2008 Annual Report

Download our 2008 Annual Report

The 2008 Annual Report includes descriptions of our positive and negative experiences with the challenges of working in the field. It also includes extensive highlights from a new venture and expansion of the project into Tanzania, where the team facilitated a Christian Right of Passage for a group of girls.


Read the entire article here: Reliefweb

Snippet: Interactive Dialogue

Featured in the afternoon’s dialogue were Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA; Werner Haug, Director of UNFPA’s Technical Division; and Aminata Toure, Officer-in-Charge of UNFPA’s Culture, Gender and Human Rights Branch.

Kicking off the discussion, Ms. MANE said UNFPA had intensified its efforts to promote and mainstream a culturally sensitive approach to its programmes at the global, regional and national levels, in line with the Forum’s recommendations. That approach –- which furthered human rights principles through respect for different traditions, cultural backgrounds and ethical values -– was central to its work for dealing with indigenous issues.

By way of example, UNFPA was learning how to better deliver “intercultural” reproductive health information, education and services that respected indigenous peoples’ world views and cultures, she said. Its programmes aimed to improve the reproductive health of indigenous peoples, with a focus on both reducing maternal mortality and empowering indigenous women to advocate for their own reproductive rights. It had long supported interventions that helped to provide indigenous women with quality health care — including emergency obstetric care -– in such countries as Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Viet Nam.

She said important results had been seen in inter-cultural health models that involved traditional midwives and indigenous healers acting as “cultural brokers” between indigenous world views on health and Western medical practices. The UNFPA also carried out data collection and evidence-based studies, and worked to strengthen bilingual literacy programmes. The UNFPA was also aware that indigenous peoples’ perception of the world was central to their identity and that development policies must reinforce that understanding. Assuring indigenous people the space to become architects of their own development was essential.

The UNFPA was committed to the Declaration, she said, adding that its adoption -– coupled with the support it had received from Governments -– had been a key for UNFPA’s work on indigenous issues. She looked forward to building on the recommendations to be made by the Forum.

Speaking next, JORGE PARRA, UNFPA representative from Ecuador, said indigenous peoples’ access to professional attendance at birth was 30 per cent, versus 70 per cent in non-indigenous populations. School attendance was 2.5 years for indigenous women. As for UNFPA’s work, he said the agency aligned itself with Ecuador’s national priorities. The UNFPA sought to ensure that an inter-cultural approach prevailed in public policy. In that context, there was a need for variables that covered indigenous peoples in the national census. To address that issue, a technical committee had been created to gather data on indigenous people.

In health matters, he said indigenous people viewed health, including reproductive health, holistically and UNFPA had developed a holistic health system to complement Western medical practice. In addition, UNFPA was working to combat gender-based violence, often a hidden problem, notably by strengthening indigenous women’s organizations. The challenges ahead included the creation of public policies with greater social inclusion, space for dialogue between indigenous peoples and Governments, and strengthened participation of indigenous women in various aspects of life.

ALFONSO SANDOVAL, UNFPA representative from Mexico, said 43 per cent of that country’s population lived in poverty; 14 per cent in abject poverty. Some 12 million people were indigenous, belonging to 68 ethno-linguistic groups, six of which constituted more than half of that population. However, there were gaps in the information collected in demographic surveys. Changes among indigenous populations were occurring: fertility and mortality were falling, and their participation in migration flows — notably to the United States — was increasing. More than one third of them lived outside traditional territories. At the same time, maternal mortality was three times that of non-indigenous women, mainly due to a lack of culturally adequate services.

He said UNFPA supported projects in reproductive health services through federal and State institutions, as well as by developing community-based health care models, in Chiapas and Oaxaca, for example. The UNFPA also promoted and participated in efforts to better use of socio-demographic information. There were three challenges: achieving full integration of indigenous peoples’ needs in all statistical and demographic systems; mainstreaming the approach to human rights in cooperation for development; and strengthening indigenous peoples’ access to services dealing with reproductive health and gender equality.

BRUCE CAMPBELL, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam, said Viet Nam had almost 85 million people, including 54 major ethnic groups who lived mainly in border and mountainous regions. Most of the Millennium Development Goals had already been attained in Viet Nam. There were large discrepancies, however, in progress among indigenous peoples. Ethnic minorities had poverty rates three times higher than those of the rest of the population. Maternal mortality rates were also much higher among ethnic minorities than the rest of the population. The Government had made efforts to redress those imbalances. The UNFPA had a top-down approach to education and to training health-care workers. Despite those efforts, in areas with large populations of ethnic groups, there was a lower utilization rate than in the rest of the country. The UNFPA started a midwives training programme and had recruited ethnic minorities to work in its programme field offices. Between 1 and 15 April, it had completed a population and housing census in Viet Nam, which included details on ethnic minorities.

Still, there was no simple answer, he said. The UNFPA could not just train midwives and expect them to deliver women in their homes, as some needed emergency obstetric care. The UNFPA was looking at the challenge of trying to encourage health-care services close to home, while also giving women access to services farther away. It was working to create a systematic dialogue with women in their reproductive years about reproductive health education. There was no one-size-fits-all approach to minorities. The UNFPA was working towards a strategy that was flexible enough to address each of Viet Nam’s 54 ethnic groups.

Comments and Questions

PAIMANACH HASTEH, Forum member from Iran, asked how UNFPA perceived the Declaration’s impact on its overall work. The Forum had issued specific recommendations on implementing article 42 — did UNFPA intend to collaborate with the Forum in that regard? In cases of favourable political conditions, how did UNFPA ensure the principle of free, prior and informed consent in local and national health policy? In cases of State reluctance, how did it secure indigenous peoples’ participation in public policy decision-making? In what Latin American and Asian countries had UNFPA been most effective in its work on indigenous issues?

Posing another set of questions, LILIANE MUZANGI, Forum member from the Congo, wondered, in the context of article 42, how UNFPA would approach challenges vis-à-vis children, health, gender and youth. In the context of health, stereotypes existed, and she wondered how UNFPA worked in the context of article 24. In other matters, she said indigenous peoples possessed knowledge that could sometimes prevent natural disasters. Could UNFPA cite an instance in which the integration of that knowledge had been used to protect livelihoods?

Mr. BALKASSM, Forum member from Morocco, taking up a point made by the representative of Ecuador on the need for complementary health services, said some countries sought to end traditional practices through their assimilation policies. Did UNFPA do any work with traditional medicinal plants, which were sometimes marketed without indigenous peoples’ consent? Also, Mexico had played an important role in achieving the Declaration, but there was disturbing data cited in UNFPA’s review of that country. Did the agency plan to use the “partnership” slogan between the Fund, indigenous people and the Mexican Government to address Mexico’s situation?

United Nations Response

Mr. HAUG said the Declaration had already impacted UNFPA’s work. The UNFPA was starting to much more seriously consider the situation of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. Its programming very seriously took into account issues of equity. Indigenous peoples were concerned with inequities in terms of poverty and cultural differences. The UNFPA should continue training staff and implementation partners in its member countries so that they understood the full importance and relevance of those concerns. The UNFPA was a member of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues. It cooperated closely on the formulation of inter-agency guidelines, which had been disseminated to UNFPA staff and integrated into indigenous peoples’ issues in UNFPA’s country programmes. Many UNFPA offices had distributed the text of the Declaration, including in indigenous peoples’ languages, in Latin America and Viet Nam. It had also helped disseminate the Declaration in China.

Ms. TOURE said UNFPA was developing practices through in-depth consultations with line ministries in the countries it served, in order to include indigenous peoples’ views in UNFPA’s core programming process. All programmes stressed a human rights–based approach and focused on securing the consent and direct involvement of indigenous peoples in all programming. Governments must be key partners in that approach. It was important that the needs and rights of indigenous peoples be reflected in housing censuses. Otherwise it would be difficult to address their needs in pilot projects. In all countries in which it worked, UNFPA played the role of honest broker between Governments, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations. For example, in Panama, after 10 years of working with indigenous women on reproductive cultural health through a pilot project, a maternal mortality strategy had been developed, which reflected indigenous women’s rights.

LILY RODRIGUEZ, UNFPA representative from Ecuador, asserted that most progress on indigenous peoples’ rights had been made in Latin America. Sometimes, circumstances had made it easier to do that, such as democratic Governments taking power. In Latin America, it had been easier to move ahead with recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in Constitutions, for example.

Regarding indigenous women’s access to health services, she said that when UNFPA asked indigenous women why they were not using those services, they said that was due to geographical distance, poverty and discrimination towards them in the health-care system. The UNFPA was now working with them to break down cultural barriers in health-care services, which was essential for reducing maternal mortality. In Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Panama and Ecuador, UNFPA was working on such inter-cultural approaches, stressing the leadership role of indigenous women at the national and regional levels. In Ecuador, UNFPA had an inter-agency body to work with other United Nations bodies on cultural diversity.

Ms. TOURE said UNFPA’s integrated approaches focused on advancing gender equality, a human rights-based platform and being culturally sensitive to issues of concern. For example, in Kenya, the practice of female genital mutilation was common among some minorities as a rite of passage into womanhood. The UNFPA was developing dialogues with many groups to convince them of the negative consequences of such practices on women’s health. The UNFPA had reached agreement with them that they would develop an alternative rite of passage, where cultural practices would be maintained, but the genital cutting would stop.

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“The Cut”

“The Cut” is a short documentary about Mary (14 years old) and Alice (early 20’s) from Kenya. Both are affected by the traditional rite of passage into womanhood: genital cutting.

Mary and her community is preparing for her ceremonial cutting.

Alice is studying to be a social worker to work against female genital mutilation. As the first in her community to refuse the practice, she has paid a high price for her choice to break with tradition.

Alice tells of the different myths she encounters in the community around her, as to why circumcision is practiced. Mary, on the other hand, has no voice. She just goes through the preparations and rituals in silence.

The film is in its final stages of production and will be launched soon. Until then, please see the trailer below. Many thanks to Director, Linda May Kallestein, for sharing this incredible project with us.

“Push for laws to protect women” Daily Nation

Written by: Bornice Biomndo

Attorney-general Amos Wako was on Monday accused of being an obstacle to the enactment of laws that protect women against gender-based violence.

Lawyer and nominated MP Millie Odhiambo said so far 15 pieces of legislation relating to women were stalled in Mr Wako’s office. They include the Family Protection Bill and the Anti-FGM Bill.

She wants the AG to forward the drafts to the Cabinet so that they can be debated in Parliament.

Speaking during a function organised by the United Nations to celebrate International Women’s Day, Ms Odhiambo said women lawmakers were set to push for the laws.

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Marking International Women’s Day, March 8th welcomed a seminar for 94 youth leaders of the Bahati Deanery of the Nakuru Catholic Diocese. It went very well.

The young women and men were from all of the Secondary Schools in the deanery. We learned, unfortunately, that most of the girls were already circumcised at the time of the seminar. They were in tears when they learned more about the effects of and difficulties that can result from FGM.

These experiences remind our team leaders over and over again how much we need to build the Centre, train more educators and minister to these traumatized young women.


UNICEF is hosting a two-day conference on making legal systems work to achieve children’s and women’s rights. The event brings together representatives of governments, non-governmental organizations and UN agencies, as well as academics, parliamentarians and experts on human rights legislation.

UNICEF has played a leading role in encouraging legal reform to realize children’s rights, Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted in her opening remarks at the conference, which wraps up today in New York City. She added that the meeting represented a step toward bringing together key actors engaged in legislative reform initiatives and launching discussions on how to formalize these initiatives into a coordinated effort to advance human rights.

In this video, Former Speaker of Parliament in Burkina Faso Mélégué Traoré talks about how his country addressed the human rights issue of female genital mutilation.

Province Express: “Catering to every taste”

World Youth Day’s biggest Youth Festival, staged by MAGiS08 at St Aloysius College and Loreto Kirribilli, exceeded the expectations of organisers, says Program Coordinator Steve Coté.

‘The festival went extremely well-there were even more people than we had anticipated’, he says.

Festival-goers were welcomed by an enthusiastic group of well-prepared teachers and school parents, who managed a range of technical and logistical issues with smiles and aplomb.

‘The festival would not have existed without the outstanding support it received from St Aloysius College and Loreto Kirribilli’, acknowledges MAGiS delegate Fr Edward Dooley SJ.

Two events in particular were virtually ‘sold out’: Sr Denise Desmarchelier’s forum on Women and Church, and the Personal Vocations workshop in which participants were given the opportunity to consider which path God had called them to follow. Both sessions for each event were overcrowded.

The three-day festival catered to every taste, with a variety of bands, choirs, dancers and drama groups playing to delighted pilgrims, and a well-placed café satisfying the latte set.

‘People loved getting their coffee!’ says Steve.

The festival covered a broad range of themes and issues: refugees were the focus of a panel discussion to mark the launch of the documentary Posada; female genital mutilation was highlighted by Sr Ephigenia Gachiri’s talk entitled Women of Mission, Vision and Courage-East Africa; abortion was discussed during Robin Koning’s Pro-Women, Pro-Life forum; future journalists were treated to the insights of Vatican Radio reporter Catherine Smibert at Australian Catholics’ Getting the Word Out workshop; and faithful adventurer Sam Clear drew a large crowd to his candlelit prayer vigil on Thursday night.

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