Ms. Global: World Leaders Pledge Climate Action at COP 26; Barbados Elects First President; Israel Pushes West Bank Settlements

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The U.S. ranks as the 19th most dangerous country for women, 11th in maternal mortality, 30th in closing the gender pay gap, 75th in women’s political representation, and painfully lacks paid family leave and equal access to health care. But Ms. has always understood: Feminist movements around the world hold answers to some of the U.S.’s most intractable problems. Ms. Global is taking note of feminists worldwide.


Japan

Despite a law Japan passed in 2018 to encourage political parties to have an equal number of female and male candidates, the general election for Japan’s lower house yielded two fewer women in office than in the previous election. Only 45 out of the 465-seat House of Representatives were awarded to women—9.7 percent of all members. Among the candidates who ran, 186 were women (17.7 percent), a record high for Japan.

Japan is listed as 120th out of 156 countries for political empowerment by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. The government has since set the goal to raise the proportion of women running in national elections to 35 percent by 2025, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wanted women to hold more positions of leadership in government and business. 

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with his Cabinet on December 24, 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

Israel

Despite disapproval from the Biden administration, Israel has moved forward with plans to build more than 3,000 new settlement homes deep in the occupied West Bank. The move would further consolidate Israeli presence in the area. The plans have created conflict within the Israeli government, made up of a large coalition of many parties who had agreed to come together by avoiding one-sided decisions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Barbados

As Barbados prepares to become a republic, Dame Sandra Mason will become the first ever president elect, removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state, On November 30, she will be sworn in to mark the 55th anniversary of Barbados’s independence from Britain.

“The time [had] come,” the Barbados government wrote, for the country to “fully leave our colonial past behind.”

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Dame Sandra Mason and Queen Elizabeth on March 23, 2018. (KnowledgeWalk Institute)

Sierra Leone

A historic bill was introduced in Sierra Leone that mandates that women occupy 30 percent of Cabinet posts and 30 percent of the 146-seat Parliament. This bill is a step in the right direction as women are barely represented in government with only around 12 percent of members of Parliament being women. The hope is that if this bill is passed, issues around gender discrimination, sexual violence and other matters will begin to improve.

Brazil

Legislators in Brazil are enraged and worried about how far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is handling COVID-19.

Over 600,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19—and the pandemic is not subsiding. In response, Bolsonaro has called the virus a “little flu,” has stated that COVID-19 vaccines are linked to AIDS, promoted unproven drug treatments, among other actions. A panel of legislators are now discussing and recommending Bolsonaro face multiple criminal charges.

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A patient receives a COVID-19 vaccination in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on January 17, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)

Afghanistan

On Nov. 2, an attack on Afghanistan’s largest military hospital killed at least 25 people and wounded more than 50. Two explosions took place, followed by gunmen opening fire.

The Islamic State (ISIS), the biggest threat to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, took responsibility for the attack. Since the Taliban’s seizure of the capital of Kabul in August, ISIS has carried out numerous attacks targeting civilians. The situation in Afghanistan continues to worsen as an economic crisis threatens to plunge millions of Afghans into poverty in the coming months as the violence from militant groups continues. 

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Taliban fighters on May 28, 2012. (Department of Defense / Lt. Joe Painter)

International

+ Women have made more significant changes to their behaviors and actions to combat climate change than men, according to a Women’s Forum survey of over 10,000 people across the G20 countries. The survey, released on October 18, also found women’s mental health was more impacted by the pandemic than men.

The good news? Eighty-four percent of respondents believed that closing the gender gap and creating an inclusive economic recovery is necessary—though one in three said they did not believe true equality could be reached in their country. 

+ In the first publicly available data set on abortion incidences released this year, the Guttmacher Institute found global disparities on abortion incidence: 54 percent of countries had at least one observation of abortion data from 1990-2018. This was integral to understanding the necessity of robust data—especially in understanding the needs of people’s sexual and reproductive health. 

2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference—or COP 26

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes President Joe Biden to the COP26 summit in Glasgow on Nov. 1. (Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street)

COP 26: Day 1

During day one in Glasgow, politicians and activists including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres and Txai Suruí—a 24-year-old Indigenous climate activist from Brazil—emphasized the perils of the climate crisis and the necessity of direct and immediate action. Some had optimism—like David Attenborough who said, “In my lifetime, I have witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery.” Others, like Guterres, said climate optimism is an illusion.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, did not attend the talks in Glasgow, along with Vladmir Putin of Russia and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Xi did not make any significant climate pledges in his written statement.

Narendra Modi of India, on the other hand, pledged that India will have net zero emissions by 2070 and that half of their energy will come from renewable sources by 2030.

COP 26: Day 2

A protest in Milan on Oct. 1. (Wikimedia Commons)

During day two, a number of pledges were made, from Biden announcing plans to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 to African countries preparing to spend at least 6 billion dollars a year of tax revenue on climate change adaptations, calling on rich countries to aid their goal by providing 2.5 billion a year for the next five. 

The president of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr., spoke to world leaders about the environmental destruction on the island nation: “There is no dignity to a slow and painful death: You might as well bomb our islands.”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg added her own cynical take on the climate crisis, singing along with other climate activists gathered outside the conference, “You can shove your climate crisis up your arse.”

Meanwhile, police in Scotland came forward with an apology for blocking off the well-lit streets in Glasgow because of COP 26 security concerns, leading to women having to walk home in the dark. 

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About and

Leela de Paula is an editorial fellow at Ms. and a junior at Smith College studying government and gender studies. Her academic interests include global feminism, international politics and feminist legal theory. She calls many continents home.
Juliet Schulman-Hall is an editorial fellow for Ms. and a senior at Smith College. She is majoring in English language & literature, minoring in sociology, and concentrating in poetry. Her beats include America's health care system, disability, global politics and climate change, and criminal justice reform and abolition. Follow her @jschulmanhall