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Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 11, No. 7, July 2015
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Home Page

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Fostering Gender Balance in Society


SUMMARY & OUTLINE

This supplement is a digest of recent events and significant contributions to fostering gender equality - and human development - in various secular cultures and institutions. It is acknowledged that the distinction between the secular and religious dimensions is an artificial one, often blurred in real life situations. In those cases, if the material is predominantly secular it is included here; else it is included in Supplement 6. The selected items are the editor's choice. Suggestions by readers are welcomed. Reporting on good role models is a high priority. The following sections are included this month:

1. Men, Women, and Cross-Gender Solidarity
2. Men and Women in Marriage and the Family
3. The Patriarchal Culture of Command and Control
4. Gender Balance for Solidarity and Sustainability
5. Gender Balance for Adaptation to Climate Change
6. Women in Roles of Leadership and Governance
7. Men and the Changing Face of Masculinity
8. Men, Women, and the Human Habitat
9. Gender Balance for Sustainable Human Development

The promotion of gender equality in society is a slow and painful process, and it is barely beginning to unfold worldwide. But it is a dynamic process, one in which progress begets progress. It is important to stay tuned to relevant news coming from all world regions and all world cultures. The Google News box displayed to the right may be helpful. Readers can enhance their web sites with their own version of this box - which is continuously refreshed as significant events are reported - by going to Google News, clicking on "Add a section," and follow simple instructions under "Create a custom section." This is a free service, but you must register in order to use the customization tool.

If you know about recent developments that should be mentioned in this page, please write to the Editor.

"If we are going to see real development in the world,
then our best investment is women."

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Progress of the World’s Women:
Transforming economies, realizing rights
(POWW2015)

UN Women, May 2015

1. Men, Women, and Cross-Gender Solidarity

Definition of Gender

"Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, activities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women, explains the World Health Organization. The distinct roles, reinforced by legal systems and religion, have historically given rise to gender inequalities not only in health care but with education and employment opportunities. Globalization has challenged the most archaic perceptions of gender roles through books, films, and other media; new technologies in satellite television and the internet; and policies of multinational corporations and tourism. Human rights groups reach across borders to lend support and inspiration to those in other lands; the United Nations and other international organizations target gender equality as a major goal." YaleGlobal

Definition of Gender Balance

Gender balance is 50/50 male/female presence in a group. So it is a matter of numbers, but it is more than just a matter of numbers. Gender balance is required in both responsibility and authority, in the family and in all human institutions. It must become internalized to the point in which patriarchal individualism and male hegemony are neutralized by a new sense of communion between men and women, and between humanity and nature. It must be a fully inclusive sense of communion that overcomes any exclusivism on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or any other reason. It must be a communion that seeks the integral development of each and every human person, from conception to natural death. And it must be a communion in which all humans endeavor to take care of each other while also taking care of natural resources. Nothing in this world is perfect, and this new order of things will not be perfect but, far from being utopian, it is in fact inevitable if humanity is to survive in the long term.

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LINK TO THE BOOK
No More War: The Human Potential for Peace

Futurist, behaviorist, and evolutionary biologist Dr. Judith Hand presents a compelling argument in her film “No More War” that if we chose to do it, we can achieve what no people before us could: a future without war. She introduces cutting edge hypotheses on the origins of cooperation, altruism and morality, indicating how they relate to the human potential for peace. The origins of war are explored, including a consideration of why men and women, in general, differ when it comes to using physical aggression to resolve conflicts. A proposal is offered that the time is right for us to mount a global, social transformation movement to abolish war and reasons are given for why we can, at this time, embrace the goal of ending war with confidence. Why participation of women as full partners with men in decision-making positions is a necessary condition, not an option, is stressed. Two complementary elements of a nonviolence campaign to end war are introduced: Constructive Program and Obstructive Program. Suggestions are offered for ways viewers can be involved in this great cause. Learn more.

A Future Without War is Judith Hand's website, where most of her writings can be readily accessed. The following are some links to material that should be of interest to readers of this journal:

Violence (war in particular) is the greatest obstacle to sustainable human development. Judith Hand is making a significant contribution to peace by pointing the way to a culture of global solidarity and nonviolence. The reader is cordially invited to visit A Future Without War for more information on this important piece of work.


RECENT NEWS ON GENDER SOLIDARITY:

2. Men and Women in Marriage and the Family

Gender Balance in Marriage and the Family

In the post-patriarchal era, marriage is to be seen as a covenant of mutual submission between husband and wife. The patriarchal model of male hegemony will be seen as a forgettable aberration in human history. Marriage is about responsibly sharing the gift of love and the gift of life, not about one-sided domination and control. Fathers are called to be fathers. Mothers are called to be mothers. Both authority and responsibilities are to be fully shared. This will not cancel the natural differences between men and women. It will make husband and wife more accountable to each other. It will allow fathers to continue their personal development to become more nurturing without loss of masculinity, and will allow mothers to continue their personal development to become more assertive without loss of femininity. The family will then become a "domestic school" in which children, boys and girls, learn by osmosis that things are better when authoritarian violence is replaced by just and merciful authority and, at the same time, loving care is not confused with permissive abuse of family resources. It should be possible to advance further in this direction, because this was the natural order of things before male domination became institutionalized (Cf. Genesis 1-3).


International Day of the Girl Child 2013:
Innovating for Girls’ Education

Innovation: a novel solution to a social problem that is
more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions

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UNICEF Statement: "The fulfilment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization." READ MORE

3. The Patriarchal Culture of Command and Control

The following is quoted from Wikipedia:

"Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

"Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Patriarchy also has a strong influence on modern civilization, although many cultures have moved towards a more egalitarian social system over the past century.

"Patriarchy literally means "rule of fathers" (Greek patriarkhes), "father" or "chief of a race, patriarch". Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.

"Anthropological and historical evidence indicates that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were generally relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era, following social and technological innovations such as agriculture and domestication. However, according to Robert M. Strozier, historical research has not yet found a specific "initiating event" of the origin of patriarchy. Some scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 BCE), when the concept of fatherhood took root, as the beginning of the spread of patriarchy."

For more on patriarchy, click here.

The patriarchal mindset of rivalry and domination is pervasive and induces a culture of "command and control" and transcends family relations and contaminates all human relations as well as the human attitude toward the natural habitat. An excellent exposition of the need for a good dosage of "ecofeminism" to overcome patriarchy is provided by Patrick Curry in Chapter 9 of his book, Ecological Ethics. Following are some excerpts:

"Insofar as patriarchy identifies women with nature and dominates both, they are internally linked, so the struggle to resist or overturn either must address both."

"Ecofeminism is a meeting of two strands. One is feminism itself: the awareness of the pathological effects of dominant patriarchal or (to use a more recent term) masculinist structures, both 'inner' and 'outer' -- particularly, of course, on women but also, ultimately, on their oppressors -- and the attempt to replace them with ones that also value the feminine."

"The other element is a recognition of, and deep concern about, the equally masculinist domination and exploitation of nature through the very same habitual structures of though, feeling and action that devalue and harm women."

Curry goes on to analyze the master mentality, both dualist and hierarchical: "humanity versus nature; male versus female; and reason versus emotion... the domination and exploitation of nature and women proceed by the same logic, the same processes and, by and large, the same people... only ecofeminism brings a critical awareness of the extent and ways in which the subordination of women and ecological destruction are integrally linked."

The chapter unfolds with a review of work by ecofeminist leaders such as Vandana Shiva (India) and Wangari Maathai (Kenya), and proceeds to deconstruct the androcentric (male-centered) mentality while, at the same time, making it crystal clear that ecofeminism is definitely not a matter of demonizing men. In fact, men are victims of patriarchal practices as much as women; in one way or another, domination that goes around comes around. Only an ethics of care, as in a mother holding her child, can break the vicious circle of patriarchal command and control whereby humans abuse the human habitat at their own peril. Indeed, as Lynn White proposed years ago, St. Francis of Assisi should be recognized as the patron saint of ecologists.

ON THE HISTORY OF PATRIARCHY

The Creation of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner, Oxford University Press, 1987

The Patriarchal Family in History, Christopher Dawson, in The Dynamics of World History, ISI Books, 2003

What is Patriarchy and Why is it the Most Powerful Force in the World Today?, Mary L. Wentworth, GSN, August 2005

Patriarchy, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008

Moving Beyond the Pathology of History: Why We Need a Shift in Human Consciousness, Jean Houston, Huffington Post, 21 September 2010

SOME RECENT NEWS ON PATRIARCHY

The Real Shame: India’s Patriarchy Roars Back After Delhi Gang Rape, By Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi, Time World, 18 January 2013
My patriarchy is better than yours, By Hani Yousuf, International Herald Tribune, 17 January 2013
Parliament and patriarchy, Ramachandra Guha, The Hindu, 31 December 2012
Shrouded in patriarchy, Victoria Rossi, The Hindu, 15 January 2013
Benign patriarchy is deadly, , The Gleaner, Jamaica, 6 January 2013
Why we must not skirt the real issues—rape & patriarchy, Patralekha Chatterjee, DNA, 14 January 2013
Patriarchy begins with the textbook, Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times, Mumbai, West India, 9 January 2013
No Patriarchy, No Police State, No Capital Punishment: A Report on the Rally Against Rape, Soma Marik, International Viewpoint, 7 January 2013
Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women, Vandana Shiva, Yes! Magazine, 18 January 2013
Microfinance and Patriarchy: 'A Drift Away from Serving Women', Knowledge@Wharton, Forbes, 18 January 2013
The Bible Is Man-Made: Why Patriarchy Still Reigns, George Elerick, Huffington Post, 21 ecember 2012
The tragedy of homo disappointus, Deepanjana Pal, DNA, 19 January 2013
Were the First Artists Mostly Women?, Virginia Hughes, National Geographic, 8 October 2013
Cave Women Rocked: Science Shows Prehistoric Gender Equality, Piper Hoffman, Care2, 8 November 2013

4. Gender Balance for Solidarity and Sustainability

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director
IWD 2014: Equality for women is progress for all


Source: UN Women

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LINK TO THE WEBSITE
FEMME: Women Healing the World
An inspiring documentary by Emmanuel Itier
Produced by Sharon Stone
FEMME is now in theaters!
If there are no dates scheduled near you,
consider sponsoring a screening!

"A celebration of women around the world actively transforming and healing our global society. Sharon Stone and leading experts in religion, science, history, politics and entertainment, discuss solutions to the multiple crisis’ we are faced with. Femme focuses on utilizing a feminine approach with nurturing energy to inspire a new hope for the future." Director: Emmanuel Itier. Starring: Sharon Stone, Maria Bello, Maria Conchita Alonso, Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Maguire, Gloria Steinem, Marianne Williamson, Jean Houston, Angela Davis.

Actress Sharon Stone co-produced “Femme: Women Healing the World”, Santa Barbara director Emmanuel Itier’s documentary that features more than 100 women, both famous and unsung, from around the world who are working to transform the planet through a number of fields, from politics and philosophy to spirituality, science and entertainment. Stone – whose leg-crossing scene in the original 1992 “Basic Instinct” is one of modern film’s most iconic moments, which also happens to represent a women using her sexual power to manipulate men, for better or worse – has said about FEMME:

  • Film is a powerful medium for inciting change: “We’re using the documentary format to reach out and talk about issues are relevant and important. Allowing this beautiful point of view to be expressed in a powerful way is intelligent, thoughtful, mindful and compassionate…. The more we have sympathetic communication the better that we do with one another.”
  • This is an important moment for women in the world: “We’re (in) Year 11 of a world war, and we have to think about that women are less invested in conflict and more interested in creativity and the development of nurturing and conflict resolution….It’s just a practical matter in many ways. When we look at the stress that all of those things have put on our economic climate, we can see that if we don’t (address this issues) from a more creative and nurturing perspective, the global economy cannot hold this continue desire for conflict and the negative impact of not caring for one another. There’s no logic in that math equation.
  • You can do something about it: “We can look at peace as something we expect our leaders to accomplish, and something that we understand as a verb, as an action. There are simple, seemingly small things we can do each day with more peaceful intentions, and create a climate of peace in action. Then we habituate ourselves to a different kind of sensibility and peace begins to flower from these small actions that become a state of mind.”
  • It’s not just for women: “I think that old saying ‘Behind every great man…’ is not an untrue sentiment. We were meant to partner – in our jobs, in our schools, in the world. We bring different elements to play. But it’s not ‘just’ women – it’s ‘with’, ‘together’, ‘partners’…. We are in a paradigm shift where we can partner in our mate in a non-gender specific way, any age, ethnicity. But in the world, we as women in our intuitive nature, bring something woman to man.”

  • 5. Gender Balance for Adaptation to Climate Change

    This section is excerpted from
    Women are powerful agents of change
    CARE Climate Change

    "As a rights-based organisation, CARE's climate change strategy is geared towards the empowerment of poor and marginalised people. CARE is deeply concerned about constraints that the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power – as well as repressive cultural rules and norms – place on people's ability to take action on climate change. We believe that a wide range of development goals are achievable only if decision makers at all levels recognise the unique risks faced by poor and marginalised people and their essential roles in planning, implementing and evaluating action on climate change.

    "The majority of the world's poorest people today are women and girls. Climate change is making it even more difficult for them to realise their basic rights, and it is exacerbating inequalities since they are more vulnerable to its impacts than men.

    "Moreover, many women are denied access to new information about climate change and participation in important decision-making processes despite having unique skills and knowledge – about low risk farming, sustainable water management, family health and community mobilisation, for example – vital to effective adaptation.

    "For all these reasons, and because women are central to the food and livelihood security of their families, we place a special emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment."

    For more, including links to other CARE resources, click here.

    KEY LINKS TO ADAPTATION & GENDER

    COLLABORATION BETWEEN INDIA AND SIERRA LEONE

    One specific case worthy of study in Women Bringing Solar Power to Sierra Leone, The Guardian, 15 September 2011. The following summary is excerpted from YaleGlobal, 16 September 2011.

    "Developing renewables to meet the growing demand for energy is a top priority in the 21st century. So is enhancing collaboration among developing countries. By training semi-literate women from rural Sierra Leone in solar-energy techniques, Barefoot College in western India works towards achieving both these goals. Twelve women attended and then returned to villages in Sierra Leone to assemble 1,500 household solar units at a new branch of Barefoot College in Konta Line, where the training will continue, reports a blog for the Guardian. The governments of both countries have played their part; Sierra Leone invested $820,000 in the project, and India provided equipment. The vast majority of households in Sierra Leone go without power. Following its decades-long civil war, electricity is Sierra Leone's "most daunting infrastructural challenge," notes a World Bank report. Lighting extends education and socializing into the evening hours, and the women are planning on manufacturing solar units to spread the new power."

    6. Women in Roles of Leadership and Governance

    Gender Balance in Society and Secular Governance

    What children learn in the family (the "domestic school") defines their way of thinking and acting for a lifetime. Gender balance in marriage and the family is then lived out in all dimensions of social relations, including secular governance. However, persisting gender imbalance in social relations and institutions of governance is a serious obstacle to the advent of post-patriarchal families. Nowhere is this more evident than in the objectification of human bodies (mostly female) for business purposes. There is of course the pay gap between men and women with comparable qualifications. More nefarious symptoms include the persisting double standard on the value of virginity for boys and girls; the increasing number of "single parents" (mostly mothers) resulting from seeking gratification without accepting responsibility; and the millions of unborn children (mostly girls) killed for reasons of expediency or simply to avoid the "inconvenience" of raising a child. It must be recognized that, when there is gender inequality and imbalance in human relations, the entire fabric of society is corrupted. It is well known that "what goes around comes around," and this is also true in gender relations, even though male and female violence may tend to exhibit different modes of expression. The mindset of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" manifests itself in an endless number of ways across the entire gender spectrum. It is no coincidence that, in the Book of Genesis, gender violence is the first and most universal outcome of corrupting the original communion between man and woman.

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    NO CEILINGS: THE FULL PARTICIPATION PROJECT
    -- This is an effort led by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Clinton Foundation to bring together partner organizations to evaluate and share the progress women and girls have made in the 20 years since the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This new effort will help chart the path forward to accelerate full participation for women and girls in the 21st century. The full participation of women and girls is critical to global progress, development, and security.


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    Hillary Clinton
    Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (born October 26, 1947) is a former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States. From 2009 to 2013, she was the 67th Secretary of State, serving under President Barack Obama. She previously represented New York in the U.S. Senate (2001 to 2009). Before that, as the wife of President Bill Clinton, she was First Lady from 1993 to 2001. In the 2008 election, Clinton was a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. She is currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. To contact the office of Hillary Clinton, click here.



    ROLE MODELS

    10 Leaders Who Redefine Leadership

    Emily Garcia & Kim Crane, World Pulse, 12 December 2013

    Women on the Rise in African Politics
    Anne Look, Voice of America, 8 February 2014

    No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report
    Clinton Foundation & Gates Foundation, April 2015.

    7. Men and the Changing Face of Masculinity

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    New Internationalist
    RESOURCES

    8. Men, Women, and the Human Habitat

    Women and Biodiversity Feed the World,
    Not Corporations and GMOs

    Vandana Shiva

    Originally published in Common Dreams, 20 May 2015,
    under a Creative Commons License

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    'Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition
    throughout history,' writes Dr. Vandana Shiva, 'but today, food
    is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities
    controlled by global corporations.' (Photos: Georgina Smith/CIAT)

    The two great ecological challenges of our times are biodiversity erosion and climate change. And both are interconnected, in their causes and their solutions.

    Industrial agiculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion as well as to climate change. According to the United Nations, 93% of all plant variety has disappeared over the last 80 years.

    Monocultures based on chemical inputs do not merely destroy plant biodiversity, they have destroyed soil biodiversity, which leads to the emergence of pathogens, new diseases, and more chemical use.

    Our study of soils in the Bt cotton regions of Vidharba showed a dramatic decline in beneficial soil organisms. In many regions with intensive use of pesticides and GMOs, bees and butterflies are disappearing. There are no pollinators on Bt cotton plants, whereas the population of pollinators in Navdanya’s biodiversity conservation farm in Doon Valley is six times more than in the neighbouring forest. The UNEP has calculated the contribution of pollinators to be $200 billion annually. Industrial agriculture also kills aquatic and marine life by creating dead zones due to fertilizer run off. Pesticides are also killing or damaging aquatic life .

    "Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles."
    Besides the harm to biodiversity and the climate, industrial agriculture actually undermines food and nutrition security. Firstly, industrial agriculture grows commodities for profits of the agrichemical (now also Biotech) and agribusiness corporations. Only 10 percent of the annual GMO corn and soya crop goes to feed people. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel. This is clearly not a food system that feeds the world.

    Secondly, monocultures undermine nutrition by displacing the biodiversity that provides nourishment and the diversity of nutrients our body needs. Herbicides like Roundup do not just kill the milkweed on which the monarch Butterfly larvae feed, they kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the "bathua," and the mixed cropping that produces more "Nutrition per Acre" than industrial monocultures (see Navdanya’s report on Health per Acre).

    Having destroyed our sources of nutrition by destroying biodiversity—and creating vitamin A, iron and other deficiencies—the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles.

    Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Since 1985 the false miracle of Golden Rice is being offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency. But Golden rice is still under development. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a hoax.

    "Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide."
    On 20th of April, the White house gave an award to Syngenta which had tried to pirate India’s rice diversity, and owns most of the 80 patents related to Golden Rice. This is reminiscient of the Emperor who had no clothes. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing vitanim A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow. GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder). Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs. Moreover, these corporate-led industrial monocultures are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time. Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women’s hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.

    Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.

    In addition to destroying biodiversity, industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which are leading to climate change and climate chaos. As I have written in my book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, 40% of all GHGs—including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane—come from industrialised globalized agriculture. And chemical monocultures are also more vulnerable to climate change as we have witnessed in the unseasonal rains at harvest time in 2015.

    On the other hand, organic farming reduces emissions, and also makes agriculture more resilient to climate change. Because organic farming is based on returning organic matter to the soil, it is the most effective means to remove excess carbon in the air, where it does not belong, and putting it in the soil, where it belongs. Navdanya’s research has shown that organic farming has increased carbon absorption by 55%. International studies show that with 2 tons of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) per hectare, we can remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon back down to pre-industrial levels of 350 ppm.

    In addition, organic matter in the soil also increases water-holding capacity of the soil, reducing the impact of floods and droughts. Just 1% increase in Soil Organic Matter can raise the water-holding capacity of soil by 100,000 liters per hectare. And an increase of 5% can raise it to 800,000 liters. This is our insurance against climate change, both when there is drought and too little rain, and when there are floods and excess rain. On the other hand, cement and concrete increases runoff of water, aggravating floods and drought. We witnessed this in the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013 and in the Kashmir disaster in 2014.

    At harvest time of spring 2015 India had unseasonal rains which destroyed the crops. More than a 100 farmers committed suicide. The unseasonal rains due to climate instability added to the burden of debt the farmers are already carrying due to rising costs of production and falling prices. Both the crisis of debt leading to climate change and the climate crisis have a common solution – a shift to biodiverse ecological agriculture which is free of high cost chemical inputs and dependence on corporate seeds, hence of debt, and also has climate resilience built into it through biodiversity and organic soils.

    4000 years ago our ancient Vedas had guided us, "Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Care for it, and it will grow our food, our fuel, our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it, and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it."

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

    9. Gender Balance for Sustainable Human Development

    Cesspool of Misogyny and Patriarchy

    Taha Najeeb Khan, Pakistan Today, 7 February 2015
    REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION

    No civilisation ascended to great heights by subjugating its women

    Pakistan is no heaven for anything of even remote sentience. Especially if you’re a woman.

    This is practically a thought experiment. One need only imagine a day in the life of an ordinary woman in Pakistan to fully internalise the many horrors that come gift-wrapped in insidious euphemisms of “honour” and “shame” for the Pakistani female. This is not an accident. It is in fact a logical conclusion of a particular status quo in a society neck-deep in a cesspool of misogyny and patriarchy.

    But why even invoke hypothetical’s when reality has made itself so horribly pervasive that little, if anything, is left the imagination? Only someone living under a rock would fail to register the grotesquery that goes on at our bus-stops, bazaars, local offices, shops, stores, essentially all avenues that make possible the release of the systemically suppressed frustrations of the average Pakistani male.

    The annual Gender Gap Index by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum released recently revealed that Pakistan ranks 141 out of 142, second to last, in global gender equality. This comes as no surprise in a country where rape is more a punishment than a crime, as local jirga rulings so frequently exhibit. This sick phenomenon is often described as “honour rape”; as revolting an oxymoron as can be. Case in point: Mukhtara Mai, who was gang-raped by the orders of a village council a few years ago.

    It is clear that this ghastly state of affairs is more a cultural spinoff than anything else. The same culture, one might add, in which the man is the holder of honour and woman the bearer of shame. What happens as a consequence is the exaltation of the male in both the private and the public, domestic and societal. And then, by association, all related attributes find equal elevation – pride, ego, honour, influence, control, etc.

    It is no surprise then that in Pakistan’s most unchanging of backdrops, religiously inspired patriarchal attitudes are hard to confront, let alone dismantle.

    This realisation is made clearer when one casts a glance upon neighbouring India where similar trends are on full display. Pakistan and India, after all, share common history and culture. But what makes things more complex for Pakistan is religion. Unlike secular India, Pakistanis breathe religion. And unfortunately religion, in the way it is largely understood and practiced in Pakistan, is not an ever evolving enterprise subject to sophisticated, contemporary and non-literalist interpretations of an intellectually advanced people. It is rather a fossilised set of do’s and don’ts that reduces morality to the tightrope gymnastics of blind adherence. This is hardly a fertile landscape for cultural revisionism. Less so when the said culture draws heavily upon an impermeable worldview held sacrosanct and above all critique.

    It is no surprise then that in Pakistan’s most unchanging of backdrops, religiously inspired patriarchal attitudes are hard to confront, let alone dismantle. And that’s the danger. Because absent a viable counter-narrative, something like the Hudood laws/punishments remains a reality far too quick to manifest. And nothing subjugates women more than such archaic legislation. It is concepts such as the requirement of male witness testimony to prove rape — a near impossible condition to satisfy — overlapping with the cultural obsession with “male honour” that account for the high incidence of unreported rape cases in Pakistan. Granted there will be activists like Asma Jahangir and amendments like the women protection bill to fight/neutralise such laws but who is to say that there won’t be more Zia-ul-Haq types to impose them all over again?

    Furthermore, this issue of women rights cuts deeper than Hudood punishments. We know today through numerous studies by academics and economists alike that women empowerment can dramatically enhance economic growth and human development. That it leads to greater employment, labour productivity and higher average household incomes that positively impact spending patterns which in turn stir up the economy. More female literacy also reduces female fertility and child mortality.

    Absent a viable counter-narrative, something like the Hudood laws/punishments remains a reality far too quick to manifest. And nothing subjugates women more than such archaic legislation.

    Surely, Pakistan, a country with less than 50 percent female literacy, could then do well to break those barriers that have long reduced half of its population to second class status. According to the 2011 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Program, approximately twice as many males as females receive a secondary education in Pakistan. This is troubling to say the least. Such gender gaps scream the urgent need for a thorough shakedown and systemic overhaul of governance, educational spending, and to most importantly initiate a permanent retreat from medieval cultural attitudes that view woman as little more than chattel; human throwaways condemned by accident of birth to male subservience. And if it takes 14 year old girls to take bullets in their heads to fight such a grim status quo, then there is no greater shame upon a nation that ironically and so tragically obsesses over honour.

    But in spite of all the above, Pakistani women paradoxically enjoy relatively high political representation compared to women in most developing, and even developed, countries. In this Pakistan is ahead of its regional rivals India, Sri Lanka and Iran. It ranks among the top 50 in the IPU’s list of women representation in national parliaments, ahead of developed democracies such as Canada, the UK and the US. Pakistan is also one of the few countries in the world to have its first woman parliamentary speaker and to also be ruled by a female head of state.

    This shows that in spite of entrenched patriarchy and cultural rigidity, the country is accepting of women leaders. Let’s hope this acceptance percolates across the mainstream consciousness. And that people recognise, without equivocation, that there is in all of human history no record of a single society or civilisation that has ascended to great heights by subjugating its women.

    To fully understand the urgent need for women empowerment, all Pakistanis must, for a moment, inhabit the mind of the man who founded Pakistan. He said “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners.”

    Let us free our women so we may cease to be criminals.


    Taha Najeeb Khan is an engineering consultant based out of New York, USA. He is also a freelance writer/blogger. He can be reached at: tahanajeeb01@gmail.com.


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