You are currently browsing the IPA blog archives for March, 2011.
- UN Warns Of Worst Refugee Crisis In Nearly 20 Years
- Pacific Island Nation of Kiribati – in Pictures
- New Vatican document on migrants and refugees
- People’s Goals Response to the HLP Report
- World Environment Day – 5 June “Think, Eat, Save, Reduce Your Foodprint”
- Hunger Is A Taxing Problem For The G8
- Women and Peace-building in the Great Lakes Region of Africa – 4 June 2013
- Reflections on the Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues 20-31 May 2013
- UN NEWS: OWG3 and High Level Panel report for post-2015 agenda
- Carbon Rise Leads to ‘Urgent’ Call for Climate Action at UN
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Archive for March, 2011
The website, www.guardian.co.uk/povertyover, produced by The Guardian in association with Christian Aid, explores Christian Aid’s powerful manifesto, Poverty Over, which investigates why the developing world is still poor, and defines what needs to change to help bring an end to poverty.
Every week, for the next six weeks, a new investigative documentary about poverty – commissioned and editorially controlled by Guardian Films – will be uploaded. There will also be webchats with Christian Aid representatives and in-depth information about the issues involved.
Some of the short films already available include:
- India’s Dalit Community Fights Disaster
- Ethiopia’s Land Rush: Feeding the World
- Natural Disasters: Breaking the Cycle
- A Hunger for Change
- Striving for a Fairer World
- A Life or Death Situation
There are also some Powerpoint presentations with dialogue available on the website.
If you’d like to get an email alert when new content goes live, sign up for email updates here.
Iona Primary School, Mosman Park, Western Australia has a strong sustainability focus. The new Treacey Hall is designed to reflect maximum light, has movement triggered lights and time linked air conditioning so ensuring minimum power usage. There are sub-surface water tanks, new toilets with dual flush and taps that are support timed for limited water usage.
Teachers and students are encouraged to recycle papers, plastics and whatever else can be recycled.
The Easter chocolate fund raiser is using a local company, Whistler, which buys 40% fair trade cocoa beans. The company is limited to some extent by being small.
Lucy van Kessel pbvm
On March 14 2011 after an unusual delay and “extensive and intense negotiations” CSW55 concluded with the acceptance, by the assembly gathered in the Ecosoc Chamber, of the Agreed Conclusions from the Commission (E/CN.6/2011/L.6). It was heartening to see among the conclusions many of the recommendations made in various NGO statements leading up to the commission. These were encouraging moves but “only the first step” stated Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet in her statement at this concluding session… While the conclusions reflected the commitment of member states (national government members of the commission), they now called for action on behalf of women and girls by national Governments, United Nations agencies, and human rights and civil society groups among others, in the six key areas set out in the document – that of
- Strengthening national legislation, policies and programmes
- Expanding access and participation in education
- Strengthening gender-sensitive quality education and training, including in the field of science and technology
- Supporting the transition from education to full employment and decent work
- Increasing retention and progression of women in science and technology employment.
Giving a brief overview of the session, Ms Bachelet said that the “Commission had convened to share innovations, best practices and successful experiences in the global effort to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment” and that “delegations had also used the opportunity to discuss traditional obstacles and new and emerging ones that were hampering gains.” But while she congratulated the Commission on the interesting discussions, she was also aware of the overriding concerns that still remained and the areas that were still “fraught with challenges” such as women’s transition from education to full employment.
In his concluding remarks the Chair, Garen Nazarian (Armenia), said that “Girls are the women of tomorrow, but we need to hear their voices today.” “Ending discrimination against them must become a priority for all stakeholders.”
On a personal note, my involvement was through the Working Group for Girls (WGG) and the committee for “Women and Climate Change”. We were pleased with the outcome of our efforts in the WGG as most recommendations were taken on board in some way. In the latter we worked tirelessly, through contact in various ways, to bring to the attention of all the member states of the commission (45) the need for governments to pay attention to the effects of climate change as they will impact on the lives of women and girls in developing countries especially. We know that it still falls to the women and girls in these areas to prepare food, sow crops, collect water, firewood etc. for their families, a lot that has been made all the more difficult by the changing climate. Our aims as a committee were two-fold: to have action on the effects of climate change included in the concluding document CSW55 and to have it considered in the priority theme for CSW56. On the first we were disappointed as the concluding document only made brief mention in paragraph 12, but to our delight the priority theme for CSW56 will give real scope to interventions, its theme being “The empowerment of rural women, in relation to climate change and food security.”
The weeks of the commission were a valuable informative experience for all of us as some excellent side events (including that of our girls from Zambia) supplemented the more formal sessions which were also enlightening and interesting. We were able to put into practice the advocacy techniques we had learned, and in my case to share them in a workshop with young people, to visit missions and mingle with delegations. The caucus’ meetings gave us an insight into grassroots experiences and allowed us some practice at working on the outcome document … all important for future ministry.
Teresa Kennedy pbvm (English Province)
The Presentation family at the UN reflected on ‘Spending ourselves for the Poor’ in our preparation for and during the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women CSW-55. Some of the highlights of the reflections …
Experiences and Learnings: We are awakened to connecting dots between…
- policies adopted in the international forum and the practices of the policies on the ground
- various commitments made and the accountability by the governments at the UN e.g. MDGs, CEDAW, Agreed Conclusions, Resolutions
- stories narrated by hundreds of women from across the world
- the big picture and what was happening at the hearts of people
- · the priority theme of CSW-55 ‘Access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work’ and the dialogue on quality primary and secondary education for all in some of the developing countries.
- · the words of Kathleen Tynan ‘Presentations are a Passionate Presence in the Present’ and the stories of our young women from Zambia.
- · making ourselves vulnerable by sitting with, listening to and speaking with the vulnerable people.
- the global Presentation family making this experience a reality for us at the UN.
Our hopes and dreams are that…
- we share UN experiences and learnings with many people and wherever we are.
- we adhere to the encouragement given to us by the Ambassador of Zambia to the UN to be activists and advocates and join with many other existing groups to promote quality primary and secondary education for all in Zambia; we develop a short and long term plan to carry out our goals of achieving primary and secondary education; we meet with many other stakeholders to collaborate with them to achieve the goals.
- we try to help those who are in most need with the available resources to promote education for all especially for girls.
- we disseminate the outcome of CSW-55 ( the summary from the discussions on CSW-51, Agreed Conclusions from CSW-55) amongst our IPA family.
Presentation Family at the UN:
Teresa Kennedy pbvm
Chilenga Ng’uni, Friends of Nano
Lungowe Mufungulwa, Friends of Nano
Anne Frawley pbvm
Annmary Andrews pbvm
Joan Power pbvm
Fatima Rodrigo pbvm
Called to be Women of the Light
Nano Nagle, the founder of the Presentation Sisters, wanted her sisters to be “Daughters of Light”. Nano herself was called the “Lady of the Lantern”. After a busy day in her schools, she walked through the dark and dangerous streets of 18th century Cork at night, carrying a lantern to light her way as she visited those who were living in destitution, those who were ill or dying, those in despair. Presentation Sisters, their associates, friends and colleagues live the Gospel in the spirit of Nano Nagle, bringing the light of hope, compassion and justice to those who live in poverty, despair and oppression. One example of this is the Presentation Sisters, teachers and volunteers who work at the Nora Cronin Academy in Newburgh, New York. Their goal is to break the cycle of poverty through education. See something of the way they educate young women to be Women of the Light.
I had an opportunity to share with the NGO representatives of the United Nations, the Socio Economic situation of Dalits in South India and my lived experience among them in Varusanadu. The Presentation was through the PowerPoint. (click here for a PDF copy of the PowerPoint – 4.97MB in size)
The biggest irony about India is that it is, on the one hand, the cradle and home to great religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) and many sacred scriptures (the Upanishads, the Vedas and the Puranas, the Gita and the Adi Granth), home to many sacred rivers and numberless temples and pilgrim centres. There are so many good beautiful things about India – like its prehistoric civilization, multicultural ethnicity, present day technocratic social environment, its upcoming prestige as a global IT giant – that can make every Indian proud. [slides 2 & 3]
There is another aspect of our society that would make every Indian feel ashamed… that is the situation of caste discrimination. Indians have been living with this shame for centuries now. India is a land of untold inequalities and injustices, of superstitious beliefs and ungodly practices, of the so-called pure people and the impure ‘untouchables;’ on this holy land are carried out the most noble as well as the most evil deeds, those who toil in the lands of the rich as bonded labourers for generations, those who are kept more as inanimate things than as normal human beings. How long this sickly psyche blaming all these to ‘fate’ or ‘god’s will’ will go on? Sadly none can be sure when, if ever, this blotch would be cleansed once for all from the face of Indian society. [slides 4 & 5]
Statistics of the Dalits in India [slide 6]
- 200 million estimated Dalits in India
- 17% of the Indian population
- 110,000 registered cases of rape, murder and violence against Dalits in 2005
- 38% of Indian state schools make Dalits sit separately when eating
- 36% of rural Dalits live below the poverty line
- 38% of urban Dalits live below the poverty line
Sources: UN, Human Rights Watch, Times Database
Even a brief study reveals the following truth about India: [slide 7]
1 crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes
27 atrocities against Dalits every day
13 Dalits are murdered every week
5 Dalit’s homes or possessions are burnt every week
6 Dalits are kidnapped or abducted every week
3 Dalit women are raped every day
Origin of this caste system: [slides 8 & 9]
Origin of this caste system in the Indian society dates back to thousands of years. The fair skinned Aryans arrived in India around 1500 BC from South Europe and North Asia. When the fair-skinned Aryans invaded India, about two thousand years before Jesus Christ they defeated the dark-skinned indigenous people, Dravidians, who were the founder of the Indian Civilization. The Aryans subjugated them, learnt many things from them and built up another civilization, which came to be known as the Ganges Valley or Hindu Civilization.
To perpetuate the enslavement of the original inhabitants of India, the Aryans created the caste system, and thereby excluded them from their own society. These people were left as ‘outcastes’ who were even denied of human status. In order to secure their status the Aryans resolved some social and religious rules, which allowed only them to be the priests, warriors and the businessmen of the society. History of the Aryan intrusion into India and their dominance over the original inhabitants, Dravidians and the prominence given to the scriptures of the former were the root cause for this caste discrimination. what cannot be denied is the place in Hindu Vedas.
[slide 10] According to their tradition and scripture the high class people the Brahmins belong to the priestly class. The next is Kshatryas who are the warriors, Vaishyas – traders, Shudras – laborers. The Dalits belong to no caste. They were degraded as caste-less people.
Socio Economic situation of the Dalits:
To this day, most Indians still believe, and this includes a majority of Dalits, that Dalits are being punished by God for sins in a previous life. Under the religious codes of Hinduism, a Dalits only hope is to be a good servant of the high castes and upon death and rebirth they will be reincarnated a high caste. The original Aryans who imposed Hinduism on India beginning some 3,500 years ago. The Dalit status has often been historically associated with occupations regarded as ritually impure, such as any involving leatherwork, butchering, or removal of rubbish, animal carcasses, and waste. Dalits work as manual labourers cleaning streets, latrines, and sewers engaging in these activities were considered to be polluting to the individual, and this pollution was considered contagious. As a result, Dalits were commonly segregated, and banned from full participation in Hindu social life. For example, they could not enter a temple or a school, and were required to stay outside the village.
Discrimination against Dalits still exists in rural areas in the private sphere, in everyday matters such as access to eating places, schools, temples and water sources. It has largely disappeared in urban areas and in the public sphere. Some Dalits have successfully integrated into urban Indian society, where caste origins are less obvious and less important in public life. In rural India, however, caste origins are more readily apparent and Dalits often remain excluded from local religious life, though some qualitative evidence suggests that its severity is fast diminishing.
[slide 11] The term Dalit means ‘oppressed’, ‘broken’ or ‘crushed’ to the extent of losing original identity. The word “Dalit” comes from the Marathi language, and means “ground”, “suppressed”, “crushed”, or “broken to pieces”. However, this name has been adopted by the people otherwise referred to as Harijans, untouchables, and has come to symbolize for them a movement for change and for the eradication of the centuries-old oppression under the caste system. In legal and constitutional terms, Dalits are known in India as scheduled castes. The constitution requires the government to define a list or schedule of the lowest castes in need of compensatory programmes. These scheduled castes include untouchable converts to Sikhism but exclude converts to Christianity and Buddhism; the groups that are excluded and continue to be treated as untouchables probably constitute another 2 per cent of the population.
During the struggle for Indian independence two different approaches emerged for the improvement of the situation of the people now known as Dalits. The first was led by Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in raising the status of Dalit people (or, as he preferred to call them, Harijans) while retaining elements of the traditional caste system but removing the degrading stigma and manifestations of ‘untouchability’. The other approach was led by Dr Ambedkar, a lawyer and himself an ‘untouchable’, who believed that only by destroying the caste system could ‘untouchability’ be destroyed. Ambedkar became the chief spokesperson for those ‘untouchables’ who demanded separate legal and constitutional recognition similar in status to that accorded to Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. However, this was opposed by Gandhi and Ambedkar eventually gave up the demand. After rejecting Hindu values, in 1956 he converted to Buddhism and was later followed by a large number of converts.
After independence the Indian constitution abolished untouchability in law. Today Dalit politics largely centres around the just dispensation of the affirmative action benefits in employment, education and electoral representation granted to them under the constitution. However, the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955/1976 and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, both derived from the constitution, remain largely ineffective in their implementation. Many reasons lie behind this, including a lack of political will on the part of both central and state governments, a lack of commitment of upper-caste and class bureaucrats to social justice, the absence of vigilance committees of citizens to monitor the implementation process. Dalit women have been particularly badly affected in recent times. They are discriminated against not only because of their sex but also because of religious, social and cultural structures which have given them the lowest position in the social hierarchy. The stigma of untouchability makes them especially vulnerable victims of all kinds of discriminations and atrocities. Almost 90 per cent of Dalits live in rural areas. Economic exploitation remains their most acute problem. They are almost all marginal farmers or landless labourers. Large numbers migrate to cities or to labour-scarce rural areas in different parts of India. Many are in debt and are obliged to work off their debts as bonded labour, despite the fact that this practice was abolished by law in 1976. In these cases a labourer takes a loan from a landlord or moneylender and in return agrees to work for that person until the debt has been repaid. In practice such debts are difficult to repay as interest rates are high and poverty forces the labourer into deeper debt. The debt can then be passed on to the next generation and it is almost impossible to escape the cycle of bondage. In some areas many high-caste landlords pay their Dalit labourers minimum wages in cash or food, or nothing at all; resistance is frequently met by violence, sometimes resulting in the death or injury of the victim. Mob violence against Dalit communities is frequently reported, sometimes led by landlords, and has been especially noticeable in situations where Dalit workers have joined labour unions or made progress in gaining education and economic mobility. Many Dalit families have left rural areas to live in slums and on the pavements.
Experience in Varusanadu Mission: [slides 12 & 13]
Varusandu is situated in the State of Tamil nadu, South India. This area consists of 120 villages.
The Presentation Sisters began their mission in 1990 since many young women coming for child birth coming to our hospital in Theni at the last stage handled by untrained village Dhais (midwives). It was very painful to see most of the new born babies or the mother dying.
In responding to the need of the hour, the sisters really felt the need to start a community in that area. It is a very remote area no transport facilities. No Hospital or primary health centre and trained doctors.
The Presentation Sisters lived in a small house among the people rendering primary health care services. Many patients used to come from surrounding villages. To travel to each village we have to cross the river and climb the mountain. 90 per cent of the people did not know to read or write. Since there was no school nearby, many of the children did not go to school. The Dalits were economically very poor and socially discriminated.
We formed the groups of women, men and youth and conducted non formal education, enabled them to avail government schemes allotted specifically for Dalits.
After twenty years I am very happy to see the growth among our people. Sisters were able to reach out to around 40 villages forming women’s group to have their own micro credit programme. Children were sent to different towns to stay in hostels to have access to schools. Women learned to read and write through various training programme and capacity building.
Today they are so empowered that they are able demand their rights and exercise their responsibilities; Their leadership skills enables them to face the Government officials and have a dialogue with them re the schemes that are available for them. The Micro finance programme has liberated women from economic dependency.
Shobha D’Sami pbvm