Global Roundup: Can the U.S. “Fix” Gender Inequality Worldwide?


Welcome to our new Weekly Global Reproductive Justice Roundup! Each week, reporter Jessica Mack will summarize reproductive and sexual health and justice news from around the world.  We will still report in depth on some of these stories, but we want to make sure you get a sense of the rest and the best. 

USAID Launches New Gender Policy: Yes, And?

USAID has announced the launch of its new Policy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment. The policy is driven in part by half-baked success to improve the lives of girls and women worldwide through international aid programs in recent years. The policy will direct foreign aid toward three goals: 1) empowering girls and women to realize their rights 2) reducing gender disparities in access to resources and 3) addressing gender-based violence. Secretary Clinton has been saying for years that women and girls are at the heart of US foreign policy, so either USAID is just not catching on, or wishful thinking is just now being turned into reality. About time: a recent report from the World Bank confirmed that women shoulder 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, earn 10 percent of the income, and own just one percent of land. Meanwhile, a report published by Pathways of Empowerment found that, in general, international donor policies have failed to effect any real change for women and girls worldwide. Approaching “women’s empowerment” as a monolithic goal, efforts have fallen short and given way to ‘empowerment light.’ Findings suggest that, instead, empowerment transpires in range of unexpected settings and activities, like watching TV and focusing on women’s sexual pleasure. Via DAWNS Digest.

Women Survive in a Fledgling South Sudan
South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. It seemed to have an OK go of it after gaining independence last July, but has become almost completely embroiled in conflict since then. Women face dire health circumstances and escalated risks of sexualized violence. At the country’s inception, women had a unique window to assert their equal rights and influence over the nation’s future, but it’s soon closing. Women’s groups continue to organize for their inclusion, voice, and empowerment, but the broader country-wide conflict may consume their good intentions. This is a critical junction for women in South Sudan, and they need all the support and awareness they can get – some think they could hold the nation’s promise of peace. Via Channel 16.

FIFA Tests ‘Sport Hijab’ for Muslim Female Football Players
In response to pressure from the United Nations and the Prince of Jordan, among others, FIFA, the international football federation, has agreed to consider overturning its hijab ban for female players. Long sleeves and leggings are allowed for modesty reasons, but FIFA has claimed that the wearing of a head scarf is a safety issue on the field, since it is normally held in place with pins. Last year, the Iranian women’s football team was disqualified from an Olympics qualifying match because of their dress. Now, a scarf held with Velcro will be tested as an alternative. The Prince of Jordan, who is also a FIFA VP, has called it a matter of culture, not religion, that women should be allowed to wear the garment. Perhaps lifting the ban would help persuade Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei to field women’s teams for the upcoming Olympics? Via Religious News Service.

Unsafe Abortion Persists in Nepal, Despite Liberal Law
An in-depth report says unsafe abortion is still rampant in Nepal, ten years after the abortion law was amended to be one of the more progressive in the world, available to women under nearly any circumstance through the first and sometimes second trimesters. A 2009 Supreme Court decision affirmed that legal abortion in Nepal must be accessible and affordable to all women. Knowledge that abortion can be procured safely, legally, and cheaply – in government hospitals, no less – is unfortunately scant countrywide, owing in part to large remote swaths and difficult terrain. Also serving as a stumbling block to safe and legal abortion is USAID policies and officials. A 2009 report from the rights group Ipas found that The Helms Amendment, which prevents funding of abortion, was being applied as an all-out abortion ban and generated misconceptions among providers and women.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Jessica Mack on twitter: @fleetwoodjmack