Category Archives: Women’s Rights

U.S. Support of Formula Over Breastfeeding is a Race Issue

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The formula industry has responded to the decline in sales to white women at home by ramping up its marketing to Black and brown women overseas.
(Shutterstock)

Andrea Freeman, University of Hawaii

When the United States threatened Ecuador with trade and aid restrictions if it did not withdraw a World Health Assembly breastfeeding promotion resolution that most people considered benign, if not banal, reactions ranged from shocked to amused.

Experts explained that the U.S. resistance, although extreme, was nothing new. The United States previously demonstrated its allegiance to the formula industry by refusing to sign on to the World Health Organization’s Ban on the Marketing of Breast Milk Alternatives.

This U.S. stance, like its intimidation of Ecuador, flew in the face of near universally accepted medical and scientific research proving that breastfeeding saves lives. Perhaps even more surprisingly, both acts perpetuate an alarming racial divide in breastfeeding rates that leads to significant racial health disparities. American support of the formula industry comes at the cost of the health and lives of Black and brown babies, at home and abroad.

Both the resolution and the U.S. opposition to it stemmed from a decline in formula sales in the United States. The industry has sought to make up for its considerable domestic losses on the global market. The racial aspects of this local-global dynamic are hidden in plain sight.

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Sexual Violence is Off the Charts in South Sudan – But a New Female Head Chief Could Help Bring Change

PHOTO: Navi Pillay (third from right), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, poses for a group photo with South Sudanese women from Jonglei State who shared stories about their experiences with human rights violations, including violence, child abduction, and forced marriage. UN Photo/Elizabeth Murekio

By Rachel Ibreck, Goldsmiths, University of London

A woman was recently elected as a senior chief in South Sudan – a not unheard of, but very unusual occurrence. This surely a positive change in a country ravaged by civil war and attendant sexual violence.

Rebecca Nyandier Chatim is now head chief of the Nuer ethnic group in the United Nations Protection of Civilians site (PoC) in Juba, where more than 38,000 people have sought sanctuary with United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeepers. Her victory is of symbolic and practical importance.

South Sudan’s chiefs wield real power, even during wartime. They administer customary laws that can resolve local disputes but also reinforce gender differences and inequalities, to the advantage of the military elite.

So could a female chief work towards changing this? Admittedly, even if the new female chief is determined to effect change — which remains to be seen — the odds are against her. The chief and her community are vulnerable, displaced persons, living in a sort of internal refugee camp, guarded by UN peacekeepers. Fighting and atrocities have continued outside, especially in the devastated homelands of the Nuer people. But the new chief has the support of the former head chief and a group of male paralegals, who have celebrated her victory as an advance for gender equality. Together, they might make a difference.

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Venezuela’s Health Systems are crumbling – and Harming Women in Particular

Health workers and patients protesting at the Hospital Dr. Jose Maria Vargas in Caracas, Venezuela. EPA/Edwinge Montilva

Pia Riggirozzi, University of Southampton

Venezuela sits on the world’s biggest oil reserves, but in terms of GDP growth per capita, it’s now South America’s poorest economy. It is mired the worst economic crisis in its history, with an inflation rate in the region of 500%, a volatile exchange rate, and crippling debts that have increased fivefold since 2006.

The economic crisis is inflaming a longstanding “economic war” between the government and the business sector – and a dangerous cycle of protest and repression is further polarising Venezuela’s already divided society.

In this scenario, violence of all sorts is approaching what could be a point of no return. The very ability of democracy to combine forces of transformation and resistance is at stake.

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Increasing Caesarean Sections in Africa Could Save More Mothers’ Lives

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Shutterstock

Salome Maswime, University of the Witwatersrand and Gwinyai Masukume, University of the Witwatersrand

Caesarean sections have been lifesaving procedures for hundreds of thousands of women across the world who experience complications during labour. The Conversation

Globally, it’s estimated that just under 20% of births take place via caesarean section – a percentage that’s gone up over the last three decades. This has raised concerns, particularly in high-income countries where generally too many caesarean sections are performed.

But in many African countries women who are medically required to have caesarean sections are not able to access them. This is due to several reasons, the most prominent being weak health systems and a lack of resources.

This needs to be fixed as women in sub-Saharan African suffer from the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world. Close to 550 women die for every 100 000 children that are born. This amounts to 200 000 maternal deaths a year – or two-thirds of all maternal deaths per year worldwide.

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