communities working to stop and prevent sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and to provide safety and justice to survivors. Our approach is to help expand the space available for women to participate in public and political life so that their concerns become the concerns of the entire society. We want more women in leadership roles, especially in areas like justice and security, conflict prevention and peacebuilding. UNDP works to educate and raise awareness across among all members of a … Read more

Adapting from the ground up

Farmers in Tajikistan are now growing local fruit and vegetable species that fare better in the changing climate. Photo: UNDP Tajikistan

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in the lead up to COP21 in December. Ismail Faisov tends a farm in the mountainous Dashtijum Jamoat region in Tajikistan. Dashtijum Jamoat is rich with indigenous fruits and legumes that have become naturally resilient to drought, cold weather, diseases, and other environmental stresses. For a number of reasons though, Ismail did not cultivate these traditional species, choosing instead to sell imported cultivars that did not fare well in Tajikistan’s changing climate. Consequently, Ismail struggled to support his family. The majority of people in the developing world live in poor, rural areas and rely on micro and small enterprises (MSEs) for their livelihoods. MSEs account for approximately 60 to 80 percent of the labor force in these countries. Across the world, these people are struggling to keep up with the challenges of a changing climate. In Cambodia, women farmers in the Siem Reap province face obstacles to accessing affordable water management technologies, such as solar water pumps used for irrigation, that can help them adapt to decreasing rainfall. In the Quatre Soeurs area of Mauritius, small businesses located along the coastline struggle to protect themselves … Read more

What has salt got to do with development?

Haitian workers transport salt at the Las Salinas mine, Dominican Republic. Photo: Reuters/Ricardo Rojas

Do you know where the salt that flavours your food comes from? What about the lime to set our concrete walls, the aggregate and the sand that pave our roads, the pigments that colour our paints, or the bricks that hold up our ceilings? Construction materials, dimension stones, industrial minerals and semi-precious stones are the hidden bedrock of our society, and the people that mine them in many parts of the world are often humble small-scale miners. These so-called “low value minerals” may not generate the same attention as diamonds, copper or gold, but their value lies in their potential to be minerals of development, boosting the livelihoods of millions of people. We hear a lot about their high-value cousins. We read news reports about the blood diamonds of West Africa, the conflict minerals of the Congo and thousands of miners panning for gold in the Amazon. The stories that we tell about rocks are about the fouling of rivers, the clearing of forest and the fuelling of war. Not all commodities, however, have such potential for misery. The humbleness of the low value minerals and materials sector sometimes, though not always, extends to the sector’s environmental footprint. Many of the … Read more

World Toilet Day is no laughing matter


World Toilet Day is on 19 November. And while the topic might at first sound funny, its implications are deadly serious for billions of people around the world. Today, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation; and 1 billion still defecate in the open, a practice that has led to a significant number of diarrheal deaths among children under-five, among other health implications. As UNDP Administrator Helen Clark recently pointed out, sanitation matters, especially for women and girls: Women and girls who lack access to adequate sanitation experience higher rates of illness (Millennium Development Goals 4, 5, and 6), such as urinary tract infections. The lack of safe, private toilets at schools is one of the main reasons why girls miss school days or drop out of school altogether. As the UN Secretary-General noted in his message for World Toilet Day 2013: when schools offer decent toilets, eleven percent more girls attend.    When women have to travel from their homes or workplaces to use a public toilet, they are vulnerable to violence. When they have to relieve themselves in the open, they often wait to do this until after dark, which puts them at greater risk of harassment … Read more

Climate change is not gender-neutral

A woman prepares a meal using an efficient cook stove in Cameroon. Photo: Small Grants Programme/UNDP Cameroon

It is well established that the poor are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and that women—who account for the majority of the world’s poor—are disproportionately impacted. Why is this fact so important? And what are we doing to address it? Women farmers account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in developing countries. This means that any changes in climate—such as droughts and floods—affect their livelihoods, incomes and food security more than they do men. Women also suffer from discrimination, limiting their rights, their access to land and their access to services. Such discrimination has important implications during the aftermath of weather-related emergencies, as women are usually the last to receive services like credit and technical support. As the gender focal point in the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP, I have been in charge of mainstreaming gender across our programmes. This is quite a task, given that we operate in over 125 countries, each with a different landscape and climate vulnerabilities, as well as different laws for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Women have different roles and face different challenges in each of our areas of work (biodiversity, climate change and land degradation, … Read more

With improvements, biomass can contribute further to combatting climate change

As demand for biomass energy continues to increase, the challenge is to help these plants supply and use the biomass in a sustainable fashion. Our work at UNDP focuses on doing exactly that. “Biomass” is any organic material that is derived from plants, animals or agricultural waste. Across the world, biomass play a key role in meeting daily energy demands. In fact, 80 percent of all heating is powered by biomass. Here in India, 66 percent of the population, some 815 million people, rely on traditional biomass for cooking. Since 2000, the number of biomass-fuelled power plants has mushroomed throughout Indian states. Although practices vary from one country to another, the open burning of crop residues is common among farmers in many Asian countries. This practice is used to prepare the field for the next crop, remove residues, control weeds and release nutrients for the next crop cycle. But when biomass residue is burned, it can release harmful gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen, methane (CH4), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), and carbon monoxide, among others. What many people don’t know is that biomass residues can also be used to generate electricity and heating, with farmers earning … Read more

Access to the skills training is the pathways to achieve economic growth for all

Fatos Hasolli can’t find a job, despite having a university degree in engineering. The Kosovan young man, in his mid-20s, decided his best option is to leave Kosovo* and find a job elsewhere. His story is shared by thousands of Kosovan youth who, according to the World Bank, face a 60% unemployment rate. But Hasolli’s story is not only found in Kosovo: it has become a global trend for both developed and developing countries. Today, over thirteen percent of young people can’t find a job in North America. In the Middle East that number increases to one in four youth, and in Spain one in two. Meanwhile, the global unemployment rate for all ages is below 5 percent. Reports suggest 600 million new jobs are needed in the next 15 years to be able to integrate youth into the workforce. At the same time, businesses report that they do not have adequate access to skilled human resources, especially for technical and vocational jobs. Forty percent of employers can't fill entry-level jobs, while 45 percent of youth are in jobs that don't use their skills. The recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes the right to education and training and the … Read more

Those who risk everything to find safety deserve a sense of security

A little boy looks on as Syrian refugees queue at the UN registration centre in Zahle, east of Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: UNDP Lebanon

Earlier this year, I learned the story of a Syrian woman named Nour.* Nour, like many of those affected by the conflict in Syria, was forced to flee her home and take up residence in a neighboring country. But once there, Nour was involved in a serious accident in which another driver disobeyed traffic laws and crashed into her car. While Nour survived, her family was killed, and the heartache of having lost her home was now immensely compounded by losing her loved ones. Nour reported the incident to the police station and sought help from the authorities to bring those responsible for the accident to justice. But instead of being heard and assisted, Nour was met with resistance and was herself blamed for the wrongdoing. After all, she was the displaced, the refugee. The outsider. To date, Nour has yet to see those who killed her family held responsible. This is just one of the myriad of stories we are hearing from the people affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria. Millions have left their homes, livelihoods, and even families behind in search of safety, only to continue lacking effective protection wherever they find themselves. In some cases, the justice … Read more

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