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    23 Inspiring Reasons To Celebrate International Women's Day

    Get inspired by the women and girls around the world who are making big and small gains to champion development progress in their families and communities.

    8 March is International Women's Day!

    Aude Rossignol/ UNDP Burundi / Via Flickr: 66132733@N03

    1. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Aynalem Ayele, a young fashion designer opens Ayni's Design, her labor of love.

    UNDP Ethiopia / Via

    Aynalem has just completed an intensive six-days-long entrenepeur training course, part of a joint Canada-UNDP project to develop the private sector across Ethiopia. Since the launch of the program in 2013, we've conducted over 100 trainings which has helped 11,000 young entrepreneurs to set up businesses. The three-years-long project is expected to create 200,000 jobs in Ethiopia.

    2. In Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and other parts of West Africa, 90% of women work in agriculture and in informal sectors such as food stall sellers, small shop owners, small-scale farmers, and farm laborers.

    Morgana Wingard/ UNDP / Via

    The quarantines and stigma associated with Ebola also prevented women traders from selling and trading goods. Without sales, women are unable to provide for their families. Without the women labor force to grow and produce crops, farming and production is also down. Less food has increased the cost of food for communities already financially affected by Ebola, leading to more hunger for families who can't afford the higher prices of food.

    3. In Sierra Leone, Sariatu, a hair dresser, stands up against Ebola stigma

    View this video on YouTube

    UNDP Sierra Leone / Via

    Sariatu Kamara owns a beauty salon in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Customers stopped coming to her salon in 2013 during the peak of the Ebola outbreak. To end Ebola stigma, Sariatu, along with other business owners, became part Ebola-awareness educators and started coming up with creative ways to meet customers' needs.

    4. In South Sudan, Deborah tackles domestic violence against displaced persons and refugees

    Christina Feldt, UN Volunteers / Via

    “I have nine children with me including my brother’s," says Deborah Samwell, community domestic violence, crime, and rights monitor.. "Children and women should not be beaten or abused by men,” she says. “We want to be able to teach our community and our little girls about their rights, enable rapid reporting to the right authority and provide knowledge about access to immediate health care in case of sexual violence.”

    Rape, abuse, trafficking and domestic violence soar during conflicts. In South Sudan, 1.5 million people are currently living this nightmare as a result of the ongoing civil war that broke out in December 2013. We are working together with the UN Police, the International Office of Migration and UNICEF to train Deborah and other people living in all 108 Internally displaced camps across South Sudan to become community domestic violence, crime and rights monitors. Once trained, Deborah and the others will travel across the country to teach other displaced people living in camps, a majority of whom are women and girls, about their rights (including the right not to be intimidated or threatened), what to do, and how to report, and who to report to if they witness sexual violence, crime, or have been attacked.

    5. In Afghanistan, a women's center provides hope for Afghan women.

    UNDP Afghanistan / Via Flickr: undpafghanistan

    In Afghanistan, a women's center provides legal aid to women facing domestic violence or legal issues. The center also offers job and craft trainings to women in search of work, such as weaving and sewing.

    6. In India, the women of Odisha, who rely on farming and fishing, take on climate change

    UNDP India / Via

    Women in Odisha, India have been hit hardest by extreme weather conditions. Many have to walk for hours to find safe drinking water. Their children are often sick from diarrhea and skin infections resulting from unclean water. Since 2011, we've been working with the Government of India and Australia to help the women of Odisha adapt to climate change. The women have been able to create new jobs, earn more money to invest in their children, control safe sources of drinking water and manage their water and lands with a better understanding of climate change.

    7. In Indonesia, Sahanan and Tina both thought their chances of becoming parliamentarians were zero

    UNDP Indonesia / Via

    Both women won their local parliamentary elections. “I wasn’t convinced I would be elected,” confesses Sahanah, “But after I participated in the UNDP training, I knew I would make it if I used my new-found knowledge. I was told that women have equal opportunity to be in the parliament, no matter who you are.”

    Women make up over half of Indonesia’s population, yet their participation and influence in politics and the government is minimal. Together with the Government of Norway and the Indonesian Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection, UNDP is working on a four-year project (2011-2015) to strengthen the skills and knowledge of women in politics, and to increase women's public representation and participation in political and government institutions.

    8. In Pakistan, the country's first-ever Women’s Caucus is breaking glass ceilings.

    UNDP Pakistan / Via

    Pakistan has a pretty high proportion of women in Parliament compared to other countries in South Asia. Pakistani women make up 19 percent of representatives in the upper and lower houses.

    Yet women in Pakistan are still excluded from decision-making positions at the local, provincial and national levels. They are often left out of important political, social and economic decisions that affect the health and education of the women of Pakistan.

    9. In the Philippines, women lead community gardens to tackle hunger after Typhoon Haiyan

    Lesley Wright/ UNDP Philippines / Via

    Immediately after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed coastal parts of the Philippines, the people of Cebu, especially the mothers, took matters into their own hands and started community gardens supported by UNDP's recovery projects. The women of Cebu felt that growing enough food to feed their families was a priority to prevent a hunger crisis, while the communities rebuilt rice farms (which takes longer to grow) and other businesses.

    10. In Timor Leste, more young women are signing up for the police force

    UNDP Timor Leste / Via

    A recent survey on domestic violence indicates that 38 percent of Timorese women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Despite the 2010 law on domestic violence, it is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of Timorese women continue to suffer from abuse from their partners at some point in their relationship.

    Currently 590 women work in the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL)-- that's 18 percent of the total police force.

    “A lot of violent crimes in Timor-Leste are unfortunately gender-based, including sexual assault, physical assault, mental abuse, and economic oppression. We really need more women police. Victims feel more comfortable to talk to and report crimes to women police," said Umbelina Soares, the Assistant Superintendent of the National Police of Timor Leste.

    Since 2013, we have been supporting the National Police of TImor-Leste to increase knowledge and staff capacity for information technology, human resources, procurement management, fleet management and public relations--all of which prioritizes the recruitment of more female police officers.

    11. In Gaza, the first female mukhtarah mediates disputes

    UNDP Gaza / Via

    Um Mohammed broke the conservative tribal traditions of her community when she became one of Gaza's first “Mukhtarah” – the female equivalent of a Mukhtar, one who peacefully settles disputes without need to resort to formal judicial systems. Mukhtars are often used in regions where there is mistrust of official judicial systems or the claimants cannot afford to go to trial.

    Um Mohammed and 75 other female Mukhtars graduated from a legal aid clinic in Gaza supported by UNDP.

    12. Also in Gaza, solar power brings heat to one of the Gaza Strip's oldest all girls school

    UNDP Gaza / Via

    Bashir El Rayyes, an all girls high school, is one of the 398 schools in the Gaza Strip affected by the ongoing electricity shortage in Gaza. UNDP has been working to install solar panels in schools, hospitals and other key buildings so that children can get heat, hot water, and light while they study. In hospitals, more reliable source of electricity helps doctors to save more lives, especially in maternity wards.

    Since 2006, the region has been facing chronic electrical shortages. Following the 2014 crisis in Gaza, which damaged the only power plant in Gaza, the electricity crisis worsened. Each day, 70% of Gaza’s schools currently operate double shifts to accommodate about 200,000 students. The current electricity deficit of 61% has resulted in 8-12 hours of daily power cuts, affecting the entire Gaza population.

    13. In Syria, even little steps go a long way in helping women living near ongoing fighting.

    Tartous/ UNDP Syria / Via Facebook: UNDP

    Trying to grow crops when there's a war in your backyard makes farming and food security a huge challenge. UNDP Syria is working with communities to revive farmlands in safe areas as the Syrian war rages on.

    14. In Egypt, women crafters turn hobbies into jobs

    UNDP Egypt / Via

    Shaimaa lives in Qena, one of upper Egypt’s poorest regions. Like many other young women from the region, she had to drop out from school at a young age because education is still considered a luxury for girls in her area. Recent surveys show that some 22.1% of young women aged 10-29 cannot afford to go to school.

    Shaimaa is a very talented artist and makes amazing traditional Egyptian crafts. For years, she struggled to set up a decent living for her and her family. Without money and without business start-up training to set up her craft business, Shaimaa thought escaping a life of poverty was impossible until she signed up for a handicrafts training programme for female-headed households, supported by UNDP, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Sawiris Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation and UN Women.

    15. In Somalia, the first female Deputy Prosecutor takes office

    UNDP Somalia / Via

    28-year-old Khadra Hussein Mohammad, made history in Somalia by becoming Somaliland’s first female National Deputy Prosecutor. Each day, Khadra reviews a range of cases from petty theft, domestic violence, gang-related violence, to terrorism.

    Khadra is one of the many women who participated in trainings from UNDP's support to rule of law, access justice and security in Somalia and other conflict-affected countries.

    16. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, two best friends reflect on a friendship that spans decades.

    UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina / Via

    “I’m helping Trivuna, no one else but me is there to help. I cook and clean for her, change her clothes. We share everything, so it's easier.”

    Best friends 85-year-old Perka & 102-year-old Trivuna met as refugees decades ago.Our new project in Bosnia and Herzegovina tackles gaps in elderly healthcare, public services, and public institutions, such as senior citizen centers. We hope to help ease the work burden for elderly community members like Perka and Trivuna, so they can enjoy their golden years.

    17. In Turkey, women find work in olive oil production

    UNDP Turkey / Via Flickr: undpeuropeandcis

    There are currently 1.5 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey--with unofficial reports of more than 1.6 million refugees. 15 March marks the fourth anniversary of the ongoing Syria crisis, which started in 2011. Neighbors such as Turkey has taken in Syrian families fleeing the war in their country. Towns such as Kilis are struggling to find money to pay for extra water, heat, sanitation, buildings, food, hospital and maternity ward space, and other essential needs as more refugees arrive.

    A new olive oil plant in Kilis will bring new life into Turkey's olive industry while providing much needed job opportunities to Kelis, a town that has doubled in population due to the influx of refugees from neighbouring Syria. Jobs will help bring relief to pay for the essentials that both the residents of Kilis and Syrian refugees need to survive.

    18. In eastern Ukraine, Valeria, a student, stands up for justice

    UNDP Ukraine / Via

    “Bus stops and public transport, marketplaces, schools and kindergartens, hospitals and residential areas have become battlegrounds in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine – in clear breach of international humanitarian law which governs the conduct of armed conflicts.”

    During a press conference in Kyiv, Luhansk student Valeria Kulish tells the story of the kidnapping of her parents by armed men.

    In the Ukraine, we are supporting civic Human Rights Monitors to observe and investigate ongoing human rights violations occurring in ongoing battle zones in eastern Ukraine.

    19. In Tajikistan, Zan va Zamin, tackle environment and rural poverty

    UNDP Tajikistan / Via

    Zan va Zamin (Women and Earth) was established in 1999 by women teachers, scientists and doctors to tackle social issues that Tajik women were facing such as poor healthcare standards, environmental degradation and women’s rights. It was founded by Muhabbat Mamadalieva, one of Tajikistan’s first female biologists.

    With a staff that includes women farmers, orchard and grafting trainers, and Tajikistan’s first woman PhD holder in plant genetics, Zan va Zamin has become a highly respected organization, known for its accomplishments in helping women with rights (including land rights), providing sustainable farming and conserving the environment. The organization defends the interests of rural communities, especially rural women farmers' rights, on issues related to natural and environmental management.

    20. In El Salvador, women gain grounds in politics

    UNDP El Salvador / Via

    Ana Luisa Rodríguez de González has already served four terms as the mayor of Atiquizaya. She won her first election in 2003. In that same year, of the 262 municipal councils holding elections, only 15 were led by women.

    "These first elections I contested were a two-fold challenge for me", said Ana Luisa. "First of all, I was concerned not to let down all those people who had placed their faith in me; but I also felt that if I were to fail, people would not see this merely as a personal failure on my part, but would say instead that women were not up to the task. Many people wondered about that: whether a woman would be able to be an effective mayor".

    Boy did Ana Luisa prove the cynics wrong. Women leaders in politics is still very new in El Salvador. UNDP is working with the government of El Salvador to increase women's participation and representation in local and national government, and encourage more young women to become interested in government and politics.

    21. In Guatemala, Elena, a genocide survivor makes history.

    UNDP Guatemala / Via

    "It is vital for there to be justice," said Elena de Paz, a genocide survivor.

    In 2013, Elena was 1 of 97 Mayan women from the town of Ixil who made history when they testified the sexual violence and rape they lived through during Guatemala's 36-years-long civil war. The women's testimonies helped prosecute the men responsible for many heinous crimes in Guatemala's landmark case of genocide and crimes against humanity.

    Through our Rule of Law Global Programme to strengthening the rule of law in crisis-affected and fragile Situations, we work daily to get justice for Elena and millions of survivors of civil wars and violence worldwide.

    22. In Peru, the women of Canchayllo tackle climate change

    Alvaro Beltran/ UNDP Peru / Via

    "Because we now understand how to manage and irrigate our water, we no longer worry about drought for our farms. Our animals will have water during the dry season. The permanent lagoons will bring wildlife and plants so we can live in harmony with nature." Read why water is life for a community in Peru."

    The community of Chanchayllo in Peru has struggled with drastic weather changes and reliable sources of water. A joint initiative funded by Germany, supported by UNDP Peru, the government of Peru, the EBA Mountain Project, UNEP, and IUCN is helping the residents to tackle climate change and manage water more efficiently,

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