UNSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the UN's multi-year campaign ‘UNite to End Violenceagainst Women' today. I'd planned to attend but missed it, so spoke afterwardsto Rugia Abdelqader from Sudan who welcomed the establishment of a mechanism to tackle violenceagainst women, and to Joumana Merhi from Lebanon who said that the campaign wasimportant because it was a qualitative change and meant that the women'smovement had "managed to break through the wall of silence about violenceagainst women". It's taken determination and a great deal of patience by the women working in Unifem ( amongst others) to get this far; when they first talked of violence against women as a public issue in 1995 they met with a wall of resistance. Today the campaign was greeted with real enthusiasm, but no one could tell me how much money was being allocated, so I rang the press office to find out. I was told that they hadn't"referenced that" in the launch and that they'd get back to me when they had foundout how much money was behind the campaign. I'm still waiting to hear back from the press office.The theme of this year's CSW is, after all, finance for women's empowerment and gender equality......
I did make it to the Interactive panel on The Role and Responsibility of Men in Preventing Violenceagainst Women that followed the launch. Kevin Powell, author of thebook The Confessions of a Recovering Misogynist was amongst the panellists. Powell said he was speaking asan American who'd been a ‘patriarchal male' when he'd been violent to womenthree times when he was a college student, and that he now "regretted itgreatly". He came up with a sensible list of things that men like him should do in orderto become men who were allies in the fight by men against violence againstwomen. Asked how to engage with such men, he said the key was to speak to themin their vernacular, to start with whatever culture they were into - and that the first woman he had listened to had spoken to him about hip hop (his passion at that time). Last year he organised a gathering inBrooklyn New Yorkto spread his message, 3000 black males showed up for the event. He said that if he'd said thathe was anti -patriarchal, anti-gender inequality and anti-homophobic, which henow is, no one would have shown up. Asit was, he managed not to use any of those terms and the 3000 men began thediscussion about their role in violence against women. I have to admit that I grimaced when I readthe title of his book - but after listening to him I thought the title wasn'tso bad after all.
Tomorrow I'm going to follow a group of women from north Africa and the Middle East around, they all run organisations in their own countries and are here as members of Karama. This morning they rose at 6am and their day ended exactly twelve hours later when they de-briefed each other. Tomorrow they'll meet at 7am to plan their strategy for the day. They do this every day and adapt their strategy to make the most of being here. I'll be reporting on what they actually get out of the CSW, why they've brought their own interpreter with them and why they think the commission is worth attending.
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