News & Updates
April 29, 2015
Our work at the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation is grounded in the South African philosophy of “ubuntu”. Many of you have asked of us, “what does ubuntu mean?” In the following video, Reverend Mpho Tutu, youngest daughter of the Archbishop and ED of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, explains.
July 29, 2014
Peace within is the presence of everyday compassion and humanity. Peace within is the everyday practice of taking very personal steps towards being better than we are. Peace within is contagious acts of love that leave our circle and our community better than we found it. Peace within spreads and grows.
December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 following complications from a persistent lung infection. As the iconic leader of the African National Congress, his determination in the fight against apartheid inspired his followers to persevere until they had achieved victory. Today, millions around the world who are struggling for freedom are inspired anew by his example. But perhaps his greatest achievement may have been the spirit of reconciliation that he fostered after being elected President of South Africa.
Mandela became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement and joined the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. In 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president.
For his activities opposing apartheid, he spent 27 years in prison, including 18 years at the notorious Robben Island facility. In No Future Without Forgiveness, Desmond Tutu wrote of that time, “Those twenty-seven years were the fires of the furnace that tempered his steel, that removed the dross. Perhaps without that suffering, he would have been less able to be as compassionate and magnanimous as he turned out to be. And that suffering on behalf of others gave him an authority and credibility that can be provided by nothing else in quite the same way.” His ability to forgive his tormentors was demonstrated during his inauguration when he invited his white jailer to attend as his honored guest. This attitude of forgiveness helped to transition the country peacefully to a democracy whose constitution protected the rights of all South Africans.
South Africa still has some distance to go to achieve full economic and political balance among its citizens. The first generation of South Africans who have grown up free of apartheid is now entering adulthood. The example set by Nelson Mandela will certainly serve as a powerful guide for how they will use their freedom to create their country’s future.
October 5, 2013
Recently, Americans witnessed another mass shooting, this time at the Washington Navy Yard in the nation’s capital. Thirteen people were killed and another 14 were injured. The shooter was well-armed, with among other guns, an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. He also had a history of violent behavior and mental illness. Such incidents bring the debate over gun control back into the spotlight, and raises the questions of why does this happen, and what can we do about it.
One of the reasons there is so much gun violence might simply be the large number of weapons owned by Americans. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center assessed the literature on guns and homicide and found that there is substantial evidence that more guns means more murders. A more recent study of gun violence in the United States corroborated this finding. The study was conducted by Professor Michael Siegel at Boston University and two coauthors, and published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Siegel and his colleagues compiled data on firearm homicides from all 50 states from 1981-2010 to see whether they could find any relationship between changes in gun ownership and murders using guns over time. The authors employed the largest-ever number of statistical controls for variables in this kind of gun study: age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, income inequality, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, hate crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted non-firearm homicide rate, incarceration rate, and suicide rate were all taken into account. The conclusion: widespread American gun ownership is helping fuel America’s gun violence epidemic.
The U.S. stands out in the sheer number of guns owned by its citizens. According to the Small Arms Survey, the estimated total number of guns held by U.S. civilians is 270 million, or 88.9 firearms per 100 people. The country with the second-most guns is India, with an estimated 46 million guns in private hands, or about four firearms for every 100 people. The U.S., with 4.5 percent of the world population, accounts for about 40 percent of the planet’s civilian firearms.
Political gridlock and a deepening political divide in the U.S. almost assures that there will be no legislative solution anytime soon. While mass shootings usually evoke a large public outcry at the time of their occurrence, public pressure for comprehensive gun control legislation wanes over time and political will seems to melt under the relentless lobbying of the National Rifle Association. Although there is often sustained support for specific types of legislation, e.g., preventing those with a history of mental illness from owning guns, to date such efforts have generally not resulted in new gun laws.
The good news in this otherwise gloomy prospect is that statistics show that gun ownership and violence overall are declining in the United States, though both are significantly higher on a per capita basis than in other developed countries. Perhaps the ultimate resolution lies in the story those numbers tell. The problem of gun violence will dminish as the culture of guns continues to wane and guns become meaningless relics of the American imagination.
May 13, 2013
Women in the U.S. have made tremendous gains in education, employment and earnings in the past 50 years, but there is still a persistent gender pay gap. Even young working women continue to lag behind men. And, unfortunately, the gap tends to widen from graduation onward. Here are some sad facts about the gender wage gap that were summarized by The Center for American Progress from data compiled by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
1. In 2010 women who worked full time, year round, still only earned 77 percent of what men earned. The median earnings for women were $36,931 compared to $47,715 for men, and neither real median earnings nor the female-to-male earnings ratio have increased since 2009.
2. The gender wage gap does not only affect individuals—entire families are impacted by women’s earnings. In 2010, in nearly two-thirds of families (63.9 percent), a mother was either the breadwinner—either a single working mother or bringing home as much or more than her husband—or a co-breadwinner—bringing home at least a quarter of the family’s earnings. When women’s wages are lowered due to gender discrimination, their families’ incomes are often significantly lowered as well.
3. Women earn less than men within all racial and ethnic groups. In 2010, the latest year for which data are available, white women earned 78.1 percent compared to white men, African American women earned 89.8 percent compared to black men, Hispanic women earned 91.3 percent compared to Hispanic men, and Asian women earned 79.7 percent compared to Asian men. The wage gap is lower for black and Hispanic women in part because wages for people of color tend to be lower overall. This gap occurs within racial/ethnic groups as well. In 2010, according to the Census Bureau, African Americans earned only 58.7 percent of what whites earned, while Hispanics earned only 69.1 percent of what whites earned.
4. Even though women are outpacing men in getting college degrees that’s not enough to close the gender pay gap. The American Association of University Women tackled the pay gap question by looking at workers of the same educational attainment—same kind of college, same grades—holding the same kinds of jobs, and having made the same choices about marriage and number of kids. They found that college-educated women earn 5 percent less the first year out of school than their male peers. Ten years later, even if they keep working on par with those men, the women earn 12 percent less.
5. Women are more likely to work in low-wage, “pink-collar” jobs such as teaching, child care, nursing, cleaning, and waitressing. The top 10 jobs held by women include: secretaries and administrative assistants (number one); elementary and middle-school teachers (number four); retail salespeople (number six); and maids and housekeepers (number 10). These jobs typically pay less than male-dominated jobs and are fueling the gender wage gap. These are also the “jobs of the future,” the kinds of jobs that the Department of Labor projects will grow faster than other occupations, so addressing the pay gap here will have long-term consequences.
6. The wage gap accumulates over time. Over a 40-year working career, the average woman loses $431,000 as the result of the wage gap. The pay gap accumulates in no small part because initial pay matters: If a woman earns less in her first job, when she takes a new job and her new employer sets her pay scale, they will often base it on her pay history. The lifetime wage gap for a woman who did not finish high school is $300,000, while the lifetime wage gap for a woman with at least a bachelor’s degree is $723,000. Making sure that young women understand the importance of negotiating for good pay from day one should be a pressing policy concern and is included in the Paycheck Fairness Act.
7. As women age the wage gap continues to grow. For working women between the ages of 25 to 29, the annual wage gap is $1,702. In the last five years before retirement, however, the annual wage gap jumps to $14,352.
8. Single women are even more adversely affected by the wage gap than married women. Single women earn only 78.8 percent of what married women earn, and only 57 cents for every dollar that married males earn.
9. More than 40 percent of the wage gap cannot be explained by occupation, work experience, race, or union membership. More than one-quarter of the wage gap is due to the different jobs that men and women hold, and about 10 percent is due to the fact that women are more likely to leave the workforce to provide unpaid care to family members. But even when controlling for gender and racial differences, 41 percent is “unexplainable by measureable factors.” Even if women and men have the same background, the wage gap still exists, highlighting the fact that part of the discrepancy can be attributed to gender-based pay discrimination.
10. Mothers earn about 7 percent less per child than childless women. For women under 35 years of age, the wage gap between mothers and women without children is greater than the gap between women and men.
There are pay discrimination laws on the books, but the continuing gender pay bias shows that enforcement is weak or lacking. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would help women and minority workers challenge discriminatory pay in the courts. The Paycheck Fairness Act would be an important step further and close the wage gap by prohibiting gender-based pay discrepancies and banning workplace policies that prohibit employees from disclosing their wages with each other. However, the measure has stalled in Congress and currently seems unlikely to even come to a vote in the House.
The gender pay bias is a form of discrimination as ugly as any America has experienced. It hurts the women who are its victims and the families they support. No society will ever achieve its full potential if it demeans and disenfranchises half of its population in this way.
May 4, 2013
A 4 year-old girl died recently from cardiac arrest at Care Hospital in Nagpur, India after being raped by a 35 year old man, Firoz Khan. He was later apprehended by police and confessed to the crime. The girl was allegedly abducted from Ghansaur, a small town in central India, on April 17, and was found by her family the next day, unconscious and with severe head injuries. Though she was quickly airlifted to a hospital in Nagpur and put on a ventilator, she did not survive.
This incident was the latest in a series of brutal assaults on very young girls that have sparked outrage in the country and raised awareness about how women and girls are treated in India, and around the globe.
Statistics collected by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women about violence against women and girls worldwide paint a grim picture of the scope of the tragedy.
- Worldwide, up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
- An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone.
- Most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships, with husbands or partners as the perpetrator.
- The first sexual experience of some 30 percent of women was forced. The percentage is even higher among those under the age of 15 at the time of their sexual initiation. Up to 45 percent of girls in this group reported that the experience was forced.
And the violence takes many forms:
- Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation.
- Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18. Women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might sometimes be justified in beating his wife.
- Women and girls are 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders annually, with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.
- Between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience various forms of sexual harassment at work. In Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea 30 to 40 percent of women suffer workplace sexual harassment.
- In the United States, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools
- Conservative estimates suggest that hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been the victims of rape and other forms of violence during recent conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.
Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices. Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health, and in some instances, results in death.
Over the years, there have been many theories about the causes of violence against women range from biological to social, political and economic. To varying degrees, in many countries, women have restricted access, relative to their male counterparts, to education, health services and justice systems. Gender inequality is often rooted in social attitudes and traditions, and enshrined in a web of legal statutes.
The United Nations has developed a list of recommendations aimed at dismantling gender inequality in all its forms and ending the violence it spawns. But the very first step must be to bring this issue into the light where it can be acknowledged and acted upon at all levels of society. In India, the recent brutal attacks against young women and girls have brought a public furor and activism never seen before. This recognition of an intolerable situation is the first step to real change. The struggle of women around the world for equality and freedom from violence is one that we all share.