Equality?

While this post originally began its journey as one about humour, it soon changed my focus into one of equality. Hannah Gadsby‘s breakfast speech regarding who should have the right to define the “good …” caught my attention and I started digging around and found out that YouTube’s search engine prefers white comedians, in particular white male comedians. June Mills’ (Australian comedian) interview turned my mind completely away from comedy and humour.

Norway’s own history with regards to our minorities is terrible. I am not counting the new minorities (from 1970’s and on). Their lot is at least covered by law. Instead, I looked into the ones who have been here a long time. Our minorities consist of three groups of Sámi: the Sápmi, Sábme, and Saepmie. Along with the Sámi (40,000) we have (in no particular order) the Kven (about 10-60,000), Jews (1,000), Romani (10000), Forest Finns and Roma (5-600) people.

Since the information I found was incredibly plentiful I’ll have to write about them over, at least, the next three posts.

 

Leslé Honoré: We don’t report (2018)

We don’t report
Because you ask us what we wore
Were we drinking
Did we say no
We don’t report
Because husbands can’t rape
Because my mama would break
She would never forgive herself
For letting him in our home
And I want to protect my mama
The best way a 7 year old can
We don’t report
Because no one ever told me
What consent was
What my value is
That I can say no
We don’t report
Because long before my abuser
Groomed me
Society groomed me
Patriarchy groomed me
That I am worthless
I can’t even get paid equally
So I am not protected equally
When a man reports his priest
For raping him decades ago
He is heroic
When I report my rapist
To try and protect my nation
I am a whore
A liar
A con
A democratic plant
Because upstanding
Educated white men
Don’t rape
They don’t grab pussies
We don’t report
Because we know
You don’t care
And every time we
find the courage
That is deep within us
Past the shadows of our screams
Past the tattoos of hands that aren’t
Our own
Past the shame and pain
We push down
To try and love
Past the tears no one heard
Past the uncles at family BBQ’s that
We are supposed to forgive
Past the R Kelly’s songs on the radio
Woody Allen films
Or sacrificing my dignity
For what Cosby did for the culture
We push out our courage
Through all of the darkness
And hold it
Like a newborn in our hands
And then you murder it
Because we didn’t birth it sooner
And with the blood of our dead hope
Covering us
You scream in our faces
“WHY DIDN’T YOU REPORT”

~Leslé Honoré

 

Who were The Computers?

Socializing over lunch. From left to right, Barbara Paulson, Vickie Wang and Helen Ling. (Credit: JPL)
I have found truth to be malleable in the hands of historians. Writing people out of history or rewriting history so important people are deleted or even replaced with preferred characters seems not uncommon. While some people might have heard of the first programmer ever (Lady Ada Lovelace), the names of the six females who started modern US programming were conveniently hidden from the public. So were their images. In fact, the idea that they were models posing in front of the ENIAC was encouraged. Not until Kathleen Kleiman went searching for female role-models in computer programming did the world get to hear about these six “Computers”: Kay McNulty, Jean Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Meltzer, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman.
Any person who differed from the idea of a white male persona were hidden from public mention and public viewing. Many “Computers” who were part of launching NASA’s manned rockets flights, were denied recognition.
The US were far from alone in this regards. British, names like Kathleen Booth or Stephanie Shirley, have probably not been heard of.
It is important that we realize that information will be kept from the public if it suits the purposes of the majority within any field or in any country.

Being human

How do you people stay sane?

When you walk down a street in your hometown or city, or along a corridor on whatever station you visit, how do you stay sane when you see a fellow sentient being who is homeless and hungry, and in need of sanitation and fresh clothes, food and a warm bed, things that you get to enjoy? How do you stay sane when you hear about your neighbor having lost their job, and they’re mired in debt, unable to pay their bills, when you have plenty to spare? How do you stay sane whenever you see an injured stray dog who needs a trip to the nearest vet, with no owner in sight and no one else but you aware of his pain and his plight?

How, meioa, do you and your viewers stay sane when there are so many things you can do to make this universe a better place, day by day, step by step, kindness by kindness, instead of just sitting there complaining about its awful state? How can you and your viewers stay sane whenever you stay silent on matters of social injustice, oppression, and bigotry?

Johnson, J. (2014). Damnation. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 318-319).

Equality: Raising our children

Illustrasjon: Eivind Gulliksen


I came across this wonderful article by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that expresses many of my thoughts on how we might raise children to equality. I realize parents can only do so much by themselves, but those first few years when parents have an almost godlike status for their children lay an important foundation when dealing with others. Both men and women need to let go of their preconceived ideas of what the other should do/be. The entire article can be found at the above link.

… I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only.’ Not ‘as long as.’ I matter equally. Full stop.

The second tool is a question: can you reverse X and get the same results?

For example: many people believe that a woman’s feminist response to a husband’s infidelity should be to leave. But I think staying can also be a feminist choice, depending on the context. If Chudi sleeps with another woman and you forgive him, would the same be true if you slept with another man? If the answer is yes then your choosing to forgive him can be a feminist choice because it is not shaped by a gender inequality. Sadly, the reality in most marriages is that the answer to that question would often be no, and the reason would be gender-based – that absurd idea of ‘men will be men.’

Here are my suggestions:

Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive

1. First Suggestion: Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that. The pioneering American journalist Marlene Sanders once said to a younger journalist, “Never apologize for working. You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to give your child.”

You don’t even have to love your job; you can merely love what your job does for you – the confidence and self-fulfillment that come with doing and earning. Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive. Our mothers worked full time while we were growing up, and we turned out well – at least you did, the jury is still out on me.

when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.

It doesn’t surprise me that your sister-in-law says you should be a ‘traditional’ mother and stay home, that Chudi can afford not to have a ‘double income’ family.

People will selectively use ‘tradition’ to justify anything. Tell her that a double-income family is actually the true Igbo tradition because in pre-colonial times, mothers farmed and traded. And then please ignore her; there are more important things to think about.

In these coming weeks of early motherhood, be kind to yourself. Ask for help. Expect to be helped. There is no such thing as a Superwoman. Parenting is about practice – and love. (I do wish though that ‘parent’ had not been turned into a verb, which I think is the root of the middle-class phenomenon of ‘parenting’ as one endless, anxious journey of guilt).

Give yourself room to fail. A new mother does not necessarily know how to calm a crying baby. Don’t assume that you should know everything. Look things up on the Internet, read books, ask older parents, or just do trial and error. Let your focus be on remaining a full person. Take time for yourself. Nurture your own needs.

Please do not think of it as ‘doing it all.’ Our culture lauds the idea of women who are able to ‘do it all’ but does not question the premise of that praise. I have no interest in the debate about women ‘doing it all’ because it is a debate that assumes that care-giving and domestic work are exclusively female domains, an idea that I strongly reject. Domestic work and care-giving should be gender-neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can ‘do it all’ but how best to support parents in their dual duties at work and at home.

2. Second Suggestion: Do it together. Remember in primary school we learnt that a verb was a ‘doing’ word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother. Chudi should do everything that biology allows – which is everything but breastfeeding. Sometimes mothers, so conditioned to be all and do all, are complicit in diminishing the role of fathers. You might think that Chudi will not bathe her exactly as you’d like, that he might not wipe her bum as perfectly as you do. But so what? What is the worst that can happen? She won’t die at the hands of her father. So look away, arrest your perfectionism, still your socially-conditioned sense of duty. Share childcare equally. ‘Equally’ of course depends on you both. It does not have to mean a literal fifty-fifty or a day-by-day score-keeping but you’ll know when the child-care work is equally shared. You’ll know by your lack of resentment. Because when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.

And please reject the language of help. Chudi is not ‘helping’ you by caring for his child. He is doing what he should. When we say fathers are ‘helping,’ we are suggesting that childcare is a mother’s territory, into which fathers valiantly venture. It is not. Can you imagine how many more people today would be happier, more stable, better contributors to the world, if only their fathers had been actively present in their childhood? And never say that Chudi is ‘babysitting’ – people who babysit are people for whom the baby is not a primary responsibility.

‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.

Chudi does not deserve any special gratitude or praise, nor do you – you both made the choice to bring a child into the world, and the responsibility for that child belongs equally to you both. It would be different if you were a single mother, whether by circumstance or choice, because ‘doing it together’ would then not be an option. But you should not be a ‘single mother’ unless you are truly a single mother.

My friend Nwabu once told me that, because his wife left when his kids were young, he became ‘Mr. Mom,’ by which he meant that he did the daily care-giving. But he was not being a ‘Mr. Mom,’ he was simply being a dad.

3. Third Suggestion: Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should do or not do something “because you are a girl.”

“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina.”

‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.

I remember being told as a child to ‘bend down properly while sweeping, like a girl.’ Which meant that sweeping was about being female. I wish I had been told simply ‘bend down and sweep properly because you’ll clean the floor better.’ And I wish my brothers had been told the same thing.

There have been recent Nigerian social media debates about women and cooking, about how wives have to cook for husbands. It is funny, in the way that sad things are funny, that in 2016 we are still talking about cooking as some kind of ‘marriageability test’ for women.

The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned. Cooking – domestic work in general – is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have. It is also a skill that can elude both men and women.

We also need to question the idea of marriage as a prize to women, because that is the basis of these absurd debates. If we stop conditioning women to see marriage as a prize, then we would have fewer debates about a wife needing to cook in order to earn that prize.

If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential.

It is interesting to me how early the world starts to invent gender roles. Yesterday I went to a children’s shop to buy Chizalum an outfit. In the girls’ section were pale phenomena in washed-out shades of pink. I disliked them. The boys’ section had outfits in vibrant shades of blue. Because I think blue will be adorable against her brown skin – and photograph better – I bought one. At the check out counter, the cashier said mine was the perfect present for the new boy. I said it was for a baby girl. She looked horrified. “Blue for a girl?”

I cannot help but wonder about the clever marketing person who invented this pink-blue binary. There was also a ‘gender neutral’ section, with its array of bloodless grays. ‘Gender neutral’ is silly because it is premised on the idea of male being blue and female being pink and ‘gender neutral’ being its own category. Why not just have baby clothes organized by age and displayed in all colors? The bodies of male and female infants are similar, after all.

I looked at the toy section, also arranged by gender. Toys for boys are mostly active, and involve some sort of ‘doing’ – trains, cars – and toys for girls are mostly ‘passive’ and are overwhelmingly dolls. I was struck by how early our culture starts to form the ideas of what a boy should be and what a girl should be.

she noticed that the mothers of baby girls were very restraining, constantly telling the girls ‘don’t touch’ or ‘stop and be nice,’ and she noticed that the baby boys were encouraged to explore more and were not restrained as much and were almost never told to ‘be nice.’

Did I ever tell you about going to a US mall with a seven-year-old Nigerian girl and her mother? She saw a toy helicopter, one of those things that fly by wireless remote control, and she was fascinated and asked for one. “No,” her mother said. “You have your dolls.” And she responded, “Mummy, is it only doll I will play with?”

I have never forgotten that. Her mother meant well, obviously. She was well-versed in the ideas of gender roles – that girls play with dolls and boys with cars. I wonder now, wistfully, if the little girl would have turned out to be a revolutionary engineer, had she been given a chance to explore that helicopter.

If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential. Please see Chizalum as an individual. Not as a girl who should be a certain way. See her weaknesses and her strengths in an individual way. Do not measure her on a scale of what a girl should be. Measure her on a scale of being the best version of herself.

Instead of gender roles, teach her self-reliance. Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself. Teach her to try and fix physical things when they break.

A young woman once told me that she had for years behaved ‘like a boy’ – she liked football and was bored by dresses – until her mother forced her to stop her ‘boyish’ interests and she is now grateful to her mother for helping her start behaving like a girl. The story made me sad. I wondered what parts of herself she had needed to silence and stifle, and I wondered about what her spirit had lost, because what she called ‘behaving like a boy’ was simply that she was behaving like herself.

Another acquaintance once told me that when she took her one-year-old son to a baby play group, where babies had been brought by their mothers, she noticed that the mothers of baby girls were very restraining, constantly telling the girls ‘don’t touch’ or ‘stop and be nice,’ and she noticed that the baby boys were encouraged to explore more and were not restrained as much and were almost never told to ‘be nice.’ Her theory is that parents unconsciously start very early to teach girls how to be, that baby girls are given more rules and less room and baby boys more room and fewer rules.

Gender roles are so deeply conditioned in us that we will often follow them even when they chafe against our true desires, our needs, our wellbeing. They are very difficult to unlearn, and so it is important to try and make sure that Chizalum rejects them from the beginning. Instead of gender roles, teach her self-reliance. Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself. Teach her to try and fix physical things when they break. We are quick to assume girls can’t do many things. Let her try. Buy her toys like blocks and trains – and dolls, too, if you want to…..

The rest of the article may be read on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s FB page

The illusion of equality: Wealthy Countries

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights uses “equality” as a description for an imagined, not real, state. Cambridge dictionary defines equality as:

“the right of different groups of people to have a similar social position and receive the same treatment”

Except for the fact that people are born and die, there is no equality in this world. People highest on the human pyramid stand firmly on the bodies of those below, keeping them in their place. Any perceived threat to their position, is stomped out as soon as it is revealed. Organizations and countries join in the battle to get to the loftiest position. After all, no one wants to be at the bottom. Do we? The three wealthiest countries in the world, in December 2016, are Quatar, Luxembourg and Singapore.

Qatar is the richest country in the world. Their borders are shared with the Persian Peninsula and Saudi-Arabia. Languages in Qatar are Arabic and Farsi (spoken by Irani descendants). Its area is 11,586 km2, or 4,467.6 sq mi, with a population of about 2,383,705 people (86% who are foreign workers). Qatar’s wealth is mainly due to rich oil- and gas-resources, and that wealth goes to its citizens and toward foreign investments. Qataris do not seem to have poverty. The Qatari do not work at jobs they consider beneath them, something they can afford to do because their living- and education costs are paid for by the state. Yet, Qataris make up only 6% of the work-force. All of this wealth is built upon the backs of South-East Asian domestic and migrant workers who are treated like slaves and Western foreign workers who are treated better.

Luxembourg is a tiny country. Its population is 576,249 and has a mix of French, German and Luxembourgish as official languages. With an area totaling 2,586.4 km2, or 998 sq mi, it is in 172nd place in country-size. It is surrounded by Germany, France and Belgium and has been gobbled up by one party or the other until the end of WWII. So why so wealthy? With such a small area, it has low infrastructure costs. In addition, military spending is a minimum. The populace is well-educated and well-tended by the government, and unemployment is low. 85 percent of its wealth comes from being a tax haven and having attractive banking regulations draw corporations to set up head quarters there. Another important factor, that contributes to Luxembourg’s status as 2nd wealthiest country, is that 60% of its work-force does not live in Luxembourg. Therefore, that majority does not take money from Luxembourg’s privileged population yet pay taxes to it, adding economic pressure to surrounding countries. Poverty is not at large problem among the population, but there is be relative (compared with) poverty.

The Republic of Singapore comes in third. Singapore’s official languages are English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, although English has precedence as teaching and business language. Its area is 719.1 km2, or 278 sq mi, making it smaller than Luxembourg but with a much larger population (5,610,000 people). Singapore is surrounded by the Johore Strait, the Singapore Strait and the Strait of Malacca. One reason for its wealth is location. Singapore is a transportation hub between 123 countries and refines oil on a large scale. New businesses get large tax exemptions. Education is supported by the state up through high school and college and there is some housing assistance. Individuals pay a small tax. However, they must save 20% of their income, savings that go toward housing and retirement, savings that are managed wholly by the State. Wealth inequality is a large problem, a matter Singapore is trying to address by collecting data on income differences and types of poverty experienced by its populace.

Both Qatar and Luxembourg are parasitic countries. Both siphon work-force from other countries, keeping benefits to themselves while leaving their workers without access to state funds. Unless they are over a certain wage-bracket, Singapore’s workers are poor in practical terms, yet that poverty is not necessarily revealed on statistics, the same kind of statistics that sugar-coat actual conditions of workers in Qatar and Luxembourg. Imagine what the poorest countries must be like.

Illusion of Equality: Enough food and clean water

Language is power. Controlling definitions equals being one of the powerful. We use language to normalize oppression. Activists are told they must “go slow” or “be patient” because “change takes time”. Yet, change happens once enough people want it, especially if social media falls in love with a story.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 1:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Equality, to me, means that every intelligent being on this planet should have the same rights as every other intelligent being. For some of us, that means society has to adjust to us; and for others, it means that we have to adjust to society.

The two most basic rights, as I see it, are the rights to have enough food to eat and clean water to drink. “My article Is Water a Human Right addresses how states and corporations work on keeping clean drinking water a luxury product and not a basic human right. Willful pollution of drinking sources happens often and lying about such pollution and paying off politicians to get to keep on polluting is fairly common.

“The Global Hunger Index considers the minimum intake for an adult to be at least 1650 kilocalories consisting of a blend of essential “energy, protein, or essential vitamins and minerals”. (GHI) It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the world is incredibly skewed when it comes to having enough healthy food to be able to contribute to our societies.

Three years of violence have left a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic (CAR). In the capital, Bangui, the markets have recovered relatively quickly, however. Here, for thousands of people who have been formerly displaced or affected by the crisis, WFP's food vouchers bring a glimmer of hope and comfort. Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo
Three years of violence have left a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic (CAR). In the capital, Bangui, the markets have recovered relatively quickly, however. Here, for thousands of people who have been formerly displaced or affected by the crisis, WFP’s food vouchers bring a glimmer of hope and comfort.
Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo

“Actual hunger is when you feel weak because of a chronic lack of food, when you’re in pain because your stomach is empty, when you can’t concentrate because your brain doesn’t have enough calories to properly function and what 795m people suffer around the world, every, single, day.” (One)

“The WFP said that families are so short of food that children receiving school meals under the WFP’s emergency programme put part of their serving in a plastic bag to take home.” (AlJazeera)

No state is as hungry as the Central African Republic (CAR). A cycle of killing has become part of life since the Central African Republic Bush War began in 2004. Civilians, particularly women and girls, are violated in every way possible. Villages are destroyed and  hundreds of thousands of muslim citizens have fled to neighboring countries (UNHRC). This has brought about lack of farmers and food. To make matters worse, it is suspected that outside funding to the rebels has been and is occurring. UN reports state that these last years of violence have brought about a 70% decrease in food production compared to pre-crisis averages. According to the World Food Programme, more than one million people in CAR face a hunger crisis. Then, there is the other side of the hunger coin. Obesity.

Food Loss + Waste

“In 2016, around forty percent of the adults in the world can be classified as overweight. In over a hundred countries across the world, more than half of the adult population is overweight.” (Gazette Review)

So. More than 10% of the population of the world goes hungry all of the time, while around 40% of the world’s adults are overweight or obese. Food waste (ca 25% of world’s food calories) is immense and land is taken from food production and used towards energy production. Outside states fund destabilization of countries for their own gains. The US has been particularly bad in this area ever since the Cold War started between the USSR and the USA/NATO. Corporations who want access to a country’s goods or to stop production of certain items have, as in the civil war in CAR, also been guilty of sponsoring destabilization of nations. Added to all of this comes environmental changes that exasperate already challenging situations.

The answer to ensuring the equal right to enough food and to clean water is simple, but ever so difficult to implement. The only element we cannot control is the environment. Even there we have some tools that lessen damages.

  • Stop fighting over resources.
  • Stop food waste.
  • Grow products that the ground can support.
  • Prioritize food production over excavating luxury items.
  • Share and share alike.

It really is that simple. Really. And also that difficult. Sadly, I am too cynical to believe we, as a race, will fight our greed and share privileges. Over and over again, history has proven that we don’t. History continues to do so. You and I need to change our thinking and behavior to model a society where food and water resources are shared equally among the planet’s intelligent beings. We can use the tools (social media, voting, campaigns, lobbying, networking, etc.) available to us to influence politicians and corporations to “get with the game”.

Understanding equality

In 1948 member states of the United Nations met and 48 of them ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Its signatories hoped that:

“… every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

The UDHR is a declaration of intent and not legally binding. Its purpose is to try to define what fundamental freedoms and human rights are. Far from all nations have agreed on those definitions or even the need for a declaration of human rights. Even the countries who ratified it often do poorly in ensuring their national state upholds its principles if those principles go against tradition, beliefs or current regulations. When signatory member states are as varied as the People’s Republic of China, Norway and Syria, it is no wonder that the road traveled has been filled with potholes.

Originally, the UDHR was written in English but has later been translated into 500 languages. Language is a powerful tool. Definitions matter. Nations need to know what is meant by a concept or they risk endangering relationships with other nations. The UN created the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to help nations and individuals understand the UDHR. The first article of the UDHR states:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

What do concepts such as “free”, “equal”, “dignity”, “reason”, “conscience” and “spirit of brotherhood” mean? A common thread seems to apply regarding the implementation of Article 1. We have a long way to go.

Declaration of Principles on Equality

3-5 April 2008 a group of experts got together at a conference in London arranged by The Equal Rights Trust. At this conference titled Principles on Equality and the Development of Legal Standards on Equality, they put together a document called Declaration of Principles on Equality, consisting of 27 principles that aim towards understanding equality better.

People are discriminated against for such characteristics as age, disability, race, belief/no-belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status and maternity. Discrimination may be direct or indirect. In Mississippi and North-Carolina, USA, a bathroom law was passed forcing men and women to use a bathroom/locker-room that matched their birth-sex instead of their gender. People with disabilities may be accused of faking it or using their disability to get attention (gas-lighting). The following 27 principles, hopefully, enable law-makers, businesses, health-personnel and others become aware of steps they need to take to make their society more equal. Whether people really want others to be equal to themselves, is a question I fear has a depressing answer.

  1. The right to equality
  2. Equal treatment
  3. Positive action
  4. The right to non-discrimination
  5. Definition of discrimination
  6. Relationship between the grounds of discrimination
  7. Discrimination and violence
  8. Scope of Application
  9. Right-holders
  10. Duty-bearers
  11. Giving Effect to the Right to Equality
  12. Obligations Regarding Multiple Discrimination
  13. Accommodating Difference
  14. Measures Against Poverty
  15. Specificity of Equality Legislation
  16. Participation
  17. Education on Equality
  18. Access to Justice
  19. Victimisation
  20. Standing
  21. Evidence and Proof
  22. Remedies and Sanctions
  23. Specialised Bodies
  24. Duty to Gather Information
  25. Dissemination of Information
  26. Prohibition of Regressive Interpretation
  27. Derogations and Reservations

1 The Right to Equality

The right to equality is the right of all human beings to be equal in dignity, to be treated with respect and consideration and to participate on an equal basis with others in any area of economic, social, political, cultural or civil life. All human beings are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

2 Equal Treatment

Equal treatment, as an aspect of equality, is not equivalent to identical treatment. To realise full and effective equality it is necessary to treat people differently according to their different circumstances, to assert their equal worth and to enhance their capabilities to participate in society as equals.

3 Positive Action

To be effective, the right to equality requires positive action.

Positive action, which includes a range of legislative, administrative and policy measures to overcome past disadvantage and to accelerate progress towards equality of particular groups, is a necessary element within the right to equality.

4 The Right to Non-discrimination

The right to non-discrimination is a free-standing, fundamental right, subsumed in the right to equality.

5 Definition of Discrimination

Discrimination must be prohibited where it is on grounds of race, colour, ethnicity, descent, sex, pregnancy, maternity, civil, family or carer status, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, birth, national or social origin, nationality, economic status, association with a national minority, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, health status, genetic or other predisposition toward illness or a combination of any of these grounds, or on the basis of characteristics associated with any of these grounds.

Discrimination based on any other ground must be prohibited where such discrimination (i) causes or perpetuates systemic disadvantage; (ii) undermines human dignity; or (iii) adversely affects the equal enjoyment of a person’s rights and freedoms in a serious manner that is comparable to discrimination on the prohibited grounds stated above.

Discrimination must also be prohibited when it is on the ground of the association of a person with other persons to whom a prohibited ground applies or the perception, whether accurate or otherwise, of a person as having a characteristic associated with a prohibited ground.

Discrimination may be direct or indirect.

Direct discrimination occurs when for a reason related to one or more prohibited grounds a person or group of persons is treated less favourably than another person or another group of persons is, has been, or would be treated in a comparable situation; or when for a reason related to one or more prohibited grounds a person or group of persons is subjected to a detriment. Direct discrimination may be permitted only very exceptionally, when it can be justified against strictly defined criteria.

Indirect discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice would put persons having a status or a characteristic associated with one or more prohibited grounds at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim, and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

Harassment constitutes discrimination when unwanted conduct related to any prohibited ground takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

An act of discrimination may be committed intentionally or unintentionally.

6 Relationship between the Grounds of Discrimination

Legislation must provide for equal protection from discrimination regardless of the ground or combination of grounds concerned.

7 Discrimination and Violence

Any act of violence or incitement to violence that is motivated wholly or in part by the victim having a characteristic or status associated with a prohibited ground constitutes a serious denial of the right to equality. Such motivation must be treated as an aggravating factor in the commission of offences of violence and incitement to violence, and States must take all appropriate action to penalise, prevent and deter such acts.

8 Scope of Application

The right to equality applies in all areas of activity regulated by law.

9 Right-holders

The right to equality is inherent to all human beings and may be asserted by any person or a group of persons who have a common interest in asserting this right.

The right to equality is to be freely exercised by all persons present in or subject to the jurisdiction of a State.

Legal persons must be able to assert a right to protection against discrimination when such discrimination is, has been or would be based on their members, employees or other persons associated with a legal person having a status or characteristic associated with a prohibited

10 Duty-bearers

States have a duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to equality for all persons present within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction. Non-state actors, including transnational corporations and other non-national legal entities, should respect the right to equality in all areas of activity regulated by law.

11 Giving Effect to the Right to Equality

States must take the steps that are necessary to give full effect to the right to equality in all activities of the State both domestically and in its external or international role. In particular States must

(a) Adopt all appropriate constitutional, legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the right to equality;

(b) Take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that conflict or are incompatible with the right to equality;

(c) Promote equality in all relevant policies and programmes;

(d) Review all proposed legislation for its compatibility with the right to equality;

(e) Refrain from adopting any policies or engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the right to equality;

(f) Take all appropriate measures to ensure that all public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the right to equality;

(g) Take all appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination by any person, or any public or private sector organisation.

12 Obligations Regarding Multiple Discrimination

Laws and policies must provide effective protection against multiple discrimination, that is, discrimination on more than one ground. Particular positive action measures, as defined in Principle 3, may be required to overcome past disadvantage related to the combination of two or more prohibited grounds.

13 Accommodating Difference

To achieve full and effective equality it may be necessary to require public and private sector organisations to provide reasonable accommodation for different capabilities of individuals related to one or more prohibited grounds.

Accommodation means the necessary and appropriate modifications and adjustments, including anticipatory measures, to facilitate the ability of every individual to participate in any area of economic, social, political, cultural or civil life on an equal basis with others. It should not be an obligation to accommodate difference where this would impose a disproportionate or undue burden on the provider.

14 Measures against Poverty

As poverty may be both a cause and a consequence of discrimination, measures to alleviate poverty should be coordinated with measures to combat discrimination, in the pursuit of full and effective equality.

15 Specificity of Equality Legislation

The realisation of the right to equality requires the adoption of equality laws and policies that are comprehensive and sufficiently detailed and specific to encompass the different forms and manifestations of discrimination and disadvantage.

16 Participation

All persons, particularly those who have experienced or who are vulnerable to discrimination, should be consulted and involved in the development and implementation of laws and policies implementing the right to equality.

17 Education on Equality

States have a duty to raise public awareness about equality, and to ensure that all educational establishments, including private, religious and military schools, provide suitable education on equality as a fundamental right.

18 Access to Justice

Persons who have been subjected to discrimination have a right to seek legal redress and an effective remedy. They must have effective access to judicial and/or administrative procedures, and appropriate legal aid for this purpose. States must not create or permit undue obstacles, including financial obstacles or restrictions on the representation of victims, to the effective enforcement of the right to equality.

19 Victimisation

States must introduce into their national legal systems such measures as are necessary to protect individuals from any adverse treatment or adverse consequence as a reaction to a complaint or to proceedings aimed at enforcing compliance with equality provisions.

20 Standing

States should ensure that associations, organisations or other legal entities, which have a legitimate interest in the realisation of the right to equality, may engage, either on behalf or in support of the persons seeking redress, with their approval, or on their own behalf, in any judicial and/or administrative procedure provided for the enforcement of the right to equality.

21 Evidence and Proof

Legal rules related to evidence and proof must be adapted to ensure that victims of discrimination are not unduly inhibited in obtaining redress. In particular, the rules on proof in civil proceedings should be adapted to ensure that when persons who allege that they have been subjected to discrimination establish, before a court or other competent authority, facts from which it may be presumed that there has been discrimination (prima facie case), it shall be for the respondent to prove that there has been no breach of the right to equality.

22 Remedies and Sanctions

Sanctions for breach of the right to equality must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. Sanctions must provide for appropriate remedies for those whose right to equality has been breached including reparations for material and non-material damages; sanctions may also require the elimination of discriminatory practices and the implementation of structural, institutional, organisational, or policy change that is necessary for the realisation of the right to equality.

23 Specialised Bodies

States must establish and maintain a body or a system of coordinated bodies for the protection and promotion of the right to equality. States must ensure the independent status and competences of such bodies in line with the UN Paris Principles, as well as adequate funding and transparent procedures for the appointment and removal of their members.

24 Duty to Gather Information

To give full effect to the right to equality States must collect and publicise information, including relevant statistical data, in order to identify inequalities, discriminatory practices and patterns of disadvantage, and to analyse the effectiveness of measures to promote equality. States must not use such information in a manner that violates human rights.

25 Dissemination of Information

Laws and policies adopted to give effect to the right to equality must be accessible to all persons. States must take steps to ensure that all such laws and policies are brought to the attention of all persons who may be concerned by all appropriate means.

26 Prohibition of Regressive Interpretation

In adopting and implementing laws and policies to promote equality, there shall be no regression from the level of protection against discrimination that has already been achieved.

27 Derogations and Reservations

No derogation from the right to equality shall be permitted. Any reservation to a treaty or other international instrument, which would derogate from the right to equality, shall be null and void.

Malawi: Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe changes women’s lives

Equality matters. Unwritten sanctions against people who speak openly about bodily functions, especially female body functions, seem to exist everywhere. Menstruation is one of these topics. Sanctions against menstruating women are many. Young girls still get their first monthly bleeding without knowing what is happening. We are expected to hide the fact that we menstruate and must make as little fuss as possible. Menstrual products (reuseable pads, disposable pad, cups, tampons, ets.) are expensive. In many countries there is no access to menstrual products. Women must use rags that leak and are forbidden, by unwritten rules, to wash and hang their rags where they can be seen. Girls stay home from school because they bleed through their rags or there is no access to a toilet. Both genders enforce this form of discrimination and body-shaming. However, some women (and men) take steps to make life better for menstruating women. Especially poor countries struggle with access to menstrual products. Malawi is a place where a month’s supply of disposable pads may cost up to two days salary.  Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe’s reuseable pads can make a huge difference in the lives of women.

Easing the menstrual woes

Brenda Twea | May 22, 2016

Menstruation is a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health. It is the natural monthly occurrence in healthy adolescent girls and pre-menopausal adult women. The onset can occur anytime between the ages of eight and 16, resulting in about 3 000 days of menstruation in an average woman’s lifetime.

In addition to persisting taboos, women and girls’ capacity to manage their periods is affected by a number of other factors, including limited access to affordable and hygienic sanitary materials and disposal options leaving many to manage their periods in ineffective, uncomfortable and unhygienic ways.

Very often, women and girls miss school and productive work days and fall behind their male counterparts, because of practical needs such as water and space for washing and cleaning the body, material for absorbing menstrual blood and facilities for proper disposal of used materials.

Example of Ms. Mhango-Kunashe’s reuseable menstrual pads. Credit MW Nation€€

Menstrual hygiene and management can be essential in ensuring that one’s everyday life is not interrupted by menstruation. A College of Medicine research scientist and project coordinator for Global Early Adolescent Study, Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe is producing reusable sanitary pads.

“I sew reusable, washable sanitary pads made out of cloth. They can last for two years. This is a low cost alternative, a once off purchase which a girl could use for 24 times or more,” says Kunashe.

Tinapads, as they are called, are made of three types of fabric; flannel, toweling and water proof material. The pattern has wings which are snapped with press buttons to wrap it properly and comfortably on the underwear. “This will ensure that a girl stays in school all year round. If she is absent then menstruation management problem will not be the reason for her absenteeism,” she says.

Kunashe adds that she came up with this innovation after noting that girls usually stay home from school for days due to lack of proper and dignified sanitary materials. She notes that this affects their class work, and translates into poor performances and rises in school dropout rates.

“Our objectives are to reduce absenteeism rates caused by lack of sanitary products, keep girls in school, motivate them to stay in school, break the silence around menstruation and expose girls to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) because our distribution will go along with three sessions on body development, body feelings and changes and how to cope with that,” she says.

Kunashe says it will be a pack of nine sanitary pads, down from the initial 10. The number was reduced in order to bring down the cost.

“In the pack of nine, three will be used on day one, three on day two; and two on day three and the remaining one on day four. The target is for the pads to be used once a month so that when they are washed, they should not be used again until the following month. As such, they will last longer. …”

The rest of the article may be read at The Nation