Gender Equity In 2013

We were recently made aware of a fascinating info graphic by on gender equity as seen through the lens of unequal pay.  This image is timely following President Obama’s recent inauguration speech.  At WIPA, we see gender equity as a particularly important issue in 2013.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.

-President Barack Obama, 2013 Inauguration Speech

Recent world events have further amplified the call for global equality in law, justice, access, salary, and education.  This year we strive to increase the number of interviews and guest articles that discuss the factors that lead to gender inequality.  We want to explore   how women leaders have overcome these challenges and what they are doing to address them.  We hope that you will contribute to this dialogue either in person or via one of our many online platforms.  Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support of WIPA as we strive to empower women in the public sector sphere.

Equal Education Unequal Pay


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WIPA Interview with U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Piper Campbell

WIPA recently had the honor of interviewing U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Piper Campbell.  Ambassador Campbell, a senior career Foreign Service Officer, was sworn in as Ambassador to Mongolia on August 6, 2012, following her nomination by President Obama and Senate confirmation.

US Ambassador to Mongolia Piper Campbell

In this interview, Ambassador Campbell speaks to U.S. programs in Mongolia that encourage the greater participation of women in leadership and public policy.  She also provides valuable advice to those of us working to support the full inclusion of women public affairs and governance.

We would like to thank U.S. Ambassador Campbell for sharing her experience, reflections and advice with the WIPA community.

What programs does the US Embassy in Mongolia support that promote the inclusion of women in governance or leadership?  What are some of the gender equity roadblocks that women face in Mongolia?

The embassy has a number of programs that seek to help develop leadership and academic potential in young and mid-career professionals.  Many of them do not focus specifically on women, but historically, Embassy Ulaanbaatar sends more women than men on these programs.  These include the Fulbright and Humphrey exchange programs.  In the last two years, all of our Humphrey program participants have been women, and 40 of 78 Fulbright participants have been women.

READ THIS: Learn more about Embassy Ulaanbaatar here

One program designed specifically for women is the Study of the U.S. – Summer Institutes program for Women Student Leaders.  We sent five female university students to this program last year, and we plan to send four this year.

The good news is women in Mongolia are very active in business and government.  I have been impressed by the energy and commitment of the female members of Parliament (and female Ministers) and note that Mongolia has more female representation in your legislature than many other countries do.  I think everybody would still like to see more women reach the highest levels.

As Secretary Clinton said when speaking at an International Women’s Leadership forum here in Ulaanbaatar in July, if there is one characteristic that every strong democracy in the world shares, it is that they are fully open to all of their citizens – men and women – and a democracy without the participation of women is a contradiction in terms. So whenever we talk about how to support democracy, we must be sure that women are not just a part of the discussion, but at the table to help lead that discussion, and to remain committed to helping more women worldwide gain roles in their governments, their economies, and their civil societies.

Did female mentors or role models play a significant role in your professional development? If so, how?

In August, when I was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, I spoke about how important my mentors, both male and female, have been to me throughout my diplomatic career.  I was lucky enough to work with the woman who is now Director General of the State Department, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in Geneva many years ago.  Linda showed me the importance of letting your own personality shine through – being empathetic and honest.

Secretary Clinton is another inspiring role model.

I want to note also the important support I got from male mentors, some of whom pushed me to be more ambitious in my goals than I might otherwise have been.  I remember then-US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke sending me alone into an important meeting with non-governmental organizations.  His confidence in my abilities challenged me and helped me to grow professionally.

I am proud to advocate on behalf of women in leadership but occasionally have been professionally dismissed due to this advocacy.  Do you think women run a higher risk of professional backlash on issues advocacy or advocating on behalf of women?

One of my favorite State Department ceremonies is the International Women of Courage awards, which is held each spring.   The awardees are women who have been working tirelessly to improve the lives of women and girl.  In many cases, they have faced incredible personal challenges.  This ceremony reminds me that advocating on behalf of women often is not easy, but, my gosh, it is so important.  Secretary Clinton often says that advocating on behalf of women isn’t just the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do.   Improving the lives of women improves the lives of their families, strengthens their communities, and creates more opportunities for economic growth and prosperity.

In an online article, you are quoted as saying that your time spent in Japan inspired you to go into the diplomatic service.   Can you expand on that and what specifically encouraged you to pursue this career?

Participating in a student exchange to Japan exposed me to a new culture and language and gave me an opportunity to forge important friendships.  Really, I think that I never looked back after that exchange:  I wanted to see more places and learn more about this amazing world.  I attended a university with a strong focus on international relations and joined the foreign service almost immediately after graduation.

You have achieved remarkable milestones your career.  What advice would you give to young women who are pursuing public service careers and interested in leadership?

My primary career advice is to pursue your passions.  People excel when they are doing things that interest them: they are more inclined to do outside research to get really smart on the topic, they bring energy to their job, and their enthusiasm is noticeable and contagious.  Someone becomes a leader by having vision, but also by being willing to do the work.  I firmly believe that the best way to motivate is by showing your own enthusiasm for what you are doing.

From June 2011-June 2012, Ms. Campbell served as the senior civilian representative of the U.S. government in southern Iraq, opening Consulate General Basrah on July 5, 2011. Prior to her assignment to Basrah, Ms. Campbell worked as Chief of Staff to the first-ever Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (current White House Chief of Staff Jacob J. Lew), as well as to the current Deputy Secretary, Thomas R. Nides.

Ms. Campbell joined the Foreign Service in 1989 and began her diplomatic career as a consular and administrative officer in Manila, the Philippines, and then as a general services officer providing support to the three U.S. missions in Brussels, Belgium (Embassy Brussels, USEU, and USNATO). She went on to serve in the State Department’s Operation Center (1994-1995) and the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (1995-1996) before being seconded to the civil affairs section of a United Nations peacekeeping mission (1996-1998). Ms. Campbell then opened an office of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia.

She also worked on international security and humanitarian issues at the U.S. Missions to the United Nations in New York (1999-2002) and Geneva (2002-2006) and served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (2006-2009).

A native of Buffalo, N.Y. and resident of the District of Columbia, Ms. Campbell holds a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a Master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.


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Women On The Field

This week we take a look at three exceptional women whose stars are on the rise at the Olympics in London. Their performance, sometimes merely their qualifying presence, will undoubtedly serve as a huge morale boost back in their home countries, which have been deemed as not-so-friendly for women.

Photo courtesy of Images

Tahmina Kohistani
Photo courtesy of Images

In 14.42 seconds, Tahmina Kohistani showed Afghanistan what women could do and what the future generations should fight for. As the only female athlete to represent Afghanistan in London, her dream has been fraught with ridicule, disdain, and cultural abuses. The 23-year-old may have finished second last in the qualifying rounds, but she has sounded a clarion call for women in her country and the region. Shedding tears at her personal best timing, she appealed to her fellow Afghans to support and join her efforts. She said she hopes to be in Brazil for the next Olympics, and also represent Afghanistan with more women.

India has been generating a lot of negative press and social media coverage as ‘no country

Saina Nehwal
Times of India

for women,’ but her female athletes are shining in London. Twenty-two year old Saina Nehwal brought home the bronze medal in Badminton, culminating in a season of successes for herself. It has been a steady climb — quarterfinals in Beijing, bronze in London, series wins in Thailand and Indonesia. It’s still sinking in, but she says she’s happy she’s delivered what she promised and believed in. Saina also said she’s aiming for Gold in Rio.

Mary Kom
Economic Times of India

Another Indian, who has been in the limelight, is boxer Mary Kom from the NorthEastern state of Manipur. The 29-year-old mother of two is five-time world champion fighting a semi-final Olympic dream on August 8. The female pugilist is generating heavy media coverage and the collective prayers of a nation, where cricket is an alternative religion.

In just one sporting event, these women have potentially done more for sensibilities, upliftment and empowerment of their compatriots and tribes than generations of policies and in-favour-of politics. Here’s hoping their stars shine brighter in the years to come and that their fight is enriched with support, respect, success and more female athletes to represent their countries!

Sources: The Washington Post, The Times of India, IANS, Google Images.

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Creating a Space for Women in the UAE

 “You have to learn that your rights are born with you. Don’t think the government or a man or your husband will give you a right. It’s inside you, just practise it.”

Dr. Rafia Obaid Ghubash [link to The Economist]

Dr. Rafia Obaid Ghubash, is currently preparing to opening the first Women’s Museum of the United Arab Emirates.  The museum will highlight and contrast the contributions of women in the present and historic UAE.  Modern art, traditional tools, handicrafts, jewelry and attire will lay side-by-side in a bold attempt to educate and inspire those who visit.

READ THIS: The Economist It’s a woman’s world

Dr. Ghubash seeks to introduce visitors to these rich contributions and urge them to reflect on what this means for the next generation of Emirati women.  In addition to showcasing these artifacts, the museum has three distinct goals which drives its mission,

  1. A cultural initiative unique in the Arab world
  2. A space to explore and celebrate the lives of women in the UAE
  3. A meeting place for the promotion of women’s work and achievements in the UAE

Dr. Ghubash was offered free space to host the museum, instead she decided to raise her own funds to open the museum in a historic section of Dubai.  This choice seems to demonstrate both the central role that women have played throughout the history of the UAE as well the self-determination and independence that Dr. Ghubash strives to encourage in women via her museum.

READ THIS: Learn more about the museum at it’s website here


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Women At Work

Two game changing women have recently been featured heavily in the news: Sally Ride and Lakshmi Sahgal.

Sally Ride

Sally Ride was the first U.S. woman and the youngest American astronaut to go into space. She was aboard the 1983 space flight, Challenger. Her flight came after decades of pressure on NASA to allow female astronauts in space. NASA feared biological concerns for women experiencing long periods of weightlessness in space. Upon leaving NASA in 1989 after two flights into space, she became a professor of Physics and co-wrote seven science books for children. Her pioneering spirit was, perhaps, best captured by her comment on the hype surrounding her flight, “There’s nothing different about it just because am a woman.”

READ THIS: Learn more about Sally Ride at Sally Ride Science

Lakshmi Sahgal

In a country that was recently rated among the Top Five dangerous territories for women, Lakshmi Sahgal’s life stands out. A founding member of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, her pioneering inspiration probably came from her mother: a social worker, freedom fighter and a member of Independent India’s Constituent assembly. After constituting the first all-women branch of the Indian National Army — the Rani of Jhansi brigade, Captain Lakshmi was then placed under house arrest in the Burmese jungles. Upon her return to India and her profession as a doctor, she continued to strive for social and economic emancipation. She was a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a Presidential Candidate in 2002.

READ THIS: Learn more about Lakshmi Sahgal at Times of India

Sources: The Guardian, The Hindu

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Interview with Oley Dibba-Wadda, Executive Director of Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE)

Oley Dibba-Wadda

This month WIPA is honored to interview Oley Dibba-Wadda, Executive Director of FAWE.  Ms. Dibba-Wadda is a gender equality specialist within the international policy and programming field.  Prior to becoming the Executive Director of FAWE, she was the Global Gender Advisor to Oxfam Great Britain.  Ms. Dibba-Wadda has also worked as Project Manager for the Commonwealth Education Fund and has held a number of regional coordination and country management roles in gender- and education-related organizations and projects operating in Africa and Asia.

Ms. Dibba-Wadda shares the experiences in achieving a work-life balance. She encourages young women to follow the path of professional excellence, knowing that a balance is possible when one’s objectives are fully articulated.

[Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity]

How have you managed to balance your career with your personal life?

It is indeed a big challenge trying to achieve a good balance between these two objectives. I have been lucky to receive strong support from my family, particularly from my husband and my four children. My family’s unconditional support, understanding and appreciation for my professional responsibilities has made it possible for me to concentrate on the work front.  It is practically impossible to be able to combine a career and personal life on equal terms without this kind of support.

READ: FAWE’s Newsletter on “Empowering African girls and women for life

Nonetheless, the emotional and psychological aspects – the guilt of feeling that I am not around enough to celebrate birthdays, school events and help with school assignments (as a mother and wife), is one that continues to weigh on me.  I often reflect on this struggle for economic empowerment and independence and the simultaneous urge to embrace more mainstream personal and cultural values (i.e. my role as a stay at home mum and the wife who manages the home front).  I am by no means under pressure by my family to make that difficult choice, but I am under pressure by my conscience to make that choice.  It has not and is still is not easy.

What is the biggest challenge you have encountered throughout your career as a woman? If any?

The biggest challenge that I have encountered was balancing between work, home and university life. When I was in the United Kingdom, I had to juggle the start of my doctoral degree course at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, coupled with working full time as a Global Adviser on Gender at Oxfam GB in Oxford (often travelling overseas) with raising 4 children and a husband at home in Bracknell.  Eventually, I almost reached a breaking point.  I had no life of my own.  I felt I had to work three times harder than an average person to get to where I wanted. In hindsight, I doubt I would have gotten to where I am if I did not experience that journey.

One of the key reasons why women do not pursue leadership positions is the difficulties of combining work and family. What policies could help solve this challenge? 

I believe that gender responsive policies and practices need to be in place to solve some of the challenges women face in combining work and family duties.  For example, policies and practices that encourage flexible working hours for mothers and fathers with young children, the ability to work from home, adequate maternity and paternity leave, company managed childcare, part-time employment options, “bring your child to work day”, etc.  This could encourage more women and men to feel motivated to focus on their work and not have to worry about balancing child-care, their home and careers.

There are some institutions that encourage these policies within the African context, though these policies have yet to be fully integrated into mainstream society. Despite these positive developments, women still have to navigate the full range of demands that are a part of a successful career with the equally important demands and expectations at home. Realistically, women still have to continue to compete in a patriarchal working environment if they want to pursue leadership positions.

Policies need to consider these factors otherwise many women may be forced to make serious compromise their child rearing period, including family duties and social relationships.  In the end, they run the risk of fulfilling their careers and losing out on their personal and family lives, or compromising their careers and not getting the opportunity to climb up the career ladder.  I appreciate that not every woman is in favour of a family life, but I also do know of so many women who are in this situation and regret the choices they made to start with their career first.

Based on your experience on the African and Asian region, what do you think is the most important aspect that is lacking in gender-specific development policies?

Most national policies are gender blind, meaning that policies are developed with the assumption that “one size fits all” and will address women and men’s needs equally.  For instance, policies on national budget allocations fall under these categories.  Education policies are another example, particularly as they are usually generalized without identifying and factoring-in the different needs and environments of boys and girls as well as male and female teachers.

From my experience, the fact that women constitute over 50% of the global population and form a significant part of the labor force  yet, their contribution to economic growth in Africa and Asia is neither acknowledged nor recognized is worrying.

What advice would you give young women who are interested in a career in development and positive policy making?

My advice to young women who are interested in a career in development and positive policy making are that they might be faced with difficult choices between personal, family and work demands.  Following your professional passions may not be an easy journey, particularly if it is not a 9 to 5 job or goes beyond just sitting behind a desk.  My career in the area of gender and education in development has been more than a job – it is “a calling”! If you discover your calling, be prepared that you may need to travel considerably.  If this is the case you may need to plan your life taking this into consideration.     If your “calling” is a career that focuses on advocacy and negotiation skills, be aware that you have to face various cultural, disciplinary and lifestyle choices. That being said, its important to remember that the ultimate goal should be to achieve a fulfilling life.

Knowing that I am playing my part and making a modest contribution towards humanity is, for me, one of the most important drivers in this career.  Despite the various challenges (which also open doors for opportunities), trials, and tribulations working in the field of international development is indeed a worthy cause.  I personally have no regrets and if I have to do it all over again, I would do it the same way.

FAWE is a pan-African Non-Governmental Organization working in 32 African countries to empower girls and women through gender-responsive education. More information can be found here

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Guest Speaker Series: President Dr. Vaira Vike-Freberga of Latvia (1999-2007)

Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga will speak at the MPA, SciencesPo Paris on Monday, November 28th 2011.  Seating is limited and priority is given to MPA students.  If you would like to attend please send an email to

Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga  is a professor and interdisciplinary scholar having published eleven books and numerous articles, essays and book chapters in addition to her extensive speaking engagements.

As President of the Republic of Latvia 1999-2007, she has been instrumental in achieving membership in the European Union and NATO for her country. She is active in international politics, was named Special Envoy to the Secretary General on United Nations reform and was official candidate for UN Secretary General in 2006.

She remains active in the international arena and continues to speak up in defense of liberty, equality and social justice, and for the need of Europe to acknowledge the whole of its history. In December 2007 she was named vice-chair of the Reflection group on the long term future of the European Union (2007-2010). Chair of the high-level group on Freedom and Pluralism of the Media in European Union, established by the vice-president of the European Commission (2011). She is also known for her work in psycholinguistics, semiotics and analysis of the oral literature of her native country.

Learn more about Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga and her ongoing work on her website

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Interview with Anja Manuel, Principal at the RiceHadley Group

WIPA recently conducted an interview with Anja Manuel, principal of the RiceHadley Group created by former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.  Established in 2009, The RiceHadley Group is a consulting firm that advises clients on the political and economic conditions of new global markets.

The following interview transcript is a summary of this conversation

Many of our members have either had careers in international consulting or are about to embark on such a career. What approach do you take at RiceHadley and what does your work focus on?

Anja Manuel, Principal at the RiceHadley Group

We assist our clients in navigating the political aspects of investing in new markets.  For example, we help them understand the government leadership, political stability, history, economic conditions, incentives and trends as factors that shape the political landscape that may affect investment.

Taking this into account in tandem with a comprehensive economic picture of the country, we advise companies on how they can integrate this into their investment strategy as they enter a given market.

We have advised our clients in markets spanning the globe, but also acknowledge when we lack expertise in a particular area and then refer our clients to advisers with that specific expertise.

READ: India won’t outpace China without a few miracles by Anja Manuel for CNNMoney Asia Business Report. Feb 18th, 2011

As someone who has worked in both the private and public sector how have your views on policymaking evolved?

My work with the US Department of State and WilmerHale as an attorney, as well as with the RiceHadley Group helped to clarify, for me, the capacity and limits of the federal government in setting foreign policy.  While the U.S. government can be an enormously powerful force for good in emerging economies (through aid, by assisting with governance etc.), the private sector also has an enormous role to play.  For example, when a US corporation invests in a developing economy and trains its employees, it can have a positive effect beyond any economic aid the U.S. government is able to provide.

Do you think that public private partnerships (PPP) help to address this gap between aid and economic development?

Definitely. I think that the MCC [The Millennium Challenge Corporation]* is a wonderful example of the federal government utilizing private sector principles to good effect.  The MCC is a development fund disbursed by the U.S. governmenmt only to those countries that have a proven record of positive governance. Thus, instead of throwing “good aid money after bad” in countries that refuse to reform, the U.S. instead invests in countries that strive to help themselves (just and a venture capital firm invests in promising companies).  By emphasizing good governance, country-driven solutions and a competitive selection process the MCC has been able to have a tremendously positive impact on reducing poverty levels in those countries that are selected to participate.

* Taken from the MCC website: “The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an innovative and independent U.S. foreign aid agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty. Created by the U.S. Congress in January 2004 with strong bipartisan support, MCC is changing the conversation on how best to deliver smart U.S. foreign assistance by focusing on good policies, country ownership, and results.”

I think that a continued emphasis, like this, on flexibility, efficiency and practical solutions in PPPs and the public sector would ultimately lead to strengthened, win-win outcomes for all stakeholders.

In light of this, what advice would you give to someone who is pursuing a career in public policymaking?

Public policy is an incredibly rewarding experience and opportunity.  I would strongly encourage anyone who is considering this career path to embark on it.  As Special Assistant to Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Nicolas Burns, I had the opportunity to be part of the negotiating team for the U.S.-India civilian nuclear accord.  It continues to remain one of my more significant personal and professional achievements.

I’d also encourage individuals to look at opportunities in global NGOs.  These organizations – especially innovative new Foundations such as the Skoll Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation etc.  do critical development work that is sometimes more difficult to accomplish from within the Washington bureaucracy.

Is it more difficult for women to have a career in foreign policy?

Women continue to face challenges in all sectors – the U.S. government included —  though they have improved dramatically over the past three decades.  Unfortunately, U.S. society still expects women to shoulder most of the burden in raising families, which then makes it harder for these women to do the networking and travel necessary to have a successful international policy career.  I wouldn’t let that discourage anyone from pursuing such a career – it’s well worth it!

Anja Manuel is a principal, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley at RiceHadley Group LLC, a strategic consulting firm. The firm assists CEOs and senior executives at major U.S. companies to expand their businesses and meet regulatory challenges in key emerging markets such as China, India and the Middle East.

In addition, Ms. Manuel is a lecturer in Stanford’s International Policy Studies Program, and a Visiting Scholar at Stanford’s Center for International Security.

From 2005 to 2007, Anja Manuel served as Special Assistant to Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns at the U.S. Department of State. In this role, Ms. Manuel had responsibility for South and Central Asia Policy, Congressional outreach and legal matters. She was part of the negotiating team for the U.S.-India civilian nuclear accord, helped to secure passage of the accord in the U.S. Congress, and was extensively involved in developing U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan.

From 2001 to 2005, and from late 2007 to 2009, Ms. Manuel was an attorney at the law firm of WilmerHale, where she specialized in international litigation and arbitration, anti-corruption matters, and Congressional investigations.

Ms. Manuel is a member of the Aspen India Group, the Center for a New American Security’s India Policy Group, and serves on the board of the San Francisco-Bangalore Sister City Initiative.

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Law & Order: Seeking Justice for Women in India

There is still a long way to go before gender equality will be achieved in India

A recent poll conducted by the Thomas Reuters Foundation shows that gender experts believe India to be one of the top five most dangerous countries in the world for women.  This is a result of  human trafficking, forced marriage and violence against women.  This poll puts India on par with Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Somalia when it comes to women, safety and gender equality.

READ this article: Afghanistan worst place in the world for women, but India in top five

I’ve been aware that life for women in India isn’t easy, but the “top-five” moniker was truly surprising.  Apparently, this carries over to all classes, level of income and education.  It may manifest itself somewhat differently depending on ones cast and socio-economic level, but women, no matter their situation, face significant obstacles as a result of their gender.

Despite the fact that India has a tradition of strong female political leadership, there has yet to be a broad collation across cast, class and education levels promoting the rights of women.  This may be part of the reason why there has been less of a broad cultural shift to eradicate gender-based discrimination and violence.

READ this article: The plight of India’s women

Currently, newsfeeds and blogs are a flurry with reports and opinions on gender-based violence in India in the wake of the recent rape and murder of 14-year old Sonam in Uttar Pradesh state.  Many argue that this tragedy occurred as a direct result of India’s cultural bias against women.  I find this argument hard to believe, as violence against women occurs in all countries regardless of their respective stances on gender equality.  What is a more compelling argument, is the lack of justice that Sonam’s family will likely experience as a result of her gender.  This break down in the justice system is where the lack of equity becomes all the more apparent and dangerous for women.

Changing cultural views on women is a lengthy and comprehensive process that can take decades if not generations to accomplish.  However, fixing a broken and unequal justice system need not.  It can be accomplished through a series of political reforms, requiring strong political will and a broad commitment from those involved in planning and overseeing the reforms.  It demands the right balance of incentives and punishments to make certain that those who are responsible for implementing the reforms at the local level are working towards the objectives of the reforms.  This would not only ensure that women are protected from gender-based violence it would help to promote a cultural shift in the acceptance of violence and discrimination against women.

I realize that the scope of the reforms that I have suggested here are by no means easy.  Its significantly more difficult when it is the justice system itself that it is committing the crimes, as in the case of Sonam.  This is why this reform would need to be broad in scope and a mixture of ideological objectives and practical incentives and punishments.  However, I would be curious to hear from some of our WIPA readers regarding their perceived feasibility of such reforms.  Is this just a nice idea?  Or is this something that could be achieved with the right political will?

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Women in Cuba Are Struggling to Ride the Waves of Economic Reform

Cuba is currently undergoing a series of economic reforms with the hopes of “updating” their national economy.  A significant component of these reforms are cuts to public sector employment.  In total 1 million civil servants are expected to loose their jobs.  Unfortunately these sweeping cuts are proving the hardest on women.

Women in Cuba Suffer the Most from Economic Reforms in Cuba

READ this article: Castro’s economic reforms hitting women hard – Caribbean360.

Numbers show that women currently make up about 43% of public sector workers in Cuba.  As these jobs are cut and greater employment responsibility falls on the private sector, women are finding themselves in increasingly precarious financial positions.  Not only do women earn 80-85% of what men are paid, they are finding that the private sector is less than eager to hire them.  In the article I’ve linked to above, women cite traditional gender mores, which have women responsible for the home and family, as obstacles to full employment.  Unfortunately President Raul Castro, has remained neutral on the issue.  President Castro has stated that while he does not support discrimination he also doesn’t support policies that show ‘favoritism’ towards gender.

Perhaps the one bright light in this story is self-employment.  Women currently represent 30% of self-employed individuals in Cuba.  Unfortunately these jobs tend to be temporary or lacking in security, but demonstrate that there is a potential entrepreneurial spirit to be capitalized on.  Furthermore, women in Cuba tend to be highly educated, which strengthens the case for the potential expansion of women owned businesses.

Clearly self-employment and startups alone cannot remedy the negative impact that these economic reforms will have on women.  However, an increase in women owned business should seriously be considered as part of a larger solution.  Not only would these types of businesses be able to provide jobs, they would also help to counter the gender mores that prevent the full and equal employment of women.  Women may not be able to entirely disengage themselves from traditional gender roles but in the creation of successful women owned businesses they can demonstrate to the wider community that they are more than capable of being a strong driving force in the Cuban economy.  Setting this precedent will hopefully encourage other businesses in Cuba to hire more women.

Long-term solutions to this employment gap lay in social programs that encourage the full employment women in conjunction with the development of  women owned businesses.  This will require the Cuban government to recognize that policies which foster the economic growth of women are ultimately beneficial for Cuba’s economy and society as a whole.  As the public sector sheds jobs, hopefully the Cuban government will experience a turnaround in its current mindset.  In the meantime, global initiatives that encourage supplier diversity should be emphasized and applauded in order to support the economic development of women in Cuba.

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