Based in Johannesburg since 2002, CIVICUS: World Alliance is commemorating Youth Day in South Africa by initiating a conversation to find this generation of young people’s mission and empower youth to organise, mobilise and take action throughout the world to better our communities. Forty-one years after the Soweto youth uprising that took place on 16 June, a group of creative and engaged members from the CIVICUS Youth Working Group took to the street of Johannesburg in a quest to find their generation’s mission. They recorded the diverse voices of young people living in Johannesburg in order to achieve this goal.
Youth Day is a celebration to remember the ability of young people, through their voices, actions and power, to stand up and speak out for our collective rights and to create meaningful change for our present and future. Throughout the world, the youth population is increasing. This is particularly the case in developing countries where civic space – the fundamental space necessary to exercise the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly – is being unduly restricted. This is according to the CIVICUS Monitor, which highlights added challenges facing young people living in the global South. Often, they face systematic violations of their human rights through institutionalized inequality, lack of protection against discrimination, unjust and unfavourable work conditions, and few have access to an adequate standard of living with proper health services and education.
Just after International Women’s Day this year, Amal Clooney, accomplished international human rights lawyer, addressed the UN. She and survivor-advocate Nadia Murad are calling for justice and accountability for the so-called Islamic State’s acts of genocide against the Ezidi community of Iraq. Time magazine was more interested in focusing on the lawyer’s baby bump.
Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.
It’s just one more in an endless string of examples demonstrating what a very long way we still have to go. And that's the case whether we look at the civil society sector, or politics, or the legal profession, or the media, or just about any sector or field.
About 66% of CIVICUS’ staff are women. And while it’s impossible to say what percentage of the whole CIVICUS Alliance’s membership is composed of women, we can safely guess that in a sector dominated by women, there are many member organisations that have more women than men on staff.
Thus, a day without women would be an impossible day for CIVICUS; work at the Secretariat, and quite possibly throughout much of the Alliance’s more than 1,200 member organisations, might just grind to a complete halt if all women workers went on strike.
As Joanna Maycock, head of the European Women’s Lobby in Brussels, clearly demonstrates in Breaking the Glass Pyramid, there is a “failure of our own sphere, civil society, to address gender inequality in our leadership.” We must struggle to consciously address the conditioning and messages we were raised with and that are constantly reinforced every day. So of course, even in progressive civil society spaces, we are frequently replicating the very same kinds of hierarchies internally that we see all the time externally in the broader world.
After Trump took office and the world was reeling in shock, it was women* who organized a worldwide women’s march to come together in solidarity. We know that through hate propaganda, women are often the most targeted, even through an intersectional lens of race, identity, migration status, and other factors that deepen discrimination and exclusion.
It is women who are pushing back against far right propaganda and division, and that is why a day without women will hopefully demonstrate the power of women within the struggle to advance fundamental rights for everyone.
We must ensure women of colour lead these movements as women’s campaigns rooted in the Global North often fail to understand or acknowledge the particular challenges that women of colour face. I was able to take part in the Dutch women’s march this year, and although it felt empowering to be part of something bigger, as a woman of colour I still felt alone. How we campaign together must be inclusive of all the issues that we face.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day seems to match the current sentiment around much of the globe. A day without a woman… What would that mean for us?
In equal measure, Hillary Clinton’s loss and the success of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election have reminded many of us what it means to be a woman in the workforce here in the United States, at every level. In the nonprofit sector, the pay differential between male and female leaders executives continues to increase, with women earning anywhere between 21 and 47 percent less than their male counterparts. All along the corporate ladder, women are underrepresented: 45% of posts are occupied by women at the entry level and this figure drops to 37% at management, 32% at senior management, 27% at vice presidential, and 23% at senior vice president levels with only 17% of C-suite positions going to women.
So what would it look like then, if all women stopped working?
Before the Tunisian Revolution, International Women’s Day centered around a major state-sponsored festival in which artists and government officials celebrated the progressive Code of Personal Status (CPS) promulgated in 1957 under President Habib Bourguiba. However, Tunisian women have been facing the most “sophisticated inequalities” since our independence.
According to UNESCO’s report on women in the labour force in 2009, only 38 percent of adult women are employed compared to 51 percent of men and nearly half are subject to various kinds of gender-based violence, including physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse. In this restrictive civic space, I wondered if our policymakers were even aware of these numbers or do they think only of using the progressive gender legislation to portray themselves as pro-western, secular modernists despite the implementation falling short?
Wathint’ abafazi,wathint’ imbokodo – When you strike a woman, you strike a rock – was the battle cry of women who marched to the Union Buildings in South Africa in 1956, and it has echoed through the ages and continues to ring true today. For hundreds of years, as birth givers, nurturers, leaders of industry and pillars of their communities from Cape Town to Cairo, African women have fought for their place in society; fought the label of “the weaker sex”, seeking to be seen as equal in strength, determination and value in their various forms of womanhood, and as people whose voices should not and cannot be muted. Today, we challenge ourselves here at CIVICUS to continue to amplify the voices of women all over the world.
At a time when right wing ultra nationalism threatens to usher in a new era of regressive patriarchal politics, the International Women’s Strike reminds us of the power of civil societies to resist. On 8 March, people in more than 35 countries will answer the rallying call ‘solidarity is our weapon’, by marching, walking out at work and by not taking part in unpaid care work.
The strike originates from two diverse grassroots actions in late 2016. In October Polish women went on a one-day strike against a proposed bill controlling women’s sexual and reproductive rights that sought to impose a near total ban on abortion, including criminalising miscarriage or abortion as a result of rape. Later that month, tens of thousands of women marched in Argentina against femicide and widespread gender based violence. A call for one-hour strikes and mass mobilisations was answered in countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.
The year 2016 was a difficult year in so many ways for those who believe in democratic values, fundamental human rights and social justice. Despite all this, there were several moments of hope demonstrating the power of citizen action which continue to inspire Civil Society.
30 members of the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa for a peer learning exchange. With the facilitation of Common Purpose, the members looked at their ability to lead beyond authority and which tools they may need to achieve this in civic space. Civil society’s (CS) ability to act rests on the realisation of three essential rights: the right to association, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression. Together, these define the boundaries of civic space within which civil society can function.
Six decades after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, creating a global covenant affirming the fact that ‘all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights,’ the vision lies in tatters, made worthless by the ever-increasing chasm between haves and have-nots.
This article captures the background and events of November 2013 in Kenya. A set of thirteen amendments to the Public Benefits Organisations Act 2013 were unexpectedly brought to the National Assembly. If they had passed, they would have fundamentally affected civic space, democracy and development. It offers lessons and reflections on the state of governance and civil society in Kenya and the challenges of protecting and advancing fundamental freedoms within a new constitutional order.
Mozynah is currently participating in CIVICUSs UN learning Exchange program for citizens of an African country. She is 22 years old, from Egypt and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs and Policy Management with a specialisation in Development from Carleton University in Canada.
On 28th January 2014, I attended the 18th Session of the United Nations Universal Period Review (UPR) on Cambodia. I also had the privilege of attending two side meetings held before the UPR and organized by World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace and International PEN and its Partners. Several disturbing revelations on restrictions on the operation of human rights activists came up during the side meetings and the UPR on Cambodia.
On 29 January 2014, I attended the side meeting on Yemen, organized by CIVICUS and its partners, as well as the 18th Session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Yemen. One of the issues that arose in the side meeting and the UPR process was concerning investigations into the human rights violations during the 2011 uprising in Yemen. This issue caught my attention, because it directly touches on the work of human rights activists and human rights defenders in Yemen.