Project Inspire 2015: Progress for Women is Progress for All

Project Inspire 2015

Project Inspire 2015

“A new economic agenda will not only make the economy work for women, but also benefit the majority of men. Progress for women is progress for all.”

– UN Women Flagship Report “Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016”

As the international community is poised to agree on the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a strong and growing global consensus on the need to achieve gender equality. While we have to acknowledge the significant strides made towards this goal, we have to also focus on where we need to redouble our efforts to achieve substantive equality and the realization of human rights for all women and girls.

To educate girls is to reduce poverty.

Now in its fifth edition, Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World seeks to highlight the efforts of entrepreneurial women in the less advantaged global regions and celebrates five years of supporting social entrepreneurs around the world. This is done in the hopes of emphasizing the right of all women and girls to a good job with equal pay and safe working conditions, which in the medium to long run should be brought into consideration during economic policymaking. Through Project Inspire, we hope that the increased support would enable these women to provide enough income to support a decent, sustainable standard of living for themselves and their families.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Previous notable projects have been those such as the 2014 Runner-up, Riverkids Project, which provides counselling, healthcare and vocational training for Cambodian sex workers, so they can transition out of the sex industry, and run their own small business; and the 2014 People’s Choice, Sinag Store Project, where financially disadvantaged girl students will gain marketable design skills and experience first-hand how to use those skills to launch a social enterprise project.

Launched in 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the 25th anniversary of MasterCard in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, “Project Inspire: 5 minutes to Change the World” is a global challenge that presents 18-35 year olds with a 5-minute platform to pitch their inspired idea to the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

With a US$25,000 Grand Prize and US$10,000 Runner-Up Prize on offer to make their idea a reality, Project Inspire 2015 will take on the theme of ‘Technology or Design for Economic Empowerment’. Applicants will be asked to demonstrate how they use design or technology as a tool in the work they are doing to enable and empower women economically throughout Asia, the Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

As part of the youth community, let us take a stand and continue to support these youth initiatives and the projects and women that they support during the crowdfunding period. The Grand Finals will be held in Singapore on November 13, 2015. For more information, please go to http://www.ProjInspire.com.

59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women

wThe Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995 is a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. It still remains as the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action today, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls worldwide.

After two weeks of political debate, exchange of information on good practice and lessons learned, representatives of 189 governments agreed to commitments that were unprecedented in scope. In addition, The Platform for Action covers 12 critical areas of concern which still classify as relevant challenges today: poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child. For each critical area of concern, strategic objectives are identified, as well as a detailed catalogue of related actions to be taken by governments and other stakeholders, at national, regional and international level.

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#5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal-5Gender equality is the concept in which men and women deserve the same rights and opportunities. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations has regarded the importance of this human right by making it a central goal of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals. These objectives serve as a framework for eradicating poverty and encouraging global development. The gender equality goal aimed to “promote gender equality and empower women”; more specifically, it expected to “eliminate gender disparities in primary education and secondary education, preferably by 2000, and in all levels of education, no latter than 2015.” Fifteen years later, the UN has concluded in its final MDG report that even though gender gaps in access to education have narrowed, uneven progress has been made toward achieving the target at its core. As a result, many disparities remain in all levels of education: secondary and university education levels remain highly unequal and in many parts of the world women continue to face all kinds of discrimination in access to education, work, economic assets or participation in government.

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Race, Class, Imperialism, Mankind and the Young – Ingxubevange

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I have been reading Steve Biko’s “I Write What I like” and in it he opens up my eyes and names things I have been thinking about but have failed to give names to. Biko tackles lots of issues from colonialism to racism and imperialism. Biko confronts the issue of white guilt stemming from the past and how white South Africans, particularly, deal with this guilt. “Basically the South African white community are a homogeneous group of people. It is a community of people who sit to enjoy a privileged position they do not deserve, are aware of this, and therefore try to spend time trying to justify what they do and why they are doing so. Where differences in political opinion exist, they are in the process of trying to justify their position and usurpation of power” Steve Biko. Biko further suggests that white South Africans become liberal in hope to overcome their guilt, and not because they understand what black South Africans have been through, are going through and will continue to endure. Whilst Biko wrote the article during the epitome of Apartheid, his Black Consciousness (BC) ideals still prove to be necessary. It is however imperative that black people do not use BC ideals to perpetuate racism, for populist tactics that are likely to degenerate their countries into states of anarchy that undermine the democracies that were attained through blood, sweat and sacrifices.

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Why Gender Equality Is Everyone’s Issue

The United Nations is not a finished product. And perhaps it never will be. UN Women as the youngest entity of the United Nations is a good example for the continuing renewal of the UN. It was ‘born’ in 2010, bringing together resources and mandates of four previously distinct parts of the UN system. By creating this institution, the UN General Assembly established one entity to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. Considering that not one single country on this planet has yet achieved gender equality, the task of UN Women is tremendous. Worldwide, women suffer violence and discrimination, face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps and are under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes. In fact, gender inequality is one of the most persistent human rights violations of our time.

UN Women takes on this challenge and is a strong champion for women and girls, basing its work on landmark agreements such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Most recently, UN Women has launched its HeForShe campaign with the prominent support of the English actress Emma Watson. In the heart of the campaign lies the idea that gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that affects all of us – women and girls, men and boys. We all benefit socially, politically and economically from gender equality in our everyday lives. When women are empowered, the whole of humanity benefits. Gender equality liberates not only women but also men, from prescribed social roles and gender stereotypes. As Emma Watson put it in her speech that went viral: Men and boys should ‘have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.´ Gender equality is not a question about men or women nor a fight between the sexes. Gender equality is a shared vision of human progress for all.

He For She

He For She

A country example shows how far we are still from a gender equal world: The Dominican Republic, a middle-sized state in the Caribbean, exemplifies the long, rocky road ahead. One in five Dominican adolescents has been pregnant at least once, the maternity mortality rate is almost double the projected Millennium Development Goals, the rate of intimate feminicides is one of the highest in the region, and every-day sexism is part of the social reality. UN Women has established a National Programme in this country which aims to change public policies, i.e. the structural framework, in order to accelerate the progress towards gender equality. However, the underlying challenge is to change mentalities and perceptions. Men who are socially pressured to ´be a man´, own as many women as possible, be the strong part in a relationship, the provider in a family, the ‘macho’ and ‘tigre’. Women who perceive their societal role as limited to birth-givers, care-takers and accessories of men. Public policies are an important starting point for accelerating the social transformation to a more equal society in which everyone can live a life free of stereotypes and prescribed gender roles. UN Women is working towards this change – unfortunately, like many UN entities, with very limited resources. Transforming politics and minds – as long as it might take – will eventually lead to a full realisation of human rights for everyone. This is worth all the efforts.