One Community of Women and Men: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

By Amanda Lo

The Woodrow Wilson Center and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) brought together a panel of four male leaders to discuss the possible roles men can play in combating gender-based violence. The event, Male Leaders Speak: Critical Strategies for Combatting Gender-Based Violence, launched USAID’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, that began on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.

Most of the conversation was focused on the situation of girls and women in Africa. Donald Steinberg from USAID shared his experiences serving as former U.S. Ambassador to Angola, and Major General Patrick Cammaert (retired) spoke about his time when he was former United Nations Force Commander for the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the topics of discussion was on changing attitudes surrounding violence against women. IWPR’s research on the status of women in the Middle East has shown that sometimes attitudes of men and women do not match when it comes to violence. For example, in Yemen, 6 percent of women report that domestic violence is widely or somewhat tolerated within their families or tribe, while 13 percent of men state that violence is widely or somewhat tolerated. According to an IWPR survey in Lebanon, women with higher levels of education were less likely to accept domestic violence than those with lower levels of education. Among men, approximately one in ten found it acceptable for a husband to beat his wife—regardless of levels of education.

Jimmie Briggs, co-founder of the Man Up Campaign, argued that early education to challenge the typical “manhood” stereotype—that boys can feel they need to live up to—is one way to prevent the continuation of sexual violence from one generation to the next.

During the panel, Steinberg pointed out that women made up the majority of the audience. This has been typical for events I have attended on women’s issues. In fact, the most surprising aspect of this event may have been that the panelists speaking about violence against women were all men. Clearly, ending sexual violence will not be possible without the joint effort of men and women.

In order to also solve discrimination against women in the United States, the approach must take into account that women cannot achieve equity without male allies. The entire population, not just a half of the population, needs to want gender equality in economic, political, and social realms.

Find out more about upcoming events taking place during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence on the website.

Amanda Lo is the Communications Intern at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

Paid Sick Days Could Save Billions

This week, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released Paid Sick Days and Health: Cost Savings from Reduced Emergency Department Visits, in which my co-authors and I review findings about the connection between health and access to paid sick days, using publicly-available data from the National Health Interview Survey. Our analyses show that, even after controlling for variables like race, age, income, education, chronic health conditions, and access to health insurance, access to paid sick days is associated consistently with better health, greater likelihood of seeking out prompt medical care, and lower use of hospital emergency rooms.

It may surprise some people to learn that 44 million American employees cannot take a paid sick day. If they miss work due to illness or the illness of a family member, they lose pay—and if their employer is not the understanding type, they lose their job. These workers are also unlikely to be able to take time off work to go to a doctor’s office when sick or to obtain routine or preventative care. If they become ill or need an urgent appointment, they are more likely to end up at the emergency room than workers who have paid sick days.

Our analyses suggest that if all American workers had access to paid sick days, 1.3 million fewer emergency room visits would occur each year. Because primary care is significantly cheaper to provide than care in emergency rooms, reducing the use of emergency rooms means a significant savings, even if people still go to a primary care doctor: treating common conditions at a doctor’s office is, on average, over $800 cheaper per visit than treating those conditions in emergency rooms. That means that the 1.3 million fewer emergency room visits would save Americans $1.1 billion in health costs each year.

The findings from this week’s report only scratch the surface of the benefits of paid sick days for both individuals and society. There is every reason to expect that paid sick days produce a wide array of real benefits for workers, their families, their employers, and the public:

—Paid sick days make workers less likely to go to work while sick. This means a reduction in the spread of communicable disease to coworkers and the public. During the H1N1 pandemic, a lack of paid sick days contributed to millions of H1N1 infections, with untold costs for employers, workers, and the public.

—Paid sick days help workers maintain stable employment: they are less likely to voluntarily leave a job where they have paid sick days, and jurisdictions with paid sick days laws protect workers from being fired simply because they missed work for being sick. Reducing employee turnover reduces costs for employers, so everyone benefits.

—Paid sick days for the parents of schoolchildren make them less likely to send sick children to school, reducing the spread of disease to classmates and teachers and thus reducing absence. Paid sick days for parents may mean improved school outcomes for children.

Americans are paying $1.1 billion in preventable health costs every year for emergency room visits alone. The total price tag in dollars for the lack of paid sick days is larger than anyone has calculated, but the human costs are even larger: workers and families put off needed care until conditions worsen beyond the ability of doctors to treat; sick workers spread illness to coworkers and customers; and workers are fired for getting sick, putting them and their families at risk of poverty.

Individuals and organizations across the United States are working to promote paid sick days as a solution for these problems. Groups like Moms Rising, the National Partnership for Women and Families, and numerous state and local groups share the experiences of workers and their families—backed up by information from IWPR and other researchers—to convince legislators and the public that paid sick days are a policy that benefits everyone.

Kevin Miller is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

Women’s Rights and the Arab Spring for Morocco

By Amanda Lo

In September, I attended a panel about “Women and Democratic Transition in the Middle East” organized by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Women’s Learning Partnership. Female activists and leaders representing Iran, Bahrain, Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco shared their experiences and views regarding women’s role and futures in constructing a more democratic society in the region as part of the “Arab Spring.” Overall, speakers expressed hope that the protests that have continued across the Middle East and North Africa since January 2011 have opened up possibilities for progress in women’s rights in their countries, while acknowledging that obstacles remain.

With respect to Morocco in particular, Rabéa Naciri from the Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc, one of the largest Moroccan NGOs focused on the rights of women points out that activism and policies addressing women’s roles and rights were present long before the Arab Spring, Nevertheless, the revolutions in the region have given renewed vigor to Moroccan feminist activism.

Moroccans were caught up in the fervor of protests against existing disparities and inequalities that began in Tunisia last January so that, on February 20, crowds gathered across the nation. Morocco’s king responded quickly, and within two weeks constitutional reforms were discussed.

The constitutional reforms in Morocco were approved in a referendum on July 1, 2011, by 98.5 percent of voters. A new section called “Liberties and Fundamental Rights” includes Articles 32 and 34 with statements concerning the rights of women, children and the disabled, Article 21 that prohibits sexism, Article 59 that safeguards these rights and liberties during states of emergency and, most importantly, Article 175 that says these rights cannot be retracted in future constitutional revisions.

IWPR and its partner on research about the status of women in Lebanon, Yemen and Morocco, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, will present a workshop in Marrakesh, Morocco in December with women‘s NGOS from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The workshop will discuss “lessons learned” from the IWPR-IFES project as well as some of the many events that are taking place affecting women’s lives in Morocco, and across the MENA region. Previous research on Morocco has covered women’s political participation, social attitudes towards women, family law and gender quotas, and women’s freedom of movement.

Amanda Lo is a Communications Intern with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.