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Great expectations

D+C - 9. Juli 2020 - 15:31
Malawi’s new president must fight corruption, stimulate the economy and get a grip on Covid-19





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The new head of state was elected in very unusual circumstances. The presidential election was only held because Malawi’s Supreme Court annulled the one held in May 2019 (see my comment in D+C/E+Z e-paper 2020/03). Last year, the administration of incumbent Peter Mutharika had manipulated the results so blatantly that people spoke of the “tipp-ex elections”. In spring, the judges ordered that new elections had to be held. Opposition groups joined forces in support of Chakwera, who won with almost 58 % of the votes. Thanks to the judges, democracy has thus prevailed.

On the other hand, judges may well have made Malawi’s health problems worse. The Mutharika administration had planned a Covid-19 lockdown, but it never took force because the Constitutional Court blocked it in late April (see my entry in the Covid-19 diary of D+C/E+Z e-paper 2020/05). A short time later, the Supreme Court upheld its decision. To many Malawians, Covid-19 did not matter. Campaign rallies attracted masses of people, but there were no hand-washing facilities, no face masks and no social distancing.

Now the disease seems to be spreading fast.

By 9 July, 1942 infections were reported. That was 44 % more than at the end of June. According to, 25 patients had died. Health experts warned that measures had to be taken fast to stem the spread of Covid-19 and that the country would otherwise face a serious health crisis. Doctors say that the country’s health system is over-stretched and under-funded, which is typical of sub-Saharan countries.

Many people think, however, that institutional dysfunction is particularly bad in Malawi. The country has a special reputation for corruption and mismanagement. Chakwera spelled out these problems on the campaign trail: “This country needs fixing. There is a lot of corruption and a lot of money is being stolen.” He promised not only to redeem the country from “years of misrule”, but also to “end hunger”.

To fight poverty, he wants to double the fertiliser subsidy to the benefit of millions of smallholder farms. According to the International Monetary Fund, however, African economies are headed for the worst crisis in decades, with national economies set to shrink. The problems the new government must tackle will probably prove much greater than assumed during the election campaign.

The new head of state is a former preacher. Chakwera even used to be the president of the Assemblies of God, one of the most important religious denominations in Malawi. People hope he will live up to his promises.

Raphael Mweninguwe is a journalist who lives in Malawi.

Kategorien: english

Rapid evidence during COVID-19: results from the RECOVR survey in Ghana

INCLUDE Platform - 9. Juli 2020 - 14:50

Innovations for Poverty Action’s (IPA) Research for Effective COVID-19 Responses (RECOVR) program has been working to track the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in real-time, and share data quickly with decision makers to enable rapid and informed responses in low- and middle-income countries. The program include two separate surveys, the COVID-19 Economic Impact Surveys and the Rapid Response Surveys. The initial findings of these surveys reveal some expected (and some surprising) trends. What comes through most strongly is the deep interconnection between livelihoods, social protection, and food and wellbeing security that must be considered more explicitly in forming policies for recovery and longer term resilience.

The COVID-19 Economic Impact Surveys, a joint initiative with the International Growth Centre (ICG), are collecting information on how the pandemic has affected different economic agents (including large companies, informal businesses and SMEs, self-employed, workers, and farmers), with raw data already available for Nigeria. Of the 876 informal market vendors who were part of the survey in Lagos, only 132 (15%) were receiving government support, and an equal portion did not know how to apply for such support, showing a large gap in social protection coverage and transparency.

The Rapid Response Surveys, conducted in 8 developing countries so far (including 6 in Africa), are planned to run multiple times in each country in order to generate valuable longitudinal data on a range of socioeconomic trends, which can be aligned with the timing of various policy interventions to assess their effectiveness. The surveys have a core component, with additional modules adapted to country-level knowledge demands. Questions mainly surround the size and scope of disruptions to government service provision; the extent of vulnerability across geographies and demographics; and the impacts on work, education, healthcare and nutrition at the household level.

RECOVR research hub In addition to its surveys, the RECOVR Research Hub contains a growing portfolio of IPA and non-IPA studies related to the COVID-19 response in low- and middle-income countries. Some of these studies evaluate the impact of existing development programs on a population’s ability to cope with the pandemic-related crisis; others inform the creation of new programs aimed at mitigating its impacts on health, livelihoods and other outcomes. The hub also contains articles on the collection and use of data (see phone survey in Senegal) and the experiences of groups or sectors in specific contexts (see women in the garment industry in Ethiopia).


Results from Ghana

On July 2, IPA held a webinar to discuss the results of the first round of the Rapid Response Survey in Ghana, which was conducted from May 6-26 and had 1,357 participants. The sample was acquired via random dialling of phone numbers, and although it was not fully representative (on average, participants were younger, more male, more urban and more educated than the national averages), the re-weighted results did not differ greatly from the raw results, so the evidence was considered valid for informing policy. The following key points came out of the survey:

  1. 3 in 4 respondents believed that they were not at risk of contracting COVID-19. The vast majority of these individuals attributed their lack of risk to following preventative measures – over 90% reported washing their hands more frequently and wearing masks, with the assumption that these make them immune. This has led to some risky behaviours, such as the breaching of social distancing rules, which increase the chances of disease spread.
  2. Households in Ghana have experienced significant losses in jobs, working hours and earnings as a result of lockdowns and border closures. While 65% of respondents reported working in February, only 41% did in the week prior to the survey in May. Of those still working, 41% had experienced lower earnings, and 29% reduced work hours, with more than 20% of interviewees scaling back inputs to their businesses. Retail and manufacturing firms were found to have been hit hardest by workplace closures and reduced demand. These trends are expected to have increased since the survey was carried out.
  3. Around 40% of children had not spent any time on education during school closures, and the ones who had been learning had spent, on average, just 6 hours per week on education. The main reasons for the lack of time learning included a lack of engagement from parents and a lack of support from teachers and schools. There was also a clear gap in interactive methods for learning – 60% of school children reported using their own school books, compared to less than 15% learning via internet resources.
  4. Despite government service subsidies in place since April 1, as well as new and expanded transfer programs, the number of beneficiaries from these interventions remains low. Just 14% of respondents reported benefiting from the free provision of electricity or water, since many of Ghana’s poorest households remain unconnected to the national grid. Moreover, just 2.8% were benefiting from cash or food programs, which could be due to inadequate eligibility criteria or delivery methods. Subsequently, over half of those surveyed had to deplete their savings since February 2020 in order to afford food, healthcare or other expenses, and poor households were more likely than non-poor households to have sold off assets.
  5. Food insecurity came through as a stark and pervasive problem. Issues on both the supply side (29% experienced shortages in food supplies, and 64% higher prices) and the demand side (57% struggled to afford food due to income losses) had resulted in two in five of households skipping meals, and many more limiting portion sizes and the variety of food they consumed. Food insecurity was more common in households with school-aged children, which poses risk to their development in addition to their immunity to the virus.


Implications for Policy
  1. More awareness is needed around transmission and comorbidity related to COVID-19. For example, knowing which types of masks work to protect people, and who is more at risk of serious illness. Many young African’s have already taken up this role of information sharing. Strong support is also needed from community leaders to spread important messages in local languages and encourage adherence to the rules. This would alleviate the need for enforcement through police coercion, which has caused social tensions to date.
  2. There is an urgent need for social protection to protect small businesses. Only 20,000 SMEs have received support from the USD 1 billion disbursement fund approved in April, even though small businesses contribute over 70% to Ghana’s GDP. This has already had a large negative impact on livelihoods at the household level, and will continue to worsen unless more support is given to get SMEs back on their feet.
  3. A lot of effort is needed to make up for missed education and create more resilient sectoral education plans for the future. It is first vital that all children return to school, including those that have not been learning. It is also important to improve communication between parents, teachers and schools to facilitate continued learning and, where feasible, to adapt learning content and methods to suit the variety of learner circumstances and make sure no child is left behind.
  4. Rethinking of subsidies and transfers is required to reach vulnerable households and avoid them falling (back/deeper) into poverty and exacerbating inequalities. Particular attention should be given to remote households who are not connected to the grid or who are financially excluded. Interventions should prioritise the availability and affordability of nutritious food to avoid knock-on effects in wellbeing and development later on. Household size could be a factor in determining the eligibility and adequacy of transfers to ensure that children in large households do not suffer disproportionately.


The information in this article was extracted from IPA’s webinar on July 2, which you can watch here. Stay updated on further rounds and locations of the survey through the RECOVR webpage.


Het bericht Rapid evidence during COVID-19: results from the RECOVR survey in Ghana verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english

Hunger amidst plenty

D+C - 9. Juli 2020 - 14:30
A promising programme to subsidise farm inputs is falling victim to corruption and mismanagement

Under FISP, the government gives coupons to poor farmers to buy subsidised hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilisers and agro-chemicals from a government-authorised company. The programme initially made seeds and fertilisers available to poor farmers at a small fraction of the market price. Currently, it makes such inputs available at approximately one-sixth of the market price.

When inaugurating the programme in 2005, then President Bingu wa Mutharika said it would improve the country’s food security. He added that there is no reason that Malawians should suffer hunger when their country is rich in agricultural resources.

And, in fact, the programme showed promising initial results. From a 43 % national food deficit in 2005, Malawi achieved a 53 % surplus in 2007, according to a team of academic experts writing in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) Biology in 2009.

Yet this programme – which started out so well – is breaking down. In recent years farm output has fallen due to a combination of factors: drought, rising costs of agricultural inputs, corruption and mismanagement of the FISP programme. Agricultural expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula says the programme has failed due to corruption and “that is why many people are calling for its abolition”.

Corruption has followed the flow of money into the programme. During the 2019 growing season, Malawi spent 35.5 billion Malawian Kwacha (approximately € 44 million) on FISP.

Political influence has crept in as well. Farmers who receive coupons increasingly tend to be those who support the ruling party. In some cases coupons end up in the hands of well-connected traders who cash them in rather than buy farm inputs. Some unscrupulous agro-dealers get huge sums of money from the government through dubious contracts but fail to deliver the farm inputs to farmers.

These failures are hurting Malawi’s vulnerable population of farmers and threatening massive hunger. During the 2019-2020 season the programme targeted 900,000 impoverished farmers, almost all of whom subsist by growing maize. About half of Malawi’s 17.6 million people live below the poverty line; about half of those live in extreme poverty.

The problems of the FISP programme come as the southern African region faces serious climate obstacles, with drought in some regions and floods in others. In December 2019 the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that 16 million people within the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) region would face serious food shortages during the first half of 2020.

Subsidising farm inputs cannot solve all of these problems, but it can make a difference. The southern African region spends millions on such programmes. If these funds were properly used, the region would be farther along in finding lasting remedies for hunger, despite its climate challenges.


Denning, G., et al., 2009: Input Subsidies to Improve Smallholder Maize Productivity in Malawi: Toward an African Green Revolution. PLOS Biology, January 2009.

Raphael Mweninguwe is a freelance journalist based in Malawi.


Kategorien: english

Murder, sex and a special sibling relationship

D+C - 9. Juli 2020 - 12:39
Oyinkan Braithwaite's debut novel is a darkly comic tale of an attractive young man-murdering Nigerian woman and her sister

The title makes it immediately clear what the story is about: “My Sister, the Serial Killer”. And the novel begins in medias res. Korede is called to a crime scene by her sister Ayoola: the apartment of Ayoola’s lover Femi somewhere in Nigeria’s capital Lagos. Ayoola has “accidentally” stabbed Femi and needs Korede’s help. Horrified though she is by her sister’s crime, Korede helps her dispose of the body and meticulously clean the crime scene of all evidence.

The murders committed by Korede’s beautiful young sister are farcical crimes, and so is the way she deals with them. Ayoola has no sense of guilt, she even denies that the murders of her lovers happened on purpose. But the reasons she gives are pretty flimsy. The setting is reminiscent of a Quentin Tarentino film.

Actually, the story does not really centre on Ayoola’s crimes. The main focus is the relationship between the sisters. In the course of the book, it becomes increasingly apparent how different the two women are. Ayoola, the younger sibling, is stunningly beautiful and captures the heart of every man who lays eyes on her. She does not think much of men. She uses them to get what she wants – and they are so blinded by her beauty that they never notice. That cold indifference also explains why she has no moral qualms about killing them. If she has a problem (like a new murder) she calls her older sister.

Korede is the opposite of Ayoola. She is conscientious, dependable, circumspect. In looks, she is unremarkable, tall and angular. Korede works as a hospital nurse and is on the brink of being promoted to head nurse. She gets angry at Ayoola, who is always causing difficulties for her, and yet she still feels responsible for her.

Korede is secretly in love with the good-looking doctor Tade but he sees her only as a chum. When Tade meets Ayoola – and naturally falls head over heels in love with her – the relationship between the sisters is sorely tested.

Apart from the siblings’ relationship, the book shines a light on the relationship between men and women. On the one hand, there are Ayoola’s lovers; on the other, there are also a number of police officers – all of them men – who do not come off well in the book. They are portrayed as dumb and corrupt. When Korede is pulled over in a police road check in the car she used to transport Femi’s body, she gets scared. But she knows how to deal with this kind of official and puts on a submissive show. It works; she is allowed to drive on unchecked.

Oyinkan Braithwaite was born in Lagos in 1988 and spent her childhood in Nigeria and Britain. She studied law and creative writing in Surrey and London and has lived in Lagos since 2012. On the background to her book, Braithwaite told the British daily The Guardian that she almost failed in her ambitions. She had set out to write a great novel but found herself blocked. Around her 30th birthday, she finally gave up. As The Guardian reports, she told herself “Just write something for yourself that’s fun”. The result was not the great profound novel that explains the world but an entertaining crime novel that is a pleasure to read. It will be interesting to see what else this up-and-coming writer produces.

Braithwaite, O., 2018: My Sister, the Serial Killer. Atlantic Books.

Kategorien: english

Stigma, Stress, and Struggle: COVID-19’s impact on India’s grassroots gender/sexual minorities and sex worker communities

Reality of Aid - 9. Juli 2020 - 12:32

  This article is part of Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific’s COVID-19 Response Series, “Resisting Repression; Recovering Together”, which aims to document the struggles, best practices, and lessons learned, as well as share recommendations of RoA-AP members as they responded to the pandemic at the national or regional level. Read more stories here.     By Solidarity Foundation “The situation of our community is very dire because stringent restrictions have been implemented due to the […]

The post Stigma, Stress, and Struggle: COVID-19’s impact on India’s grassroots gender/sexual minorities and sex worker communities appeared first on Reality of Aid.

Kategorien: english

ONLINE | Launch of CDP Paper - National Reports on the 2030 Agenda: What do they (not) reveal?

Global Policy Forum - 9. Juli 2020 - 12:25

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, member states and civil society have reported on the progress made in achieving the SDGs and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Monday, 13 July, 2020, 8:00 - 9:00 am EDT

Please register here

Kategorien: english, Ticker

COVID-19 Pandemic: Responses & Challenges in Manipur

Reality of Aid - 9. Juli 2020 - 12:24

  This article is part of Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific’s COVID-19 Response Series, “Resisting Repression; Recovering Together”, which aims to document the struggles, best practices, and lessons learned, as well as share recommendations of RoA-AP members as they responded to the pandemic at the national or regional level. Read more stories here.     By Christina Lamremdik and Jiten Yumnam, Centre for Research and Advocacy – Manipur (CRAM)  COVID-19 IN MANIPUR: On March 24, […]

The post COVID-19 Pandemic: Responses & Challenges in Manipur appeared first on Reality of Aid.

Kategorien: english

The shattered soul of Mauritius

D+C - 9. Juli 2020 - 12:20
In his latest novel, J. M. G. Le Clézio searches once again for a lost paradise

Five hundred years ago, the island of Mauritius must have been a paradise. There were no people or other predators. The island was divided between giant tortoises and dodos, flightless birds that were about one meter tall. Then came the Europeans. The list of things that were destroyed by them and the animals they introduced is long; it includes the giant tortoises and the giant birds. The latter were only found there. They are thought to have gone extinct around the end of the 17th century.

Today, the dodo is the national animal of Mauritius and a symbol of a lost paradise. Therefore it is no surprise that it plays an important role in the latest novel by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio: the protagonist, Jérémie Felsen, a French scientist, travels to Mauritius in order, ostensibly, to search for traces of the dodo. In reality, he is searching for the history of his family. The novel is named after the estate that his family lived on for generations: Alma. This homeland was also a victim of destruction.

And there is one more dodo in the book: it is the nickname of Dominique Felsen, the other first-person narrator, who comes from the “wayward branch” of the family. Dodo, who grew up in Alma and is inextricably linked with Mauritius, tells his own, personal story, which is marked by illness, poverty and exclusion. He also sets off on a journey, but in the other direction: to France. Both stories run parallel to one another, with the family story providing points of contact.

It is obvious that Le Clézio’s personal history played a big role in the creation of the novel. The 80-year-old author, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2008, has his own family roots in Mauritius. He lived there for a time as a child and is a citizen of both France and the island nation. He visits Mauritius regularly, and several of his novels and stories take place there. Travel and departure, nature and its destruction, a comparison of different ways of life, colonialism and its consequences: many of the themes that Le Clézio explores in his other books also recur in this late work.

In Alma, Mauritius is, on the one hand, a place of longing and the antithesis to life in Europe. On the other hand, the paradise has been destroyed, which the Felsen family is partly responsible for, at least indirectly. Racism and inequality, the consequences of colonial rule and slavery, persist in present-day society. When the descendants of the white plantation owners have a party, the mess is cleaned up by the descendants of the African slaves who were forced to toil on the plantations. Their children are only allowed to watch from the other side of the fence. A Dutch pilot exploits an underage prostitute whom Jérémie Felsen himself has his eye on. Reprehensible behaviour in this novel is never confined to the behaviour of others: the protagonist is part of the problem and knows it.

It is also clear in Le Clézio’s work that society is not just black and white, but multi-coloured. One example is the character of Aditi, the descendant of Indian plantation workers who came to Mauritius after slavery was abolished. They surely came out of desperation, but not by force, which is nevertheless progress. Nowadays Mauritians of Indian descent make up around two-thirds of the population and dominate the politics and economy of the island nation.

After she is raped, Aditi takes her life into her own hands. She defies social conventions and lives in the forest, where she also gives birth to her child alone. This connection to nature, which stands in opposition to Europe’s urban and technology-driven lifestyle, is another strong theme in Le Clézio’s work. But in modern Mauritius, shopping centres, streets and hotels are sprouting up everywhere. The world that Jérémie Felsen is looking for is in the process of disappearing. At the end of the story it is clear that what little of paradise remains will inevitably be lost. Dodo ends up in an asylum for poor and mentally ill people in Paris, and Jérémie returns to his old life following his “pilgrimage”. He is done with the island. And thus concludes the story of the Felsen family in Mauritius.

Le Clézio, J. M. G., 2020: Alma. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne. (French original from 2017)

Kategorien: english

What kind of Palestinian economy is needed in light of the COVID-19 crisis?

Reality of Aid - 9. Juli 2020 - 12:10

This article is part of Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific’s COVID-19 Response Series, “Resisting Repression; Recovering Together”, which aims to document the struggles, best practices, and lessons learned, as well as share recommendations of RoA-AP members as they responded to the pandemic at the national or regional level. Read more stories here.     By Firas Jaber, Social and Economic Policies Monitor (Al-Marsad) The outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) showed the vulnerability of […]

The post What kind of Palestinian economy is needed in light of the COVID-19 crisis? appeared first on Reality of Aid.

Kategorien: english

Building tax systems in developing countries is vital to overcoming COVID-19 and achieving the SDGs

OECD - 9. Juli 2020 - 11:00
By Ben Dickinson, Head of the Global Relations and Development Division, Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, OECD The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve to stimulate action in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting lives and livelihoods alike, the question is how will the SDGs be financed? … Continue reading Building tax systems in developing countries is vital to overcoming COVID-19 and achieving the SDGs
Kategorien: english

Justice for the victims

D+C - 9. Juli 2020 - 10:47
Nepal must urgently reform its sexual violence laws

In May 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) called on Nepal to bring its laws regarding rape and other forms of sexual violence in line with international standards. Furthermore, the state should improve victims’ access to justice. The HRC also called on Nepal to investigate the specific case of Fulmati Nyaya (pseudonym), an indigenous woman who claims to have been subjected to rape, torture and forced labour at the age of 14. The events occurred during the period of violent conflict between the government and the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal, which lasted from 1996 to 2006.

The HRC issued similar recommendations back in 2017. At that time, it was responding to the case of Purna Maya (pseudonym), who, according to the allegations, was raped by four soldiers in a barracks in 2004. She filed charges eight years later with the help of two human-rights organisations. Following the event, Purna Maya not only suffered from enormous health problems, she also had to leave her home together with her daughter because her husband abandoned them.

Over 13,000 people lost their lives in the internal conflict, and around 1,000 disappeared. Both parties to the conflict, the government troops and the Maoist rebels, raped and abused women and girls. The former “punished” women, for example, whom they suspected of being Maoists or of supporting them. The latter used sexual violence in many cases as an instrument of war. In the aftermath, the victims suffered from issues like unwanted pregnancies, psychological problems and trauma, and social exclusion and expulsion.

In 2015, the Nepalese government established two commissions to investigate human-rights abuses during the conflict, make proposals on how to deal with the perpetrators and thus conclude the period of transitional justice: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). They received 63,000 claims of serious human-rights abuses, but only 300 pertained to sexual violence and assaults. The victims may have been concerned that the commissions would not handle their cases confidentially.

Culture of impunity

It is not only sexual violence that occurred during the armed conflict that goes unreported. There is a general culture of ­impunity and a lack of information about victims’ legal options. Even today, there is no clear zero-tolerance attitude towards sexual violence in Nepal, and an alarming number of women are victimised. In a survey from 2016, seven percent of women and girls between the age of 15 and 49 reported that they had experienced sexual violence in the past. In fiscal year 2017/2018, 1,480 charges of rape and 727 of attempted rape were brought before the court. Only 387 and 118 of the ­defendants, respectively, were convicted.

Many victims of sexual violence keep the events to themselves voluntarily or are forced to do so by their families in order to avoid shame, discrimination and stigmatisation. Victims are often held responsible for the crime; in addition, they must also fear that the perpetrators will take revenge, particularly if they are influential people. There are also reports of cases in which the victims were forced to marry their rapists.

Sometimes charges are withdrawn under pressure from the perpetrators, or an out-of-court agreement is reached. For example, in 2010, a young woman was raped by two men in a sugar-cane field. The men were caught, but not punished. Instead, residents of the village expelled the woman for allegedly “ruining” the young men. She turned to the police and local politicians and ultimately received about $ 400 in compensation. Half of that was withheld by those who helped broker the agreement: they called it a “donation” for development efforts in the village.

But despite such cases, awareness of sexual violence is noticeably increasing in Nepal. The media are reporting more and more on the issue. When, in 2018, the 13-year-old Nirmala Pant was raped and murdered by a group of men, there was social unrest after the suspicion arose that powerful politicians were hampering the police’s investigations. It culminated in a nationwide mobilisation of the public.

Judicial reform

After repeated requests from UN bodies, Nepal reformed its legislation. The criminal code that was adopted in 2017 defines rape as “sexual relations with a woman without her consent and with a girl under the age of 18 with her consent”. The definition of sexual relations was broadened to include sexual intercourse, oral intercourse and penetration with objects, rather than simply intercourse, as was the case in the past. In addition, the statute of limitations for reporting a rape was lengthened from 35 days to a year. The penalties have also become slightly more severe.

However, one major problem still is that the punishment depends on the age of the victim rather than the gravity of the crime and the harm suffered by the victim. If the victim is under ten or over 70 years old, the punishment is life imprisonment, whereas if the victim’s age is 18 to 69 years, the punishment is seven to ten years imprisonment only. In case of marital rape, the husband is imprisoned for five years.

Nepal’s new law has improved the legal situation. But in its decision from last year, the UN Human Rights Committee called for the statute of limitations to be made significantly longer, and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended in 2018 that Nepal do away with all statutes of limitation because it can take years before a rape victim is in a position to initiate proceedings, particularly when it comes to children or other vulnerable people. Furthermore, the law gives authorities and judges a great deal of leeway with regard to sentencing, meaning there is a risk that perpetrators will receive a light penalty that is incommensurate with the gravity of their crime.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) considers sexual violence that occurs during conflicts a serious human-rights abuse, and generally speaking, the TRC may not grant amnesty to perpetrators. However, the laws that would allow sexual violence in conflict to be prosecuted are insufficient, because they do not form part of the criminal code.

At the root of sexual violence are structural problems relating to the prevailing culture of impunity. These problems seriously threaten Nepal’s prospects for long-term peace and democratisation. Therefore it should be in the interest of the government and all political parties to take a clear stand against any toleration of sexual violence. Nepal will be under special international scrutiny until at least January or February 2021. Then it will be subject to another Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council. The government should use the time it has left to enact further legal reforms in order to ensure access to justice for victims of sexual violence and to bring its definition of rape in line with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Furthermore, Nepal should heed the advice of UN Secretary-General António Guterres on how to deal with sexual violence in conflict. In March 2019, he called on the UN Security Council to grant victims temporary legal protection and full compensation, including medical and psychosocial care, social assistance and appropriate reparations. It is also important that Nepal swiftly implement Security Council Resolutions 1325, from 2000, and 1820, from 2008, which relate to women, peace and security.

Rukamanee Maharjan is Assistant Professor of Law at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.

Kategorien: english

UN chief highlights need for decent jobs to fuel COVID-19 recovery

UN ECOSOC - 8. Juli 2020 - 20:13
More than 50 Heads of State and government, alongside global employers’ and trade union leaders, have been taking part in an online discussion on Wednesday looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world of work.
Kategorien: english

Identify and address ‘real needs’ to recover from COVID-19, UN rights expert urges

UN ECOSOC - 8. Juli 2020 - 20:08
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in “a serious setback” for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an independent UN human rights expert said on Wednesday, urging a high-level meeting to “take a hard look” at implementation efforts to live up to the promise to leave no one behind.
Kategorien: english

Identify and address ‘real needs’ to recover from COVID-19, UN rights expert urges

UN #SDG News - 8. Juli 2020 - 20:08
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in “a serious setback” for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an independent UN human rights expert said on Wednesday, urging a high-level meeting to “take a hard look” at implementation efforts to live up to the promise to leave no one behind.
Kategorien: english

Voices from the frontline: Jafari Lutavi

Devex - 8. Juli 2020 - 12:24
Kategorien: english

Helping Zambians to see

D+C - 8. Juli 2020 - 10:58
China is at the forefront of helping Zambia to fight cataracts, an eye disease that can lead to blindness

She is one of the lucky ones, however. Thanks to a Chinese programme offering free cataract surgery, Mumba received an operation that removed her cataracts. “I am so excited that my sight is fully restored,” she says.

Mumba is one of a small but growing number of Zambians benefitting from a push to fight cataracts and other eye diseases. The campaign is supported by donations from international NGOs, private health-care providers and foreign governments, particularly the Chinese government.

Cataracts are a major cause of blindness in Zambia, particularly among the elderly. About 12 million people worldwide are blind because of cataracts, says Sightsavers, a global health-care organisation that supported 355,000 cataracts operations worldwide in 2018.

In Zambia, about 75,000 people are blind because of cataracts, according to See International, a US-based eye care provider, citing Zambian Ministry of Health data. Overall, it says, “treatable or preventable conditions account for approximately 80% of blindness cases in Zambia.”

In addition to its human cost, blindness takes a tremendous economic toll on Zambia, with an estimated total annual loss of $ 56 million. Zambians have poor access to eye care, with only 15 ophthalmologists serving over 14 million residents, See International says.

Part of the problem is lack of public information. According to Eye for Zambia, a Dutch organisation that supports eye care in Zambia, 43% of affected people are unaware of possible treatment. The country also lacks equipment and training for eye care, and high transport costs impede access to the few available eye care facilities.

The Chinese government is at the forefront of efforts to help. It funded a programme called “Bright Journey” that provides free cataract surgery in Lusaka and the southern provinces. So far, China has sent 21 medical teams to Zambia, providing diagnosis and treatment of common eye diseases as well as treatment of difficult cases.

The teams also train local doctors and provide materials and equipment. “As long as cataracts affect daily life and work, surgery can be considered,” says Dr. Huang Shunde, director of the “Bright Journey” programme.

The surgeons use a method called phacoemulsification and intraocular lens implantation. “In this surgery, the nucleus of lens is crushed and sucked out by ultrasound, and a foldable intraocular lens is implanted at the same time, so that the object is refocused on the retina, and the patient will be able to gain vision after the operation,” Dr. Shunde says. One of the patients treated is Bright Nkamba, a 48 year old bus driver from Lusaka. “My eyesight is now back to normal,” he says.” I am so grateful that this operation was a success.”

The Zambian government expressed thanks for the Chinese support. “It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I recognise the government of China’s dedication to the provision of quality health services to Zambia,” says Kennedy Malama, permanent secretary at the Zambian Health Ministry.

Derrick Silimina is a freelance journalist based in Lusaka. He focuses on Zambian agriculture and sustainability issues.

Kategorien: english

Kolkata, New York, Venice

D+C - 8. Juli 2020 - 10:34
Amitav Ghosh’s novel “Gun island” deals with global heating and global migration

In “The great derangement”, an essay Ghosh published in 2017, he wrote that factual reality of the climate crisis exceeded the scope of a novel (see D+C/E+Z blogpost from 19 November 2018). For one thing, environmental change was a global phenomenon, he pointed out, while novels were expected to deal with a specific time and place. Moreover, Ghosh wrote back then, the impacts of global heating seem to be unthinkable.

The author has now convincingly risen to those challenges. “Gun island” tackles the global phenomenon from a distinctly Bengali perspective. The first chapters are set in Kolkata and a remote island in the Ganges Delta, where storms are intensifying, coasts are being eroded and biodiversity is dwind­ling. This beautiful, but constantly shifting and dangerous landscape was the location of an earlier Ghosh novel, “The hungry tide” (2004). Some characters from “The hungry tide” reappear – and it becomes clear that life has become ever more precarious.

Young men in particular are eager to leave. Ghosh traces two of them as they attempt to get to Italy. On their trip, they join Bangladeshis and easily blend in with them. The novelist shows that national borders are erratic results of history rather than anything one might consider natural.

One of Ghosh’s two migrants from West Bengal makes it to Venice, an ancient city threatened by the rising sea level. As has become typical of Italy, this city has a considerable community of Bangladesh immigrants, most of whom do poorly paying menial jobs, typically without any legal protection. Ghosh’s other young man is diverted to Egypt, from where he tries to get to Italy too.

There is another kind of migration however. Some of Ghosh’s protagonists are academically successful Bengalis with careers in the USA. The lead protagonist is a Bengali scholar who has become a New York City-based rare-bookseller. Crucial scenes of the novel play in a wild-fire engulfed Los Angeles.

During a short stay in Venice, the bookseller meets the illegal immigrant by coincidence. They know one another from a dramatic encounter in the Ganges Delta which culminated in a person being bitten by a cobra and only barely surviving.

A leitmotif of “Gun island” is a popular Bengali legend about a merchant who is hounded by a snake goddess. The merchant tries to escape and goes on an adventurous journey overseas which to some extent resembles Homer’s Odyssey.

The novel starts with the bookseller becoming interested in the myth once more. His PhD thesis had shown that the legend probably originated during the little ice age of the 17th century, when failed harvests and other calamities caused serious problems all over the world – including the 30-years war in Germany (see Hans Dembowski in Monitor section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2017/10). As “Gun island” progresses, the bookseller eventually concludes that the legendary merchant himself must have found his way to Venice.

As the plot unfolds, the bookseller’s life story begins to resemble the merchants’ Odyssey. He keeps encountering poisonous creatures and only narrowly escapes. He sticks to rational reasoning as an academically trained person should, but he increasingly becomes aware of the relevance of premonition and the scope for supernatural experience in human life.

There is thus a spiritual dimension to the book, and that fits another point Ghosh made in the “The great derangement”. In view of the current crises humanity is facing, he finds the pronouncements of faith leaders, and in particular Pope Francis, more convincing than the language of multilateral agreements and government policies.

The plot has many surprising twists, but the general setting is plausible. Though the happy ending is tinged by death, it resembles religious miracle narratives and is perhaps a bit too euphoric.

Ghosh, A., 2019: Gun island. London: John Murray.
Ghosh, A., 2017: The great derangement. Chicago: University Press.
Ghosh, A., 2005 (paperback): The hungry tide. London: HarperCollins.

Kategorien: english

Gendered power relations – a prerequisite for inclusive and impactful youth employment research

INCLUDE Platform - 8. Juli 2020 - 10:16

A meaningful gender analysis is a prerequisite for research projects that seek to have an inclusive and sustainable impact on economic opportunities for youth in Africa. Young women continue to face a number of barriers to labour market participation and context-specific gender norms, which are a powerful force influencing the outcomes of youth employment programmes and studies. Policy-oriented research in this domain must integrate gender into its design and throughout project cycles. To ensure that women’s specific voices and experiences are heard and taken into account, scholars should deepen their understanding of the context, challenges and opportunities, as well as possible unequal gendered power relations that may influence the results of their study. Research teams in the frame of the Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth joint initiative are actively integrating gender analysis into their respective research frameworks. During our second roundtable discussion, the researchers shared their tools, strategies and methods to successfully include gender in qualitative and quantitative research

The second virtual roundtable discussion in the frame of the Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth partnership took place on 24 June. In a similar set up to the first virtual meeting, the discussion had two objectives: First, the group explored the context of female youth employment in Africa with the presentation of a newly-released evidence synthesis paper Young, female and African: barriers, interventions and opportunities for female youth employment in Africa. Secondly, the eight research teams engaged in a practical conversation on the integration of gender analysis into their research on youth employment in Africa.

A synthesis of relevant literature by Themrise Khan, independent consultant, indicated that there are four key barriers that prevent young women in Africa from joining the workforce. These are social and cultural, economic, conflict and fragility, and skills development. Her evidence synthesis paper also pointed out that the most successful interventions in addressing these four barriers were a combination of those that support wellbeing, capacity building and access to jobs for women, as well as entrepreneurship. Programmes promoting microcredit and those tackling only one of the barriers generally yielded disappointing results. In addition, two emerging areas of opportunity were identified as holding great potential for employment for young women: mobile telecommunications and the digital economy, and the informal economy, although its relevance and importance depend on the region of the continent. Ms Khan also shared the methodological challenges she encountered during the process of synthesizing and distilling the available literature, including: lack of regional and gender disaggregated data and the inconsistent definitions of youth used by different interventions.

Using this portrait of gender inequalities in the African labour force, research teams discussed the practicalities of integrating gender analysis into their research designs and approaches. According to the Nutrition and Food Security Association (ANSA) team from Mozambique, who started the conversation, projects must incorporate an intersectional approach that acknowledges that boys and girls experience life differently based on their cultural, economic, religious, ethnic and age context. The team also highlighted that no research activity is neutral, but is influenced by power relations that must be recognized throughout key phases of the study, including between researchers and research participants. Furthermore, the team emphasized the importance of making sure that female and African authors are represented in the literature to be reviewed.

The research teams complemented ANSA’s rich experience by sharing their strategies and approaches for integrating gender equality throughout the research cycle. To ensure the better integration of gender into research projects, it was suggested to consider the following key takeaways:

Structure of the research team:

  • Build mixed research teams of men and women to reflect diversity considerations
  • Train and sensitize teams on unequal power relations
  • Include and encourage female trainers and mentors

Research methods:

  • Make research hypotheses gender sensitive and formulate gender-sensitive research questions
  • Use gender-sensitive research methods and methods that take into account the needs, opportunities and constraints of men and women
  • When selecting data collection tools and elaborating fieldwork plans, pay specific attention to invisible barriers, such as women’s absence from public spaces or their lack of confidence in public expression; for interviews or group discussions, identify ‘safe’ spaces where women are willing and able to spend time and respond freely to your questions
  • Go beyond purely economic matters and include an interdisciplinary lens to complement your research with other dimensions of gender-specific constraints such as demand for soft skills or mental challenges
  • Pay attention to the politics of informed consent for all research, which should be more than just ‘paper permission’; take measures to increase the power of young women to say no

Data collection:

  • Collect sex disaggregated data
  • Understand the context-specific gender norms and possible unequal gendered power relations, and adapt your data collection methods according to the potential barriers:
    • Women’s lack of access to, and familiarity with, digital technology may rule out the use of some survey methods
    • Language and literacy are key to unlocking women’s full participation in research
    • Time issues are crucial when scheduling interviews and work with women
    • Be aware of local household decision-making dynamics. If necessary, interview/survey both male and female household members to capture diverse perspectives

Data analysis and reporting:

  • Analyse data in a gender-sensitive way (it is not only about how many women were trained, but what impact the training had on them and why it mattered)
  • Consider gender-specific norms and possible unequal power relations, also on the institutional level, during data analysis and reporting
  • Engage in meaningful reporting by highlighting the individual and collective reflections of young female respondents

Research dissemination:

  • Use gender-sensitive language and report data in a gender-sensitive way
  • Give preference to communication strategies that include women’s voices directly alongside results
  • Consult with respondents on whatcan be shared and when, and invite them to dissemination events

Gender blind research is no longer an option – for lasting change, researchers must consider the differentiated impacts that their initiatives can have on vulnerable and marginalized groups, including young women. Research teams and partners in this initiative collectively concurred that all youth employment programmes and research projects should integrate gender and diversity analysis to tackle the systems that perpetuate inequality. To do so, researchers must have aprofound and holistic understanding of the context in which women operate to tackle these inequalities and offer sustainable solutions that address root causes that affect young women’s economic opportunities.


This article is based on discussions during a virtual roundtable organized by IDRC in partnership with INCLUDE and ILO on 24 June 2020.

Het bericht Gendered power relations – a prerequisite for inclusive and impactful youth employment research verscheen eerst op INCLUDE Platform.

Kategorien: english


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