EARTH HOUR March 29 , 2014

EARTH HOUR March 29 , 2014


Earth Hour is a worldwide movement for the planet organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF). Earth Hour engages a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues. It was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide, and the one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement. The event is held worldwide and held towards the end of March annually, encouraging individuals, communities households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to the planet. Earth Hour 2013 was celebrated on March 23, 2013. Earth Hour 2014 is scheduled for Saturday, March 29, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. during participants’ local time.


Earth Hour does not purport to be an energy/carbon reduction exercise, it is a symbolic action. Therefore, we do not engage in the measurement of energy/carbon reduction levels for the hour itself. Earth Hour is an initiative to encourage individuals, businesses and governments around the world to take accountability for their ecological footprint and engage in dialogue and resource exchange that provides real solutions to our environmental challenges. Participation in Earth Hour symbolises a commitment to change beyond the hour.





Changing lives of Afghan girls through courage & conviction

Podcast: Changing lives of Afghan girls through courage & conviction

International Women’s Day this year was celebrated under the theme “Equality for women is progress for all.” On this occasion, we spoke to Sakena Yokobi, founder and president of the Afghan Institute of Learning, winner of the 2013 Opus Prize and a true trailblazer in serving women and children despite long odds.

Please click here to listen to the podcast.

Children, Youth and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Escaping Victimhood: Children, Youth and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
United Nations University Press

By drawing on experiences from post-conflict environments in different parts of the world, a diverse group of researchers and scholar-practitioners working in academia, non-governmental and international organisations examine the proactive roles of girls and boys in promoting security for themselves and their families ; their disproportionate suffering and their specific vulnerabilities during and after the war; international legal frameworks created to protect and empower children and youth in post-conflict environments; examples of initiatives to help young people escape the traps of victimhood and voicelessness and actively engage in rebuilding their communities and nations; and international and national efforts to provide for the security of children and young people in post-conflict environments.

To read the full report, please click here.

Commission on the Status of Women – 58th session, 2014. Girls Education

CSW58_web_banner_244w jpg

Girls education is still high on the agenda for many development partners, and it is understandable given the scale of disadvantage girls in many countries are still facing. The present CSW 58 will prioritise access and participation in education, as listed below.

One ‘side’ event (Nordic Council of Ministers)  -highlighted the plight:

At UN Women, we recognize the power and the indispensable nature of education and training for girls and young women.

The recently released UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report highlights the important role of education in advancing gender equality and overall development.

It also tells a worrying story.

We see that universal primary education is likely to be missed by a wide margin:

  • The number of children out of school was 57 million in 2011, half of whom lived in conflict-affected countries.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, only 23 per cent of poor girls in rural areas were completing primary education by the end of the decade.
  • If recent trends in the region continue, the richest boys will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086.

We see that many adolescents lack foundation skills gained through lower secondary education:

  • In 2011, 69 million adolescents were out of school, with little improvement to this number since 2004.
  • In low-income countries, only 37 per cent of adolescents complete lower secondary education. This rate is as low as 14 per cent for the poorest.
  • On recent trends, girls from the poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa are only expected to achieve lower secondary completion in 2111.

We see that adult literacy has hardly improved:

  • In 2011, there were 774 million illiterate adults, a decline of just 1 per cent since 2000. The number is projected to fall only slightly, to 743 million, by 2015.
  • Almost two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. The poorest young women in developing countries may not achieve universal literacy until 2072.

We see that gender disparities remain in many countries:

  • Even though gender parity was supposed to be achieved by 2005, in 2011 only 60 per cent of countries had achieved this goal at the primary level and 38 per cent at the secondary level.

We know that poor quality of education means millions of children are not learning the basics.

  • Around 250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. The annual cost of this failure is around USD $129 billion.
  • Investing in teachers is key: in around a third of countries, less than 75 per cent of primary school teachers are trained according to national standards. And in a third of countries, the challenge of training existing teachers is worse than that of recruiting and training new teachers.

We can and we must do better. So I hope we will focus on how we are going to do that today during our discussions.

Together must do more to reverse this trajectory.

We will not get far if we stop at giving girls primary education. We must provide opportunities and options for them to go higher – as far as they wish to go.

We will work through the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, and other initiatives and programmes, to ensure that girls everywhere have, not only an opportunity to enrol in primary school, but to progress to secondary, tertiary and vocational levels.

– See more at:

The fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 10 to 21 March 2014.

Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attend the session. Read the NGO advisories.


Priority theme:

Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls

The draft agreed conclusions are now available.

Review theme:

Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work (agreed conclusions from the fifty-fifth session)

Emerging issue:

Women’s access to productive resources

Organization of the session

In accordance with its multi-year programme of work (ECOSOC resolution 2009/15), the Commission’s two-week session includes the following activities:

– See more at:

More on girls education:



Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Where are we?

Chart on MDG2 - factors keeping kids out of school

Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 p. 15

Enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 90 per cent in 2011, up from 82 per cent in 1999, which means more children than ever are attending primary school. But even as countries with the toughest challenges have advanced, progress on primary school enrolment has slowed since 2004, dimming hopes for achieving universal primary education by 2015.

Across 63 developing countries, girls were more likely to be out of school than boys among both primary and lower secondary age groups. The gender gap in school attendance widens in lower secondary education, even for girls living in better-off households.

UN Women’s efforts:

UN Women focuses action on girls’ school completion rates and improving school conditions for girls, i.e. the environment that makes it conducive for girls to attend schools. From making roads and public transport safer through the Safe Cities Initiative, to addressing the lack of female teachers as role models, to the lack of separate sanitation facilities, and school fees continuing to be deciding factors for whether a girl goes to school, UN Women works to focus on these issues.

Reports show mothers with at least a few years of formal education are considerably more likely to send their children to school. UN Women works to advance women’s empowerment through education and economic opportunities, which facilitate greater decision-making by women in their household, including the decision to send children to school. UN Women also works on campaigns that address attitudes and behaviours, including concerns about female modesty, safety, and the lack of economic returns to girls’ education, factors which often hamper girls’ school attendance.

– See more at:

In Afghanistan, women and girls strive to get an education

Date: 09 July 2013

“Educating women and girls and women’s empowerment in our community is my dream,” says Beheshta, a 20-year-old Afghan girl who recently completed classes offered by the UN Women-supported Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Centre in Parwan Province, northeastern Afghanistan.

Girls study at the Sultan Razia High School in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province. (Photo: UN Photo/Shehzad Noorani)

Girls study at the Sultan Razia High School in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province. (Photo: UN Photo/Shehzad Noorani)

Education is often not an option for many women and girls in Afghanistan. According to Government figures, only 26 per cent of Afghanistan’s population is literate, and among women the rate is only 12 per cent.[1] Among school age children, 38 per cent (4.2 million in real numbers) do not have access to schools, most of which are girls.[2]

Attacks by insurgents who oppose women’s education lead to regular closures of girls’ schools.[3] Moreover, 50 per cent of schools do not have buildings and other necessities, and a dearth of textbooks, teaching materials and equipped laboratories, along with the large number of school closures or relocations directly affects the quality of education.[4]

After graduating from high school, Beheshta wanted to pursue a higher education in a government university, but she did not pass the kankor, or entrance exam.

Every year, more than 100,000 secondary school graduates write the kankor, but due to insufficient spaces and limited capacity, only about half of those students find a spot at the government universities and colleges. Those who fail either go to private institutions, which are very expensive and out of reach for most Afghan families, or try to pass the entrance exam again.

Beheshta’s parents were not able to pay for her education in a private institute, so, when she had the opportunity to join the English language class at the ICT Centre she saw it as a second chance.

Opened in 2011, the key objective of the UN-Women-sponsored Women’s ICT Centre in Parwan is to enable women’s economic participation through training in the English language and computer skills. The Centre also provides job placement support for graduates in private schools, with NGOs, municipalities or the Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs.

Beheshta successfully completed the course, along with about 80 other girls, and is currently teaching English to new students and members of her own community, in the same ICT Centre where she studied.

Beheshta is currently teaching English to new students in the same ICT Centre where she studied in Parwan Province. (Photo: UN Women/Fahim Akbari)

Beheshta is currently teaching English to new students in the same ICT Centre where she studied in Parwan Province. (Photo: UN Women/Fahim Akbari)

“It seemed to me like a fairy tale that I would get a job and earn money for my family while supporting women and girls as a whole,” she says proudly.

While Beheshta’s story and the barriers in accessing primary and higher education is a familiar one in Afghanistan, some progress is evident. The country became Party to the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the Women’s Bill of Rights, on 5 March 2003 and Afghanistan is currently preparing for the CEDAW Committee’s review of its first-ever periodic report on 10 July 2013.

The Afghan Government was supported by UN Women in the process of drafting the report.

According to that first periodic report, the percentage of women in universities is increasing year-by-year – reaching 20 per cent of the university population in 2006, and 24.8 per cent by 2009.[5] The report states that the last eight years have also seen a “tremendous increase in the overall number of educational institutions in the country and women have benefited substantially.”[6] It specifically mentions English language courses, computer classes, and preparation classes for university entrance exams provided by private educational institutions.

The report highlights progress and challenges in several areas, including the lack of security and violence against women as the single most important challenge to the country’s implementation of CEDAW. On the issue of education, the report underlines that much work is still needed. It mentions various strategies for education, especially for women, and says the establishment, promotion and construction of buildings for girls’ schools are at the top of the priority list for the Ministry of Education. To increase the number of female students in professional and technical education schools, the Ministry also plans to run public awareness programmes in media.

Accompanying the Government’s report is the Civil Society Shadow Report, by the Afghan Women’s Network, which was submitted to the CEDAW Committee in April 2013. UN Women also provided support for that report, which among other recommendations urges the Government to develop programmes that will help girls prepare for university entrance exams and overcome key barriers and challenges that women encounter when trying to find work, such as traditional beliefs about women’s roles as mothers rather than breadwinners.

Meanwhile, speaking about the long journey towards women and girl’s education, Beheshta says: “I am aware that it takes a long time but I’m hopeful to see this happen and be part of this valued process.”

– See more at:

Training materials – ‘Skills for Life’ Materials for South Sudan


From the latest INEE newsletter:

‘Skills for Life’ Materials for South Sudan
Education Cluster, UNESCO

‘Skills for Life’ materials developed by UNESCO on behalf of Education Cluster and endorsed by MoEST are now made available online. Please find below the links to the materials, now uploaded on the Education Cluster website:

These materials will be very useful while rolling out  education intervention to respond to ongoing crisis either inside or outside IDPs camps. In summary, the full kit includes:

  1. Trainer Guide
  2. Teacher Guide for Children
  3. Teacher Guide for Youth
  4. Assessment Booklet for Children
  5. Assessment Booklet for Youth
  6. Posters for Teaching Children
  7. Posters for Teaching Youth
  8. Stories for Teaching Children
  9. Stories for Teaching Youth

The materials are Ministry-approved and should replace any other Life Skills and Psychosocial Support materials used by partners in emergency situations.

To access the materials, please click here.

Be inspired! International Women’s Day 2014


Working in different countries I am still angered at the level of abuse that girls have to put up with -just to try to get a basic éducation. Girls may be abused at school and while travelling to school. Girls living in poverty in Shinyanga, Tanzania may be approached by ‘uncles’ on their way to school, first offering a lift so that they can get to school ‘safely’. Then they are offered such precious items as soap or shoes and then after such grooming, they are abused. Stories such as this one are all too common around the world  and international women’s day might just remind us once more that we must inspire change –  in  women and particularly, men.


International Women’s Day 2014 Theme: INSPIRING CHANGE

Women’s equality has made positive gains but the world is still unequal. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.


Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.



Cultural Survival informs us of some of the inspiring stories from indigenous women:

Set amidst rolling prairies and the Badlands, Young Lakota shares with viewers the perspectives of three young Lakota as they find themselves in the middle of political controversy in the small town of Kyle on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. The film centers on Sunny Clifford, who has recently returned to Pine Ridge after two years in college and aspires to improve the reservation she grew up on. “I never really experienced anyone talking about women’s rights and what they deserve… I always had this pity for myself because I was a woman, and on top of that I’m Native American. I’m at the bottom of the bottom.” Her twin sister Serena, a struggling single mother, and their ambitious friend Brandon Ferguson, a father of two, also want to make life better for themselves and their community.

When South Dakota seeks to pass a bill making abortion a felony, even in the case of rape and incest, Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first female tribal president of the Oglala Lakota, controversially challenges the move by attempting to establish a women’s clinic on the sovereign territory of the reservation and with it, the right to chose. Considering the high rape statistics and poor access to health care among communities on reservations, Lakota women are particularly vulnerable to potential bans on abortion. The reservation quickly becomes divided over the plan and Fire Thunder is impeached by pro-life Tribal Council members swayed by right-wing forces outside of the reservation and by a religion that was pushed upon them hundreds of years ago. Fire Thunder states that medicine for terminating pregnancies has been in Lakota society for hundreds and hundreds of years and sees this ban as another attack by white men on her culture. “I’m challenging white men right now and white men have already done a tremendous amount of damage to my people.” At one point she addresses a group of supporters of the anti-abortion ban and demands “Keep your white hands off my brown body!”

The political conflict during the next elections campaigns becomes more than a battle between candidates as the affects of the ensuing chaos sees the young Lakota members’ paths diverge. In their first introduction to politics, Sunny, Serena, and Brandon are caught up in the interplay between political, economical, and cultural circumstances. Sunny and Serena rally behind Fire Thunder while Brandon is offered a job he can’t pass up working for Fire Thunders opponent Alex White Plume. The film follows their struggles with choosing between prospects and principles, between individual opportunity and community, and their fight for personal dignity as well as the dignity of their Lakota heritage. Cecelia advises Sunny, “When you stand in the middle of that community of craziness, you have to be real clear about who you are and what you believe in because they’re going to come at you from all different directions and no matter what they do… you’re going to still stay standing because you believe in who you are and you believe in what you stand for.”

and a short animation from Asia Indigenous People’s Pact:

We live in a time when public opinion is demanding a fairer and more equitable planet. There is no more important element to address this than the equality of men and women. This 4-minute animation video outlines the recommendations from CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) and UNDRIP (UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) particularly on indigenous women that guide and help us to move in this direction.(From Cultural Survival).

From South Africa:

Mphatheleni “Mphathe” Makaulule
© Photo courtesy of UNFF Secretariat.

Indigenous women leaders gathered together for two weeks in New York to take part in a Global Leadership School for Indigenous Women and to participate in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. They traveled from regions of Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, and the Pacific to take part in this leadership school run by the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) from May 13–25, 2013. Lectures and discussions on topics ranging from technologies of activism to advocacy and negotiation techniques created a collective environment for these Indigenous women to grow and establish networks with other leaders worldwide.

The general objective of the leadership school is to strengthen capacities of Indigenous women leaders, particularly in the use of international instruments on human rights,Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and Indigenous women’s rights, as well as advocacy strategies to promote and sustain social change. The training sessions were conducted in three phases, beginning on a virtual platform from January to April, followed by a two-week intensive class concurrent with the forum in May, and concluding with a monitoring process (again through a virtual platform) to support the implementation of advocacy plans at the local, national, and regional level.

Mphatheleni Makaulule, representing the Venda people of the Limpopo province of South Africa, was among the leaders present. Toward the end of the session she was awarded a Global Leadership Award for her collective work with women and local communities: in 1999, Makaulule built the Luvhola Cultural Village with the help of community members, and in 2007 she founded the Mupo Foundation. The foundation works to foster food security, protect sacred natural lands, and revive cultural diversity, all while focusing on the advocacy and transmission of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems to women and the younger generations.

Mariana Lopez from FIMI commented on the inspiring legacy that Makaulele and others are creating: “We are celebrating Indigenous women who have implemented creative ways to address pressing social issues, demonstrating courage, creativity and vision. Indigenous women desire to no longer be viewed as vulnerable victims. They must be recognized as having huge capacity as catalysts of socio-cultural change,” Lopez said.

Makaulele explains that the word Mupo “describes the origin of creation, the creation of the whole Universe. When we look at nature, we see Mupo. When we look at the sky, we see Mupo. Mupo means all that is not man-made. Mupo gives everybody a space: men have their own space, children have their own space, women have their own space. Our role as women is to accompany all—from family, clan, community —to go back to that order. That is where we come to the name Makhadzi. Makhadzi is the name for VhaVenda women elders, but it literally means ‘the space of a woman’s role.’”

Makaulele and the Mupo Foundation have campaigns operating on many diverse fronts; Indigenous language revitalization efforts, eco-cultural mapmaking, protection of sacred territories, local seed cultivation and knowledge, and water advocacy amidst threats from mining industries make up the holistic approach. Currently, the Mupo Foundation is igniting a campaign against the Australian mining company CoAL of Africa, which plans to open a mine in the region.

For Makaulele, “The future is in the past. This future is not about the human children; it’s about the future children of all communities, from the insects up to the big animals.” With issues such as climate change and food security on her mind, Makaulele endorses the necessity of Indigenous knowledge systems and hopes to see them as part of the dialogue in every agenda.

Reflecting on what she learned during her time at the FIMI leadership school, Makaulele emphasized the role of leadership at home. “In our Indigenous knowledge system, everyone is a leader. We are leaders for the future generation. We are the leaders of the ancestral knowledge. We are the leaders of our ancestors to transfer this knowledge. And we are all leaders to protect mother earth. We cannot live without leadership. The knowledge which I have learned from here is a courage, is a motivation. In our work we do our work on the base of a dialogue. I’m going to sit, not getting tired, to involve our leaders, who are the chiefs, to involve our elders to do dialogue. I’m going to share this knowledge in the form of a dialogue. It is from the dialogue that the younger
generation also become the leaders.”

“I am very proud to be Indigenous,” Makaulele says. “It’s a big motivation because for me, my life is my Indigenous way. We [the Venda people] are the children of the Indigenous lens. Our life is Indigenous knowledge practice. I would like to say to all the women who are here, to carry this message outside to the women outside. We are the last generation to learn from our elders to protect the Indigenous forests, and this is the main root of our hope for the future. There is no longer time: we are the last generation on the edge of the elders who are going. We are going to become elders, and we women need to transfer this knowledge to our girls.” Directly addressing the girls in her culture, Makaulele says, “[You] need to create and take opportunity from your mothers and your elders to learn this knowledge, to get [it] into your veins like ourselves.”

For more information on Makaulele and Mupo, visit: For more information on FIMI, visit:

– See more at:

And from UN Women:

From China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia acclaimed singers and musicians, women and men, have come together to spread a message of unity and solidarity: We are “One Woman”.

Launched on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world. “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination against women and look toward a brighter future: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.

Be the change…

An addition:

She Builds..



A spotlight on the critical role women play in creating healthy, stable and thriving communities around the world. This week we will showcase the vital role women have in the advancement of their communities – as political and spiritual leaders, educators and advocates, health workers and law enforcement personnel, as well as in many other capacities.