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International Women’s Day 2021

Pema Gyamtsho

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Choose to challenge: Empowering women as leaders for gender equality in the “new normal”

Gender equality is imperative to the attainment of wellbeing for all and promoting gender equity in leadership is a critical step towards it. Since they were first introduced in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have brought much-needed global attention to and action towards gender equity, particularly through SDG 5 and its specific target on leadership – 5.5: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.

The rapid climatic, socio-economic, and epidemiological changes that characterize our “new normal” continue to place an unequal burden on women. Experience and research have shown that women and men manage and cope with new realities differently. The socially constructed norms and power relations that shape our roles, responsibilities, and life experiences as men and women are starkly different, contributing to a variety of insights and perspectives that need to be shared and considered. In this regard, the empowerment of women as leaders helps bring women’s voices into important conversations and is an important step towards gender parity.

Women make up a vast majority of the global workforce. However, women’s representation within top institutions – be it in global policy and governance forums, or in thought leadership panels and across decision-making structures in the public and private sectors – continues to be low. The gender gap, especially at the highest levels of management and leadership, is wide – with a persistent inverse relationship between level of professional position and female representation. Globally, 75 per cent of parliamentarians are men and they hold 73 per cent of managerial positions. The scenario is similar in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region, although it is important to note that many of our regional member countries and their states have been or are led by elected women representatives. Women’s representation in parliament ranges from 32.7 percent (in Nepal) to 11.3 percent (in Myanmar), although with provisions made by most governments, the number of women leaders is steadily growing in the region.

At the household and community levels, women in the HKH often find themselves taking the lead not just in their homes and agricultural fields, but also in public life – doing business and interacting with government and other formalized institutions – as a majority of men, particularly young men, migrate to cities and other countries for work.

Historically, women have risen to the occasion when times are hard and their families and communities are in need. With the progress in the HKH region, women in power, although still by no means the norm, are no longer a rarity. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find women on the frontlines everywhere – as healthcare workers, community leaders, social workers, teachers, and legislators. We see women’s organizations, networks, and community groups shouldering much of the responsibility of preventing the spread of the virus and serving those in greatest need. A recent rapid assessment of the pandemic’s impact on women entrepreneurs in the HKH and South Asian countries conducted by ICIMOD and the South Asian Women Development Forum has also revealed that despite facing major challenges, women entrepreneurs in the small and medium enterprise sector displayed their resilience and leadership by taking innovative measures and restructuring their businesses in diverse ways.

Despite multiple challenges, women’s resilience and leadership have persisted, mostly in cases where they have received support from families and managers. Such positive change requires changes in personal, family, and organizational and working attitudes and practices. To foster them, institutions and organizations must put in place supportive policies, practices, systems, and work processes. It is imperative that such change begin with us – our homes and our workplaces must be restructured to explicitly address long-standing issues of unequal access and opportunity, and support leadership roles for women.

As an institution, we at ICIMOD have great faith in our gender transformative approach – where the focus is on engaging women as assets and leaders. For us, the most important pillar of this approach is strengthening capacity and women’s leadership among our partners and the communities we work in as well as within the Centre. Institutionally, we have made some progress in promoting women’s leadership and have worked through our regional programmes and initiatives to build women’s capacity and leadership – through trainings, for instance, and by supporting women community leaders, wherever possible. In our value chain work, we have moved from promoting women as producers and active participants in the value chain to enhancing their skills and capacities as independent entrepreneurs. We are, however, also aware that there is a lot more we need to do. We must combine technical and transformative interventions for economic empowerment to strengthen our efforts to reshape gender relations.

On this International Women’s Day, let us once again pledge our commitment to work and strive towards transformative change through our work and our attitudes towards our workplaces, homes, and communities. Let us #ChoosetoChallenge.

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11 Sep 2023 China CN

近期的空气质量寿命指数(AQLI)报告标题为:“空气污染是地球上人类预期寿命面临的最大外部威胁”。这一严厉警告应该足以激励全球采取行动应对这一最严重且无处不在的威胁。然而,目前还没有专门针对这一“沉默杀手”的全球合作框架或公约。据世界卫生组织称,每年有 700 万人过早死亡与空气污染有关,这比迄今为止死于 Covid-19 的人数还多,而且根据该报告,空气污染对普通人的健康危害比吸烟或酗酒还大。为纪念今年国际清洁空气蓝天日,我紧急呼吁全球和地区领导人建立应对空气污染的全球合作框架。该框架应与解决“三重地球危机”的其中两个要素——气候变化和生物多样性丧失——的框架保持一致。 兴都库什-喜马拉雅地区受到的空气污染的严重影响,根源有很多,包括:机动车辆、工业、焚烧固体生物燃料、农作物秸秆和家庭废物。重要的是,这类受污染的空气并不是某个城市、地区或国家特有的,而是整个印度河-恒河平原和喜马拉雅山麓——横跨北印度次大陆和山脉的数十万平方公里的区域——所共有的。该地区空气中的悬浮颗粒经常超过安全水平,影响着居住在这里的大约十亿人。 正如联合国空气污染倡议所解释的,颗粒物是微小的污染颗粒,这些微小、肉眼看不见的颗粒污染物会深入我们的肺部、血液和身体。约三分之一的中风、慢性呼吸道疾病和肺癌死亡病例以及四分之一的心脏病死亡病例都因这些污染物造成。阳光下许多不同污染物相互作用产生的地面臭氧也是哮喘和慢性呼吸道疾病的原因之一。 美国芝加哥大学能源政策研究所发布的空气质量寿命指数报告显示:“如果污染水平将持续,孟加拉国、印度、尼泊尔和巴基斯坦的居民预计平均寿命会缩短约 5 年。” 报告继续指出,“亚洲和非洲负担最重,但缺乏关键基础设施”。尽管如此,我们还是有理由希望在我们的地区找到可能的解决方案,因为中国在空气污染防治的努力仍然取得了显着成功,而且工作仍在进行中。正如该报告所述,“自 2013 年(即中国开始“反污染之战”的前一年)以来,中国的污染已下降了 42.3%。由于这些改善,如果减排持续,中国公民的平均寿命预计会延长 2.2 年。”

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