UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/7207/all cached version 11/07/2018 07:54:34 en UK women: the loss of an independent collective voice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/annette-lawson/uk-women-loss-of-independent-collective-voice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women opens in New York today, women's organisations from the UK find themselves ignored at home and excluded at the UN, says Annette Lawson </div> </div> </div> <p>When the coalition government in the UK began to implement the huge changes it wanted to see in the nature of the State and its relationship to the people, we, in the women’s sector became increasingly fearful.&nbsp; Through 2010 we learned of the replacement of what we had with something called the Big Society.&nbsp; Women muttered that we <em>were</em> the Big Society, that we were already volunteering, already running ‘communities’– that we could see not just a double burden of paid work and caring for family, but a triple burden of also re-creating our local worlds. </p> <p>What we had not foreseen was that the Women's National Commission (WNC), which was set up in 1969 in response to the request from the United Nations that all member states should have ‘machineries of government’ that would include a mechanism to listen to women, to bring women’s organisations together and develop a voice to advise government, was also under threat. </p> <p>The WNC was an umbrella of around 500 women’s organisations drawn from all over the UK and its <a href="http://www.edf.org.uk/blog/?p=9319">task</a> was ‘to enable all women, either individually or through organisations, to express their needs and changing priorities in such a way as to enable government to listen and act on what they hear.’ In December 2010 it was <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_National_Commission">abolished</a>. </p> <p>The Fawcett Society <a href="http://fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1197">saw</a> the decision as “a clear indicator of the priority the new coalition attaches to furthering equality”. Our first reaction at the National Alliance of Women's Organisations (<a href="http://www.nawo.org.uk/">NAWO</a>)&nbsp; to the news that we were about to lose the WNC was to call a meeting at the <a href="http://fawcettsociety.org.uk/">Fawcett Society</a> offices with the Women’s Resource Centre (<a href="http://www.wrc.org.uk/">WRC</a>). Over the course of a year we consulted widely and developed a new model – ‘a hub’ -&nbsp; to bring women acting at local, regional, and devolved country levels together three times a year to work on UK-wide issues. Our first letter to Ministers was delivered fast and focused on what we would need in government.&nbsp; We asked for focal points on gender in every department, and that ngos with expertise be included both at Departmental level and in meetings of the Inter-ministerial group.&nbsp; We asked that any new structure for women would be placed high&nbsp; - at Prime-Ministerial or Cabinet Office level.&nbsp; Our <a href="http://www.nawo.org.uk/id5.html">model</a> for the women's sector is non-hierarchical – a web or hub at the centre – bringing networks and organisations together, campaigning, and offering advice to government at local, regional, devolved and national levels.&nbsp; </p> <p>We have not been invited to meet with government ministers. And the proposal for the hub has not received a response. It has been thrown back on us to organise ourselves as ‘civil' society without any funding or support from government. In summary, we in the UK have lost the <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110412093219/http:/www.thewnc.org.uk/">gender architecture</a> which is an essential part of effective government should it seriously wish to promote women’s equality. </p> <p>WNC’s functions have now been taken into the Government Equality Office. In the past one of the main complaints about the WNC was that it was not sufficiently independent of government, but today listening to women and advice to the government comes from<em> inside</em> government.&nbsp; The efforts of the GEO to date to consult and to strengthen women’s engagement have produced a new online interactive platform, and small groups meeting by invitation - and set to her agenda - with the Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone. But collectively there is no means of delivering an independent voice to government. </p> <p>In setting out the government's <a href="http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/equalities/equality-strategy-publications/equality-strategy/equality-strategy?view=Binary">equalities strategy</a>, Secretary of State Teresa May has said,&nbsp; ‘Equality underpins this coalition’s guiding principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility.’ While this is not the language that understands how gender inequality causes all forms of discrimination against women, the government does have an <a href="http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/equalities/equality-strategy-publications/equality-strategy/equality-strategy?view=Binary">action plan</a> and an advisory expert group including ngos on violence against women and girls and runs an Inter-ministerial Group on Equalities.&nbsp; Alas, history tells us that when gender is simply treated as one of many aspects of inequality, it tends to suffer a disappearing act.&nbsp; </p> <p>What we have now is a women's sector dissolving into groupings that no-one is able to see as a whole. The difference, and the current omission, lies in the inability because of the high costs, to bring the sector together from across the UK.&nbsp; We lack any kind of coherent, cohesive and collective voice. And in this fragmentation, we are disempowered. </p> <p>WNC was certainly imperfect, but what it provided was a powerful means, with limited resources, to bring women’s organisations together to consider problems and voice their concerns. There was a framework for analysis and understanding, and a means of arriving at a coherent and collective voice which was then taken to government. The WNC provided reactive capacity as well as more strategic and planned outputs. It was an avenue to bring to the attention of any Secretary of State or Minister an issue that affected - negatively or positively -&nbsp; women’s status, empowerment&nbsp; and access to their human rights. We worked on issues that ranged from the architecture of the International Criminal Court, to providing support for Iraqi women's ngos following the invasion.&nbsp; And in the spaces between we worked to consult and produce <a href="http://www.wrc.org.uk/resources/tools_to_engage_and_influence/working_internationally/cedaw_shadow_report_2012.aspx">Shadow reports</a> on CEDAW and enabled partners to prepare for the annual <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/56sess.htm">Commission on the Status of Women</a> (UNCSW) which opens today in New York. </p> <p>The Women's National Commission used to form part of the official UK government delegation to UNCSW, and was tasked with providing a conduit to all UK ngos gathered in New York at the UN. Every weekday evening we were briefed by officials as to how the text- the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/56sess.htm#agreedconclusions">Agreed Conclusions</a> - was developing or stalled in negotiation.&nbsp; Each morning we were provided with copies of the latest text and the nod given about areas that required lobbying of the stalling governments. It was very much a two-way process, the delegation being keen to hear our views and understand what the NGOs were up to.&nbsp; This system was recognised as a model internationally, and in 2010 the White House invited WNC's last chairperson, Baroness Joyce Gould, to advise them on how best to shape the new Council for Women and Girls.&nbsp; Margaret Owen, director of Widows for Peace through Democracy, reports that when she was invited to address the newly launched Indian National Mission for the Empowerment of Women (<a href="http://www.wcd.nic.in/">NMEW</a>) which had adopted many of the features of the WNC in its terms of reference,&nbsp; "I astonished the assembly by explaining that the WNC had been axed, we had nothing, for the moment in its place, and that this action probably breached the UK’s international obligations under the Beijing Platform for Action to establish an “institutional mechanism” to empower women. The NMEW has even adopted the WNC-promoted policy of having “gender champions” in every Ministry." </p> <p>This year at the UNCSW things will be different. The Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, is attending the CSW for the first three days, and the government delegation consists of only three people. No ngos are included.&nbsp; </p> <p>The final irony: we with our ngo global communities and our government – Labour and Coalition alike together with the EU as a whole -&nbsp; worked over several years to establish a new Gender Architecture for the UN culminating in the exhilarating launch of <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/">UNWOMEN</a> last year. At the same time we lost our own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/muadi-mukenge/keeping-hope-alive-in-new-york">Keeping hope alive in New York</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/how-about-equality-of-respect">How about equality of respect? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jane-gabriel/courage-controversy-and-chaos-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women">Courage, controversy and chaos at the UN Commission on the Status of Women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zohra-moosa/table-around-which-we-didnt-sit">The table around which we didn&#039;t sit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jane-gabriel/women-reflections-on-our-human-rights">Women: reflections on our human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/has-neoliberalism-knocked-feminism-sideways">Has neoliberalism knocked feminism sideways? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-institutions_government/girls_rights_4386.jsp">Do women and girls have human rights?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Democracy and government Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Annette Lawson Mon, 27 Feb 2012 07:34:31 +0000 Annette Lawson 64420 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Zero tolerance or zero consequence? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/letitia-anderson-pablo-castillo-diaz/zero-tolerance-or-zero-consequence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Laudable yet formalistic plans, committees and laws have been put in place to address violence against women, yet impunity remains rampant. Should the measure of progress be more mechanisms or less violence ?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>At one of the many crowded but colorful side events of this year’s session of the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/">Commission on the Status of Women</a> (CSW), a representative of Liberia’s Gender Ministry chose to display a picture worth the proverbial thousand words. The picture showed a member of the Liberian National Police paying for a ride with a motorcycle cabbie to go in search of a suspect. This simple image seemed to depict a widening chasm between words and reality. Though always part of policymaking, this has become a particularly acute feature of efforts to address violence against women during and in the wake of war. At CSW in New York, several events on the subject painted an almost picture-perfect world for women – not because violence has diminished, but because laudable yet formalistic plans, committees and laws have been put in place.&nbsp;</p> <p>Take Liberia, for example. Liberia has several women in positions of leadership, including the first African woman head of state, as well as the Minister of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Commerce, Agriculture, Youth and Sports, and Gender, many of them committed advocates for women’s rights. It has a national action plan on gender-based violence, and another on Security Council Resolutions <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/sc/res1325.pdf">1325</a> and <a href="http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N08/391/44/PDF/N0839144.pdf?OpenElement">1820</a>, on women, peace and security. It has a national task force on gender-based violence; a joint programme between the government and the United Nations on sexual and gender-based violence; a criminal court that works exclusively on crimes of sexual violence; new laws on rape and domestic relations; a thoroughly vetted security sector; and ubiquitous public information campaigns. Its truth and reconciliation commission heard more testimonies from women than from men. Within the UN mission (UNMIL), there is an office for the gender advisor and a conduct and discipline unit that deals with sexual exploitation and abuse. There is also a high-profile all-female peacekeeping contingent - UNMIL’s Indian Formed Police Unit. And yet, rape is the crime most frequently reported to the Liberian National Police and domestic violence is widely-considered the most prevalent crime, albeit unreported. Impunity is rampant. Zero tolerance may be the message from Monrovia, but there are still zero consequences for perpetrators in the counties. The special criminal court devoted to sexual violence saw only three cases in 2009. And, in a country where sexual violence affected a high percentage of women and girls during the war, less than five percent of abuses reported to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were sexual crimes against women. This raises a stark question: is the measure of progress more mechanisms or less violence?</p> <p>A similar case is Sierra Leone. They also have a national action plan on 1325 and 1820, a national commission on gender-based violence, accompanied by a task force, and a national strategy on gender. Six periodic reports have been duly submitted to the committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In 2007, it reformed its laws against domestic violence and family relations, and it has established 26 Family Support Units in police stations throughout the country to address violence against women and children. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is a woman. However, out of 927 sexual abuse cases reported in Sierra Leone in 2009, there were no convictions; out of 1,543 reported cases of domestic violence, not a single conviction ensued. <a href="http://content.undp.org/go/newsroom/2010/february/sierra-leonesexual-violence-carrying-on-with-impunity.en">According to a UN official</a> in Sierra Leone, “by the end of her life span, nearly all Sierra Leonean women will suffer from some form of sexual or gender-based violence.” Again, so many boxes checked, so little traction gained.</p> <p>The Democratic Republic of Congo has ratified virtually every relevant treaty: against genocide, torture, discrimination against women, the Rome Statute, the Geneva Conventions, their additional protocols. In 2006, the government passed new laws modifying the penal and procedural codes to facilitate the prosecution of sexual violence crimes, and it has created specialized units for that purpose within the national police. The Congo hosts a high number of national and international specialists working on gender-based violence, and has the first-ever <a href="http://www.stoprapenow.org/pdf/CSonDRCforweb.pdf">Comprehensive Strategy on Combating Sexual Violence</a> for a more cohesive response. Donors have begun to earmark greater amounts of money for programmes related to sexual violence – the US State Department and USAID, for example, claim to have committed or spent more than $100 million dollars to fight sexual violence in Eastern DRC. And yet, prosecutions are rare, sentences even more so and hardly ever enforced, and none of that money is reportedly being used to provide reparations for victims. The story of the Songo Mboyo trial is fairly typical. 78 members of the military were accused of having raped at least 119 women and girls in the village of Songo Mboyo in 2003. Only twelve of them appeared before military justice, and six were convicted. After a month or two, they had all escaped custody. Though the State was condemned <em>in solidum</em> with the perpetrators, the reparations awarded to the victims remain unpaid.</p> <p>There is a lot of energy invested in encouraging women to speak up, fight back, and report the crimes committed against them. Great effort goes into changing criminal codes, designing compelling plans of action, and establishing specialized police units, gender desks, gender ministries, and a plethora of task forces to address the issue. But perhaps greater attention should be paid to more prosaic, post-legislation activity and such mundane details as the filing system of police stations, the availability of fuel and transport, the existence of paper stocks and photocopiers so that victims are not asked to pay for forms that should be free, functioning prisons, and the many other practical matters that both citizens and police in post-conflict countries cite as everyday impediments.</p> <p>Such minutiae may not be the stuff of stirring CSW speeches. But hearing it reminds us that laws, plans and policies are not ends in themselves. It reminds us that beyond the comfort of the conference room are millions of women and girls whose lives are still accorded lesser value. Women whose concerns are abandoned as trivial in the face of what powerbrokers see as the greater realities of security, peace and war. To move from zero consequences to zero tolerance, the economic, social and political cost of committing or condoning violence against women must be high enough to render it irrational. Laws, policies and resolutions may be passed in poetry, but they are implemented in prose. It would be refreshing to hear a speaker mention, for example, that the Women and Child Protection Unit of the Congolese National Police in Goma does not have a computer to store data, or that neither Liberia nor the Congo have a forensic pathology clinic to handle soft tissue evidence for use in rape trials.</p> <p>Women who work on these issues sum it up quite simply: men commit violence against women because they can get away with it, and women remain silent because the justice system has proven ineffectual. Granted, corruption and lack of infrastructure affect all crimes, and lack of access to justice affects the rural poor in all countries. But justice reform efforts are overly-focused on delineating standards and creating structures, rather than finding specific and realistic ways to obtain suitable means of transport, office equipment, updated tools of investigation and prosecution, mobile police stations and accessible courts. Gender ministries can only do so much with large portfolios and insignificant budget lines</p> <p>This problem is exacerbated by the fact that sexual and gender-based violence is the only crime that stigmatizes the victim more than the perpetrator. And it is especially critical in post-conflict countries where sexual violence has been employed as a <a href="http://www.stoprapenow.org/">deliberate tactic</a> to terrorize civilians, for it drastically hampers the ability of women to engage in economic activity or participate in politics, and undermines the country’s prospects of recovery. Advocacy campaigns cannot expect women to break the culture of silence when they see that hundreds and thousands of reported cases yield zero convictions, leaving the perpetrators free to engage in reprisals. We cannot expect women in countries where most live off subsistence farming to travel vast distances and take time off the family plot for a day in court that may deliver law, but rarely justice. Without security, validation and compensation, justice is illusory.</p> <p>This year marked the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. There are significant strides to celebrate. Yet normative and policy progress is tempered by the sobering reality that more girls were killed in the last 50 years because they were girls than men were killed in all the wars of the 20th century. To change that, we are going to need a great deal more than awareness, laws, and action plans. Commissions and speeches can make themselves useful by bringing snapshots of reality into the realm of high-politics. They should be focused on committing to specific benchmarks and practical solutions, recognizing and incentivizing success stories, and giving women themselves a platform to speak. This can help bridge the chasm between capitals and conferences, and the women who are ostensibly their subject and beneficiaries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women Pablo Castillo Diaz Letitia Anderson Mon, 15 Mar 2010 11:27:33 +0000 Letitia Anderson and Pablo Castillo Diaz 50744 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Guns: the unending cycle of violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-masters/guns-unending-cycle-of-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The words of the women paralleled each other as they described how armed violence in the home and community, armed conflict, and the availability and misuse of guns feed each other in an unending cycle. These are not simple issues with easy solutions, but Sarah Masters says that this cannot justify apathy, silence, and inaction </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;"Somewhere in Colombia, a girl is hiding. Somewhere in Colombia, a woman is silently enduring her husband’s beatings. Somewhere in Colombia, an adolescent girl is being raped in front of her community. Somewhere in Colombia, a woman’s tears are being silenced. What do all these stories have in common? One word. Guns."</p> <p>To a packed audience, Rebecca Gerome of <a href="http://www.advocacynet.org/">The Advocacy Project</a>, opened the event <a href="http://www.iansa-women.org/node/334">In Harm's Way: Girls in Settings of Endemic Armed Violence</a> organised by the IANSA Women's Network, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, and the Mission of Norway to the UN.</p> <p>Chaired by Clare Hutchinson of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations/PBPS, the event highlighted the impact of armed violence on women and girls, violence which is particularly brutal in many conflict zones, as well as countries where it has reached a chronic level, including many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.</p> <p>Ambassador Mona Juul, <a href="http://www.norway-un.org/">Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations</a>, reaffirming her government’s commitment in dealing with armed violence, outlined how the burdens caused by armed violence are simply unacceptable – both from a moral, humanitarian and legal viewpoint.&nbsp;She called for greater understanding about what feeds armed violence, and the reasons why people pick up arms.&nbsp;A key part of this will be a <a href="http://www.osloconferencearmedviolence.no/">High-level Conference on Armed Violence</a> and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Oslo in April 2010.</p> <p>In a striking example of how gun violence affects all countries and communities, Samantha, Phoebe, and Niles, Eighth Graders at the <a href="http://www.lrei.org/">Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School</a> in New York City, shared their experiences. They have met with survivors and campaigners working to reduce and prevent gun violence, and questioned why gun violence is portrayed as normal and unavoidable. Using statistics from the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> they shockingly revealed that 3,184 children and teens died from gunfire in the USA in 2006 alone. Samantha explained that this means one young life was lost every two hours and 45 minutes, almost nine every day, 61 every week.</p> <p>They talked of meeting families and individuals that have been affected by guns, and showed videos of women such as Devina Perez of the ‘Put Down the Guns’ organization. Devina was shot at point blank range in a New York City train station, targeted as part of a gang initiation; Yvette Forehand, mother of a murdered son, explained how she started the <a href="http://roryaforehandfoundation.org/">Rory A. Forehand Foundation</a> in his memory, to provide educational and recreational activities in a safe environment; and Gloria Cruz who established the <a href="http://www.bradycampaign.org/chapters/NY">Bronx Chapter of the Million Mom March</a> after her niece was shot and killed at a Labor Day picnic.</p> <p>In her speech, Glynis Alonzo-Beaton of the <a href="http://www.ywca.org.gy/">YWCA – Guyana</a>, linked the issue directly to the Beijing Platform for Action. She commented on how familiar we are with the most obvious consequences of armed violence – death, injury and disability – but how the impacts are far reaching and go beyond the victim involved to his or her family, friends and wider community. In addition to physical risk and harm, the presence of guns encourages violent rather than peaceful resolution of problems; exacerbates community tensions, and increases the threshold of violence; negates measures to build confidence and security; is an obstacle to development; discourages investment and tourism; and contributes to human rights violations. Although this all seems insurmountable, Glynis reminded everyone that the change starts with us. This is why the YWCA is responding to the impact of gun violence on girls and young women through programmes and initiatives to empower them and support their role as peace educators within their families and communities.</p> <p>Bibiane Aningina Tshefu of Women as Partners for Peace in Africa in the DRC put it bluntly, “It is clear. Guns facilitate the destruction of more than 50% of the Congolese population.” She made concrete suggestions on immediate action to stem the flow of weapons into the country. She called upon government forces to stop selling guns to non-state armed groups; that the soon to be negotiated Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) must stop supplies from entering countries bordering the DRC so that they cannot be diverted to the country; and that an ATT must not allow international transfers of weapons and ammunition where there is a significant risk of sexual and gender-based violence, or grave violations of human rights.</p> <p>In his closing remarks, Daniel Prins of the <a href="http://www.un.org/disarmament/">UN Office for Disarmament Affairs</a> stressed how a people-centred view of security is necessary for national, regional and global stability with the participation of women as a key component.</p> <p>Despite the different countries and contexts of the speakers, their words paralleled each other in describing how armed violence in the home and community, armed conflict, and the availability and misuse of guns feed each other in an unending cycle. The speakers stressed how these are not simple issues with easy solutions but that this cannot justify apathy, silence, and inaction. They identified ways forward including data collection on gun possession and its links to violence against women in order to formulate and implement successful public policies to address the phenomenon. They are also demanded action to end impunity for armed violence against women and girls; and gun violence prevention through a strong and effective <a href="http://www.controlarms.org/">Arms Trade Treaty</a>. Finally, they agreed that gender equality and empowerment of women - the third Millennium Development Goal – cannot be achieved without eliminating gun violence against women.</p> <p>Sarah Masters is the Coordinator of the <a href="http://www.iansa-women.org/">IANSA Women’s Network</a>, the only international network focused on the connections between gender, women’s rights, small arms and armed violence. The IANSA Women’s Network supports organisations working on women and violence prevention to combat gun violence in their communities and support the global campaign to reduce the proliferation and misuse of small arms. Its aims to connect organisations, provide information and resources, raise public awareness, and build a united and dynamic movement of women resisting gun violence around the world.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Conflict Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Sarah Masters Fri, 12 Mar 2010 18:48:59 +0000 Sarah Masters 50721 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Putting money where our mouths are https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/putting-money-where-our-mouths-are <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lyric Thompson, in her last report from New York, writes that as we close the 54th UN Commission on the Status of Women, there’s no mystery as to what it takes to close the tremendous gap between policy and practice: money. Best-laid plans are moot if not resourced. Invest in women. As the UN motto reminds us, it's our world. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>&ldquo;Equality between men and women is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and is also a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for equality, development and peace.&rdquo; &ndash; Beijing Platform for Action.<br /><br /> We said this in 1995, when we penned one of the most holistic and far-reaching international accords ever authored to affirm the unique experience and rights of women: the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/declar.htm">Beijing Declaration</a> and <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/declar.htm">Platform for Action</a>.</p><p>Five years later, we had another global declaration: the <a href="http://www.undemocracy.com/A-RES-55-2">Millennium Declaration</a>, wherein we committed ourselves to a time-bound plan of action to eradicate poverty and achieve equality through the internationally-agreed <a href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/">Millennium Development Goals</a>. Two of them were specific to women.</p><p>At the same time, we were beginning to see more and more research coming out of places like the World Bank and the Economist&mdash;well respected sources of economic research and analysis&mdash;showing that investing in women is the best way to achieve broader development goals and stimulate economic growth. One such statistic is that women invest up to 90% of their income in the family, as compared to 30-40% by men (World Bank).</p><p>And it&rsquo;s not just the ending poverty target that can be achieved by investing in women. Increasingly, we&rsquo;re realizing that investing in women to achieve MDG3 - gender equality - can truly be the key to achieving all 8 Millennium Development Goals. Consider the following:</p><p>According to the World Bank, &ldquo;Greater economic and educational opportunities for women mean her daughters are more likely to go to school, her babies are more likely to survive infancy and her family is more likely to eat nutritious meals.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s progress on MDGs 2, 4 and 1, respectively, all through investment in the mother.</p><p>Also according to the World Bank, the children of educated mothers are 40% more likely to live beyond the age of 5 and 50% more likely to be immunized. That&rsquo;s MDG 4.</p><p>We also know that women are the stewards of and the closest to the environment (MDG 7), and they are the fastest-growing population infected with HIV/AIDS (MDG 6). And we know that the MDG that has made the least progress-nay, that has not moved-is MDG 5, on maternal health.</p><p>Or consider the words of Theres M&rsquo;Canunani, a Congolese woman who had this to say after participating in a year-long training in rights and economic empowerment at <a href="http://www.womenforwomen.org/">Women for Women International</a>: &ldquo;I did not know that a woman has the right of defending herself anywhere, the right of inheritance, the right of giving childbirth, the right of standing in good health.&rdquo; That one statement touches on MDGs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.</p><p>This is all evidence of how critically increased investment in women is needed. So one might imagine that fifteen years after Beijing and ten years into the Millennium Development Goals&mdash;a mere 5 years remaining on that charter&mdash;we would be making some real strides in doing just that.</p><p>One would be wrong. As of 2009, it was estimated that the U.S. was spending less than 4% of its foreign assistance funds on women and girls. 15 years after Beijing and 10 years after the penning of the MDGs, women still do 66% of the world&rsquo;s work, produce 50% of the world&rsquo;s food (up to 90% of the world&rsquo;s staple food crops such as maize and wheat), yet earn 10% of the world&rsquo;s income and own less than 2% of its land (UN). Clearly, our investments have failed to keep pace with our rhetoric.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s just the problem the Secretary General of the United Nations points to in a <a href="http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N09/637/20/PDF/N0963720.pdf?OpenElement">recently-released report on member-state progress on the Beijing Platform and the MDGs</a>. Looking at global trends, lack of resources was identified as the major hindrance to implementation in almost all areas. A quick examination of efforts on poverty, education, health and environment (the areas where BPfA and MDGs explicitly intersect) shows this.</p><p>On poverty, for instance, member states had made much progress in drafting national-level policies and action plans to address poverty for women and girls, but insufficient resources were allocated to implement them. Unequal access to employment and markets for women were also identified as major obstacles, as was women&rsquo;s illiteracy and the lack of development cooperation across sectors&mdash;which is to say, member-states were good at investing in anti-poverty measures for women and girls in areas like health and education, but slow to recognize that equal investment had to be prioritized in areas such as agriculture, infrastructure and finance.</p><p>On education, 2/3 of member-states had achieved gender parity in primary school enrollment rates, but most saw uneven implementation across regions or even within states. Again illiteracy was marked as a major challenge, with women still accounting for 2/3 of illiterate adults worldwide.</p><p>On health, again national-level policy and action plans to implement were largely promising, but insufficiently resourced. Much progress had been made on expanding health infrastructure&mdash;the availability of clinics and hospitals and the capacity of health professionals to deliver quality health services to women and girls&mdash;but reproductive health issues such as pregnancy complications still are the leading source of women&rsquo;s ill health and death worldwide. Widespread violence against women and malnutrition aggravated by the financial and food crises were also supreme challenges.</p><p>Finally, on environment, not only were resources insufficiently allocated to gender programs, but policy recognizing women&rsquo;s unique experience in environmental degradation, agriculture, energy and climate change was largely nonexistent, owing to a severe lack of awareness on the topic. Gender is not only absent from environmental policy, but women are also largely excluded from relevant discussions.</p><p>Between the Secretary General&rsquo;s report and the stories the statistics continue to tell us about women&rsquo;s perennial obstacles to empowerment and equality, the outlook seems quite bleak for achieving our commitments to gender equality and development on schedule. It is estimated that one billion people will still live in poverty by 2015, our target gate for achieving the MDGs. While we didn&rsquo;t set a date to realize the Beijing Platform, we can still see how far we have to go. As we close the 54th UN Commission on the Status of Women, there&rsquo;s no mystery as to what it takes to close this tremendous gap between policy and practice: money. Best-laid plans are moot if not resourced. So, on the 100th anniversary of International Women&rsquo;s Day, we at Women for Women International are coordinating a pledge encouraging member-states to invest in women to achieve the MDGs. We will deliver these signatures to the UN General Assembly this September, and make plain our concern that our promises are critically off-track. Join us today at <a href="http://www.womenforwomen.org/bridge">www.womenforwomen.org/bridge</a> and <a href="http://www.womenforwomen.org/bridge/sign-the-pledge.php">sign the pledge</a>. As the UN motto reminds us, It&rsquo;s our world.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/roberta-clarke/havent-we-said-so-already">Haven&#039;t we said so already?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Equality International politics UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Lyric Thompson Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:49:17 +0000 Lyric Thompson 50704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Haven't we said so already? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/roberta-clarke/havent-we-said-so-already <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> If the actions recommended by the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action on Equality, Development and Peace were honoured, Roberta Clarke argues that the Millennium Development Goals could be met. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>"The globalization of the world's economy and the deepening interdependence among nations present challenges and opportunities for sustained economic growth and development, as well as risks and uncertainties for the future of the world economy. The uncertain global economic climate has been accompanied by economic restructuring as well as, in a certain number of countries, persistent, unmanageable levels of external debt and structural adjustment programmes.... transformations in the world economy are profoundly changing the parameters of social development in all countries."</p> <p>These thoughts originate from the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/declar.htm">Beijing Platform for Action 1995</a>, a gender roadmap resulting from the UN Fourth World Conference on Women. Reading the Beijing declaration now, I am disconcerted by its far-reaching analysis. I am disconcerted not because I am surprised, but because I am dismayed that the policy insights at Beijing failed to capture the attention of decision-makers. Women are talking, but who is listening?</p> <p>Looking back at the Beijing declaration, I am struck by two sections addressing economic questions: on women and poverty and women and the economy. The first describes the pervasiveness of women&rsquo;s poverty, the generalised absence of specific gender-responsive policy, and provides an analysis of women&rsquo;s vulnerability to poverty. The second calls for a macro-economic framework that strengthens state action and accountability, and which facilitates opportunities for women - as it does for social development programming.</p> <p>Under the heading women and the economy, the accent on women&rsquo;s agency is widened and deepened with more language on the need for productive factors to be made accessible to women - information, technology, credit, and resources. There is also the call for the harmonisation of family and work responsibilities between women and men.&nbsp; In these two sections, and the rest of the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/declar.htm">Beijing Platform for Action 1995</a>, the strategic advance was the recognition that gender equality and women&rsquo;s empowerment is a goal which traverses state action in all spheres; that the responsibility of gender equity went well beyond national women&rsquo;s machineries.</p> <p>Beijing methodically carves out mutually reinforcing roles and actions of state and non-state actors. Gender &ldquo;mainstreaming&rdquo;, for many, is something of a cursed phrase today &ndash; denounced as the scourge of women&rsquo;s empowerment programming. But at the time the rationale was clear and compelling. Women and men, whatever their commonalities, also had very diverse needs, responsibilities and opportunities because of roles, expectations and unequal access to resources determined by gender. These inequalities were, and continue to be, expressed in women&rsquo;s limited access and control over productive resources - land, credit in particular, and in the differential valuing of women&rsquo;s and men&rsquo;s labours. Women&rsquo;s work in the domestic or reproductive sphere is not monetised, yet fundamental and taken for granted. In the public or productive sectors of the economy, women&rsquo;s work is under-valued and often compartmentalised in low paying sectors of the economy. Pay inequity is a global phenomenon. Women&rsquo;s formal labour market participation is lower than that of men&rsquo;s in most places. This has consequences for many areas, and in particular for access to contributory social protection schemes, especially important for the economic security of the elderly.</p> <p>Beijing became a rallying call for the incorporation of gender analysis in public sector planning and policy development. This also became a call on those government agencies charged with advancing gender equality &ndash; the national women&rsquo;s machineries &ndash; to lead the discussion and commitment for the development and implementation of policy and programmes that addressed inequality between women and men.</p> <p>Beijing recognized the institutional limitations under which some national women&rsquo;s machineries function. Many are less optimally funded, staffed and located and may wield little sustained political clout.&nbsp; And yet, the task of gender mainstreaming is a daunting one. It requires significant technical capacity across a number of areas, as well as the capacity to monitor and influence policy directions. Even the boldest of us gender advocates may need, from time to time, to take a deep breath of courage to step forward and demand accountability and action for our equality agenda. The persistence of patriarchy can be paralysing. The challenge of &lsquo;attention capture&rsquo; is particularly acute in the area of macroeconomic policy making. Macro-economics evokes insecurity for those of us who are not economists &ndash; even the term is distancing. But it is a challenge which we must not avoid.</p> <p>The current global economic crisis has further complicated the gender equality agenda. An economic crisis that developed in the wealthiest economies has and will continue to have far-reaching consequences for poorer countries. The trickle down or, more accurately, cascading effects are unavoidable. We are focusing on the current fiscal crisis now, but feminist economists and those who are concerned with other equity agendas have been arguing that neo-liberal economic arrangements are the problem &ndash; that chronic crisis for the majority of people the world over is an accompanying experience of market-led growth, particularly where there is little interest in redistribution and equity.</p> <p>If we think back to the discussions around structural adjustment programmes, the critique of market-led growth was that it was predicated on exploitable inequalities &ndash; both within and between countries &ndash; and that a strong state presence with a redistributive mandate was an essential re-balancing mechanism to ensure growth alongside equity. The women&rsquo;s movement and other social justice movements lost that advocacy fight to some extent, with state expenditures on health, education and social services put under pressure, as well as the dismantling of state regulatory frameworks. Many countries in the 1990s were forced into currency devaluations that contributed to chronic indebtedness, in particular in small open economies such as the Caribbean.</p> <p>The Beijing Declaration speaks to this context:</p> <p>&nbsp; &ldquo;Recent international economic developments have had in many cases a disproportionate impact on women and children, the majority of whom live in developing countries,&rdquo; it relates. &ldquo;For those states that have carried a large burden of foreign debt, structural adjustment programmes and measures, though beneficial in the long term, have led to a reduction in social expenditures, thereby adversely affecting women, particularly in Africa and the least developed countries. This is exacerbated when responsibilities for basic social services have shifted from governments to women.&rdquo;</p> <p>The next big macro-economic critique from women&rsquo;s rights advocates focused on trade liberalization. According to the theory, all trade barriers should be removed to allow free movement of goods and services, except people. The argument for free trade is based on the economic theory of comparative advantage: each region should concentrate on what it can produce most cheaply and efficiently and should exchange its products for those it is less able to produce economically. And so the trade liberalization agenda requires states to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports even from countries with more advantageous economies of scale. In the Caribbean the negotiation and signing of an <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/trade/wider-agenda/development/economic-partnerships/">Economic Partnership Agreement</a> between the European Union and Caribbean countries was accompanied by much discussion around the bargaining asymmetries between well developed, mature economies and small, open, dependent, vulnerable economies.</p> <p>For many countries the comparative advantage may seem to be poverty and the existence of high levels of unemployment which guarantee depressed labour costs, keeping the costs of commodities low at the point of export, though not at the point of re-entry, as downstream product imports. Even low wages however are not guarantees of comparative advantage where there are dramatic resource and power asymmetries. And here I think of Haiti which even in the 1980s was self-sufficient in rice. With the removal of rice industry&nbsp;protection mechanisms, cheap&nbsp;imported rice flooded the market driving Haitian farmers out of business. Without competition, it was only a matter of time before retail prices rose above the price of the&nbsp;imperilled Haitian rice industry.</p> <p>Beijing had little to say about trade liberalization, though there seemed to have been an awareness of the need to secure protection from deleterious effects of trade arrangements. It called on governments to ensure that national policies related to international and regional trade agreements do not adversely impact women's new and traditional economic activities.</p> <p>But by 2005, in the <a href="http://www.equalitynow.org/english/wan/beijing10/beijing10_en.htm">Beijing+10 review</a>, many governments recognized the negative impacts of major global and regional trends, such as globalization and trade liberalization on the situation for women and gender equality. These included &ldquo;increased poverty, particularly in rural areas, decreased social protection and basic services, increased violence against women, including in situations of armed conflict, decreased participation of women in political decision-making and a digital divide between women and men.&rdquo; That review also drew attention to rural women, especially in developing countries, who &ldquo;continued to be disproportionately affected by trade liberalization, commercialization of agriculture and the increasing privatization of resources and services.</p> <p>Although some studies are showing that the global financial crisis is having differential gender impacts depending on labour market participation and economic structures of countries, I am not sure that I find it compelling to tally up who is more affected. Is it a he-cession or a she-cession?&nbsp; I want to take as a given that both men and women are harshly affected, especially those already affected by class, poverty and exclusion. But gender analysis does help us with prescriptions for appropriate action.</p> <p>And so, I would argue that there is a particularity to women&rsquo;s poverty in many parts of the world that demands attention. What is this particularity? Whether or not countries have a high coincidence of female headed households, as is the case in the Caribbean and growing in other parts of the world, global studies show that on average more of women&rsquo;s resources and capital are dedicated to familial well-being, less on recreation, less on discretionary spending.</p> <p>This attention is needed because of the negative multiplier effects of women&rsquo;s poverty. Where children are women&rsquo;s responsibility, then women&rsquo;s poverty is children&rsquo;s poverty and in this transmission of intergenerational poverty, societies are impoverished and vulnerable to the host of social challenges associated with poverty. It is because of this negative multiplier of women&rsquo;s poverty that women&rsquo;s organisations were dismayed by what they saw as the limitations of <a href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/gender.shtml">Millennium Development Goal</a>s framework. In the context of poverty, the MDG has taken a narrow approach, whereas, as Beijing shows, addressing poverty must include very specific support to women in addition to changing the culture of reproductive responsibility between women and men.</p> <p>More plainly, women&rsquo;s rights advocates have been consistently arguing that poverty has structural dimensions &ndash; that an economic system that prioritises economic growth without redistribution of wealth through decent wages, through social protection programmes for example, ends up reproducing inequalities and economic vulnerability. At an individual level, they argue that women&rsquo;s poverty and household poverty should be addressed through creating economic and productive opportunities as well as ensuring that men make regular, consistent and predictable contributions to the care of children and other dependents, thereby reducing the demands on women&rsquo;s income and time resources.</p> <p>Women&rsquo;s rights activists and economists are demanding a response to macroeconomic trends that exacerbate inequality within and between countries such as unregulated transnational capital flows, debt service payments, inequitable trade patterns and the shrinkage of public resource expenditures on livelihood needs.</p> <p>So what can government agencies, the national women&rsquo;s machineries, do in this context? There are policy and programmatic responses. At the micro or individual levels, facilitating women&rsquo;s access to productive resources; at the meso level they can monitor and advocate for a better realignment of state resources to meet the needs of women and their families. And at a macro level they can use evidence to influence policies which take into account the need to redress inequalities.</p> <p>In its essence, gender mainstreaming is political as well as technical work. To secure attention, respect and response, a range of skills is required that include sector knowledge, but more so, advocacy, persistence, strategy, partnerships - and most of all the vision for alternative policy models that are more aligned to development and equity.</p> <p>Our vision must be for a more inclusive macro-economic framework. We must start answering the challenge of participating in the construction of alternative models of economy: models that promote global inter-dependence but do not undermine state capacity for food security, for the meeting of social and economic rights obligations. Models that promote the idea of comparative advantages, where the definition of such advantages do not include the exploitation of labour.&nbsp; Models where the state is strongly invested in its redistributive role and where the benefits of national resources are equitably available to all.</p> <p>In November late last year at the United Nations in New York, nine independent experts from different regions of the world and 15 international observers re-examined the Beijing declaration and its role in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. They concluded that all the Millennium Development Goals could be met if the actions first recommended under Beijing were <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/impact_bdpfa/EGM%20Report_BPFA-MDG_FINAL.pdf">honoured</a>. I agree. But haven&rsquo;t we said so already?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(This article is based on the keynote address to the&nbsp; 2010 meeting of the Commonwealth National Women's Machineries in New York)</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Economics Equality International politics UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Roberta Clarke Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:02:15 +0000 Roberta Clarke 50702 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Keeping hope alive in New York https://www.opendemocracy.net/muadi-mukenge/keeping-hope-alive-in-new-york <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will the government representatives at the CSW remember their commitments when they are back in their home countries? After all, any gains for women and girls translate into gains and advancement for the entire population and by extension, the planet. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>Delegations from governments all over the globe are here in the Big Apple to present glowing reports of the achievements made in their respective countries to advance women&rsquo;s human rights. Holding these governments&rsquo; proclamations to the fire are civil society groups &ndash; NGOs &ndash; which have produced shadow reports to reveal the true picture of the gaps remaining in areas such as violence against women, women&rsquo;s exclusion from decision-making, and lack of reproductive health services to reduce maternal mortality. Across from the UN where the government sessions are taking place, the NGOs are in week two of running continuous panels featuring activists presenting best practices from initiatives meticulously undertaken to improve the lives of over 50% of the world&rsquo;s population.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is my third time attending CSW, and as an activist working in a donor organization, CSW offers a critical opportunity to meet activist partners from around the globe all in one place. Given the economic crisis and the crunch in donor funding for civil society groups, I am actually surprised at the large number of activists who have managed to travel here. Private conversations over lunch or in corridors reveal the range of sacrifices people have made to come here, in the hope that the activists collective energy will make a significant difference in their home country. One colleague told me&nbsp; that while standing in a long registration line, she met a woman close to tears, frustrated at the dismissive way she was being treated to obtain a building pass, after having used her savings to pay almost $2,000 for an airline ticket from Kenya. Reflecting on the school fees that would go unpaid and her children&rsquo;s bleak prospects, the business that would be without capital for a year, or medical needs that would be ignored, she wondered what this whirlwind of a conference would do to change the specific challenges and discriminations women and girls face in her country.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Other colleagues who are championing legal rights, or fighting FGM, or challenging sanctioned social violence against widows, have knocked on more doors than they can count to obtain sponsorship, and they are sharing meager accommodation for these 10-12 days, in the hope that this 15-year review will bring urgency and commitment to the desire to enhance the humanity of women and girls. We are all huddling in conference sessions, sitting in the aisles, spilling out of the doors, in a conversation that will evidently continue way beyond March 10th.<br /><br /></p> <p>I&rsquo;ve been in more panels than I can count, squeezed in meetings at breakfast, lunch, teatime and dinner, and taken advantage of this time to have face to face communication and dialogue on a range of issues that hopefully make me more effective in my work in social change philanthropy. Here&rsquo;s a quick overview of some of the panels I&rsquo;ve attended so far:</p> <p>1) the impact of the financial crisis on women&rsquo;s organizing around the world, where presenters insisted on no more &ldquo;business as usual&rdquo; and insisted on women&rsquo;s participation at the highest levels of economic decision-making;</p> <p>2) a session on women&rsquo;s organizing in conflict zones, where activists from Northern Uganda, Liberia and Nepal spoke passionately of how they are rebuilding communities one step at a time and involving ordinary women in social change programs that bring to the fore women&rsquo;s leadership skills;</p> <p>3) a session on extension of women&rsquo;s legal rights, which showcased case studies from countries ranging from Mozambique to Turkey, in the hope that legal reforms could be actively implemented and usher in broad civil and economic rights for women;</p> <p>4) a caucus on developing government resolutions on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, where advocates insisted governments compensate home-based care workers who provide the bulk of palliative care -- a session in which the absence of sexuality education in the US was made grossly evident as an American teenager asked how HIV is spread and why it was spreading so fast in some countries;</p> <p>5) a session featuring activists from Haiti, insisting that post-earthquake reconstruction efforts not replicate the gender discrimination and inequalities of the past, but instead strike a new path beginning with hiring Haitian women as part of reconstruction initiatives;</p> <p>6) a panel on implementation of UN resolutions punishing sexual violence in conflict zones, particularly in places such as Burundi, DRC, Cote d&rsquo;Ivoire and Liberia;</p> <p>7) a session on the importance of non-formal education, where issues of building girls&rsquo; self-esteem, communication skills, conflict-resolution skills and knowledge of reproductive health, could make a difference in girls&rsquo; self-development where formal education often fails;</p> <p>8) a panel on the creation of the new UN agency for women&rsquo;s empowerment, where proposals included insisting on an annual budget of $1 billion, assuring that the agency is inclusive of the voices and priorities of rural women and the poor, and that female presidents be approached by the women&rsquo;s rights movement to lobby other world leaders to lend their support to the establishment of the new agency.</p> <p>A coalition of activists from around the world are also drafting a resolution on a women-centered approach to post-disaster responses which will hopefully be introduced by one of the member states as a model not just for Haiti, but for other potential disaster sites too.&nbsp; For the donors at CSW, it&rsquo;s also been a chance to meet together to brainstorm on how to make our grant-making more strategic and effective.&nbsp; As women&rsquo;s rights groups remind us that funding dollars are grossly inadequate at the community level, we must work in a smarter way to channel resources for the initiatives that demonstrate initiative, vision, courage, and positive transformation &ndash; while bringing more respect into the relationship between donor and recipient. On day two, week two, of the CSW we hope that governments attending CSW will remember their commitments when they are back in their home countries. After all, any gains for women and girls translate into gains and advancement for the entire population and by extension, the planet.</p> <p><br /><br /></p> <p><br /><br /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Muadi Mukenge Tue, 09 Mar 2010 22:29:44 +0000 Muadi Mukenge 50673 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women’s empowerment in Central Asia and movement building https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/angelika-arutyunova/women%E2%80%99s-empowerment-in-central-asia-and-movement-building <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the first time at CSW, women from Central Asia shared their stories. I realized that this in itself is the empowerment of women. This in itself is the movement building: twelve women talking about the situation of women in Central Asia.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>Imagine an hour and a half panel with 12 speakers&mdash;most who will make their presentations in Russian, which will then have to be translated! Can this work? Can it possibly be an interesting space with enough time for everyone to speak and for the audience to engage? And why do it this way? Why have 12 speakers on one panel?&nbsp;</p> <p>Those are the questions that ran through my mind moments before the session on Women&rsquo;s Empowerment in Central Asia and Movement Building began. I was among the 12 panelists invited to speak at this session during the 54th CSW in New York facilitated by our Global Fund for Women board member <a href="http://www.awid.org/Issues-and-Analysis/Library/What-is-the-status-of-women-in-Kyrgyzstan">Nurgul Djanaeva</a>, President of the Forum of Women&rsquo;s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan.&nbsp;</p> <p>As I sat there in the packed room filled with people who came to hear the voices of women representing Central Asia, I realized that having 12 women speak can and did work, and that there was a reason to do it that way. I spoke about the situation of women in Uzbekistan, and although I am not actually from Uzbekistan anymore, I was the only person on the panel who could speak about that because no one else from Uzbekistan could be there. Right now it&rsquo;s not safe for activists from Uzbekistan to travel outside of their country and speak about the reality there. Simply having the voice and the space to talk about how women were faring in Central Asia was the most empowering experience for all of us on the panel. And as I listened to the women from Kyrgyzstan who traveled outside of their country for the first time in their lives, not to mention speaking in front of such an audience for the first time in their lives, I realized that this in itself is the empowerment of women from Central Asia. This in itself is the movement building: Twelve women talking about the situation of women in Central Asia.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www.internationalservice.org.uk/what_we_do/development_awareness/human_rights_awards/2008_awards/asipa_musaeva.aspx">Asipa Musaeva</a>, one of the oldest and strongest disability activists from Kyrgyzstan from the Republican Independent Association of Women with Disabilities, opened the panel by sharing the situation of women living with disabilities in her country. She talked about the various ways women with disabilities experience violations of their human rights, from the right to free movement (accessibility) to the rights for their bodily integrity (sex, marriage, childbearing). She demanded the inclusion of women with disabilities into the broader women&rsquo;s rights agenda. &ldquo;Do not isolate us and treat us as if we are not women. We have the same desires and needs as the rest of you, and we must be included into all women&rsquo;s rights discourse.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>Then several women from rural Kyrgyzstan described the harsh economic situation facing their regions. They also shared powerful examples of work being done by resilient women in maintaining the dignity of women in those conditions. Rural women are agents of small change, providing crucial services for other women, but they are also strong political figures in local governments influencing decisions on budgeting and social programs in their communities.</p> <p>&nbsp;What was also so powerful was the direct connection between these women&rsquo;s work and their personal lives. Every problem and issue they described reflected what they themselves lived through and transformed in their personal and professional lives. We heard directly from an activist living with disabilities who fights on a daily basis for simple access to public buildings, but also for all women with disabilities in her country. She knows both the problems and solutions from that perspective.</p> <p>For the first time at CSW, women from Central Asia shared the stories of women from Central Asia. An activist and mother, whose daughter was kidnapped, was the one who shared her story in a deeply personal way of the so-called &ldquo;traditional&rdquo; practice of bridal kidnapping, where men steal young women and girls for marriage. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;Following these stories, the panel then moved to Global Fund Advisor Yevgenia Kozyreva, leader and founder of the <a href="http://www.aiwr.org/kazakhstan/partners">Feminist League of Kazakhstan</a> who was able to draw connections between the direct challenges faced by women to the regional and international policy level including legal frameworks such as CEDAW and the Beijing Platform. The local, national, and international connections made the twelve persons&rsquo; panel rich and diverse in portraying an accurate and full picture of women&rsquo;s rights organizing and their challenges in Central Asia.&nbsp;</p> <p>The perfect ending was the last speaker <a href="http://www.worldradioforum.org/ppasia.shtml">Maksuda Aitieva</a>, a journalist from Kyrgyzstan, who connected all the issues described by everyone before her to the power of media, in particular a gender sensitive media, to bring the true voices of all these women to the general public to influence the masses and challenge the stereotypes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Angelika Arutyunova Mon, 08 Mar 2010 20:20:52 +0000 Angelika Arutyunova 50658 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran: time to change the question https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/iran-time-to-change-question <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Parvin Ardalan spoke to Jane Gabriel at the UN CSW about the link between a conversation with her father and her work fighting for the rights and freedom of both men and women in Iran, and why it's time the international community changed the question: how can we help? </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>Jane: When you won the Olof Palme prize in 2005 it was "for making the equal rights of men and women central to the struggle for democracy in Iran". To what extent has the green movement taken on board your demands for equal rights?</p><p>Parvin: Women in Iran started asking for their rights a hundred years ago, first for the right to education, then to be part of the parliament, and then the right to reform civil Family Law and then for the right to vote. After the 1979<strong> </strong>revolution we lost some of the rights that we had achieved- such as the right of Muslim women not to cover; and they had made polygamy much harder before the revolution and it got much easier again. The laws were religious, the government was religious, the power was religious. We either had to accept that all of these things were happening under the umbrella of Islam, or we had to put effort into changing our situation. And so once again we started fighting for these rights.</p><p>In the last 30 years women have been able to use a variety of strategies to build a peaceful movement. The three major things we've tried to do are to make all this work face to face, to make it mainstream, and to raise public awareness. We have always worked to build the movement horizontally without a vertical structure. If you notice in the green movement it started with the right to vote.&nbsp; 'Where is my vote?' was the first prominent slogan and it came to mean 'Where is my right?', so when the green movement began, it used the strategies of the women's movement - in particular the <a href="http://www.sign4change.info/english" target="_blank">One Million Signatures</a> campaign in its work. The two movements are similar - they both want rights and freedom, they both act peacefully and both are widespread, horizontal movements. The women's movement was smaller of course, but it has grown little by little over three years. We weren't fighting for power - for political power - we were fighting for our rights. So in this sense both the movements were for rights.</p> <p>The June 12th election was for political power, but when the people found they could not vote and get their rights by voting, that's when it transformed into a vast social movement. It was a natural process. Many of the people who were inside the green movement were people from the One Million Signatures campaign so there wasn't a sense that we had to ask the green movement to include our demands because we were ourselves inside the movement.</p><p>There were different movements during the time we did not have political parties - like student's movements, worker's movements, women's movements - all of these movements became part of the green movement, the movement for democracy and for rights. They are not subordinate<strong> </strong>to it. When someone is searching for their rights they are saying "I am responsible for making my demands" and &ldquo;I am inside this social movement&rdquo;. I have never called this movement the 'green movement' because it is really a diverse movement with various demands. That's how I see it.</p><p>I don&rsquo;t say that this is a green movement and this is a women's movement because when asking where our votes are we are asking where our rights are, we are talking about the rights of society as a whole.&nbsp;When I am fighting for my rights I am fighting for equal rights between men and women. When you are fighting for the freedom to vote these are universal rights and you can't separate the women's part from the men's part. These are everyone's rights.</p> <p>There was some disagreement in the women's movement because some women thought that Mousavi and Karoubi should include our demands in their speeches and campaigns, but others felt that it wasn't necessary for the politicians to express our demands because we were already making them very clearly. So the women's movement began campaigns with other groups, <a href="http://www.irangenderequality.com/" target="_blank">Call for solidarity: Freedom and Gender Equality in Iran</a> which means that we are trying to support both genders, and the fight is for equal rights and freedom. We added the request for freedom to the request for gender equality and it has become a more main discourse, and in the last six months the Iranian people have been able to show the world that they are after freedom and rights. Many of the women's groups decided after the election not to communicate with the government because it has lost its legitimacy. For example, they collected all these signatures for the One Million Signatures campaign to give to the parliament, but now people no longer want to sign anything because they believe that no demands should be sent to a government that has no legitimacy. The situation has changed - people want gender equality but they don't think the approach is to go to this government to get it. So currently even the groups that did have contact with the government, no longer do. &nbsp;</p> <p>I believe that if the Ahmadinejad government stays in place, overtime what might happen is that they might try and engage with these groups in order to try to gain legitimacy again. Right now this doesn't exist. There is still a group within the women's movement working on family law issues and another on equal rights, because a number of groups were formed as a result of the One Million Signatures campaign.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>When the green movement started to flourish the government introduced a new 'Family Protection' Bill that makes polygamy easier; parliament initially approved this bill, but we demonstrated&nbsp; against it and the clause on polygamy was modified so that the first wife must give permission for her husband to have other wives. They thought that people weren't watching, but women were being watchful and continued lobbying specifically on women's issues. Now while people are being arrested and are in jail the women's movement is still protesting and is a powerful force against the government. And it's clear that the government understands that the strategies being used by the green movement and the women's movement are the same, and that these strategies have been institutionalised.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Jane: What does your mother think of your work as a right&rsquo;s activist?</p> <p>Parvin: She's very proud of me. She had a bad experience&nbsp;after the revolution, because the Family Law allowed my father [to get] re-married again with another women and then so our life, or my mother's life was very damaged, it was changed. Then she told me that if I wanted to become a journalist, I could write about these things, but that if I wanted to say everything I could be taken to court in order not to let other people lose their rights and so I continue to do this, I continue to follow her wishes. &nbsp;</p> <p>Q: Are you in touch with your father?&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Parvin:&nbsp;My father died.</p> <p>Q: Did he die before you became an internationally known women's rights activist?</p> <p>Parvin:&nbsp;When he was alive I was well known in Iran, but not well known internationally.&nbsp;</p> <p>Q: Did you have any conversations with him before he died about your values and your mother's values?</p> <p>Parvin: Yes I talked with him. First of all I told him that I hated him for what he had done to my mother, but gradually we formed a friendship, a relationship with each other, and I began to think that he was also one of the victims of the law - along with my mother and his other wife - and that's when I understood that we had to change such laws. I told him that if he knew more about polygamy he wouldn't have done it, and he became very angry. First of all he said it was his right, and that it came from Islam. I told him that it wasn't a right given to him by Islam but something given to him by the law.&nbsp; And then we discussed more and he understood that I understood that it was not his fault. He changed a bit then and said &ldquo;it is the law and it was my right and I took it,&nbsp;so if you want to take it you should try and change it&rdquo; and I said &ldquo;I will try to take it from you&rdquo; -&nbsp; and of course that's what happened&hellip; &nbsp;</p> <p>My brothers and sister support me too, but sometimes they think you cannot change everything. But we&rsquo;ve always thought 'Yes we can' change. And it&rsquo;s so funny that when Obama came along that was his slogan - he was following us! And when Karoubi campaigned, his slogan was 'Change' and so I think that we can say that changing is the idea that started from women, because we were in such a bad situation, and when you lose everything - that's when you start to create change. I think we started the idea of change and now everybody has started too.&nbsp;</p> <p>Q: How difficult have the past ten years been for you?</p> <p>Parvin: I've been working in women's rights for more than ten years.&nbsp; For many years now we have organized demonstrations for women in different parts of Iran, and we have been arrested and given sentences. I have been interrogated under every single president since Rafsanjani; they are all the same, but have slightly different versions. So I have a lot of experience with being under pressure from the governments. After Ahmadinejad came we organised a demonstration for women's rights and they arrested 70 people, and they sentenced me to three years with a minimum of serving six months. The case is still going through the courts. &nbsp;</p> <p>Q: How did winning the Olof Palme Prize in 2005 affect your work?</p><p>Parvin: Of course it was a good thing because it was a time when we were oppressed and also it was a non-governmental prize of course, so for me it has some legitimacy. I was happy because I knew that the prize was for people who struggle for democracy. It has made me more secure and it has given me more responsibility. The government continues the pressure, but I don't want to stop being an activist because I think that the peaceful action we are engaged in and what we are struggling for is too important to stop.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Sometimes I feel so tired I want to give up, but most of the time, no, because when I look into the future I know that if or when they do stop us it will be very sad, because little by little you can see that another generation is coming up, the young generation in Iran is very hopeful for things, and when I was arrested and sentenced it was a very bad time for me, but then when I went back out on to the street I saw so many people were there too.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Q: One of the debates here at the UN Commission on the Status of Women meeting is the extent to which women should make an effort to engage with men. Are you making an effort to engage with men in the movement for equality?&nbsp;</p> <p>Parvin: When we started this movement we started working with women because we needed empowerment. But little by little, as we made ourselves more empowered, we started working with other movements and men. When we ran the One Million Signature campaign we understood that if you want to change the idea for demanding equal rights you need to talk with men, and now we have some men who are activists fighting for women's rights. One of them is very well known, Kaveh Kermanshahi, he's a very nice man and he is now in jail because of his work with us and for the rights of the Kurdish people. When we started fighting for our rights we understood the need to honour the rights of others too, and to collaborate in our work. So now we have <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/iran_man_arrested.php" target="_blank">men for equality</a> and working on the One Million Signature campaign, and so if they are working for equal rights it means they are fighting for women's rights too. Now when we talk about gender equality movements and our campaign <a href="http://www.irangenderequality.com/" target="_blank">Call for solidarity: Freedom and Gender Equality in Iran</a> it means that it's not just for women, it's for all of the men too that we are fighting for rights and freedom. &nbsp;</p> <p>Q: Why do you think it&rsquo;s worth coming to the UN CSW in New York?</p> <p>Parvin: We have built these campaigns and networks so we can get global solidarity support from the world, and on March 8th (IWD) we are asking all these groups here in New York at the 54th UN Commission on the Status of Women to get involved and fight for gender and equality in Iran and for the world. We have asked women around the world who are having March 8th events to&nbsp;include in their discussions and materials, information about women's rights issues and struggles in Iran. And our second request is that they put pressure on their governments to put pressure on the government of Iran to free the political prisoners, because we believe that the people who are now in prison are there because they too are fighting for their freedoms and equality.&nbsp;</p> <p>It's important to continue to build the network beyond the model of the <a href="http://www.sign4change.info/english" target="_blank">One Million Signatures</a> campaign. But when I come here everyone asks "how can we help you?"&nbsp; They ask the same question all the time and I think that we should change the question to "how can we help each other?" It's important. If you think you can help me, you are here and I am over there. But when we ask how we can help each other it means we are thinking on more equal terms. And when we are working at an equal level we can help each other. So before you think you are helping, change your question, and after that we can do everything.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p><br /> With thanks to Firuzeh Mahmoudi for translation.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics">Iran: from protest to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/content/meaning-of-peace-in-21st-century">The meaning of peace in the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/content/obstacles-to-progress-of-human-rights-in-world">Obstacles to the progress of Human Rights in the World </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Jane Gabriel Mon, 08 Mar 2010 13:04:53 +0000 Jane Gabriel 50639 at https://www.opendemocracy.net New York: no place for women in action https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/new-york-no-place-for-women-in-action <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In an open letter to the United Nations Secretary General, the European Women's Lobby declares that "The 54th Session of the CSW...represents a step backwards by its failure to offer a new vision and mechanisms for implementation" </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>This is my last blog and my last visit to the CSW. Truly, hand on heart this time, given all the frustration and the chaos, not to speak of the thousands of pounds and time and effort I have spent just to get here with prepared background papers in order to get &ldquo;widows&rdquo; mentioned in the final documents &ndash; the so-called Agreed Conclusions, I learnt only in recent days there were never to be any &ldquo;Agreed Conclusions&rdquo;. There is simply a <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing15/outcomes.html">Declaration</a>. Why on earth were we, the NGO women, not told this months ago? It feels like betrayal - and even deceit.</p><p>We do come here, of course, not only to influence the texts of the documents agreed by the governments of the world, which spell out the actions needed to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, but with other intentions. Among these are to meet, network, deliberate and strategise with our sisters from around the world; hold brainstorming roundtables with them on what methods we can use to make our governments accountable in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA); identify new and emerging issues, and learn from each other of best practices to achieve our goals of gender equality. However, the main reason why we spend so much money and time to attend this conference is because it is the only one where women&rsquo;s NGOs have an opportunity to interact with their own and other official delegations of parliamentarians and civil servants in the hope that they will see their evidence-based arguments for government actions reflected, at least in some measure, in the CSW final documents.</p><p>In an earlier blog from the CSW I spoke of the fiery trade unionist who spoke up at a NGO consultation, describing, in detail, the insulting way those women attending the CSW had been treated. I&rsquo;ve now got her name. Readers, she is Gemma Adaba, the UN representative of the <a href="http://www.ituc-csi.org/">ITUC</a> (International Trade Union Confederation) - a lady worth being in touch with if you want to know more about why we are so angry.</p><p>The European Women&rsquo;s Caucus at the CSW 54 composed of various women&rsquo;s NGOs under the <a href="http://www.womenlobby.org/">EWL</a> (European Women&rsquo;s Lobby) and <a href="http://www.wide-network.org/index.jsp?id=487">WIDE</a> hit back. They have sent a letter of protest to the UN Secretary-General. It is a dignified and moderate letter &ndash; and surely will be read carefully and with respect. In an open letter addressed to the UN Secretary General and the UN member States concerning the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women New York they write:</p> <p><em>"The Fourth World Conference on Women produced the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), a comprehensive women's human rights paradigm that envisaged the transformation of power relations. This was a global vision of social justice, equality, development and peace. Fifteen years later the BPfA would seem to be considered by governments a technical instrument, its substance has been depoliticised and diluted. The key implementation strategy of gender mainstreaming has been disarticulated from its critical perspective in terms of power relations and inequalities within and between countries and regions. Women's organisations have been the driving force behind the Beijing process, and the Secretary general has repeatedly emphasised the importance of civil society contribution to the work of the UN, particularly toward the achievement of women's rights. As representatives of such organisations we are deeply concerned that, despite the above, at the CSW 54, the voices of women have been effectively silenced. This is manifested by: </em></p> <p><br /><em>- The Declaration having been agreed ahead of time and adopted without consultations with civil society<br /><br /> - The absence of information on opportunities for civil society to influence the conduct and outcome of the CSW meetings<br /><br /> - Poor logistics and facilities that prevent women from participating effectively, reflecting the lack of consideration given to the Beijing process.<br /><br /> The presence of such a huge gathering of women has been used instrumentally&nbsp; to implement an empty Declaration, another example of reducing space for engagement between governments and civil society.</em></p> <p><em>The 54th Session of the CSW......represents a step backwards by its failure to offer a new vision and mechanisms for implementation."&nbsp; <br /><br /></em><br /> How has all this effected me and my issue &ndash; the plight, needs and roles of the millions of widows of all ages, across the world, affected and afflicted with poverty, stigma, violence, lack of rights, without access to justice, often &ldquo;chased off&rdquo; from their homes, denied inheritance, land and property rights and subject to oppressive discrimination and abuse especially in conflict and post-conflict scenarios?<br /><br /> Well, hugely. So much so that when I learnt the truth about the Declaration and there was to be no &ldquo;Agreed Conclusion&rdquo; with reference to which I had been working for months to get some wording about widowhood issues into it, I must admit I burst into tears on 2nd avenue, right outside the UK Mission to the UN. I thought of the &pound;250 I had spent to go to Geneva in November for the pre-NGO CSW meetings where I had managed, not without some struggle, to get an entire extra paragraph added to the Europe NGOs recommendations to the Economic Commission for Europe &ndash; on widowhood, poverty and exclusion. Then, thinking back to when we held the WPD meeting: Agreeing Global Action on Widowhood Issues through the Beijing +15; CEDAW; MDGs and the UN SCR 1325 anger erupted once again. Because our important meeting, planned for months beforehand, supported by printed-out background papers and publications, had not been found a location even in the Church Centre, but was held a block away thanks to the New York Branch of the ICJW. Many people who wanted to attend did not do so - possibly because it was a walk away from the UN, and people could not easily find it, or the address put them off, if they did not know New York well. We expected maybe 50 people or more, and only 30 came and none of the African, South Asian and Middle Eastern women who had wanted to come could make it. <br /><br /> Our panellists were exceptional, wonderful, compelling, from DRC, Nepal, India, Nigeria, as well as Ferdous ala Begum, of Bangladesh, a CEDAW member who was fulsome in her praise for the WPD presentation in Geneva in February, and gave us good advice about what we need to do next to further action by governments to address the widowhood issues.<br /><br /> But this was a meeting that should have been held in a conference room in the UN, so that delegates as well as NGO women could have attended together. When, some years ago, we were welcomed into the UN and permitted to hold meetings in the Conference rooms, even in the Dag Hammarskold Theatre, we had to turn people away the room was so crowded, and within the UN we could draw the attention of the official delegations, the governments, and representatives of UN agencies, to this neglected gender issue.<br /><br /> For me, the message is clear. The action area for women is not in New York but in Geneva where all the human rights machineries are there to be used. Oh yes, I know that we are promised a new &ldquo;Gender Entity&rdquo;, UN Department for Women by September, but I don&rsquo;t see it having real legs for a long time, and certainly not capable or equipped to take on the challenge of widowhood issues.<br /><br /> WPD will certainly need some financial backing and funding if it is to carry on but it won&rsquo;t be wasting my modest pension money, nor the donations of friends and relations that so far has kept us going, on any more trips to the CSW in New York.</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Margaret Owen Mon, 08 Mar 2010 08:45:50 +0000 Margaret Owen 50641 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How about equality of respect? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/how-about-equality-of-respect <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Last week the UN CSW54 was accused by the European Women's Lobby of being a 'step backwards' for women. As it grinds on into its second week Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith says the women’s movement needs a new twin strategy around equality of respect and quality of experience </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>There are lots excuses for a big party this week &ndash; International Women&rsquo;s Day; 15 years since the UN Beijing Platform for Action, and 40 years since the beginning of the &ldquo;second wave&rdquo; women&rsquo;s movement in the 70&rsquo;s. We all seem to be on a nostalgia kick, including me.<br /><br /> I became a fully paid up feminist for life when I joined the women&rsquo;s lib consciousness-raising group in 1972 in my first year at university. At only 19 years old, I proposed a motion to the student&rsquo;s union at Leicester University: &ldquo;This house is against sexism.&rdquo; Sexism was a new word at the time, imported from America. 1,000 students heard the word &ldquo;sex&rdquo; and crammed into the Students Union hall just to find out what it meant - including the Student Rugby club who had incensed us feminists by holding a &ldquo;grapple and strip show&rdquo; for rag week. Things looked rough at the Student union meeting; I have faced some tough audiences in my time, but that was the biggest and the scariest. I was surprised to get a standing ovation at the end of my speech, just for saying aloud the new word for what society has been doing to women from time immemorial.<br /><br /> But we&rsquo;ve come a long way since then, haven&rsquo;t we? At least everyone knows what sexism is now; the problem is, as always, trying to put a stop to it. Women are still 64% of the world&rsquo;s illiterate population and 70% of the world&rsquo;s poor. 1,500 women a day worldwide die unnecessarily during childbirth. These statistics have hardly changed in 40 years.<br /><br /> Here in the UK, in spite of the Equal Pay Act, and the efforts of the Women&rsquo;s Movement over 40 years, things for women are taking an interminable time to shift. We still have only 2 black and minority ethnic women MPs; women earn on average <a href="http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/">17% less than men</a> for full-time work, and only <a href="http://news.google.co.uk/news/url?sa=t&amp;ct2=uk%2F0_0_s_2_0_t&amp;ct3=MAA4AEgCUABqAnVr&amp;usg=AFQjCNEXvQqszNH_giUIJ7VFfAcdIc0r0Q&amp;cid=-2788392504292880482&amp;ei=M7aUS8igF6WpjAfR8vezAg&amp;rt=SEARCH&amp;vm=STANDARD&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cityam.com%2Fnews-and-analysis%2Fgovernment-sets-hard-line-diversity">five FTSE 100 companies</a> have female CEOs.<br /><br /> A couple of weeks ago I was at a meeting at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, listening to John Hill&rsquo;s report as Chair of the <a href="http://www.equalities.gov.uk/">UK Equality Panel</a>: &ldquo;An Anatomy of Inequality in the UK.&rdquo; It was great to hear that most of his statistics had a gender breakdown and that individual as well as household incomes are recognised as separate things. At last, some progress! We&rsquo;ve been lobbying for 40 years in the international women&rsquo;s movement to get the message across that distribution of wealth within families, and who controls the family resources, is a key issue for women&rsquo;s equality.<br /><br /> Two things struck me about what John Hill had to say about equality in the UK today. The first is the widening gap between the 10% of people at either end of the wealth scale. But even more challenging is the fact that inequality within groups (race, gender, disability etc) can be greater than that between groups. Between the poorest and richest women, for example, there&rsquo;s a gap of 250% and growing. That&rsquo;s a startling statistic. In the women&rsquo;s movement, we redouble our energies into the fight for equality between women as well as between women and men.<br /><br /> The second point is to challenge the assumption that we can tackle inequality just through the twin strategies of access to education and getting people into work. As women we know that equal opportunity in work and education only gets us so far. Women still encounter pay gaps, glass ceilings, lack of support, and lack of childcare. <br /><br /> And this state of affairs is not likely to get any better in the next few years &ndash; it may well get worse. Women and the poorest sections of society worldwide have been hit hardest by the impact of the worldwide economic crisis. <br /><br /> People in power are all going to have to do some hard thinking about who will pay for the bail out of the banks. Despite the recent resurgence of the bonus culture in the city, I get the sense that in general people don&rsquo;t have the same appetite for &ldquo;business as usual&rdquo;. Unemployment and recession among both women and men may present us with an opportunity to create a whole new way of working. The fall in the job market is leading to radical new thinking, such as a 21 hour working week becoming the norm. Men will have to start demanding a work life balance with the same energy that women have.<br /><br /> It&rsquo;s time to resurrect those old feminist mantras &ldquo;the personal is political&rdquo; and &ldquo;Equality? No thanks! We have something better in mind&rdquo; - the transformation of the whole of society, no less. <br /><br /> Post CSW54, I think the women&rsquo;s movement needs a new twin strategy around Equality of respect and Quality of experience. Equality of respect means recognising the different contributions and perspectives that women bring to the table. Women politicians, for example, have moved issues of family, parenting by men as well as women, women&rsquo;s representation in parliament, and violence against women, to the top of the political agenda. On the plus side that means all the politicians want to get on to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/">Women&rsquo;s Hour</a> and <a href="http://www.mumsnet.com/">Mumsnet</a> before the general election, because we are seen as a crucial constituency. <br /><br /> But apart from winning our votes are we really being taken seriously? <br /><br /> Even when women enter the workforce, there is still a day-to-day undermining of confidence and our sense of self through discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. These interactive factors discourage women&rsquo;s leadership and participation at all levels. Many entrepreneurial and dynamic women prefer starting their own businesses rather than going into companies and institutions, because we need to feel that our lives are under our own control. This is an indictment of the world of work &ndash; ways of working will have to change if we want to make the most of half the world&rsquo;s talent.<br /><br /> Quality of experience is about life enhancement, and work-life balance. Equality is not just about money, status and qualifications. Just think about the recent resignation of Gaby Hinsliff, the Observer political editor. She reached the top of her profession, but you may have read her <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/nov/01/gaby-hinsliff-quits-working-motherhood">recent article</a> in the Observer explaining that even with a relatively sympathetic employer, the demands of the job are still too difficult when you have children. That&rsquo;s not to say women aren&rsquo;t up to the job; the point is, the jobs aren&rsquo;t up to the women. We are constantly torn between giving the best of ourselves to our jobs, our families, our children and ourselves.<br /><br /> A system that does not deliver Equality of respect and Quality of experience for women and men will always be an institutionally unequal system. That&rsquo;s the message to take us all into the future.<br /><br /> There is still a worldwide women&rsquo;s movement; and it&rsquo;s still alive and kicking 40 years on. NGOs and individual women have done amazing work to make that happen: we should be proud of ourselves. If we put the same energy into the next 40 years, we should just about crack it.</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith Sun, 07 Mar 2010 22:33:13 +0000 Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith 50645 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An uncomfortable truth: the gender turf war at UN CSW https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/uncomfortable-truth-gender-turf-war-at-un-csw <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lyric Thompson takes issue with those who argue that men are inherently unqualified to speak as advocates for women's rights, and sees a paradoxical mirror image of the thinking that kept us out of classrooms, voting booths, political offices and boardrooms globally </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>It&rsquo;s the paradox of the global women&rsquo;s movement: we disapprovingly wonder aloud where all the men are when we convene to discuss so-called &ldquo;women&rsquo;s&rdquo; issues (this year&rsquo;s session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has seen the female population of First Avenue and East 45th Street balloon by about 8,000 and the male population remain relatively constant), but then we bristle when the boys show up and want a turn at the microphone. This uncomfortable truth has been brought a little too clearly into the spotlight this week, where the agenda has been somewhat surprisingly full of sessions exploring the concept of engaging men on women&rsquo;s issues&mdash;I&rsquo;ve counted at least four.&nbsp;</p> <p>At least within the international development community, this is an increasingly familiar&mdash;and popular&mdash;idea. In the work we do at <a href="http://www.womenforwomen.org/">Women for Women International</a>, for instance, we are primarily concerned with the delivery of services to women survivors of war to help them rebuild their lives after conflict. But we have also piloted a men&rsquo;s program in four of our chapters&mdash;Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo&mdash;to engage male leaders as allies and advocates for women&rsquo;s rights and value to the economy and society. These leaders then spread the good word to other men in their networks, which tend to be the networks that control the majority of the power and resources in the community. Then we have men and women learning about women&rsquo;s rights and value, in an environment where women are increasingly able to access those rights and everybody understands it&rsquo;s a good thing. We&rsquo;ve had tremendous successes&mdash;from the male militia leader in DRC who abolished rape in his unit, to the mullah in Iraq who wrote a fatwa, or religious edict, proclaiming that education and economic participation of women is not only not prohibited by the Qur'an, it is encouraged.</p> <p>So where did we get this novel idea? Directly from the women on the ground who specifically requested we educate the men in their families and communities about their rights (as it&rsquo;s usually men who violate or withhold them) and their value to society (as it&rsquo;s better for men, women and whole societies when women are able to contribute to the economy and the public sphere, and the men knowing this makes it considerably easier on the women in question). Women know this, but it can be a moot point at best and dangerous at worst to discuss the concept of women&rsquo;s rights if the men who control access and influence are of a different mindset.</p> <p>However, for our colleagues who work outside of this small arena, the concept of promoting an active and audible role for men in what we&rsquo;ve always deemed to be &ldquo;women&rsquo;s&rdquo; issues is neither familiar nor compelling. For many of our honoured sisters and mothers who came before us, this is a new idea indeed. And for many women activists, who have fought for years to secure a space for women in a global dialogue controlled by men who have customarily - either by ignorance or intent - marginalized their perspectives, the idea presents a real threat that could possibly spell the beginning of the end of what they worked so hard to achieve.</p> <p>From hence, the tension-packed room at one such discussion at the Grand Hyatt Hotel yesterday. An all-male expert panel on the subject had presented case studies from South Africa, Brazil, India, Zambia and Norway detailing instances where men had organized on women&rsquo;s rights, from tackling dangerous gender norms and behaviour patterns to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, to preventing violence against women and deconstructing damaging gender stereotypes, to instituting quotas and other affirmative measures to mainstream women into the economy and political leadership. Panellists explored how men do have access to male networks in ways that women don&rsquo;t&mdash;and often those networks control policy, finance and other valuable tools that can be used to advance the status of women.</p> <p>Logical arguments all, empirical evidence presented, panellist consensus proffered that this is the way to go if we&rsquo;re ever to have a hope at true gender equality in perception, policy and practice. But for many in the room the message was lost from the beginning, from the moment an almost entirely female audience took seats before an entirely male panel, which was elevated on a stage above them, speaking into microphones and before spotlights and - spatially at least - overpowering them.</p> <p>The frustration came to a head when a female minister from South Africa was invited to approach the microphone and offer closing remarks. &ldquo;Men should not come in the small space we&rsquo;ve created for ourselves,&rdquo; she proclaimed to a burst of audience applause (the first of the day). &ldquo;In South Africa, we did not sit around and wait for the government to liberate us. We fought&hellip; this is a good campaign of men but it should not derail us.&rdquo; She stalked off the stage and was promptly stormed by a whirlwind of appreciative activists offering business cards and congratulations for her strength, courage and loyalty to the global women's movement.</p> <p>There it is: a perfect manifestation of the self-imposed fragmentation that threatens our chances for true gender equality. As an American who has watched progressive politicians appropriate&mdash;and drop&mdash;&ldquo;women&rsquo;s&rdquo; issues to curry favour in elections, I understand the suspicion is based in very real experience. But as a woman having the incredibly good fortune to be both a daughter and a partner to men who daily affirm women&rsquo;s rights and take active steps to help me and other women achieve goals and dismantle obstacles to progress in networks where I still do not have a voice, I find the philosophy that holds men as inherently unqualified to speak as advocates in our community not only nonsensical but discriminatory and a paradoxical mirror image of the thinking that kept us out of classrooms, voting booths, political offices and boardrooms globally.</p> <p>As then-First Lady Hillary Clinton reminded us fifteen years ago in Beijing, &ldquo;Women&rsquo;s rights are human rights and human rights are women&rsquo;s rights.&rdquo; It is therefore disempowering to limit a movement to realize those right&mdash;human rights&mdash;to a community of only half the population, to limit an issue set to the narrow label &ldquo;women&rsquo;s&rdquo; issues, when we should be advocating as an inclusive community of human rights proponents that all humans have equal rights to dignity and full social, economic and political participation.</p> <p>I will close with this final thought: the panel&rsquo;s opening remarks were delivered by the Norwegian Minister for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion &ndash; Norway&rsquo;s equivalent of a gender minister&mdash;Audun Lysbakken. He&rsquo;s a man. In the inkblot trick-of-the-mind scenario here, what do we see first? A man? Or a minister whose entire job description revolves around evening out the peaks and valleys between men and women: increasing the number of female politicians and male care-givers and mainstreaming women into the economy and men into paternity leave. I say, I&rsquo;d vote for a male minister for gender and a female minister for finance any day.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Lyric Thompson Sun, 07 Mar 2010 21:27:56 +0000 Lyric Thompson 50643 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Courage, controversy and chaos at the UN Commission on the Status of Women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/courage-controversy-and-chaos-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> More than two thousand women's rights activists are in New York for the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing15/index.html">UN Commission on the Status of Women</a> to review the implementation of the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/index.html">Beijing Platform for Action</a> for Equality, Development and Peace. The inside story is being <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010">covered daily</a> by openDemocracy guest writers. </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" width="116" height="36" /></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Jane Gabriel</strong></p><ul><li><a href="#16">Iran: time to change the question</a></li><li><a href="#1">Bring them into the daylight</a></li></ul><p><strong>Lyric Thompson</strong></p><ul><li><a href="#13">An uncomfortable truth: the gender turf war at UN CSW</a></li><li><a href="#10">The price of peace</a></li><li><a href="#11">Defining the new American gender agenda</a></li><li><a href="#12">A retrospective: 15 years later, Beijing&rsquo;s mandate yet unfinished</a></li></ul><p><strong>Zohra Moosa</strong></p><ul><li><a href="#2">The table around which we didn't sit</a></li><li><a href="#3">Overdue justice</a></li><li><a href="#4">Enter NGO</a></li><li><a href="#5">A reception with Harriet</a></li><li><a href="#6">Becoming a feminist</a></li></ul><p><strong>Margaret Owen</strong></p><ul><li><a href="#14">New York: no place for women in action</a></li><li><a href="#7">Disillusionment, Anger and Protest</a></li><li><a href="#8">The mother of all widows</a></li><li><a href="#9">Widowhood: invisible for how much longer?</a></li></ul><p><strong>Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith</strong></p><ul><li><a href="#15">How about equality of respect?</a></li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p><a name="16"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/iran-time-to-change-question">Iran: time to change the question</a></strong></h2><p><a href="../../author/jane-gabriel">Jane Gabriel</a></p><p>Parvin Ardalan spoke to Jane Gabriel at the UN CSW about the link between a conversation with her father and her work fighting for the rights and freedom of both men and women in Iran, and why it's time the international community changed the question: how can we help?</p><p>Jane: When you won the Olof Palme prize in 2005 it was "for making the equal rights of men and women central to the struggle for democracy in Iran". To what extent has the green movement taken on board your demands for equal rights?</p><p>Parvin: Women in Iran started asking for their rights a hundred years ago, first for the right to education, then to be part of the parliament, and then the right to reform civil Family Law and then for the right to vote. After the 1979<strong> </strong>revolution we lost some of the rights that we had achieved- such as the right of Muslim women not to cover; and they had made polygamy much harder before the revolution and it got much easier again. The laws were religious, the government was religious, the power was religious. We either had to accept that all of these things were happening under the umbrella of Islam, or we had to put effort into changing our situation. And so once again we started fighting for these rights.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/iran-time-to-change-question">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="1"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><strong> <a title="757 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/jane-gabriel/bring-them-into-daylight">Bring them into the daylight</a></strong></h2><p><a href="../../author/jane-gabriel">Jane Gabriel</a></p> <p>The session on Sexual and Reproductive Health rights in Africa, held by the Amanitare Sexual Rights Network opened with the blunt observation by Dr Lesley Ann Foster, director of masimanyane, that just as violence against women is global, so too is the failure of every government in the world to met their obligations in international, national and regional law to protect women. For all the advances in our understanding of the problem she said &ldquo;what we cannot claim, is that we have changed the culture of impunity."</p> <p>So what have we understood? Gudrun Jonsdottir from <a href="http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=is&amp;u=http://www.stigamot.is/&amp;ei=zo2MS7a2PITdlAe6rPywDQ&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=translate&amp;ct=result&amp;resnum=2&amp;ved=0CA4Q7gEwAQ&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3DStigamot%2Biceland%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1B3GPCK_en-GBGB365US368">Stigamot</a> in Iceland, spoke of how international surveys focus on the women who are raped &ndash; measuring their guilt, their feelings of shame, the different ways in which they are blamed for the fact they are raped. Where, she asked, are the surveys measuring the perpetrators guilt? 85% of the women who make it to the Stigmont shelter do not report the rape because they feel ashamed, 75% because they think it was somehow their fault. The Icelandic government ran an anti-alcohol campaign telling women they would be less likely to be raped if they did not drink. The real connection? Two thirds of men who rape do so while they are drunk.</p><p><a href="../../5050/jane-gabriel/bring-them-into-daylight">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="13"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/uncomfortable-truth-gender-turf-war-at-un-csw-0">An uncomfortable truth: the gender turf war at UN CSW</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/lyric-thompson">Lyric Thompson</a></p><p>It&rsquo;s the paradox of the global women&rsquo;s movement: we disapprovingly wonder aloud where all the men are when we convene to discuss so-called &ldquo;women&rsquo;s&rdquo; issues (this year&rsquo;s session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has seen the female population of First Avenue and East 45th Street balloon by about 8,000 and the male population remain relatively constant), but then we bristle when the boys show up and want a turn at the microphone. This uncomfortable truth has been brought a little too clearly into the spotlight this week, where the agenda has been somewhat surprisingly full of sessions exploring the concept of engaging men on women&rsquo;s issues&mdash;I&rsquo;ve counted at least four.</p><p>At least within the international development community, this is an increasingly familiar&mdash;and popular&mdash;idea. In the work we do at <a href="http://www.womenforwomen.org/">Women for Women International</a>, for instance, we are primarily concerned with the delivery of services to women survivors of war to help them rebuild their lives after conflict. But we have also piloted a men&rsquo;s program in four of our chapters&mdash;Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo&mdash;to engage male leaders as allies and advocates for women&rsquo;s rights and value to the economy and society.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/uncomfortable-truth-gender-turf-war-at-un-csw-0">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a name="10"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="1005 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/lyric-thompson/price-of-peace">The price of peace</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/lyric-thompson">Lyric Thompson</a></p><p>As an individual working specifically on issues affecting women survivors of war, I was excited to see on the CSW agenda a UN-sponsored session on &ldquo;The Price of Peace: Financing Gender Equality in Post-Conflict Recovery and Reconstruction,&rdquo; hosted by UNIFEM and the United Nations Development Program, UNDP.</p><p>Introducing the panel, Winnie Byanyima, Director of the Gender Team for UNDP&rsquo;s Bureau for Development Policy, referenced the progress that had been made in recognizing women&rsquo;s unique experience of conflict and post-conflict. She cited landmark international accords that recognize gender as a security issue (UN Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889) as evidence of this.&nbsp; Significantly, these resolutions recognize that women shoulder the greatest burdens in war and must be protected; that they contribute enormously to peace building and recovery efforts and must be included in those processes; and that sexual violence and rape as a tool of war is a particularly destructive and common feature of war that must be prevented, combated and prosecuted.&nbsp; Yet, she acknowledged, we have far to go.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/price-of-peace">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="11"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="735 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/lyric-thompson/defining-new-american-gender-agenda">Defining the new American gender agenda</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/lyric-thompson">Lyric Thompson</a></p><p>over the last year we&rsquo;ve watched as the Obama Administration built an entirely new gender architecture, from its creation of a <a href="http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/intergovernmental-affairs/white-house-council-women-and-girls">White House Council on Women and Girls</a>, to the endowment of Melanne Verveer as&nbsp; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Ambassador-at-Large_for_Global_Women%27s_Issues">Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women&rsquo;s Issues</a> and the physical and symbolic relocation of the State Department office dealing with those issues from a satellite building to headquarters. We even have a new Congressional subcommittee in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to address, among other things, gender. At a briefing to the US delegation Verveer called this work an unprecedented manifestation of an emerging philosophy that the status of women and girls is &ldquo;critical to the conduct of our foreign policy.&nbsp; Our efforts for security, the environment, the economy and governance cannot succeed without women fully participating.</p><p>Tremendous! The prayers of civil society have been answered. The pleas and prods of feminist activists have been heard. A global superpower has moved to mainstream women into its efforts to support human rights, development and good governance in the world, both at home and abroad. So, what&rsquo;s next? What legacy will be born in the house Barack built?&nbsp; I went to the 54th U.N. Commission on the Status of Women hoping to find out.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/defining-new-american-gender-agenda">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="12"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="690 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/lyric-thompson/retrospective-15-years-later-beijing%E2%80%99s-mandate-yet-unfinished">A retrospective: 15 years later, Beijing&rsquo;s mandate yet unfinished</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/lyric-thompson">Lyric Thompson</a></p><p>Fifteen years ago in Beijing, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton made an instantly iconic cry for women&rsquo;s rights: &ldquo;Women&rsquo;s rights are human rights and human rights are women&rsquo;s rights.&rdquo; On that day, those words evoked a seven minute standing ovation; they have inspired more than a decade of homage to this one.</p><p>Yet these were not the only words uttered in that important speech; nor indeed, I posit, were they the most important. Clinton also pointed to a number of statistics that characterized the status of women at that time, 70% of the world&rsquo;s poor are women among them. Fifteen years later, as the 54th CSW&nbsp; opens to review progress in implementing the benchmarks to equality that were set out at that conference, we are haunted by the fact that despite 15 years of conventions, resolutions and conferences, this statistic is unchanged. Our work is far from over.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/retrospective-15-years-later-beijing%E2%80%99s-mandate-yet-unfinished">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="2"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="678 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/zohra-moosa/table-around-which-we-didnt-sit">The table around which we didn't sit</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/zohra-moosa">Zohra Moosa</a></p> <p>The CSW this year, as in previous years, has no shortage of discussion. There is enough going on every single day &ndash; main sessions, side sessions, caucuses, learning events, strategy meetings &ndash; that a 12 hour day is not unusual for NGO delegates. But in my experience at least half of these conversations, and I think that might be generous, are periphery to the conversations that those in power are having. I&rsquo;ve felt quite negative thinking that in the past. Because there is much that is very positive about the CSW and similar feminist takeovers of mainstream spaces. I wouldn&rsquo;t want to lose that. But I have been wondering what impact it&rsquo;s having, especially in light of the ongoing NGO frustrations and negotiations with the official delegations and procedures.</p> <p>This question of what the powerful are doing and how feminists are influencing them came up concretely in both of the <a href="http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/csw/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Gender_Equality_in_Economic_Crisis_and_Recovery.pdf" target="_blank">sessions on the financial crisis</a> (pdf) I attended yesterday.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/table-around-which-we-didnt-sit">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="3"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="905 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/zohra-moosa/overdue-justice">Overdue justice</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/zohra-moosa">Zohra Moosa</a></p> <p>UNIFEM&rsquo;s next flagship Progress of the World&rsquo;s Women report, to be published later this year, will be on Access to Justice. Yesterday I went to <a href="http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/csw/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/progress_of_the_worlds_women.pdf" target="_blank">their session</a> (pdf) on the topic to hear about the issues.</p><p>Laura Turquet, manager of Progress, introduced the topic by outlining the three themes the report hopes to cover: impunity, plural legal systems and transforming legal systems. As she explained, &lsquo;impunity means that individuals and organizations are, on a systemic level, &ldquo;getting away with it&rdquo;.&rsquo; Plural legal systems refers to the reality that in most, if not all, countries, there is &lsquo;more than one legal system in operation&rsquo;, such as customary versus civil law for example. Transforming legal systems is about recognizing that while women need to be able to access justice systems, by making them more affordable for example, justice systems themselves also need to be reformed to better meet women&rsquo;s needs.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/overdue-justice">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="4"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="283 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/zohra-moosa/enter-ngo">Enter NGO</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/zohra-moosa">Zohra Moosa</a></p> <p>This morning NGOs found out that not only would there not be an outcome document from this year's CSW, but the political declaration that would be serving as the official output from the conference was already agreed.</p><p>Just ten minutes before the declaration was due to be tabled and approved, UK NGOs received hard copies of the <a href="http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/LTD/N10/251/37/PDF/N1025137.pdf" target="_blank">text</a>. It totals less than two pages and is as general as it is brief.</p><p>According to the document, the text has been in circulation since late February. Yet even the official <a href="http://www.ngocsw.org/en/main" target="_blank">NGO Committee</a> on the CSW didn't have copies of the document before today. It fell to an NGO from Austria to share the information.</p><p>Most of the UK NGO represenatives I've spoken to are unhappy with the text, not because there is anything in it that is a problem, but because there isn't much to it at all. Having received it late and almost after the fact, it is even more disppointing for them to have found that it is so weak on content.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/enter-ngo">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="5"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="514 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/zohra-moosa/reception-with-harriet">A reception with Harriet</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/zohra-moosa">Zohra Moosa</a></p> <p>Last night I went to a reception hosted by the Minister for Women Harriet Harman at the residence of the UK&rsquo;s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN. It is the first time the Minister has been to CSW and after a weekend of bilateral meetings and high level sessions she was frank about how overwhelming she was finding the whole process, calling it &lsquo;baffling&rsquo;.</p><p>Most of the UK NGOs in the room at the reception appeared to be equally confused. Even those that had attended the two day NGO forum over the course of Saturday and Sunday were unsure about some of the most basic elements of the upcoming week&rsquo;s conference. For example, nobody seemed to yet know whether there would be what is known as an &lsquo;outcome document&rsquo; &ndash; a kind of call to action for states &ndash; or whether there would be a milder &lsquo;declaration&rsquo; &ndash; restating states&rsquo; commitment to the agenda. (More information has since been released, which we will cover in future posts.)</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/reception-with-harriet">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="6"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="590 words, 1 comments" href="../../5050/zohra-moosa/becoming-feminist">Becoming a feminist</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/zohra-moosa">Zohra Moosa</a></p> <p>It's 15 years since <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/index.html" target="_blank">Beijing</a>. Almost half my life time ago. At the time of the 4th world conference, I was still quite young. I felt aware of sexism, but I didn&rsquo;t have the vocabulary to describe what I felt, or the analysis to explain to others what I thought wasn&rsquo;t right.</p><p>This began to change just a year later once I was in high school, navigating my way through adolescence and all the trauma and adventure that come with that period as a young woman. I can&rsquo;t say it was entirely fun; my high school, though more liberal than some, was quite anti-woman in its own way. To this day, I think of my own personal relationship with high school being quite tightly bound to my emergence as an ever-more vocal feminist and activist.</p><p>I honestly can&rsquo;t remember a time when I didn't think of myself as a feminist. I don&rsquo;t think I even had a &lsquo;<a href="http://www.feministing.com/archives/008967.html" target="_blank">click moment</a>&rsquo;. But I do remember being conscious of my opinions about sexism and feminism becoming firmer and more pronounced as I passed through my six years in secondary school.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/becoming-feminist">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="14"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/new-york-no-place-for-women-in-action">New York: no place for women in action</a></h2><p><a href="../../authors/margaret-owen">Margaret Owen</a></p><p>In an open letter to the United Nations Secretary General, the European Women's Lobby declares that "The 54th Session of the CSW...represents a step backwards by its failure to offer a new vision and mechanisms for implementation".</p><p>This is my last blog and my last visit to the CSW. Truly, hand on heart this time, given all the frustration and the chaos, not to speak of the thousands of pounds and time and effort I have spent just to get here with prepared background papers in order to get &ldquo;widows&rdquo; mentioned in the final documents &ndash; the so-called Agreed Conclusions, I learnt only in recent days there were never to be any &ldquo;Agreed Conclusions&rdquo;. There is simply a <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing15/outcomes.html">Declaration</a>. Why on earth were we, the NGO women, not told this months ago? It feels like betrayal - and even deceit.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/new-york-no-place-for-women-in-action">Read more...</a></p><p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><br /></span></span></p><p><a name="7"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="764 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/margaret-owen/disillusionment-anger-and-protest">Disillusionment, Anger and Protest.</a></h2><p><a href="../../authors/margaret-owen">Margaret Owen</a></p><p>At this Tuesday morning&rsquo;s NGO consultation we women from the NGOs, attempting to participate in the 54th CSW, finally collectively erupted, en masse.</p><p>These meetings will take place every day for the duration of the Session at the New York Salvation Army building, several blocks away from the UN because there is &ldquo;no room at the Inn&rdquo;, that is, the UN building, where in previous years we always met. Is there some dark conspiracy that facilitates the process of making us women feel so unwelcome, so redundant, and so belittled?<br /><br /> Throughout the day, wherever and whenever one met women queuing, exhausted, harassed, and often livid with frustration &ndash; women who had spent vast sums of money from scarce resources just to get here &ndash; the anger, nay hot fury, was evident. It was scandalous that we women should be so treated by the UN, so badly served by them, so disregarded.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/disillusionment-anger-and-protest">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="8"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="725 words, 0 comments" href="../../5050/margaret-owen/mother-of-all-widows">The mother of all widows</a></h2><p><a href="../../authors/margaret-owen">Margaret Owen</a></p><p>So yesterday CSW formally opened and we NGOs, thousands of us,queue, crowd, jostle to get a seat either in the gallery of Conference Room A where the delegates are or to watch on the big screen the proceedings from Conference Room B. Although we are there by 9 am nothing gets going until after 10. Delegates are warned that colour blindness will not be accepted as an excuse if they ignore the orange light which tells them they have 30 seconds to stop speaking. Speakers for a group of countries have 10 minutes; mere single nations only 5.</p><p>We watch and listen as the top people in the UN such as the head of ECOSOC, UNIFEM, the Egyptian Chair of CEDAW; the dignified lovely UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Megiro followed by Rachel Mayanja, Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues to the SG do their stuff. All speaking passionately about gender equality and the empowerment of women; the gains and progress made in the 15 years since Beijing. The DSG spoke optimistically of the hopes she had that the new Gender Entity, the UN Department for Women, will get its legs by September and there will be far more effective work in the field driven by top level policy making at headquarters. The presentations were elegant and predictable and each speaker was applauded but many of us were anxious to get going on our own business, rushing back across the road to the Church Centre or wherever else the NGOs had found near the UN building to hold their own meetings.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/mother-of-all-widows">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="9"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a title="1669 words, 3 comments" href="../../5050/margaret-owen/widowhood-invisible-for-how-much-longer">Widowhood: invisible for how much longer?</a></h2><p><a href="../../authors/margaret-owen">Margaret Owen</a></p><p>Fifteen years ago I hopped on the plane to Beijing, heady with excitement, huge optimism and high expectations that finally we, the women&rsquo;s NGOs of the world, had arrived!</p><p>Governments were at last listening to us. Unlike the previous world conferences on women in Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi.</p><p>In spite of the mud, the rain, the wet and the cramped discomfort of our accommodation in Huarou where we NGOs were located &ndash; far from the government delegations in the capital &ndash; our voices, our ideas, our knowledge and experiences were going to be taken seriously by the official delegations. And they were. The resultant great document to emerge from the Fourth World Conference for Women, the BPfA was going to dominate and map our strategies and work effectively to upgrade the status of women in every aspect of their lives, as described in the 12 Action Areas of the Platform, to the present day. And every year subsequent to that September conference, at the UN CSW we would be here in New York to, we imagined, work in close consultation with our governments to monitor and evaluate progress on implementation of the BPFA, identify gaps and emerging issues.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/widowhood-invisible-for-how-much-longer">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="15"></a></p><h2 class="entry-title"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/how-about-equality-of-respect">How about equality of respect?</a></h2><p><a href="../../author/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith">Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith</a></p><p>There are lots excuses for a big party this week &ndash; International Women&rsquo;s Day; 15 years since the UN Beijing Platform for Action, and 40 years since the beginning of the &ldquo;second wave&rdquo; women&rsquo;s movement in the 70&rsquo;s. We all seem to be on a nostalgia kick, including me.<br /><br /> I became a fully paid up feminist for life when I joined the women&rsquo;s lib consciousness-raising group in 1972 in my first year at university. At only 19 years old, I proposed a motion to the student&rsquo;s union at Leicester University: &ldquo;This house is against sexism.&rdquo; Sexism was a new word at the time, imported from America. 1,000 students heard the word &ldquo;sex&rdquo; and crammed into the Students Union hall just to find out what it meant - including the Student Rugby club who had incensed us feminists by holding a &ldquo;grapple and strip show&rdquo; for rag week. Things looked rough at the Student union meeting; I have faced some tough audiences in my time, but that was the biggest and the scariest. I was surprised to get a standing ovation at the end of my speech, just for saying aloud the new word for what society has been doing to women from time immemorial.<br /><br /> But we&rsquo;ve come a long way since then, haven&rsquo;t we?</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/how-about-equality-of-respect">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Jane Gabriel Sun, 07 Mar 2010 14:57:25 +0000 Jane Gabriel 50640 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The table around which we didn't sit https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/table-around-which-we-didnt-sit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CSW has attracted 1000s of women to its proceedings this year, but there is a danger that we are just talking to ourselves. Two sessions on the financial crisis point to the change that is needed. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>The CSW this year, as in previous years, has no shortage of discussion. There is enough going on every single day &ndash; main sessions, side sessions, caucuses, learning events, strategy meetings &ndash; that a 12 hour day is not unusual for NGO delegates.</p> <p>But in my experience at least half of these conversations, and I think that might be generous, are periphery to the conversations that those in power are having. I&rsquo;ve felt quite negative thinking that in the past. Because there is much that is very positive about the CSW and similar feminist takeovers of mainstream spaces. I wouldn&rsquo;t want to lose that. But I have been wondering what impact it&rsquo;s having, especially in light of the ongoing NGO frustrations and negotiations with the official delegations and procedures.</p> <p>This question of what the powerful are doing and how feminists are influencing them came up concretely in both of the <a href="http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/csw/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Gender_Equality_in_Economic_Crisis_and_Recovery.pdf" target="_blank">sessions on the financial crisis</a> (pdf) I attended yesterday.</p> <p>Speaking at the morning session on Gender Equality in Economic Crisis and Recovery: Getting the Macroeconomic Policies Right, which was sponsored by UNIFEM, AWID, <a href="http://www.iaffe.org/" target="_blank">IAFFE</a>, <a href="http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/" target="_blank">CWGL</a>, <a href="http://www.dawnnet.org/" target="_blank">DAWN</a>, <a href="http://www.un-ngls.org/" target="_blank">UNGLS</a> and <a href="http://www.ffdngo.org/gender-financing-development" target="_blank">WWG-FfD</a>, Cecilia Alemany, Strategic Initiative Manager, AWID, WWG-FfD argued that &lsquo;Women&rsquo;s groups have been on the periphery of power&rsquo;, staying in our comfort zones and speaking to ourselves rather than going to Washington to speak to the IFIs like the World Bank and the IMF. She asked, &lsquo;Are we ready to deal with hard power? Not just the soft politics that has been relegated to women?&rsquo;</p> <p>Cecilia, who is based in Uruguay, feels that it is really important for feminists in the North and the South to stay connected and for advocates in the North to be grounding their work in the realities of women on the margins in the South. But she believes that while we are listening to each other, and we must continue to do this, we also need to talk to those that are not listening and do not want to listen. In her opinion, we need to be at CSW and also at the Security Council.</p> <p>In the afternoon session, Emily Sikazwe, Executive Director, <a href="http://www.wfc.org.zm/" target="_blank">Women for Change for Zambia</a>, Social Watch made the same case for engaging with the powerful. As she explained, &lsquo;We cannot trust those that have been organizing things&rsquo; because, essentially, they have been lying. &lsquo;The big boys bailed out the banks with money that women and children have been crying out for for many years.&rsquo; Money that we were told didn&rsquo;t exist. Emily believes &lsquo;It is time for the women&rsquo;s movement to ask, "Who is shaping our world? What is the effect of this shaping by the powerful on women and girls?"&rsquo;</p> <p>Emily, like Cecilia, feels the women&rsquo;s movement needs to &lsquo;become practical&rsquo;. She suggested organizing around the calendar of world meetings, finding out when sessions such as the G8 were happening, and coordinating ourselves to influence them. She asked &lsquo;What is our agenda as the global women&rsquo;s movement?....Globally we have a crisis to deal with, a crisis we did not create&hellip;. It is important for us to stand as the women&rsquo;s movement and say &lsquo;no&rsquo;&hellip;. Instead of looking to the powerful to create spaces for ourselves, we must grab spaces.&rsquo;</p> <p>What Emily alluded to and which more people have begun to realize is that the financial crisis has revealed more clearly to more people that we somehow are able to find the money we need to solve the problems of the powerful when it becomes necessary, problems that the powerful themselves have created, but that this comes from taking money away from others &ndash; money that is in fact owed to others in the cases of land grabbing and un- or under-regulated resource extraction.</p> <p>Emily&rsquo;s call out was hugely popular amongst the participants in her session. She talked about decisions being made at &lsquo;the table around which we didn&rsquo;t sit.&rsquo; And shared an insight from a friend of hers that really summed it up for us: &lsquo;If you&rsquo;re not part of the table, then you are part of the menu.&rsquo;</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 zohra moosa Fri, 05 Mar 2010 17:41:00 +0000 zohra moosa 50627 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The price of peace https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/price-of-peace <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> “Peace processes are bad men talking to bad government and other bad men.....women in civil society are doing tremendous work on the ground, but they are not heard, they are not respected, and above all they are not funded.” Mary Robinson speaking at the UNCSW.... </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>As an individual working specifically on issues affecting women survivors of war, I was excited to see on the CSW agenda a UN-sponsored session on &ldquo;The Price of Peace: Financing Gender Equality in Post-Conflict Recovery and Reconstruction,&rdquo; hosted by UNIFEM and the United Nations Development Program, UNDP.</p> <p>Introducing the panel, Winnie Byanyima, Director of the Gender Team for UNDP&rsquo;s Bureau for Development Policy, referenced the progress that had been made in recognizing women&rsquo;s unique experience of conflict and post-conflict. She cited landmark international accords that recognize gender as a security issue (UN Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889) as evidence of this.&nbsp; Significantly, these resolutions recognize that women shoulder the greatest burdens in war and must be protected; that they contribute enormously to peace building and recovery efforts and must be included in those processes; and that sexual violence and rape as a tool of war is a particularly destructive and common feature of war that must be prevented, combated and prosecuted.&nbsp; Yet, she acknowledged, we have far to go. Although women around the world have demonstrated time and again their strength as survivors of conflict who work daily to mediate between armed groups, keep food on the table and schools and clinics running in the midst of chaos, women have to this day served as only 6% of negotiators to formalized peace talks.&nbsp; There have been zero female chief mediators in the UN system.</p> <p>It was against this context that the panelists considered how to tackle that seemingly intractable problem of closing the gap between policy and practice.&nbsp; Mary Robinson summarized the problem thusly: &ldquo;Women in civil society are doing tremendous work on the ground, but they are not heard, they are not respected, and above all they are not funded.&rdquo;</p> <p>Robinson sees a window of opportunity, though: technology.&nbsp; Previously, she said, we have not understood that women are agents of change at the local level because they were fragmented and highly localized&mdash;women in one refugee camp would assess needs and strategize for the effective delivery of goods and services. Women in another village would work to negotiate with armed groups to ensure the continued provision of food and water amidst conflict. Now, with the emergence of mobile phones and the internet, women are able to mobilize, organize and elevate their efforts. But their efforts are still not supported, scaled, funded.</p> <p>Robinson pointed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where women have suffered a conflict and associated campaign of sexual violence of epic proportions and<em> </em>developed an action plan to implement UN Security Resolution 1325 in response. But they aren&rsquo;t represented at high-level decision-making tables where those plans can be nationally adopted, resourced and implemented. Indeed, customarily peace is negotiated by the armed groups that shattered it in the first place&mdash;by men with guns who are often more concerned with defining the terms of the power they will inherit in the new government or power structure than they are with, say, holding accountable human rights violations such as rape as a weapon of war. &ldquo;Peace processes are bad men talking to bad government and other bad men,&rdquo; Robinson said, offering the quota as a tool that has proven effective in electoral processes and could be adapted to the peace-building and recovery processes. &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s say that the United Nations will not engage a peace process without at least 30% women at table. That the UN won&rsquo;t be involved without it. Let&rsquo;s do it. It worked electorally--why not in the peace process?</p> <p>A compelling idea, but certainly not one tracing to any past performance in global peace processes. See Liberia, where thousands of women organized across religious and political divides to demand peace and literally had to force themselves into the 2003 peace talks by sitting outside and locking the warlords in until they reached an agreement. See Sudan, where women&rsquo;s civil society groups were not permitted by the World Bank to participate in the 2008 Oslow donor conference (although the Norwegian government did invite them to Oslow, organize a parallel conference for them, and negotiate an opportunity for them to deliver a brief statement to the boys next door doling out dollars).&nbsp; And see Afghanistan, where just last month the Afghan government&rsquo;s delegation to a major donor conference in London did not see fit to send a female representative and civil society representatives were not invited until the very last minute.</p> <p>As Ingrid Fisca, the Norwegian State Secretary for International Development, said, &ldquo;War is a masculine pastime and money is power. Donors are often reluctant to overrule the [dominant] parties. Gender equality is often declared as a western imposition, and so donors are overly cautious.&rdquo;</p> <p>Therein lies the problem. As men move out of the home and into the frontlines (as Rosie the Riveter remembers) women take on new roles economically (supporting families and sustaining economies); socially (as community and household leaders); and politically (as advocates negotiating amongst factions for the basic necessities of daily life). As men return at war&rsquo;s end, the clash of opposing gender norms and expectations often pushes women back to the margins, where their voices do not reach conversations about what peace looks like, and on whose terms.&nbsp; When raised, the concept of gender equality is dismissed as quaint, unnecessary or culturally irrelevant, and the women who were once actively engaged in the heart of community life and processes are silenced. As we look to the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security this September, we must rededicate ourselves to the idea that peace is not the absence of war but the presence of life, the resurrection of economies, the resumption of services, the serving of justice and the participation of all citizens in the public sphere. We cannot achieve this true peace without 50 percent of the population, and we cannot do it without a robust and sustained commitment of resources. As the title of the day&rsquo;s session reminds us, we must be prepared to pay the price for peace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Lyric Thompson Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:33:14 +0000 Lyric Thompson 50626 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women: reflections on our human rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/women-reflections-on-our-human-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It's seventeen years since women's rights were recognised as human rights at the <a href="http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu5/wchr.htm">World Conference on Human Rights</a> held in Vienna. openDemocracy writers examine the struggle to turn these rights into a day-to-day reality for women and girls and examine the challenges that lie ahead </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a></p><p><br /><br /></p><ul><li><a href="#10">Iran: time to change the question</a><br />Parvin Ardalan</li><li><a href="#1">This is my witness</a><br />Emily Stokes</li><li><a href="#2">Burma may save its tigers and not its women</a><br />Cora Weiss</li><li><a href="#5">Challenging ourselves at Bejing +15</a><br />Sunila Abeysekera</li><li><a href="#3">My Beijing diary</a><br />Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith</li> <li><a href="#4">Brazilian feminists on the alert</a><br />Cecilia Sardenberg</li><li><a href="#6">Equality between women and men is not a &lsquo;women&rsquo;s issue&rsquo; </a><br />Jane Gabriel</li> <li><a href="#7">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a><br />Kavita Ramdas</li> <li><a href="#8">What&rsquo;s wrong with a democratic world with justice, equality, development and peace? </a><br />Cora Weiss</li> </ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p><a name="10"></a></p><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/iran-time-to-change-question">Iran: time to change the question</a></strong> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../author/jane-gabriel">Jane Gabriel</a></span></span></p><p>Parvin Ardalan spoke to Jane Gabriel at the UN CSW about the link between a conversation with her father and her work fighting for the rights and freedom of both men and women in Iran, and why it's time the international community changed the question: how can we help?</p><p>Jane: When you won the Olof Palme prize in 2005 it was "for making the equal rights of men and women central to the struggle for democracy in Iran". To what extent has the green movement taken on board your demands for equal rights?Parvin: Women in Iran started asking for their rights a hundred years ago, first for the right to education, then to be part of the parliament, and then the right to reform civil Family Law and then for the right to vote. After the 1979<strong> </strong>revolution we lost some of the rights that we had achieved- such as the right of Muslim women not to cover; and they had made polygamy much harder before the revolution and it got much easier again.</p><p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/iran-time-to-change-question">Read more...</a></span></span></p><p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><br /></span></span></p><p><a name="1"></a></p><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/emily-stokes/this-is-my-witness">This is my witness</a></strong> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../author/emily-stokes">Emily Stokes</a></span></span></p><p>Until 1988, Saw Mar was a housewife in her home country of Burma. Born into a well-educated, middle-class family in Rangoon, she spent her time looking after her two daughters, cleaning the house, and cooking for her husband. She had never worked for a living. But on a rainy morning in August, she witnessed a massacre by army troopers, and decided to join the fight to replace the military government. She became the Organizer for the National League for Democracy, working closely with the party&rsquo;s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. One year later, Saw Mar was arrested, interrogated and sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour. In prison, she witnessed disturbing abuses of power, and was herself tortured by prison guards.</p><p>On Tuesday, Saw Mar &ndash;&nbsp;who has lived in the US for the past decade &ndash; was one of twelve Burmese women to testify at the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women of Burma held in New York, a event organised by the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/news/article/burma-tribunal">Nobel Women&rsquo;s Initiative</a> and the <a href="http://www.womenofburma.org/">Women&rsquo;s League of Burma</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/emily-stokes/this-is-my-witness">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="2"></a></p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cora-weiss/burma-may-save-its-tigers-and-not-its-women"><strong>Burma may save its tigers and not its women</strong></a> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../author/cora-weiss">Cora Weiss</a></span></span></p><p>The World Bank is determined to play conservationist and protect the last of the 3200 wild tigers, down from 100,000 a century ago, most in Burma, but finds it is &ldquo;shackled from doling out aid&rdquo; to this South East Asian nation. But shackles also seem to be in place when it comes to a robust policy to demand freedom for Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, her National League for Democracy adherents and thousands of Burmese members of traditional ethnic groups jailed or abused following a democratically held election in May 1990 which gave her party 80% of parliamentary seats. The military coup following that election has left the natural resource wealthy country drowning in the most egregious human rights abuses including documented child soldiers, sexual violence, forced labour, slavery, destruction of entire villages of the many ethnic groups, extra judicial killings, over a million internally displaced persons and a record of being condemned for this by the UN for the past 15 years.<br /><br /> This is the background that led to the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/news/article/burma-tribunal">International Tribunal on Crimes against Women of Burma</a>, held on March 2nd in New York City as one of nearly 200 parallel civil society sponsored events during the United Nations <a href="../../5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010%20%20%20%20annual%20conference.">54th Commission on the Status of Women</a> annual conference.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cora-weiss/burma-may-save-its-tigers-and-not-its-women">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="5"></a></p><a name="5"></a><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sunila-abeysekera/challenging-ourselves-at-bejing-15">Challenging ourselves at Bejing +15</a></strong> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../authors/sunila-abeysekera">Sunila Abeysekera</a></span></span></p><p>At the forthcoming sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women, we will commemorate 15 years after Beijing. In so doing, I fear that many of us will forget a trajectory that leads us back to before Beijing and the Fourth World Conference on Women, to Nairobi in 1985 and Mexico in 1975. We will thus assess the past and our achievements only in part. And this I think is problematic not only because it may mean that we forget or downplay some key achievements and challenges, but also because it may mean that a new generation of women activists inherit a partial history of our global movements for transformation.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sunila-abeysekera/challenging-ourselves-at-bejing-15">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="3"></a></p><a name="3"></a><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/my-beijing-diary">My Beijing diary</a></strong><p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../author/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith">Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith</a></span></span></p><p><strong>The day before...</strong></p> <p>Just in the middle of packing to go off to China (hooray!) and got a call from BBC World TV; can I come and say something nice and upbeat about Beijing before I go, maybe at six o&rsquo;clock tomorrow morning for the world news slot? &nbsp;UK coverage un-useable, too negative &ndash; and won&rsquo;t go down well with worldwide audience...Not too happy about the early start time but the doorman at the beeb said it was one of the most upbeat interviews he&rsquo;d ever heard; well chuffed with that!</p> <p>So glad that for the first time we&rsquo;ve got an NGO rep on the UK govt delegation to Beijing, but I&rsquo;ve got mixed feelings about being invited to be that representative myself! On the one hand it&rsquo;s a great experience but on the other hand, I maybe I would be happier with my sisters at the NGO Forum like I was at the Nairobi conference - much more fun? <em>(As you&rsquo;ll know there are always two parallel conferences, one for NGOs and one for the Governments)</em></p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/my-beijing-diary">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="4"></a></p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cecilia-sardenberg/brazilian-feminists-on-alert"><strong>Brazilian feminists on the alert</strong></a> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../authors/cecilia_sardenberg">Cecilia Sardenber</a></span></span></p><p>Recognized as one of the most articulate and influential women&rsquo;s movements in Latin America, the feminist movement in Brazil has taken important strides beyond national limits, making its presence positively noted in global spaces. We were present at the UN from its very beginnings, <a href="http://wikis.lib.ncsu.edu/index.php/Women%27s_Suffrage_in_Brazil:_Bertha_Lutz">Bertha Lutz</a>, a Brazilian feminist who led our struggles for women&rsquo;s right to vote (won in 1932), was one of the only four women delegates to the UN founding Charter in 1946. She played an important part in securing the inclusion of clauses against sexual discrimination and regarding equality between the sexes in the San Francisco <a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/">Charter</a>. And it was partly under her influence that Brazil pushed for the creation of the CSW as an organ of the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/">Social and Economic Council</a>.</p><p>Despite this early contribution and a short mandate in the Commission in the 1950s, 1985 and 1988, Brazil did not take a more progressive position towards women&rsquo;s empowerment in the UN until the 1990s.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cecilia-sardenberg/brazilian-feminists-on-alert">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="6"></a></p><a name="6"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></a><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/equality-between-women-and-men-is-not-%E2%80%98women%E2%80%99s-issue%E2%80%99">Equality between women and men is not a &lsquo;women&rsquo;s issue&rsquo;</a></strong> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../author/jane-gabriel">Jane Gabriel</a></span></span></p><p>Fifteen years ago 30,000 women gathered in Huairou, Beijing, and over two weeks held 3,500 workshops and worked with UN member states to produce a vision of global social transformation - the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/plat1.htm">Beijing Platform for Action</a> (BPfA). It is an extraordinary document that came out of what one member of the UK delegation called the &lsquo;mud, madness and magnificence&rsquo; of Huairou. &nbsp;Building on the World Conference on Human Rights held in <a href="http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/%28symbol%29/A.CONF.157.23.En?OpenDocument">Vienna</a> 1993 when women and girls were first declared to have human rights, the BPfA declares:</p><p><em>&ldquo;The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue. They are the only way to build a sustainable, just and developed society. Empowerment of women and equality between women and men are prerequisites for achieving political, social, economic, cultural and environmental security among all peoples.&rdquo;&nbsp; </em></p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/equality-between-women-and-men-is-not-%E2%80%98women%E2%80%99s-issue%E2%80%99">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="7"></a></p><a name="7"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></a><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a></strong> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../authors/kavita-ramdas">Kavita Ramdas</a></span></span></p><p>This weekend I spent an evening watching the evocative Ken Burns Documentary, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/stantonanthony/">Not for Ourselves Alone</a> about the lives of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Although I knew the broad outlines of this revolutionary friendship between two American women in the early 19th century and their joint efforts at advancing the struggle for universal suffrage, it was fascinating to watch it through the eyes of my viewing companions &ndash; my daughter and three of her close friends, sixteen-year-olds, who have grown up in a post 9/11 America.</p><p>The images of women from that era were greeted with exclamations of, &ldquo;why is she is wearing a head scarf?&rdquo;, while the narrator&rsquo;s reminder that at that time women were considered the private property of their husbands, and were not supposed to get &ldquo;too educated,&rdquo; elicited, &ldquo;wow, that&rsquo;s like Afghanistan, right?&rdquo; These girls, all of them talented athletes as well as good students, could hardly believe that there could have been a time where this was the plight of the women in the United States.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Read more...</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="8"></a></p><a name="8"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></a><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cora-weiss/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-democratic-world-with-justice-equality-development-and-peace">What&rsquo;s wrong with a democratic world with justice, equality, development and peace?</a></strong> <p><span class="authors"><span class="author vcard"><a href="../../author/cora-weiss">Cora Weiss</a></span></span></p><p>My most vivid recollection of the 4th World Conference on Women where 15 years ago nearly 30,000 women gathered in China is of nine refugee Tibetan women. The <a href="http://www.savetibet.org/">International Campaign for Tibet</a> sent Reed Brody, a human rights lawyer, to support the women who, out of hundreds who applied, were granted visas and also permitted to hold an officially approved event at the NGO Forum. They were constantly harassed by Chinese police. Frightened, but determined, Brody helped them agree to a silent demonstration at the gates to the Forum in Hairou. They made gags of the yellow silk scarves that were gifts from China to all the participants, and stood in the rain with tears flowing, locked hand in hand while cameras broadcast their message around the world on the plight of Tibet.</p><p>Civil society women gathered and sang &lsquo;We Shall Overcome&rsquo; as these brave women, who had never engaged in such activity before, feared arrest. They were the first exiled Tibetans to demonstrate inside China. Looking for a safe space, Brody, now counsel with Human Rights Watch, brought them to the Peace Tent and simply said &ldquo;protect them&rdquo;.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cora-weiss/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-democratic-world-with-justice-equality-development-and-peace">Read more...</a></p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Jane Gabriel Fri, 05 Mar 2010 14:25:28 +0000 Jane Gabriel 50625 at https://www.opendemocracy.net This is my witness https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/emily-stokes/this-is-my-witness <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The human voice has a way of piercing through you. Emily Stokes listened to the testimony of the women of Burma.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" width="116" height="36" /></a>Until 1988, Saw Mar was a housewife in her home country of Burma. Born into a well-educated, middle-class family in Rangoon, she spent her time looking after her two daughters, cleaning the house, and cooking for her husband. She had never worked for a living. But on a rainy morning in August, she witnessed a massacre by army troopers, and decided to join the fight to replace the military government. She became the Organizer for the National League for Democracy, working closely with the party&rsquo;s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. One year later, Saw Mar was arrested, interrogated and sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour. In prison, she witnessed disturbing abuses of power, and was herself tortured by prison guards.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Saw Mar &ndash;&nbsp;who has lived in the US for the past decade &ndash; was one of twelve Burmese women to testify at the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women of Burma held in New York, a event organised by the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/news/article/burma-tribunal">Nobel Women&rsquo;s Initiative</a> and the <a href="http://www.womenofburma.org/">Women&rsquo;s League of Burma</a>. The twelve testimonies were heard by an audience of 150, and by a panel of four judges: human rights experts Heisoo Shin and Vitit Muntarbhorn, and Nobel Laureates Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi. The logos of the Nobel Women&rsquo;s Initiative in the tribunal hall acted as a reminder to those watching the tribunal of the ongoing struggle to free a sister Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest in Burma, where she has been kept almost continually since she won the election in 1990.</p> <p>The first four harrowing testimonies heard on Tuesday dealt with women&rsquo;s experiences of violence, rape, sexual violence and trafficking. Dr. Heisoo Shin &ndash; who recently founded a new NGO, the National Movement against Sex Trafficking &ndash; told me after the tribunal that, despite having worked with &ldquo;conflict women&rdquo; for the past 30 years, she had rarely heard such &ldquo;cruel and brutal&rdquo; narratives. Dr. Shin was particularly disturbed, she said, by the way that Burmese authority figures &ndash; community leaders and teachers, for instance &ndash; punished, rather than protected, the female victims of the militia. She cited one of the testimonies, in which a schoolgirls were gang-raped by a group of SPDC soldiers &ndash;&nbsp;an atrocity that the BBC had reported in the international media. Rather than being protected by their communities, the girls were expelled from school for bringing dishonour to the Burmese government and accused of prostitution. Dr. Shin, who has worked on campaigns to protect the sex slaves of Japanese soldiers, suggests that &ndash; while men in Korea have come to understand that Korean women are not to blame for being abused &ndash; the same shift of awareness has yet to happen in Burma.</p> <p>Saw Mar&rsquo;s testimony, which was heard in a group of narratives about torture, imprisonment and persecution, similarly spoke of the social isolation experienced by female victims of torture and violence. &ldquo;Even after I was released from Inseim prison,&rdquo; she told the audience, &ldquo;the regime still checked on me. I lost all of my friends; they would not come to visit because of the military&rsquo;s intimidation.&rdquo; When Aung San Suu Kyi was freed briefly from house arrest in 1990, Saw Mar and her family leapt to her assistance &ndash;&nbsp;but were harassed by the government for doing so. In 1997, Saw Mar and her husband were wrongly accused of bombing the relic of the Buddha&rsquo;s tooth in Rangoon; the government even provided faked video footage. Finally, in 1999, Saw Mar became so distressed by threats to her safety that she left Burma &ndash; and her husband and children &ndash; to seek asylum in the United States.</p> <p>As Jody Williams told the tribunal&rsquo;s audience, the testimonials represented the voices of thousands of women in Burma; they were, Williams said, &ldquo;common &ndash; but we should remember that they are not normal; this should never be normal.&rdquo; Similarly, Dr. Shin believes that the violations of human rights in Burma are &ldquo;systematic&rdquo;. Since the SLORC (now the SPDC) refused to allow the winning NLD to form a new government in 1990, the military&rsquo;s power has been almost impossible to resist by individuals in Burma. &ldquo;If you are the military, you can do anything,&rdquo; Dr. Shin told me. &ldquo;You kill, kidnap, rape. There&rsquo;s no rule of law. It&rsquo;s an embedded system within the regime that allows the military to do anything.&rdquo;<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>However, Dr. Shin is hopeful about the impact that this tribunal will have, citing the positive effects of the 1993 Vienna and 1995 Beijing tribunals. Professor Muntabhorn similarly believes in the tribunal as a practical tool for change: &ldquo;This is a civil society tribunal, it&rsquo;s not a court of law,&rdquo; he explains, &ldquo;but it is important from the perspective of global awareness &ndash; mobilizing people in terms of advocating the rights of Burmese women.&rdquo; On Thursday, Jody Williams and Shirin Ebaldi presented their findings to US Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; more meetings are to follow. The tribunal proves, says Muntabhorn, that the violations of human rights in Burma constitute both war crimes and crimes against humanity. Burma has ratified treaties concerning human rights including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Forced Labour Convention of 1929 &ndash; and has consistently failed to take action to prevent violations of these treaties. Individuals must be held responsible by the state &ndash; and, most importantly, the state must be held responsible by the international community.</p> <p>Professor Muntabhorn<strong>,</strong> who has read thousands of testimonials over the course of his career, told me how the spoken word has a different power from words on a page; the human voice, he says, has a way of &ldquo;piercing through you&rdquo;. Despite the fact that several of the testifiers were unable to enter the US for the tribunal, requiring that their testimonies be read by others, the emotional effect of the words were not lost; as Jody Williams echoed, &ldquo;This is my witness . . . this is not something that has been told to me . . . this is my witness&rdquo;. The tribunal was symbolic in giving women a chance to be heard and supported as they faced up to their own painful experiences. As Saw Mar summarized when I spoke to her after the tribunal: &ldquo;We are Asian women. We have no voice in Burma. We dare not speak about these things because of the shame. Because of that, the government is taking advantage.&rdquo;</p> <p>For Saw Mar, who spoke passionately in her testimonial, occasionally breaking into English as if to make sure that her message reached the audience, the tribunal was the opportunity she has been waiting for. Since seeking asylum in the United States in 1999, she has lived in the Bay Ridge area of San Jose; her husband and two daughters joined her in 2004. After the tribunal, she explained to me how she sometimes feels as if she is living two lives; when she isn&rsquo;t working for an electrics company in the Bay Area, she spends as much time as she can working with organizations such as the Burmese Democratic American Alliance <a href="http://www.badasf.org/">BADA</a> and the Burmese American Women's Alliance <a href="http://www.bawalliance.org/">BAWA</a>. &ldquo;When people are interested in my name and ask where I am from,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;that&rsquo;s a great opportunity. I take their hand, and I tell them my story. I speak, speak, speak&hellip;&rdquo; She tries to tell her story whenever she can, to spread awareness of the political situation in Burma &ndash; but she often feels that her words are not being heard.</p> <p>Speaking at the tribunal wasn&rsquo;t easy. &ldquo;My knees were shaking,&rdquo; she tells me. But, she says, once she started, she didn&rsquo;t see the audience at all: &ldquo;I just saw the 1988 crisis happen; I saw the story I was telling in front of my eyes, and how I suffered in jail, and the horrible night, and the way the wardens treated us...&rdquo;</p> <p>Saw Mar&rsquo;s messages to the international community, to the SPDC, and to civil society are loud and clear. &ldquo;In Burma, the women are very quiet because they are afraid of the military government. I would like to tell them: You are not alone. Don&rsquo;t be afraid. We are fighting for you &ndash;&nbsp;wherever we are &ndash; to get freedom.&rdquo; For the United Nations and all the international governments, she says: &ldquo;Please, go inside Burma and give us protection. Give Burma a chance to develop like other countries.&rdquo; Her final message is the most heartfelt, and the most urgent. In 2010, elections will take place in Burma, but Aung San Suu Kyi &ndash; along with many other politicians who are also imprisoned &ndash; is currently unable to fulfil her potential to bring democracy to Burma. Like the judges at the tribunal, Saw Mar urges that Aung San Suu Kyi be released: &ldquo;Let her talk, let her meet with the people.&rdquo; When I ask Saw Mar when she last saw her friend, she sighs. &ldquo;The last time I saw Aung San Suu Kyi was in 1997,&rdquo; she says, sadly. And then she looks more hopeful: &ldquo;But I always listen to her voice.&rdquo;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cora-weiss/burma-may-save-its-tigers-and-not-its-women">Burma may save its tigers and not its women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democracy and government Equality International Gender Justice Dialogue 2010 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 50.50 Women, Peace & Security women's movements women's human rights women and power gender justice gender Emily Stokes Fri, 05 Mar 2010 04:29:33 +0000 Emily Stokes 50607 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Haiti's 'restaveks' https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jessica-loudis/haitis-restaveks <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Less than a month after Haiti was brought to its knees by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, another story emerged from the island that briefly arrested international attention and interrupted the torrent of post-disaster coverage... </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>On February 4, ten members of an American Baptist group were caught crossing the Haitian border into the Dominican Republic with a busload of 33 children. There was no official documentation for the children&mdash;most Haitian babies are not registered at birth&mdash;and group members were promptly arrested and charged with kidnapping. The story, however, turned out to be short-lived: the missionaries chalked the affair up to a misunderstanding, claiming that they believed the children to be orphans, and by February 19, eight of the ten members had been safely returned to the U.S. But aside from story&rsquo;s dramatic allure, what was especially notable about the incident was what the Western media failed to address: that the missionaries, however unwittingly, had touched the surface of one of the world&rsquo;s most entrenched systems of child slavery. <br /><br /> &lsquo;Restavek&rsquo; is not a word I was familiar with before walking into today's UN panel on contemporary slavery. From the audience&rsquo;s reaction when the moderator began using the word casually, I assume it&rsquo;s not a term that most other people were familiar with either. A restavek (from the French reste avec, or &lsquo;stay with&rsquo;) is a child domestic servant, and in most cases, a girl who has been given away by parents unable to afford the costs of raising her. Restaveks are slaves in the most medieval sense of the word: they work 16-20 hour days, are charged with taking care of all household chores (including fetching water, cleaning, and washing clothes), and are denied access to pay, education, and even a bed. While the system is a holdover from a time when wealthy families took in other peoples&rsquo; children and provided them with a home and education, the economics have since shifted, and now even poor Haitian families have begun taking in child slaves.<br /><br /> Before the earthquake, there were an estimated 300,000 restaveks in Haiti and 400,000 more children believed to be orphans. But at best, these figures are educated guesses. Exact numbers are difficult to come by, both because many of the children remain under the government radar, and worse still, because many Haitian parents have taken to using orphanages as depositories for unaffordable offspring, making it difficult to tell which children actually are orphans, and which have been abandoned to a corrupt and ineffective bureaucracy. <br /><br /> The roots beneath the restavek system are familiar ones: poverty, food insecurity, lack of education&mdash;all deep, infrastructural problems that can&rsquo;t be solved with foreign band-aids, as UNICEF head of Child Protection Bertrand Njanja Fassu was quick to point out. Add a profoundly corrupt government to the mix, and NGOs and international organizations working in Haiti have their hands tied. But beyond these seemingly insurmountable issues, Fassu identified an even more basic problem: that restaveks are tacitly&mdash;if not openly&mdash;accepted in Haitian society. &ldquo;If you have a restavek at home,&rdquo; Fassu remarked, &ldquo;you do not feel guilty, and nobody accuses you of slavery.&rdquo; According to Fassu, and by proxy, UNICEF, slavery is the unacknowledged heart of child servitude system&mdash;and the issue that nobody is willing to talk about. As the world&rsquo;s first black republic, Haiti is particularly sensitive to accusations of slavery, and categorically unwilling to consider the idea that they participate in it. Consequently, foreign efforts to engage the government about restaveks becomes an elaborate tap-dance around the issue, a conversation about child slaves who can&rsquo;t be described as such. <br /><br /> Things are changing in the wake of the earthquake, Haitian NGO leader Guerda Constant told the audience. While there has been a surge in the number of orphaned children&mdash;and even reports of restaveks in displacement camps&mdash;the earthquake has also prompted a return to rural areas, a trend that&rsquo;s been long overdue. The restavek system has survived in part because of the dismal economics of the Haitian countryside&mdash;for years, people living outside of the capital have effectively sentenced themselves to lives in poverty. Things aren&rsquo;t any better now, but sadly, there&rsquo;s little hope left in Port-au-Prince either. In this case, the return to the rural is a doubled-edged sword: there&rsquo;s no real infrastructure for new arrivals, but at the same time, it&rsquo;s easier to deal with structural problems at a community level. And this is exactly what Constant and Minel Pierre-Fils, the head of Salvation Army schools in Haiti, are doing. Constant works in three rural communities creating &ldquo;social maps&rdquo; of the areas that target issues like restaveks on a local level. Pierre-Fils sends social workers house to house to find children that aren&rsquo;t in school, and in ideal situations, returns them to the classroom. <br /><br /> Despite their differences, all the panelists agreed on this: restaveks must to be talked about. Unlike so many of Haiti&rsquo;s problems, in this context, dialogue can have an immediate and tangible effect. If restaveks remain society&rsquo;s dirty little secret, then generations of children will continue to grow up as slaves. Haiti may be the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, but this is an issue that can be dealt with. It shouldn&rsquo;t take American missionaries to make the world pay attention. <br /><br /></p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Jessica Loudis Fri, 05 Mar 2010 01:42:18 +0000 Jessica Loudis 50603 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Burma may save its tigers and not its women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cora-weiss/burma-may-save-its-tigers-and-not-its-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Cora Weiss reports on the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women of Burma - an overwhelming day of stories told by remarkable women of all ages of inhumanity leaving the listeners wondering how the women could have survived.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The World Bank is determined to play conservationist and protect the last of the 3200 wild tigers, down from 100,000 a century ago, most in Burma, but finds it is “shackled from doling out aid” to this South East Asian nation. But shackles also seem to be in place when it comes to a robust policy to demand freedom for Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, her National League for Democracy adherents and thousands of Burmese members of traditional ethnic groups jailed or abused following a democratically held election in May 1990 which gave her party 80% of parliamentary seats. The military coup following that election has left the natural resource wealthy country drowning in the most egregious human rights abuses including documented child soldiers, sexual violence, forced labour, slavery, destruction of entire villages of the many ethnic groups, extra judicial killings, over a million internally displaced persons and a record of being condemned for this by the UN for the past 15 years.<br /> <br /> This is the background that led to the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/news/article/burma-tribunal">International Tribunal on Crimes against Women of Burma</a>, held on March 2nd in New York City as one of nearly 200 parallel civil society sponsored events during the United Nations <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010%20%20%20%20annual%20conference.">54th Commission on the Status of Women</a> annual conference.<br /> <br /> Recommendations from the judges, Nobel Peace laureates, Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi, Thai law Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn and Prof. Heisoo Shin of Korea’s Women’s University, include those to <strong>Burma</strong><strong>’s military regime</strong> to:&nbsp;</p> <p><br /> STOP all forms of violence against women;<br /> STOP attacks and persecution against ethnic nationalities and groups;</p> <p>RELEASE immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners;<br /> GRANT access to UN agencies and NGO humanitarian groups;<br /> PROVIDE access to and cooperate with United Nations and human rights organizations to monitor human rights within Burma;<br /> RATIFY all human rights treaties…;<br /> <br /> To the <strong>Asia-Pacific region including ASEAN</strong> to:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IMPEL Burma to comply with the ASEAN Charter and international legal obligations and human rights standards;<br /> INVITE the ASEAN Human Rights Commission to submit reports covering particular issues related to Burma;<br /> SUPPORT the establishment of the ASEAN Commission for Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, including consideration of the situation in Burma; <br /> </p> <p>To the <strong>international community, particularly the United Nations</strong>, to: <br /> URGE states to take collective action to ensure the implementation of SCRs 1325, 1820, 1888,and 1889 guaranteeing women’s full participation in post conflict reconstruction and freedom from all forms of sexual violence;</p> <p>URGE the UN Security Council to refer Burma to the International Criminal Court, <br /> </p> <p>To <strong>civil society</strong> to:</p> <p><br /> CONTINUE to actively engage with the peoples of Burma inside and outside the country and to mobilize public pressure at all levels to raise consciousness of the crimes and violations being committed by the Burmese military regime against the peoples of Burma, especially women and children. <br /> <br /> Convened by the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative </a>&nbsp;and the <a href="http://www.womenofburma.org/">Women’s League of Burma</a>, the Tribunal brought 12 Burmese women to testify on Violence Against Women, Civil and Political Violations, and Economic, Social and Cultural Violations. They wanted to raise the visibility of Burma’s crimes against women; produce findings by eminent judges that respond to the testimonies and assign responsibility for human rights violations; engage members of the international community to their global responsibility to protect citizens whose governments are unable and or unwilling to do so; join others in calling for the release of political prisoners including Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung Suu Kyi (daughter of General Aung San whose movement liberated Burma from Japan in 1945 which was followed by Burma’s independence as a democratic state in 1948); encourage support for activists working to promote justice, democracy, peace and equality for Burma; promote dialogue between women; value women’s perspectives in all movements to achieve peace and democracy; and to bolster the spirit of change for people within Burma. And they did just that. It was an overwhelming day of stories told by remarkable women of all ages of inhumanity leaving the listeners wondering how the women could have survived.<br /> <br /> Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi asked, after we heard the list of recommendations, how we can expect the military dictatorship to respond to the demands of refugees from Burma. “We need to find a way for Burma to carry out our desires. When non democratic governments are accused, they use sovereignty as their excuse, saying we can’t interfere in their internal affairs.”<br /> <br /> Shirin should know. She has defended human rights in her own country of Iran and is no longer welcome to practice law there. “We live in a globalized world. Globalization can only be effective when it can stop injustice and inequality. We’ve heard sad stories today. There are no courts and no justice. How long can we wait for these injustices to stop? We ask international organizations to listen to our recommendations. We urge the full participation of women in all post conflict decisions”, she said.<br /> <br /> Jody Williams reminded us of the words we heard from the brave women who had the courage to participate, who broke the silence of the women still suffering unimaginable brutality, humiliation, and violations. Women who told their stories saying, “This is my witness”, and “We are prisoners in our own country”, “I am a refugee child of refugees”, “This story is a common story, so common as to become normal”. Jody promised to “amplify your cries, which will contribute to an end of impunity. Women should no longer be invisible”.<br /> <br /> Before the proceedings began, I asked Jody why the NWI was doing this. “Justice hasn’t come to Burma. Our sister, Aung San Suu Kyi, is imprisoned (under house arrest). It’s a case of foiled democracy. The international community is not taking a consistent stand that will lead to justice for the people of Burma.” <br /> <br /> I wanted to know why some of the 150 people in the audience decided to attend. Pam Yates, documentary film maker whose Reckoning is about the International Criminal Court, told me that the “Nobel Women’s Initiative is the most important organization for peace and security” and she senses that the cause of the Burmese women belongs in the ICC. Dr. Susan Maloney came from Los Angeles where her organization, Sister of Holy Names, works on trafficking of women and children. It is a coalition of 17 religious communities of women, not related to the Catholic Church, she said. Rhonda Copelon, the woman who helped to get rape during conflict declared a war crime in the Rome Statute, and who founded and led the CUNY International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic, hoped that “these testimonies and the recommendations of the judges will become a force for governments, especially the US and the UN to consider their legal obligations either under international law, UN resolutions or the Charter to protect the people of Burma. When a government fails to protect its people there is the Responsibility to Protect resolution. We hope this event will be a vehicle to see the urgency- to do something sooner rather than later.”<br /> <br /> May-Oo Mutran, a constitutional scholar, read the testimony of a woman we’ll call Ruth Tha who was imprisoned when she was five months pregnant for five years of hard labour for some violation of Art. 17.1 a law which she knew nothing about. Her job in her “death cell” was to catch 25 flies a day and if she didn’t she was beaten, which happened daily. Medical care was only available if the prisoners could pay for it, and having no money they received no treatment. When summoned to the so called clinic it was inevitably for sexual abuse. <br /> <br /> We heard 12 such testimonies, each more devastating and brutal than the next. A middle school girl was kidnapped and I’ll spare you the details, but hard as it was for us to listen, think of how unbearable it must have been for these young women to have survived the ordeals and relive the experience every time they tell the stories.<br /> <br /> Charlotte Bunch, founding director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, wrote the guiding manual which was used to organize this Tribunal, following experiences of a previous tribunal in Tokyo. She served as moderator and explained that they wanted to “call attention to the suffering and resiliency of women in Burma and support their efforts.”<br /> <br /> <a href="http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/news-and-reports/news-stories/walking-amongst-sharp-knives/7">Walking Amongst Sharp Knives,</a> the 106 page report from the Karen Women’s Organization was released the day before the Tribunal. It details testimony from 95 women between the ages of 25 and 82, who have become village chiefs, and suffer unbelievable torture and abuses. The increase in the number of women as chiefs, a role traditionally played by men, is because the men have been brutally treated and killed by the Burmese Army. The women have been elected chiefs through the lowlands of Eastern Burma where the Karen ethnic minority of 7 million people try to live. Karen women have documented abuses including: crucifixion, burning people alive, rape and gang rape, including of girl children, torture, beatings, water torture, burying people up to their heads and beating them to death, arbitrary executions, beheadings, slave labour, and forcing them to provide so called comfort women to the Burmese Army. This remarkable report shows the challenges women assuming leadership face in a patriarchal and militarised society. <br /> <br /> The Karen Women’s Organization report, like that of the Commissioners who served the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, calls for a UN Security Council Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity inflicted by the Burmese military.<br /> <br /> Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for most of the past 20 years and is barred from participating in the elections promised for this year which will no doubt result in continued militarisation with a parliament.<br /> <br /> There is a long list of actions taken by US administrations from 1997 when Pres. Clinton banned investment in Burma, and Congress banned imports or loans, and Condi Rice called Burma an “outpost of tyranny”, and Bush likened Burma to Belarus and Cuba and the list goes on. But Chevron, which includes Unocal still works Burma’s gas fields; and while US companies cannot have clothes made there, they can profit from Burma’s oil and gas. China is building an oil pipeline, Thailand has rights to over a million cubic feet of natural gas and India has 5 trillion cubic feet! France, Thailand and Chevron have a pipeline which, according to a recent issue of <a href="http://motherjones.com/toc/2006/03">Mother Jones</a>, gave the junta a profit of over $1Billion. The economic ties are huge. Burma is a member of ASEAN with which the EU is negotiating a free trade agreement; China is heavily invested in Burma’s oil, gas and hydro electric power development. China and Russia have refused to let a Security Council resolution get passed even without language of genocide, or crimes against humanity.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Suu Kyi’s appeal to be released from house arrest after the provocative and insane act of an American who swam to her house and whom she took in to dry was rejected by the Burmese Supreme Court last week. While the visit of a UN envoy in February prompted the release of an 82 yr old man held for 7 yrs under house arrest. And also this past month an American of Burmese origin, working for democracy, was sentenced to five years of hard labour on charges of carrying a forged identity card. Press about Burma is considerable, and action is zero. There is a full page horror story of the Rohingya refugees, a Burmese ethnic group, who sought refuge from military abuses in Burma, being seized, beaten, persecuted and abused in Bangladesh where they have lived for years. They are being forced back to Burma, now called Myanmar by the military junta, where they will face brutal treatment. Bangladesh offers no documentation, no identity, and they have no rights to education or other government services. Robberies, assaults and rapes have significantly increased, and according to the director of the <a href="http://democracyforburma.wordpress.com/2009/02/09/the-arakan-project-which-advocates-for-the-rohingya-a-muslim-minority-group-from-burma-said-the-misleading-account-which-gained-headlines-around-the-world-was-made-by-a-people-smuggler-on-the-vesse">Arakan</a> project, they are either arrested, jailed or pushed back over the border.<br /> <br /> The International Tribunal was a civil society model of a remarkable inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes. The United Nations should be doing this. And the Commission on the Status of Women, which meets annually and is reviewing and appraising the Beijing 4th World Conference on Women held 15 years ago, should have welcomed this to its meeting. The Beijing meeting was dedicated to Equality, Development and Peace. But the CSW has sadly ignored the peace leg from Beijing which should have been on its agenda. It is left to civil society to press for peace and for women to fully participate in the peace process.<br /> <br /> “The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity.” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><ul><li><a title="International Tribunal on Crimes Against the Women of Burma" href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/blogs/burmatribunal">Website</a> of the International Tribunal on Crimes and Women of Burma.</li></ul><ul><li>Full text of the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/home/article/press-release-international-tribunal-on-burma-calls-for-end-to-impunity-of-military-regi">findings and recommendations</a>.</li></ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democracy and government Equality International Gender Justice Dialogue 2010 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 50.50 Women, Peace & Security women's movements women's human rights women and power women and militarism violence against women patriarchy gender justice gender Cora Weiss Thu, 04 Mar 2010 01:24:54 +0000 Cora Weiss 50585 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Defining the new American gender agenda https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/defining-new-american-gender-agenda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> There has been much debate both within Washington and without as to what the new American gender agenda will be. Clearly, we’ll have one....... </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>After all, over the last year we&rsquo;ve watched as the Obama Administration built an entirely new gender architecture, from its creation of a <a href="http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/intergovernmental-affairs/white-house-council-women-and-girls">White House Council on Women and Girls</a>, to the endowment of Melanne Verveer as&nbsp; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Ambassador-at-Large_for_Global_Women%27s_Issues">Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women&rsquo;s Issues</a> and the physical and symbolic relocation of the State Department office dealing with those issues from a satellite building to headquarters. We even have a new Congressional subcommittee in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to address, among other things, gender. At a briefing to the US delegation Verveer called this work an unprecedented manifestation of an emerging philosophy that the status of women and girls is &ldquo;critical to the conduct of our foreign policy.&nbsp; Our efforts for security, the environment, the economy and governance cannot succeed without women fully participating.&rdquo;</p> <p>Tremendous! The prayers of civil society have been answered. The pleas and prods of feminist activists have been heard. A global superpower has moved to mainstream women into its efforts to support human rights, development and good governance in the world, both at home and abroad. So, what&rsquo;s next? What legacy will be born in the house Barack built?&nbsp; I went to the 54th U.N. Commission on the Status of Women hoping to find out.</p> <p>At the briefing held at the United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations (it seems even governments have found it impossible to secure space for their events at CSW this year), Ambassador Verveer set out the new American gender agenda. Priorities she outlined include food security and agriculture; health; peace and security; violence against women; strengthening U.S. and international gender infrastructure; and climate change.</p> <p><strong>Food Security and Agriculture</strong>: Recognizing that the majority of the world&rsquo;s poor depend on agriculture, the President has prioritized an investment in agricultural development. The Ambassador underscored that 60-80% of the world&rsquo;s smallholder farmers are women, and hence the U.S. strategy for food security and agriculture will work to empower them and ensure their access to resources, training and markets.</p> <p><strong>Health</strong>: The Ambassador deplored the global lack of progress on goals to improve women&rsquo;s health, acknowledging that this is the <a href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/">Millennium Development Goal</a> that &ldquo;has not moved.&rdquo; She pointed to a U.S.-sponsored UN resolution that is being proposed to fight HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, and maternal mortality.</p> <p><strong>Peace and Security</strong>: Citing a strong commitment to the landmark <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/ianwge/taskforces/wps/history.html">UN Security Council Resolution 1325</a> on women, peace and security, the Ambassador pointed specifically to <a href="http://www.state.gov/s/special_rep_afghanistan_pakistan/2010/136250.htm">U.S. plans to support the social, economic and political empowerment of women and girls in Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p><strong>U.S. and U.N. Gender Architecture</strong>: The Ambassador expressed support for well-funded, new <a href="http://gear.groupsite.com/link/go/65177047">United Nations gender entity</a> lead by an Under-Secretary General with a seat at the highest decision-making table within the UN framework. She further expressed her own dedication to see through the U.S. ratification of the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),</a> an accord to which all but seven UN member states are states-parties. Finally, she noted that President Obama has declared the Millennium Development Goals, two of which focus explicitly on women, as the United States&rsquo; development goals as well.</p> <p><strong>Violence Against Women</strong>: The Ambassador acknowledged that violence against women remains an endemic problem prohibiting the full participation of women in their communities, economies and societies, naming rape as a tool of war, child marriage and honor killings among a number of enduring challenges. &ldquo;This is a security issue; it is a productivity issue; and it is foremost a human rights issue,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p><strong>Climate Change</strong>: As the U.S. confronts emerging challenges presented by global climate change, the Ambassador recognized that women bear the brunt of its negative effects. But, she noted, &ldquo;women are not just the victims but the solutions.&rdquo; She pointed to emerging initiatives, such as a carbon exchange bank focused on women&rsquo;s needs, the U.S. is developing to minimize the negative impact of climate change on women and to empower them as part of the solution to this global challenge.</p> <p>As we look forward to the work ahead of us in this historic year, a year that holds the 100th anniversary of International Women&rsquo;s Day, the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals and the 10th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, U.S. engagement on these important issues is not only welcome, it is imperative. I look forward to seeing it realized in the days ahead.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/charlotte-bunch/powerful-womens-agency-will-un-deliver">A Powerful Women&#039;s Agency: will the UN deliver?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Lyric Thompson Wed, 03 Mar 2010 22:32:37 +0000 Lyric Thompson 50584 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Overdue justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/overdue-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The next Progress of the World's Women, UNIFEM's flagship biennial report, will be on Access to Justice. I went along to their CSW session to hear their solutions for justice systems that are not working for women. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>UNIFEM&rsquo;s next flagship Progress of the World&rsquo;s Women report, to be published later this year, will be on Access to Justice. Yesterday I went to <a href="http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/csw/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/progress_of_the_worlds_women.pdf" target="_blank">their session</a> (pdf) on the topic to hear about the issues.</p> <p>Laura Turquet, manager of Progress, introduced the topic by outlining the three themes the report hopes to cover: impunity, plural legal systems and transforming legal systems. As she explained, &lsquo;impunity means that individuals and organizations are, on a systemic level, &ldquo;getting away with it&rdquo;.&rsquo; Plural legal systems refers to the reality that in most, if not all, countries, there is &lsquo;more than one legal system in operation&rsquo;, such as customary versus civil law for example. Transforming legal systems is about recognizing that while women need to be able to access justice systems, by making them more affordable for example, justice systems themselves also need to be reformed to better meet women&rsquo;s needs.</p> <p>Joan Winship, Executive Director of the International Association of Women Judges (<a href="http://www.iawj.org/" target="_blank">IAWJ</a>), spoke about the importance of having women involved in justice systems, arguing that courts should reflect the populations of the countries they&rsquo;re in. Joan also highlighted how having laws on women&rsquo;s rights doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean women are better off. Women have to be able to access the court systems to claim their rights, for example. And judges need to be trained to know how they should be upholding the laws. She cited examples of what a difference it has made for judges to be trained in the links between CEDAW and the constitutions of their countries.</p> <p>Shanthi Dairiam, Founding Member and former Executive Director of International Women&rsquo;s Right Action Watch Asia Pacific (<a href="http://www.iwraw-ap.org/" target="_blank">IWRAW</a>) and member of the CEDAW Committee from 2005-8 spoke about how &lsquo;law&rsquo; cannot be assumed to be inherently just. Instead she argued that we should remain aware that law is super-imposed onto unequal contexts. As a result it &lsquo;privileges those that are socially dominant&rsquo; whether at the personal or the public level. Because there are &lsquo;many aspects of human relationships that the law doesn&rsquo;t touch&rsquo;, law allows social hierarchies to continue and guide the law. Law assumes that everyone is autonomous and equally free to make their own choices, which is not the case. This &lsquo;neutrality in the law can become discriminatory in certain cases&rsquo; because women have different capacities to access and enjoy rights.</p> <p>The discussion that followed was quite focused and really very interesting.</p> <p>A woman named Cecilia from an organization in Brazil called Observe spoke about how they are monitoring the implementation of their new domestic violence law including how judges and the police are responding. She felt that &lsquo;if we don&rsquo;t have a strong feminist movement demanding implementation of the law, it doesn&rsquo;t happen&rsquo;.</p> <p>Renee from an organization in Southern Africa talked about a pilot in Zambia of a one-stop shop for survivors of gender-based violence where women can come to receive medical aid, counselling and support from a trained police officer all in one place. The centre is linked to the judicial system with trained personnel on hand to help ensure that women who want to, can pursue legal remedies with the psychological and other support they need on hand.</p> <p>Maria from Macedonia pointed out that law that is created by &lsquo;experts&rsquo;, out of the context of people&rsquo;s lives and without developing the proper implementation infrastructure at the same time to ensure it works &ndash; for example making sure judges know how to apply the law &ndash; is no good as law. As she said, &lsquo;Access to justice is not just about [the existence of] law, but about an entire system.&rsquo;</p> <p>A woman who had worked in Rwanda spoke about how important it is to maintain a holistic view of what justice means. She asked &lsquo;what is the woman&rsquo;s perception of justice?&rsquo; and argued that decisions about what mechanisms are needed to deliver justice should be built on the answers to this question. Some women may want compensation, others practical health interventions, and so on.</p> <p>I raised a point about delivering justice to girls who are survivors of violence, which is an issue we work on at ActionAid as part of our <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/main.aspx?PageID=1304" target="_blank">violence against girls in schools</a> programme. We know that sometimes parents will collude with perpetrators of violence for financial or social reasons when their daughters have been attacked. In these cases, where girls are minors and would usually be relying on their parents for support, how can we ensure girls have access to the justice they deserve?</p> <p>It really was a fascinating discussion and I am looking forward to the Progress report being published. It seems to me, however, that it is no big surprise that a male-dominated system, namely the justice system, is producing male-biased law and outcomes. While more than one person remarked on the importance of having women in the system, including Joan Winship, no one discussed what should be done about the lack of parity (at best) and the severe and shocking under-representation of women (more frankly). At stake is women&rsquo;s lives &ndash; women are being battered and brutalized with very little recourse to justice and in the context of widespread impunity and indeed laws that deny the violence (e.g. allowing marital rape) or legal practice that amounts to the same (e.g. husbands being able to argue that it is their right under customary law to abuse their wives). Are not more radical propositions for fairness under the law now overdue?</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 zohra moosa Wed, 03 Mar 2010 20:58:48 +0000 zohra moosa 50583 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Disillusionment, Anger and Protest. https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/disillusionment-anger-and-protest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> At this Tuesday morning’s NGO consultation we women from the NGOs, attempting to participate in the 54th CSW, finally collectively erupted, en masse </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>These meetings will take place every day for the duration of the Session at the New York Salvation Army building, several blocks away from the UN because there is &ldquo;no room at the Inn&rdquo;, that is, the UN building, where in previous years we always met. Is there some dark conspiracy that facilitates the process of making us women feel so unwelcome, so redundant, and so belittled ?<br /><br /> Throughout the day, wherever and whenever one met women queuing, exhausted, harassed, and often livid with frustration &ndash; women who had spent vast sums of money from scarce resources just to get here &ndash; the anger, nay hot fury, was evident. It was scandalous that we women should be so treated by the UN, so badly served by them, so disregarded.<br /><br /> I wish I had her name and country, but this morning, a fiery trade unionist woman stood up and was cheered loudly by everyone when she listed our complaints. The interminable long waits, up to eight hours or more, queuing in icy streets simply to get our passes to have the right to enter the UN building. The appalling chaos of the arrangements made although the UN has had months to prepare itself for this 54th Session of the CSW. &ldquo;It was unthinkable that men, for example, turning up to attend the G20 meetings would be subjected to such treatment.&rdquo;<br /><br /> We were not content with the bland excuses passed on to us from the NGOCSW New York Committee, that the reconstruction of the UN building, the refurbishing work at the Church Centre, and the delayed opening of TNLB (Temporary North Lawn Building) were matters outside their control. That they had expected only 1,800 NGO women but 2,000 had turned up, and also that there was a shortage of badges. Women had travelled across the half the world arriving tired, hungry and cold and then were forced to waste hours and hours standing in long lines, thus missing the very meetings they had come to participate in either as panellists or speakers from the floor. We all agreed that we had been treated insultingly. <br /><br /> In the Church Centre, where some NGOs were considered fortunate to have managed to get room space for meetings, the lifts and rooms were so overcrowded that male bouncers were blocking women entering either of these. At one time I and a colleague evaded the burly policeman-like bouncer and stole up the emergency stairs. We could see more women milling as if in a refugee camp melee awaiting emergency ration dole outs being held back physically by a male controller. At that point we hid for a while in an empty loo, hoping we could slip in when the crowd abated but the women did not go away. We were all desperate to get into the meetings concerning the GEAR, the Gender Architecture Reform, but the room was too small for us. We demanded that a letter of protest was sent directly to the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (CONGO) to forward to the Chair of the CSW, spelling out our complaints. For not only was it near impossible to get in and find a seat at the Church Centre, since the top 12th floor was under refurbishment, but entry to the government meetings in the UN were also being severely restricted. <br /><br /> Someone suggested that we move into the UN building and blockade the doors to the main Conference Chamber so that the delegates could not get in. Later when the UK NGOs met with their own Delegation, headed by Baroness Joyce Gould, the frustration and resentment expressed at the NGO Consultation was repeated. One after another people spoke of their disillusionment with the whole process. Hard for those women coming here for the first time with such expectations of how they were going to help improve the status of women, interact with governments and UN entities. Deeply distressing for those of us who have been coming here for years and seen the slow deterioration in the arrangements for civil society to work with government at the international level.<br /><br /> This whole experience reflects the low status that women are held in across the world, and it is paradoxical that this should be happening, of all places, at the UN and at a meeting which is held to address that issue.<br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> &nbsp;<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democracy and government Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Margaret Owen Wed, 03 Mar 2010 04:12:50 +0000 Margaret Owen 50560 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Enter NGO https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/enter-ngo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Much of the negotiations seem to be sewn up before the conference has even started, but NGOs seem two steps behind each development. Is the space for NGO influence shrinking? </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>This morning NGOs found out that not only would there not be an outcome document from this year's CSW, but the political declaration that would be serving as the official output from the conference was already agreed.</p><p>Just ten minutes before the declaration was due to be tabled and approved, UK NGOs received hard copies of the <a href="http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/LTD/N10/251/37/PDF/N1025137.pdf" target="_blank">text</a>. It totals less than two pages and is as general as it is brief.</p><p>According to the document, the text has been in circulation since late February. Yet even the official <a href="http://www.ngocsw.org/en/main" target="_blank">NGO Committee</a> on the CSW didn't have copies of the document before today. It fell to an NGO from Austria to share the information.</p><p>Most of the UK NGO represenatives I've spoken to are unhappy with the text, not because there is anything in it that is a problem, but because there isn't much to it at all. Having received it late and almost after the fact, it is even more disppointing for them to have found that it is so weak on content.</p><p>Let's not forget, too, that today is only Day 2. If the text is agreed, what exactly are states planning on doing for the next ten days?</p><p>Apparently they will spend their time on various resolutions that are due to be tabled in the coming days. Likely topics include FGM, women taken as hostages and Palestinian women. And again, actual text seems to be elluding NGOs. None of the UK NGOs at a briefing with the UK delegation this evening had seen copies.</p><p>With a record 7000 NGOs estimated to be registered for this year's CSW and tensions mounting over lack of access to proceedings and transparency over process, the time for NGO action is approaching.</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 zohra moosa Wed, 03 Mar 2010 03:23:56 +0000 zohra moosa 50559 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The mother of all widows https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/mother-of-all-widows <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> So yesterday CSW formally opened and we NGOs, thousands of us,queue, crowd, jostle to get a seat either in the gallery of Conference Room A where the delegates are or to watch on the big screen the proceedings from Conference Room B. Although we are there by 9 am nothing gets going until after 10. Delegates are warned that colour blindness will not be accepted as an excuse if they ignore the orange light which tells them they have 30 seconds to stop speaking. Speakers for a group of countries have 10 minutes; mere single nations only 5... </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>We watch and listen as the top people in the UN such as the head of ECOSOC, UNIFEM, the Egyptian Chair of CEDAW; the dignified lovely UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Megiro followed by Rachel Mayanja, Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues to the SG do their stuff. All speaking passionately about gender equality and the empowerment of women; the gains and progress made in the 15 years since Beijing. The DSG spoke optimistically of the hopes she had that the new Gender Entity, the UN Department for Women, will get its legs by September and there will be far more effective work in the field driven by top level policy making at headquarters. The presentations were elegant and predictable and each speaker was applauded but many of us were anxious to get going on our own business, rushing back across the road to the Church Centre or wherever else the NGOs had found near the UN building to hold their own meetings. <br /><br /> I only managed to fit in two parallel events on Monday but they were good. The first on Goal 5 (Maternal Mortality) of the MDGs, chaired by the great &ldquo;father of UN SCR 1325&rdquo;, Ambassador Anurwal Chowdhury who in 2006 signed the petition on a gender and peace making issue for our WPD Nepal partner, the WHR-SWG (Women for Human Rights Single Women&rsquo;s Group). The panel included UNICEF and UNFPA (men) presenters. They showed how maternal mortality could be reduced dramatically given certain specific strategies and resources and how even very poor countries had managed to do this by training traditional birth attendants, by ensuring that women and girls could access family planning services, by the provision of basic drugs and by training and empowering paramedics to perform some simple surgery. We were given a very clinical description of different types of Obstetric Fistula and what could be done both to prevent and to repair. I managed to get a quick question in &ndash; about why on earth neither UNICEF nor UNFPA had ever brought into their policy work the issues of widowhood, widowhood mourning rites, the increases of child marriage and therefore child widowhood because single mothers cannot afford to keep their girl children in school.&nbsp; The UNICEF man said I was quite right, they need to look at this and Ambassador Chowdhury called me the &ldquo;<em>mother of all widows</em>&rdquo; so I left feeling I had made one good remark. And then, the nicest feature of all our parallel events.. suddenly people I had met all over the world at different meetings come up, from Nepal, from Mozambique from Kenya and we are all hugging and embracing and exchanging our papers and brochures and details of our meetings. <br /><br /> On then to the last meeting of the day on GEAR the gender architecture reform to set up the new $1 billion dollar Department for Women. Will it happen? By September? Can the appointment of its USG be transparent ? It&nbsp; will be a woman ? A 27 page detailed analysis on the new entity is around and none of us have read it but today we will wear GEAR stickers on our shirts and all stand in the Gallery so the SG can see us and that means we want all in place by September <br /><br /> Lastly on to the party given us by the UK Mission to the UN and our Ambassador, Mark Lyall-Gran who is really approachable, friendly and helpful. His wife is also a diplomat, with unpaid leave whilst she is in New York as the UK Mission too small for her to have a job here. So two diplomats, married to each other! Will we see soon that its the wife who takes the Ambassador job and the husband the unpaid leave? That would be true equality.<br /><br /> I must close it is after 7 am and its the 2nd day and the NGO briefings. Harriet Harman has flown home quite suddenly for &ldquo;domestic and personal reasons&rdquo;. Our Ambassador says she gave a stirring speech but I&rsquo;ve not yet read it. Could it be something is brewing re: Gordon and No.10? I haven&rsquo;t a clue being over here and with the UN building under reconstruction I can't even pick up a Guardian to find out what is happening on the home base.</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democracy and government Equality International politics UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Margaret Owen Tue, 02 Mar 2010 15:47:33 +0000 Margaret Owen 50538 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bring them into the daylight https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/bring-them-into-daylight <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The session on Sexual and Reproductive Health rights in Africa, held by the Amanitare Sexual Rights Network opened with the blunt observation by Dr Lesley Ann Foster, director of Masimanyane, that just as violence against women is global, so too is the failure of every government in the world to meet its obligations in international, national and regional law to protect women. For all the advances in our understanding of the problem she said, “ What we cannot claim, is that we have changed the culture of impunity.“ </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>So what have we understood? Gudrun Jonsdottir from <a href="http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=is&amp;u=http://www.stigamot.is/&amp;ei=zo2MS7a2PITdlAe6rPywDQ&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=translate&amp;ct=result&amp;resnum=2&amp;ved=0CA4Q7gEwAQ&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3DStigamot%2Biceland%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1B3GPCK_en-GBGB365US368">Stigamot</a> in Iceland, spoke of how international surveys focus on the women who are raped &ndash; measuring their guilt, their feelings of shame, the different ways in which they are blamed for the fact they are raped. Where, she asked, are the surveys measuring the perpetrators guilt? 85% of the women who make it to the Stigmont shelter do not report the rape because they feel ashamed, 75% because they think it was somehow their fault. The Icelandic government ran an anti-alcohol campaign telling women they would be less likely to be raped if they did not drink. The real connection? Two thirds of men who rape do so while they are drunk.&nbsp; In terms of the how the courts deal with rapists, she could count on one hand the number of cases successfully taken through the high court. The effect of impunity is that women continue to think that it is their fault.&nbsp; She called for women working to end violence against women to change the way they work, to perform a paradigm shift in their attitude to their work&nbsp; by&nbsp; &ldquo;adopting a holistic approach to statistics and measure the invisible factor in this &ndash; the men who rape - and bring them into the daylight&rdquo;. She said that preventive work must be aimed at the guilty ones in the group &ndash; the men, and that &ldquo;we must name the beast if we are to change anything&rdquo;.</p> <p>Rachel Paul of Norwegian Church Aid, working in the middle east spoke of women in Jordan being held in prison for up to fourteen years for &lsquo;protection', not because of crimes they have committed, but for crimes that have been perpetrated against them that now leave them open to attacks by their families for having &lsquo;dishonoured&rsquo; the family &ndash; even though the crime may have been committed by someone with that same family. Impunity at work again.&nbsp; Men get mitigated sentences of three months if they are &lsquo;saving the family&rsquo; from defamation.&nbsp; Control of women posing as protection. Under this kind of impunity we are getting nowhere, again &ndash; it&rsquo;s time to change the focus from the women to the men.&nbsp;</p> <p>Rashida Manjoo is the new UN Special Rapporteur on the causes and consequences of VAW and she rightly paid tribute to her predecessor Yakin Erturk for &ldquo;pushing the boundaries of the sterile UN machinery in a transformatory way&rdquo;. Rashida has chosen this year to report on reparation and will focus on conceptualising the issue redress and what women understand and want from it. In 2011 she will focus on prevention. Two years ago there was a huge push to work with men in the struggle to end violence against women and previous speakers had spoken of seeing this as key to prevention, but Rashida struck a note of discord when she said that this approach was &lsquo;highly problematic&rsquo; on the grounds that it diverts money away from the work of the SR for which &ldquo;there is a complete lack of resources&rdquo; and went on to say that she had heard of many contexts and &lsquo;horror stories&rsquo; of programmes working with men which had resulted in them increasing their power and control in the name of protecting women. Two steps forward, three back.&nbsp; She is for moving away from any protectionist model and sticking with the empowerment model. For her engaging with men is a real dilemma, if we are going to do so, she cautioned, we must be sure of both the premise and our methods.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lesley Ann Foster talked of how the resurgence of religious and cultural conservatism has not only made the challenge of implementation of&nbsp; legislation harder, but has resulted in the re-emergence of old traditions and tribal practices in Africa such as witch burning in the case of women who are believed to have infected men with Aids, and the return of virginity testing in which girls as young as the <em>age of three</em> are being brought in to be tested by women &ndash; and then sexually abused by the men who have asked for them to be tested because of the myth that sleeping with a virgin is a cure for Aids.</p> <p>Violence against women remains one of the most pervasive violations of human rights and in the last decade has been recognised as such, cross cutting all boundaries. Some progress. Lesley Ann Foster called for women to build a global movement to end impunity, for while it lasts we are getting nowhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Jane Gabriel Tue, 02 Mar 2010 04:22:26 +0000 Jane Gabriel 50529 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A retrospective: 15 years later, Beijing’s mandate yet unfinished https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/retrospective-15-years-later-beijing%E2%80%99s-mandate-yet-unfinished <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Fifteen years ago in Beijing, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton made an instantly iconic cry for women’s rights: “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” On that day, those words evoked a seven minute standing ovation; they have inspired more than a decade of homage to this one </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a><p>Yet these were not the only words uttered in that important speech; nor indeed, I posit, were they the most important. Clinton also pointed to a number of statistics that characterized the status of women at that time, 70% of the world&rsquo;s poor are women among them. Fifteen years later, as the 54th CSW&nbsp; opens to review progress in implementing the benchmarks to equality that were set out at that conference, we are haunted by the fact that despite 15 years of conventions, resolutions and conferences, this statistic is unchanged. Our work is far from over.</p> <p>In her speech, Clinton identified the most critical issues for women&rsquo;s equality as access to education, health care, jobs and credit; the chance to enjoy basic legal and human rights; and full participation in the political life of our countries. Listening to her words these many years later, we could well be hearing that speech for the first time today. A brief retrospective:</p> <p>15 years ago, Clinton explained that when women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If they are free from violence and have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish and as a result entire nations will flourish. Today, we have even more evidence that shows that investing in women lowers poverty rates, since women reinvest a much higher portion in their families and communities, spreading wealth beyond themselves.</p> <p>15 years ago, Clinton opined that women are the primary caretakers for most of the world&rsquo;s children and elderly, but much of the work they do is not valued. Today, women perform 66 percent of the world&rsquo;s work and produce 50 percent of the food but they only earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.</p> <p>15 years ago, Clinton pointed to the tragedy that women were dying from diseases that could have been prevented or treated, and watched as their children succumbed to malnutrition caused by poverty and economic deprivation. Today, an estimated 536,000 women die needlessly from pregnancy and childbirth complications such as hemorrhage and sepsis annually.</p> <p>15 years ago, Clinton decried the fact that women were being denied the right to go to school by their own fathers and brothers. Today, many young girls are denied schooling because family responsibilities such as water fetching and firewood collection take precedence, or there are insufficient funds to send all children to school and boy children are thought of as a better investment.</p> <p>15 years ago, Clinton explained that women were being raped as an instrument of armed conflict. Today, about 70% of casualties in recent conflicts have been women and children.</p> <p>15 years ago, Clinton indicated that women and children made up a large majority of the world&rsquo;s refugees; today UNCHR estimates that 75-80% of the world&rsquo;s refugees are women and children.&nbsp;</p> <p>15 years ago, Clinton asserted that when women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse. Today, legal barriers to entry into politics and government for women have been removed, but women still account for only one out of every six national parliamentarians in the world. Additionally, women&rsquo;s lack of experience, education and training prevents them from entering political and decision-making processes.</p> <p>These statistics spell the tragedy of our time. In the intervening years since Beijing, we have written some of the best international accords imaginable to close the gap between women and men globally.&nbsp; Out of Beijing, we have a <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">Platform for Action</a>.&nbsp; Five years later, a set of <a href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/">eight internationally agreed-upon development goals</a> to achieve, among other things, gender equality.&nbsp; Ten years after that, today the stage is set for a new U.N. &ldquo;<a href="http://gear.groupsite.com/link/go/65177047">super agency</a>&rdquo; for women, with a budget five times that of UNIFEM. As we ready ourselves for this week of review, analysis and agenda-setting for the future, let us do as Deputy-Secretary General Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro suggested in her opening remarks at this morning&rsquo;s high-level plenary before the U.N. General Assembly: &ldquo;We need to move from commitment to action.&rdquo;&nbsp; The future for women, girls, and indeed the world hangs in the balance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Lyric Thompson Tue, 02 Mar 2010 03:44:37 +0000 Lyric Thompson 50530 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A reception with Harriet https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/reception-with-harriet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Minister for Women Harriet Harman visits the CSW for the first time - holding promise for the UK's commitment to the new UN gender entity. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>Last night I went to a reception hosted by the Minister for Women Harriet Harman at the residence of the UK&rsquo;s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN. It is the first time the Minister has been to CSW and after a weekend of bilateral meetings and high level sessions she was frank about how overwhelming she was finding the whole process, calling it &lsquo;baffling&rsquo;.</p> <p>Most of the UK NGOs in the room at the reception appeared to be equally confused. Even those that had attended the two day NGO forum over the course of Saturday and Sunday were unsure about some of the most basic elements of the upcoming week&rsquo;s conference. For example, nobody seemed to yet know whether there would be what is known as an &lsquo;outcome document&rsquo; &ndash; a kind of call to action for states &ndash; or whether there would be a milder &lsquo;declaration&rsquo; &ndash; restating states&rsquo; commitment to the agenda. (More information has since been released, which we will cover in future posts.)</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.thewnc.org.uk/" target="_blank">Women&rsquo;s National Commission</a> (WNC), which attempts to coordinate UK NGOs and enable them to influence the position of the <a href="http://ukun.fco.gov.uk/en/" target="_blank">UK delegation</a> &ndash; the official government representation to the UN negotiations &ndash; on draft text (for outcome documents for example), was no more enlightened. It hadn&rsquo;t even had a chance to see the draft text that the government had apparently already approved because it had been so busy supporting the Minister to meet her key counterparts in advance of the start of the conference. So the day before negations were set to begin, no one had laid eyes on the document that would be worked on. In the face of such confusion, I do wonder how UK women&rsquo;s NGOs are meant to influence the proceedings.</p> <p>What was extremely positive about last night was the clear signal by the UK government and Harriet Harman that they recognize the importance of both the CSW and the negotiations on the new UN <a href="http://www.un-instraw.org/en/media-centre/world-gender-news/general-assembly-agrees-on-creation-of-new-gender-e-2.html" target="_blank">gender entity</a> &ndash; what the Minister likes to call &lsquo;the Women&rsquo;s Agency&rsquo;. Working closely with senior officials from her department, the Government Equalities Office (GEO), the Minister has been delivering an active programme of work on this agenda as today's <a href="http://www.equalities.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=1546" target="_blank">press release</a> from her office highlights, including publishing a new briefing on the gender entity (hard copies were available at the reception).</p> <p>In taking up the baton from the Department for International Development<a href="http://www.dfid.gov.uk/" target="_blank"> </a>(DFID) in this way, the Minister for Women and GEO has raised the political profile of the gender entity and committed the UK government in a much more active way to its development. Now two departments are supporting this work, as well as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in a less public way. The importance of having a dedicated and high profile government minister championing the entity should not be underestimated. Of all the things Harriet Harman could be doing this past weekend, she chose this. What we need to know now from the UK government is whether they will back this political commitment with more than words: will the Minister deliver the money?</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 zohra moosa Mon, 01 Mar 2010 21:04:22 +0000 zohra moosa 50526 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Becoming a feminist https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zohra-moosa/becoming-feminist <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 15 years ago, I was a school girl with no awareness that Beijing was happening, but plenty of awareness of sexism. Does the Platform for Action offer more to school girls today? </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>It's 15 years since <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/index.html" target="_blank">Beijing</a>. Almost half my life time ago. At the time of the 4th world conference, I was still quite young. I felt aware of sexism, but I didn&rsquo;t have the vocabulary to describe what I felt, or the analysis to explain to others what I thought wasn&rsquo;t right.</p> <p>This began to change just a year later once I was in high school, navigating my way through adolescence and all the trauma and adventure that come with that period as a young woman. I can&rsquo;t say it was entirely fun; my high school, though more liberal than some, was quite anti-woman in its own way. To this day, I think of my own personal relationship with high school being quite tightly bound to my emergence as an ever-more vocal feminist and activist.</p> <p>I honestly can&rsquo;t remember a time when I didn't think of myself as a feminist. I don&rsquo;t think I even had a &lsquo;<a href="http://www.feministing.com/archives/008967.html" target="_blank">click moment</a>&rsquo;. But I do remember being conscious of my opinions about sexism and feminism becoming firmer and more pronounced as I passed through my six years in secondary school. I joined the Women's Issues club at the school as soon as I found out it existed and helped put on school assemblies about feminism. I talked about rape and abortion in class discussions. I wrote about the history of the Canadian feminist suffrage movement for my very first essay.</p> <p>Through it all I remember feeling convinced of the importance of what I was exploring, but also alienated from many (most?) of the girls at school as a result. While my friends were becoming highly body and sexuality conscious &ndash; whether boy-oriented or coming out &ndash; I was getting madder and madder. I couldn't entirely relate to wanting to pretty-up. I wore combat boots and army trousers from second hand shops: a caricature of teenage feminist angst.</p> <p>15 years since Beijing and it seems that life is still hard if you&rsquo;re a girl. For those going to my old high school, popular culture is probably even more oppressive than it was when I was there. Where we had problematic magazine images and music videos to contend with, my younger &lsquo;sisters&rsquo; will be subject to even more sexualized versions of these plus all that is sexist on the internet such as mainstream sites like Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&amp;gid=299468159203" target="_blank">allegedly treating</a> violence against women as a joke.</p> <p>For young women going or not going to secondary schools in other places and countries, there will be similar problems, plus some others that are likely not common to my old neighbourhood in Toronto. School girls are still <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8318133.stm" target="_blank">facing violence</a> including rape, HIV and AIDS, gangs, sexual exploitation, abduction and trafficking, genital mutilation, forced marriage and forced pregnancy all over the world, to name just some of the challenges.</p> <p>On the eve of the 54th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which will be taking a 15 year review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action, I find myself getting ready to be a bit mad. How can it be that 15 years after one of the most impressive negotiations and calls to action on women&rsquo;s rights ever conducted, school is still one of the most dangerous places to be a girl? And what do our governments have to say about it? Stay tuned as I, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/equality-between-women-and-men-is-not-%E2%80%98women%E2%80%99s-issue%E2%80%99" target="_blank">Jane</a> and our guest writers <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_blank">blog daily</a> from the CSW in New York over the next two weeks on &lsquo;the progress on and challenges of advancing women's human rights&rsquo;.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/blog/zohra_moosa/what_makes_an_expert_expert">What makes an expert expert?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 zohra moosa Sun, 28 Feb 2010 22:37:37 +0000 zohra moosa 50499 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Widowhood: invisible for how much longer? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/widowhood-invisible-for-how-much-longer <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Margaret Owen has been trying to get the CSW to address the poverty of widows for 12 years. This is her last attempt. She describes going from despair to growling with anger to hope - all in a day </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a></p><p><br />Fifteen years ago I hopped on the plane to Beijing, heady with excitement, huge optimism and high expectations that finally we, the women&rsquo;s NGOs of the world, had arrived! <br /><br />Governments were at last listening to us. Unlike the previous world conferences on women in Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi.<br /><br /> In spite of the mud, the rain, the wet and the cramped discomfort of our accommodation in Huarou where we NGOs were located &ndash; far from the government delegations in the capital &ndash; our voices, our ideas, our knowledge and experiences were going to be taken seriously by the official delegations. And they were. The resultant great document to emerge from the Fourth World Conference for Women, the BPfA was going to dominate and map our strategies and work effectively to upgrade the status of women in every aspect of their lives, as described in the 12 Action Areas of the Platform, to the present day. And every year subsequent to that September conference, at the UN CSW we would be here in New York to, we imagined, work in close consultation with our governments to monitor and evaluate progress on implementation of the BPFA, identify gaps and emerging issues. Soon, we were sure, we would see a dramatic reduction in violence to women and real progress in achieving gender equality, justice for women, and a better and more peaceful world.<br /><br />I had my own &ldquo;niche&rdquo; reason for coming to Beijing in 1995. It was at the NGO forum that I hosted the very first international workshop on Widows and Human Rights. Although as a human rights lawyer and a feminist I had been deeply engaged in status of women&rsquo;s issues for many years previously, I had never given a thought to the situation of widows, probably, like so many people, assuming that the majority of them were elderly women who were mostly respected and well looked after by their families. So it was not a topic that we should be concerned with. <br /><br />But all that changed when my own husband died. A short time later, a Malawi lady I was helping with her case, walked into my London home and before she had even sat down exclaimed &ldquo;You mean your husband&rsquo;s brothers let you stay here and keep all these things&rdquo;?<br /><br />In Beijing those attending my workshop - in particular those women coming from Africa and South Asia - agreed that widows now needed their own international organisation to bring their voices to the international community, to the UN, donors, governments and other NGOs working in the field of gender and human rights. But little did we anticipate then that during the following 15 years the world would see an unprecedented increase in the numbers of widows of all ages, struggling to survive in extreme poverty, most vulnerable to all forms of violence, including rape and sexual exploitation as well as harmful traditional practices. These increases &ndash; and there is no reliable data - due to armed conflict, ethnic cleansing, violence and the proliferation of small arms as well as the HIV?Aids pandemic.<br /><br />We did set up the organisation. First EWD (Empowering Widows in Development) and later after 9/11 with so many new conflicts breaking out in the Balkans, Africa, South Asia and spurred on by the plight of Afghan widows under the Taliban regime, <a href="http://www.widowsforpeace.org">Widows for Peace through Democracy </a>(WPD). And for fifteen years we have been striving, through zealous attendance at every annual CSW, to at least get a mention of widowhood in the documents that emerge as the &ldquo;Agreed Conclusions&rdquo; from every session. Each of the 12 Action Areas of the plan &ndash; describing the situation and what governments should do in relation, for example, to tackling women&rsquo;s poverty, health, education, employment, gender violence, human rights , their role in decision-making etc is relevant to, has pertinence to the life-styles, needs and roles of widows. But there is never a mention. Not in the original Platform nor in the Outcome Document agreed in Beijing + 5 in 2000. Nor today in the Secretary-General&rsquo;s report on implementation of the BPFA. The omission is scandalous and demonstrates the powerlessness of NGOs and women at the grass-roots to influence those in government to listen to them and consult with them on a real cooperative basis.<br /><br />Therefore, unlike my mood as I travelled to Beijing, yesterday, as I flew into JFK - to be greeted by snow, sludge and cold - I was filled with sadness, even despair, and actual reluctance to be here at all. <br /><br />Successive attendances at the UN CSW have seen the NGOs being increasingly &ldquo;ghettoised&rdquo;. There was a time when, although we only had &ldquo;observer&rdquo; status at the UN, we were in the building. We could hold our meetings within the UN enclave thus more likely to have these attended by government delegates and UN programme people. We could co-chair meetings with UNIFEM and UNDAW in, for example, the DAG Hammarskold theatre, or in the various conference halls. Now we seem to just talk to each other. And it was easier then to apply for and obtain that precious an essential ECOSOC status, essential to be accredited to attend the UN and to be eligible to be considered at least for the exceptional honour of being allowed to speak for not more than 3 minutes to the government delegates at plenaries. Now it is a nightmare process involving hours of trying to answer impossible questions. The message is clear and a changed one. The UN does not really want us around.<br /><br />Moreover, this year has been the worst of all years to be coming to the CSW for even the limited space of Church Centre, opposite the UN building, where the NGOs could hold their &ldquo;parallel events&rdquo; has been drastically reduced. Thus many of us, although mostly poorly funded, have had to race around to find alternative meeting places to rent. Even farther away from the UN itself. So that one wonders why we are here at all, as we could easily be meeting in some suburban town or city far away from expensive New York, in our own regions. The gains of Beijing to ensure the place of civil society in decision-making have been rolled back and we are once more fighting to be heard. <br /><br />So yes, I was reluctant to come to New York, concerned to spend so much of our scarce financial resources on a stay here where apart from the glorious networking, meeting old friends, making new alliances, no one in authority, i.e. the governments, was going to hear our voices: hear our clamour and demand for better actions, more resources, more action because the truth is &ndash; and governments will not admit it &ndash; that in many countries of the world women are suffering from poverty, abuse and violence as never before. <br /><br />As the numbers of widows and wives of the missing, many of them being young mothers even girl children, so has their poverty and helplessness. No one knows exactly how many widows there are in any conflict afflicted country. Rough estimates speak of over 70,000 widows begging in Kabul; maybe 3 million widows in Iraq; over 50% of widows in Eastern Congo are widows; 30,000 Tamil widows, many victims of rape by the military, are under the age of 30 and 65% of Nepal widows are under the age of 25.<br /><br />But yesterday I attended the first day of the NGO consultation and suddenly my mood changed! Just to be there, among such a wonderful diversity of women from all over the world, seeing old friends and making new ones, all of us united and uniting in our determination not to give up the struggle for justice. <br /><br />What a treat to hear quite enthralling and memorable presentations from such eloquent and articulate speakers as the fiery and indefatigable Gertrude Mongella (who had chaired the Beijing Conference and is now President of the Pan-African Parliament) and the quite wonderful, wise Nyaradzayi Gumbodzavanda, the General Secretary of the YWCA (Zimbabwe). Her speech was so thoughtful, so constructive, so brave I would love to see her nominated for consideration as the Under Secretary-General of the new UN Gender Entity.<br /><br />Of course I was growling with resentment and frustration when not one of the principal panellists in the first session, not even Dr Sima Samar, formerly the Minister for Women&rsquo;s Affairs in Afghanistan and now Chair of the AIHC (Independent Human Rights Commission) mentioned widows. Yes, they all mentioned other examples of gender violence, but not one the appalling customs pertaining to widowhood, such as degrading and life-threatening mourning and burial rites; deprivation of inheritance, land and property rights; forced remarriage to a dead husband&rsquo;s brother, and economic and sexual exploitation. <br /><br />But then something extraordinary occurred! I took my place in the queue of women waiting to speak with a statement or a question and spoke for less than 2 minutes. I simply said<br /><br /> &ldquo;the most neglected of all gender and human rights issues is widowhood yet it is nowhere mentioned in the BPFA nor in the Sectary-General&rsquo;s report. Never before have we seen such an explosion in the numbers of widows and wives of the disappeared. What does the Panel suggest to ensure that these women have their voices heard, their needs addressed and their crucial roles as sole supporters of families acknowledged and supported?&rdquo; <br /><br />Only one person on the first panel gave any mention to my question but by the end of the first day of the NGO consultation, widows got mentioned by subsequent panelists at least four times! I and my supporters and colleagues were jubilant. But will this acknowledgment get through to our governments? Will we see some proper reference this time around in the document emerging at the end of next week?<br /><br /><a href="http://www.widowsforpeace.org/"></a>I am not sure how I will feel at the end of this week, but today I feel less depressed than when I left Heathrow. <br /><br /><br /></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Margaret Owen Sun, 28 Feb 2010 20:07:19 +0000 Margaret Owen 50497 at https://www.opendemocracy.net My Beijing diary https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/my-beijing-diary <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith was a member of the UK delegation to Beijing in 1995, extracts from her diary capture the ‘mood, the madness and the magnificence’ of that event - on the eve of this year’s CSW which meets to review what’s happened since then </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a></p><p><strong>The day before...</strong></p> <p>Just in the middle of packing to go off to China (hooray!) and got a call from BBC World TV; can I come and say something nice and upbeat about Beijing before I go, maybe at six o&rsquo;clock tomorrow morning for the world news slot? &nbsp;UK coverage un-useable, too negative &ndash; and won&rsquo;t go down well with worldwide audience...Not too happy about the early start time but the doorman at the beeb said it was one of the most upbeat interviews he&rsquo;d ever heard; well chuffed with that!</p> <p>So glad that for the first time we&rsquo;ve got an NGO rep on the UK govt delegation to Beijing, but I&rsquo;ve got mixed feelings about being invited to be that representative myself! On the one hand it&rsquo;s a great experience but on the other hand, I maybe I would be happier with my sisters at the NGO Forum like I was at the Nairobi conference - much more fun? <em>(As you&rsquo;ll know there are always two parallel conferences, one for NGOs and one for the Governments)</em></p> <p><strong>Day one: </strong></p> <p>Beijing is buzzing! Hillary Clinton is coming to head up US delegation and Benazir Bhutto is here from Pakistan. Talking to other delegates it looks like there are about 180 countries represented all together, some like the US sending delegations of up to 40 people. And that&rsquo;s nothing compared with the numbers expected at the NGO Forum &ndash; they say up to 30,000 women are descending on Huairou at the moment &ndash; this should make the Guinness book of records as the biggest UN conference ever!</p> <p><strong>Day three: <em></em></strong></p> <p>There are far more women and more NGO representatives on most official Government delegations than there were at the Nairobi conference ten years ago.&nbsp; This is first time we&rsquo;ve had significant numbers of NGOs on the British delegation too. At last the expertise and experience of NGOs is being recognised by all - a real breakthrough!&nbsp; Also NGOs are lobbying their Governments like mad in spite of the logistical difficulties here, in order to get their language into the text.</p> <p>The UK has quite a line up here in Beijing compared with Nairobi, where Baroness Young flew in for a few days and invited us to a cocktail party! NGOs weren&rsquo;t allowed to speak on that occasion &ndash; far too posh &ndash; and we were all a bit unhappy about that.&nbsp; We wrote cracking speech lamenting lack of progress in the UK and lack of access to the UK Government delegation. I drew the short straw and my chums, including Georgina Ashworth, made me read it out at the cocktail party. I was completely terrified! You should have seen the look on their faces! But it worked.&nbsp; Ever since then we&rsquo;ve had proper serious briefing sessions between the UK Government delegation and NGOs leading up to, during and after the conferences.</p> <p>Went out with some of UK delegation to a restaurant last night, turned out to be a truly bonding experience. The whole menu was written in Chinese and none of us spoke a word of the language. It was hysterical to see senior Civil Servants honking, clucking, and quacking with associated arm and leg movements in an attempt to place our order, all to no avail &ndash; don&rsquo;t they know all the animals in Beijing only speak Chinese? In the end we just pointed to what was on the plates at the next table. Turned out to be delicious. <em></em></p> <p><strong>Day four:</strong></p> <p>The mud, the madness, the magnificence of the Beijing NGO Forum!</p> <p>I am going to miss most of the action at this rate just on the road going up and down to between the Govt conference and the Forum in Huairou. Why oh why did they change the Forum site so far out of town? Actually, we know why - because they don&rsquo;t want us anywhere near the Government delegations, they want to make it as difficult as possible to lobby effectively, especially on Human Rights issues.</p> <p>So they&rsquo;ve moved the Forum to a half-finished site, miles from Beijing Centre.&nbsp; Conditions there are getting worse by the day. The rain is making things impossible. Leaking, half finished buildings with rain drops dripping from exposed live wires; it&rsquo;s a nightmare...every night I can&rsquo;t sleep to think what might happen...The NGOs are doing a fantastic job, somehow the rain is not dampening the spirits, it&rsquo;s just increasing the solidarity</p> <p>Heard a rumour today from one NGO that Chinese taxi drivers have been advised by the Chinese authorities to carry bed-sheets in the back of their taxis just in case, because they&rsquo;ve been warned that western women like to take all their clothes off as a protest for women&rsquo;s rights; so if that happens they are instructed to just throw a sheet over us to cover us up. Now where did they get that from!! Woman from NAWO who told me this said &ldquo;Now the taxi drivers realise we are all quite harmless they are inviting us home to dinner to meet their families&rdquo;.</p> <p><strong>Day five:</strong></p> <p>The Forum is in full swing now: Energy and Spirit in Huairou is incredible, women are coping amazingly well in spite of challenges, British Council serving free cups of tea at their stall and acting as meeting and information point for UK NGOs. Dance, theatre, songs, marches, art exhibitions, massage, meditation, disability tent, regional tents, lesbian tent <em>(which was always packed with Chinese women; it seems they don&rsquo;t get enough information on sexuality!)</em> There are around 3,500 workshops arranged over the two weeks, but sometimes there are so many distractions on the way to the workshop I plan to attend, I never actually get there. Women lobbying on sexual rights, violence, unpaid work; silent vigils - hundreds of women dressed in black holding candles for the victims of violence &ndash; very moving; Best of all, the Women Weaving the World Together tapestry, 1 kilometre long - a stunningly beautiful and vibrant expression of women&rsquo;s art and creativity from all over the world &ndash; WNC sent along a panel. Good to think women have sent along their stitches even if they couldn&rsquo;t get here themselves... they took the whole tapestry up to the Great Wall so maybe it could be seen from space.</p> <p><strong>Day six: </strong></p> <p>Square brackets are everywhere! (<em>For those of you who are new to the process, all the text which hasn&rsquo;t been agreed yet when the conference starts are put in square brackets to be negotiated during the conference.) </em>Square brackets are everywhere! Is this document going to make any sense in any language to anybody? More a &ldquo;Platform for Faction&rdquo; than a &ldquo;Platform of Action&rdquo;.</p> <p>Big areas of controversy at the moment seem to be around Universality of human rights, sexual rights, families, and the actual wording of the declaration that goes at the front of the Platform for Action. All our UK issues have to be filtered through the EU negotiating line as well before it gets put on the table &ndash; will there be anything recognisable for us at the end that we can actually use?</p> <p>There are UK Govt briefings with NGOs every day, either in Huariou or at Ambassador&rsquo;s residence. The British Ambassador and his wife are fantastic, very friendly and enthusiastic&nbsp; - said they were dead thrilled to have the conference here in Beijing They had a reception for us last night at the Embassy, The British Embassy provides transport for women who need to get back to Huairou in the evenings. They&rsquo;ve already visited Huairou five times to meet NGOs and see the conditions for themselves; they are really taking up logistics issues actively on our behalf with the Chinese authorities.</p> <p><strong>Day seven:</strong></p> <p>My role on the delegation is to make sure there is a good two-way communication process between the UK NGOs and the UK Government Delegation on issues relating to AID and Development. I&rsquo;ve been to the site most days so far, taking back NGOs concerns about poor facilities, lack of transport, safety in the buildings in around the site, fire and health risks, high food prices, problems caused by heavy rain, lack of access for those with disabilities, poor signposting. Feel a bit of a fraud acting as messenger and not getting down and muddy all the time with my sisters. On the plus side the UK Govt delegation are very responsive and they&rsquo;re taking up our concerns with the organising committee. (Maybe they were relieved to be on NGOs side without reservation for a change! )</p> <p>Real dilemmas being an NGO rep on Gov&rsquo;t delegation. Conscious of being a member of two teams for the duration, each one with issues of confidentiality, realpolitik, need for support, trust. If you don&rsquo;t engage with this and understand it you don&rsquo;t make the most of your position as a bridge. Feels more of a tight rope that a bridge at times. NGO colleagues are so great &ndash; we&rsquo;re all committed to making it work. WNC is used to this role, they are the experts, and helping me a lot! Feels like a really important job to do - Hope we are getting it right at least some of the time!</p> <p><strong>Day 8: </strong></p> <p>Turned out to be my most stressful day yet. Bitten by mozzie in Huairou, a constant problem, my whole ankle swelled up, hobbled in to delegation briefing wearing large bandage, much sympathy. Cheered myself up collecting these sound bites over the week:</p> <p>&nbsp;&ldquo;The next millennium is ours&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Rainbow of women fighting everywhere for justice and equality&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Let&rsquo;s take the square brackets off women and children&rdquo; Bella Abzug WEDO</p> <p>Hilary Clinton &ndash; &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not doing this for ourselves but for our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, so that what we achieve can take root and flower in their lives.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Not so much a world conference on women, more a women&rsquo;s conference about the world&rdquo; Noyleen Heyzer, UNIFEM. (<em>must remember to quote that in a speech when I get back!</em>)</p> <p><strong>Day 10: </strong></p> <p>In the check-in queue on the way home, found myself next to Clare Short! Asked how she&rsquo;d found it. &ldquo;Well it was very interesting Jane, but it was difficult, because you see, the Government don&rsquo;t tell us what&rsquo;s going on, they don&rsquo;t brief us properly.&rdquo; Was she travelling back first class on the plane? &nbsp;&ldquo;No chance I&rsquo;m not the Government.&rdquo; <em></em></p> <p>Back in UK realising this conference is even more life-changing than we&rsquo;d thought. Personal transformation...Met up with mates yesterday and one says she&rsquo;s getting married, the other divorced, another going back to China. And I&rsquo;ve decided to go freelance...</p> <p>Though not too transformational for our own dear UK government whose commitments after the conference were limited to just three:</p> <ol><li>Publishing the criteria used to measure gender equality by the Inter-ministerial Committee on Women</li><li>Expansion of out of school clubs for children</li><li>Withdrawal of reservation to CEDAW</li></ol><p>Well done, all worthwhile then!</p> <p>Scope of PFA: &ldquo;Empowering women is not only an important end in itself; it is essential to realising the full potential of society as a whole&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;Women&rsquo;s rights are human rights:</p> <ul><li>Focal point for Universal data collection on gender.</li><li>More known than ever before, real spur to collecting data &ndash; we can track progress through the data collected in preparation for &nbsp;UN conferences over 30 years.</li><li>Valuing/counting women&rsquo;s unpaid work and action against the feminisation of poverty</li><li>Equal access to resources and equal sharing of responsibility for the family between men and women</li><li>Commitment to new and additional resources to address women&rsquo;s poverty and achieve their rights</li></ul><p><strong>Key role of NGOs in implementing PFA</strong></p> <p>We didn&rsquo;t realise we were writing a block buster best seller at the time. We were more worried about what wasn&rsquo;t in it rather than what we&rsquo;d achieved. Now we appreciate what a magnificent document it is &ndash; the most comprehensive document ever produced by the UN &ndash; affirming important universal principles, demonstrating that every issue is a gender issue, building on other conferences like the Nairobi Conference and the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, and other conferences&nbsp; building on it in the future. Yeah, it&rsquo;s not perfect, It&rsquo;s the best a woman can get &ndash; and we&rsquo;ve needed to defend it at subsequent conferences so we never lose a word of it. People may say it&rsquo;s just words, but we need the words in order to hold Governments to account. - And above all, implement it!</p> <p>What&rsquo;s even more amazing is that back in Beijing we did the whole thing with no emails, no mobile phones, no blogs, no websites, no blackberrys, no facebook, no you tubes and no conference calls. And yet somehow we still managed to communicate and keep in touch with each other. How did we do it?!</p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Democracy and government Equality UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith Sun, 28 Feb 2010 19:06:10 +0000 Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith 50494 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brazilian feminists on the alert https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cecilia-sardenberg/brazilian-feminists-on-alert <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazilian feminists have made steady progress at both national and regional levels with establishing sexual and reproductive rights, and they have an important stake in the discussions at this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Cecilia Sardenberg calls on them to be alert against retrogressive steps </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>Recognized as one of the most articulate and influential women&rsquo;s movements in Latin America, the feminist movement in Brazil has taken important strides beyond national limits, making its presence positively noted in global spaces. We were present at the UN from its very beginnings, <a href="http://wikis.lib.ncsu.edu/index.php/Women%27s_Suffrage_in_Brazil:_Bertha_Lutz">Bertha Lutz</a>, a Brazilian feminist who led our struggles for women&rsquo;s right to vote (won in 1932), was one of the only four women delegates to the UN founding Charter in 1946. She played an important part in securing the inclusion of clauses against sexual discrimination and regarding equality between the sexes in the San Francisco <a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/">Charter</a>. And it was partly under her influence that Brazil pushed for the creation of the CSW as an organ of the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/">Social and Economic Council</a>.</p> <p>Despite this early contribution and a short mandate in the Commission in the 1950s, 1985 and 1988, Brazil did not take a more progressive position towards women&rsquo;s empowerment in the UN until the 1990s. The military who ruled the country for over twenty years (1964-1986) maintained a &ldquo;trickle down effect&rdquo; on the status of women, arguing that it would naturally improve with &ldquo;development&rdquo;. This position was still held by Brazil in the 1985 World Conference on Women in Nairobi: Brazil remained aligned with the <a href="http://www.g77.org/doc/">G-77</a>, a caucus of developing countries within the UN created in 1964 to provide &ldquo;the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity&rdquo;. Despite the group&rsquo;s importance in defending economies from the South, it has remained very conservative in regard to gender equality and women&rsquo;s empowerment.</p> <p>However, considerable changes in Brazil&rsquo;s official position &ndash; with repercussions within the G-77 &ndash; came with the strengthening of the feminist movement at home. Feminists played an important role in the re-democratization of the country, joining in the struggle for the downfall of military rule and the creation of a more democratic <a href="../../../../../../../../article/5050/political_representation_brazil">constitution</a>. Adopted in 1988, it recognizes the principle of gender equality and ensures women&rsquo;s rights. Feminists supported the election of progressive candidates and gained increasing legitimacy for women&rsquo;s demands within governmental circles. The creation of police stations for battered women and Councils for the defense of women&rsquo;s rights came as a result of this dialogue with the state. Likewise, the formulation of the Comprehensive Health Program for Women (PAISM) and the provision of public services for <a href="../../../../../../../../article/5050/how_feminists_make_progress">legal abortions</a>&ndash; in the case of pregnancies resulting from rape or those that pose a threat to the woman&rsquo;s health &ndash; were also positive outcomes of this process.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Prior to the 1994 Cairo Population and Development Conference, Brazilian feminist NGOs had brought together more than 300 feminists to produce a consensus on the recognition of women&rsquo;s reproductive and sexual rights. Once there, the Brazilian delegation took a progressive stand and was instrumental in negotiating the more difficult issues in the Cairo Programme of Action, such as those in paragraphs 7.2 and 7.3&nbsp; that deal with <a href="http://www.unfpa.org/icpd/icpd-programme.cfm">health and reproductive rights</a>. This came to represent an important break for Brazil with the G-77 as well as with the position held by the Vatican and its allies regarding the recognition of these rights.</p> <p>In Beijing in 1995 feminists were members of the official Brazilian delegation and also participated emphatically in the debates in the NGO forum - sometimes physically running from one to the other to argue a point.&nbsp; These points included the need to incorporate the concept of gender and of a gender perspective in the Beijing Plan of Action - a concept that was widely rejected by the Vatican and Islamic countries alike, and the need to include sexual and reproductive rights including that the legalization of abortion on demand should be seen as a matter of public health.</p> <p>When these rights had to be guaranteed again in the Beijing +5 meeting in 2000 it gave rise to new group within the G-77: SLAC (some Latin American countries), a group of Latin American countries that support a progressive stance towards women&rsquo;s rights. Brazil has taken a leading role within this group, especially since the election of President Lula and the creation of our <a href="http://www.presidencia.gov.br/estrutura_presidencia/sepm/">Special Secretary for Public Policies for Women</a>. Within the last 15 years Brazil has served three terms in the CSW and has become a needed presence in the CSW so as to ensure that real advancements towards gender equality and women&rsquo;s empowerment are promoted in the UN.&nbsp;</p> <p>Needless to say, this official &ldquo;progressive&rdquo; presence in global arenas must be sustained by an engaged feminist movement at home that both supports as well as monitors our official standing. Thus, although I was not present in the Beijing 95, Beijing+5 or Beijing +10 meetings, I certainly do not intend to be a passive observer as we evaluate Beijing +15 in the upcoming CSW 54. &nbsp;Indeed, we need to be here this week and to be on the alert.</p> <p>I hope that other feminists will also come to New York so as to ensure that, even if progress has been slow in coming, no retrogressive steps, especially concerning the controversial sexual and reproductive rights, will mar the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action in the future. We, Brazilian feminists, have an important stake in these issues, those concerning abortion rights in particular: we have yet to fully guarantee them at home.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sunila-abeysekera/challenging-ourselves-at-beijing-15">Challenging ourselves at Beijing +15</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 latin america UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Cecilia Sardenberg Sun, 28 Feb 2010 14:26:59 +0000 Cecilia Sardenberg 50489 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Equality between women and men is not a ‘women’s issue’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jane-gabriel/equality-between-women-and-men-is-not-%E2%80%98women%E2%80%99s-issue%E2%80%99 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the 54th UN Commission on the Status of Women meets to review action on the promises made in Beijing’95, will the creation of a new women’s agency at the UN finally give the CSW the teeth it needs to advance women’s human rights? </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and image" height="36" width="116" /></a>Fifteen years ago 30,000 women gathered in Huairou, Beijing, and over two weeks held 3,500 workshops and worked with UN member states to produce a vision of global social transformation - the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/plat1.htm">Beijing Platform for Action</a> (BPfA).</p> <p>It is an extraordinary document that came out of what one member of the UK delegation called the &lsquo;mud, madness and magnificence&rsquo; of Huairou. &nbsp;Building on the World Conference on Human Rights held in <a href="http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/%28symbol%29/A.CONF.157.23.En?OpenDocument">Vienna</a> 1993 when women and girls were first declared to have human rights, the BPfA declares:&nbsp;</p> <p><em>&ldquo;The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue. They are the only way to build a sustainable, just and developed society. Empowerment of women and equality between women and men are prerequisites for achieving political, social, economic, cultural and environmental security among all peoples.&rdquo;&nbsp; <br /></em></p> <p>As the UN CSW meets to review the progress and new challenges of implementing the promises for &lsquo;Equality, Development and Peace&rsquo;made at the BpfA, it does so in an environment much changed from 1995. The overarching challenges of neoliberal globalisation, growing militarism and rising fundamentalisms have created an environment increasingly hostile to the promotion of women&rsquo;s human rights, and one in which politics and policies now threaten past gains - particularly in the area of our sexual health and reproductive rights.</p> <p>The BPfA was a call for action that would lead to &ldquo;the empowerment of all women&rdquo;. In the 1980&rsquo;s &lsquo;empowerment&rsquo; was defined by feminists as a political idea that challenged patriarchy, it was socio-economic process and had at its core shifts in social power. By Beijing 1995 it had become a buzzword, the e-word; but as <span>Srilatha Batliwala</span> writes in&nbsp; <a href="../../../../../../../../article/putting_power_back_into_empowerment_0">Putting power back into empowerment</a> since then women&rsquo;s empowerment has been co-opted and distorted by various political agendas anxious to limit its transformatory potential, robbing it of both its original meaning and strategic value.&nbsp;<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>As one strategy for implementing the BPfA, &lsquo;mainstreaming&rsquo; became fashionable, but it produced unforeseen and negative consequences. Women&rsquo;s organisations that advocated gender mainstreaming in budgets and finance did so in the hope that it would make aid more effective in addressing women&rsquo;s inequality and poverty. But overnight governments around the world ticked the &lsquo;mainstreaming gender&rsquo; box and <a href="http://new.vawnet.org/category/Documents.php?docid=1278&amp;amp;category_id=682">funding was diverted</a> away from grassroots women&rsquo;s organisations into government ministries, where it remained. In the work on development aid for women&rsquo;s rights, gender equality as &lsquo;smart economics&rsquo; moved centre stage, and as Rosalind Eyben <a href="../../../../../../../../article/making-women-work-for-development-again">writes</a> women again found themselves &lsquo;working for development&rsquo;.</p> <p>The cuts in funding have led to an increased fragmentation of organisations working for women&rsquo;s human rights as they compete for the dwindling resources, and have led to pressure to endlessly claim difference so that, as Zoya Hussan says, &nbsp;it can be used as a <a href="../../../../../../../../5050/jameen-kaur/is-gender-universal-category-double-edged-sword-of-identity-politics">strategy for inclusion</a>. These trends have allowed policy makers and politicians to continue to treat as separate issues concerns which are common to all women. A very basic and effective kind of divide and rule&hellip;</p> <p>The UN CSW was established as a result of pioneering work by the international feminist movement to be a vehicle for women&rsquo;s human rights, but as Pinar Illkaracan<span> </span>describes in her article <a href="../../../../../../../../globalization-institutions_government/girls_rights_4386.jsp">Do women and girls have human rights?</a>&nbsp; it functions instead as a vehicle for global political interests. The subjects of HIV/Aids and violence against women have increasingly become tokens of global politics and traded by the world's governments on the international stage. But nowhere is this more clearly illustrated today than in the arena of our sexual and reproductive rights (there are three workshops addressing this issue on the first day of the CSW alone). The expansion of the EU now means that it no longer speaks with one voice on issues of sexual health and reproductive rights, and today&rsquo;s political power blocs with the rise of the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRIC">BRIC</a> countries are very different from those in 1995.</p> <p>Baroness Joyce Gould, chair of the UK National Women&rsquo;s Commission was one of the women who argued all night in Beijing for the inclusion of what became paragraph 96 in the Beijing <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/" target="_blank">Platform for Action</a></p> <p>"<em>The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behaviour and its consequences</em>."</p> <p>At a recent meeting of the <a href="http://www.thewnc.org.uk/">Women&rsquo;s National Commission</a> in London, attended by NGO representatives&nbsp; who will be at the CSW next week, Gould asked whether with the increased excitement that this year&rsquo;s review CSW seems to be generating, people were in favour of a 5th World Conference on Women? A clear majority said &lsquo;No&rsquo;.&nbsp; Why: because as Gould said &ldquo; it would be a disaster, my instinct from having seen so much of what is happening across the world is that we would go enormously backward &ndash; especially on the issue of our sexual health and reproductive rights&rdquo;.</p> <p>So where does hope lie? There is a real sense of hope around the decision to reform the architecture of the UN itself. After five years of advocacy by the <a href="http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/globalcenter/policy/unadvocacy/gea.html">GEAR</a> campaign for a powerful women&rsquo;s agency headed by an Under Secretary General, the UN General Assembly voted last September to combine the four separate UN women&rsquo;s units (Unifem, INSTRAW, DAW and OSAGI) into one powerful UN Agency led by an Under Secretary General. The news was widely welcomed, but as Charlotte Bunch argues in her article &nbsp;<a href="../../../../../../../../5050/charlotte-bunch/powerful-womens-agencywill-un-deliver">A powerful women&rsquo;s agency: will the UN deliver?</a> &nbsp;in order for the new agency to have genuine power, real leadership, substantial funding, and formal civil society involvement are essential. It has to be operational, not just advisory. The Under Secretary General&rsquo;s '<a href="http://www.reformtheun.org/index.php?module=uploads&amp;amp;func=download&amp;amp;fileId=4223">Comprehensive Proposal</a> for the Composite Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women&rsquo; published last month, was seen as a <a href="http://www.un-gear.eu/news_events/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/GEAR-EWG_analysis-of-SGs-report_050210.pdf">step back </a>by some, and the battle is now on for the agency to have real and sustainable funding and formal civil society involvement at both national and international level.&nbsp;</p> <p>Will the creation of a single women&rsquo;s agency at the UN help end the &nbsp;trade-offs on global political issues and conflicts, help women to &lsquo;put the power back into empowerment&rsquo; and take back the CSW as the vehicle for the advancement of women&rsquo;s rights that it was designed to be ? Will it empower women in the true sense of being able to produce real advances for women and girls?&nbsp; Or will we continue to rely on the power of shared information, evidence given, new strategies discussed and the collective vision of a world based on equality, peace and justice that is articulated every year at the CSW by the thousands of women - and the few men - &nbsp;who raise funds year in year out to make the journey to New York, rising to the challenges of working for women&rsquo;s human rights in these hostile times.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cora-weiss/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-democratic-world-with-justice-equality-development-and-peace">What’s wrong with a democratic world with justice, equality, development and peace? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Democracy and government Equality International politics UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Pathways of Women's Empowerment Jane Gabriel Fri, 26 Feb 2010 12:54:32 +0000 Jane Gabriel 50472 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the UN Commission on the Status of Women meets to review the implementation of the radical Beijing Platform for Action ’95, Kavita Ramdas reflects on the excitement felt by women then – and the sobering reality of the struggle today for women’s human rights.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>This weekend I spent an evening watching the evocative Ken Burns Documentary, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/stantonanthony/">Not for Ourselves Alone</a> about the lives of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Although I knew the broad outlines of this revolutionary friendship between two American women in the early 19th century and their joint efforts at advancing the struggle for universal suffrage, it was fascinating to watch it through the eyes of my viewing companions &ndash; my daughter and three of her close friends, sixteen-year-olds, who have grown up in a post 9/11 America.</p><p>The images of women from that era were greeted with exclamations of, &ldquo;why is she is wearing a head scarf?&rdquo;, while the narrator&rsquo;s reminder that at that time women were considered the private property of their husbands, and were not supposed to get &ldquo;too educated,&rdquo; elicited, &ldquo;wow, that&rsquo;s like Afghanistan, right?&rdquo; These girls, all of them talented athletes as well as good students, could hardly believe that there could have been a time where this was the plight of the women in the United States.</p><p>As the film spoke of the historic gathering in Seneca Falls, NY, at which the delegates voted on a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_Falls_Convention%23First_day">bill of women&rsquo;s rights</a>, the girls asked one another, &ldquo;can you imagine being there? Wouldn&rsquo;t it be wild?&rdquo; Soon after that they drifted off to sleep. It had been a long day. I stayed on the couch &ndash; their questions had brought back vivid images from my one and only trip to China in 1995&hellip; not quite 150 years ago, but 15, almost a lifetime for my daughter.</p><p>I actually was at an event as amazing as this, I thought to myself, recalling that immense gathering of over 30,000 women from countries around the world. And, together, we did craft for the women of the world, a manifesto not unlike what Susan and Elizabeth pulled together in 1857. Our document is called "<a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">the Beijing Platform for Action</a>.&rdquo;</p><strong>The Huairou/Beijing Experience</strong><p>Looking back now, there are so many memories. It was a meeting that women from the United States attended with the full support and encouragement of their government. Bill Clinton was the President of the United States, and his wife, Hillary, was a passionate and outspoken supporter of women&rsquo;s rights. She intended to be at the meeting.</p><p>In the world of foundation philanthropy &ndash; my professional milieu &ndash; there was much discussion about how the US delegation would be formed and how representative it would be of all aspects of women&rsquo;s advocacy groups as well as how diverse it would seek to be in terms of representing a wide range of class, race, and sexual identity. Younger professionals like myself, who saw ourselves as activists rather than as &ldquo;professional philanthropists&rdquo; were advocating for a strong representation of grassroots and community based women to be included in both the government as well as non-government delegations. I was particularly delighted that a group of black women from the South Side of Chicago who had been working on the AIDS epidemic in their communities were able to attend the conference. My participation in the conference was as a member of the Ms. Foundation for Women delegation. I was nervous. I was a young mother with a 20 month old baby girl. This trip would be almost 2 weeks away from her and my husband, the stay-at-home parent in our relationship. I had never done that before.</p><p>My younger sister, Sagari, who lived and worked as a veterinarian in poor rural communities in Southern India, was worrying about the same thing. She had been urged to go to represent rural women&rsquo;s struggles in the arenas of agriculture and sustainable livestock development. Her son, Nirvan, was just a few months older than Mira, our daughter. We talked to each other on the phone worried about whether we were doing the right thing. Our husbands, both of whom were very supportive of our choices as working women, urged us to go. They reminded us that the cause of women&rsquo;s rights and liberation was a revolution that would ultimately bring a better world for our sons and our daughters. And, they gently poked fun at us for not trusting them with their own kids &ndash; &ldquo;hey, aren&rsquo;t you supposed to believe in shared responsibility?&rdquo;</p><p>On this matter, they got lots of support from our mother, who had set us on the path to being feminist activists as we grew up in India. Mama was attending the Beijing Conference in her own capacity as a formal member of the Indian Government delegation that included both government officials and non-governmental activists with a long history of activism for women&rsquo;s rights. I was not a US citizen, although I lived and worked in the US. I was a citizen of India, as were my mother and sister. It was the first time that the three of us had attended an international meeting in which each of us came in our own professional capacities. That felt momentous to the two of us daughters, but I know my mother was equally pleased. I can still recall the laughter and tears and squeals of delight as we found one another in the hotel in Huairou, the site of the non-governmental parallel meetings to the formal UN Conference being hosted in Beijing. Remember, we were new to the internet and no one had cell phones then &ndash; I don&rsquo;t even remember how we were so good at coordinating everything!</p><strong>Challenges and Choices</strong><p>At the conference, politics were already affecting what could and could not happen. After offering to host the conference, the Chinese government was suddenly afraid about what the presence of so many women from around the world might set off in their country. Indeed, for many of us who attended Beijing, the events of Tiananmen Square were still fresh in our memories. And, Chinese women were very present, both at the official UN and government gatherings, and also at the NGO meetings. Thousands of young women students were our hosts and guides during the time of the conference. But, almost to ensure that we would not be too visible in the capital, the Chinese government moved the site of the NGO meetings to Huairou, a small provincial town outside of Beijing. The facilities were extremely modest &ndash; most of us lived in some version of student hostels; bathrooms were not always easy to navigate; and women with disabilities who attended the conference found themselves unable to negotiate most spaces since meetings and conference sessions were held in multi-story buildings without lifts or ramps for wheelchairs.</p><p>Undaunted, women began re-structuring the place &ndash; drab concrete hallways were transformed by brightly coloured saris and African fabrics hung on the walls. Makeshift tents sprung up like mushrooms offering women who could not meet inside a 3rd floor meeting room a chance to attend the session of their choice. Marches on every topic from the plight of the indigenous peoples of Australia and Peru, to the right to religious choice to lesbian rights filled the muddy grounds of the campus. I found the <a href="http://globalfundforwomen.org/">Global Fund for Women</a> tent offering workshops on fundraising for women&rsquo;s rights groups from around the world.</p><p>There were sit ins and sing-alongs, there were serious academic discussions on the meaning of feminism and there were all-night dancing and drinking sessions in which women exchanged personal stories of pain and suffering and resistance, rebellion and triumph. There were women everywhere you looked &ndash; old, young, nursing mothers and grandmothers, dykes in motorcycle leather and Nigerian market women with gorgeous bubus and bright headdresses, Iranian women covered from head to toe in black, and Iranian expats from Paris in mini-skirts and very high heels. It was like a global female Woodstock &ndash; complete with mud, because it rained almost non-stop for two weeks. Chinese women grinned and explained the weather by saying that the Yin/Yang balance was off because of the strong presence of so many women in one place!</p><p>Yet, for all the emotions, there was a sense of serious intent in all our work. It was clear to us as we listened to the testimonies of women survivors of violence, rape, war and multiple forms of harmful cultural practices &ndash; from female genital cutting to early marriage to dowry murders and so-called honor killings, that the women of the world needed a clear and unambiguous charter for how to move beyond the blatant gender discrimination and apartheid that seemed manifest in almost every culture, tradition, nation and religion. Women stayed up late into the night working on language, negotiating with their colleagues on government delegations pushing for greater inclusion and greater clarity about women&rsquo;s rights as the basis for any agreement. And when, at the very end of our two weeks together, we had the chance (after hours of standing and singing in the pouring rain!) to listen to Hillary Clinton say loudly and clearly that &ldquo;women&rsquo;s rights are human rights&rdquo;, even those of us who saw the US as an imperialist power, gave ourselves permission to dream that the future would be different for our daughters and our sons and for all women around the world - those who would bear those children and those who chose never to bear children. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony might have put it, we were clear that it was not for ourselves alone that we worked so hard to develop a document that we believed was true to the spirit and toil of so many diverse voices and could still pass as an official UN document.</p><strong>So where are we today?</strong><p>As I write this, I look back to the 10th anniversary of the Beijing conference in 2005. Those were dark days for the women&rsquo;s rights movement in the United States and, by extension, simply by virtue of the disproportionate power and influence the US now wields as sole superpower, for women around the globe. The Bush administration had rolled back all but the most basic reproductive freedoms and rights for women, it had imposed the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_gag_rule">global gag rule</a>, and it had fiercely opposed any ratification by the Senate of the famous UN treaty on the rights of women <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a>. My words in an op-ed I wrote at the time are fighting words, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m returning because women around the world will never give up. I&rsquo;m returning because women (and their children) are the disproportionate victims of war, yet have proved to be outstanding negotiators for peace when given the opportunity. I&rsquo;m returning because it is women who understand that the best way to prevent trafficking is to build sustainable local economies while educating the community about the rights of women and girls.&rdquo;</p><p>This year, you&rsquo;ll see me inside UN meeting rooms, but also on New York City streets &mdash; I will be joining the thousands of women&rsquo;s organizations coming from around the world to say, &ldquo;Stop the rollback.&rdquo;</p><p>As I watched the historic inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama in January 2009, I was moved for many reasons. But, one of the most important reasons was that as a feminist activist, I was sure that the words I would be writing in 2010 about women&rsquo;s rights would be different. They would outline our success, our progress, they would celebrate the boldness and courage of a new generation &ndash; of a Secretary of State who once spoke those famous words as a first lady, of a President who genuinely believes in women&rsquo;s equality and freedom, and of a Congress that had the conviction and confidence to stand with women both in the United States and around the globe in contrast to the previous eight years of conservative capitulation.</p><p>One year into the Obama administration, I am far more worried than I want to admit. I am concerned about an administration that seems more intent on pleasing and appeasing its critics on the right than delivering on the promises of its campaign rhetoric. I am troubled by meetings with administration officials at which civil society organizations are urged to be more understanding and less demanding of the administration since it faces so many challenges. I am dismayed by the fact that we cannot &ldquo;seize the day&rdquo; and move forward an agenda to ratify the Global Women&rsquo;s Rights Treaty of the UN <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">(CEDAW)</a>, because, &ldquo;we must remember that it is seen as controversial.&rdquo; How does it benefit this administration to act from a place of caution and hesitation? What is there to lose? Why would the United States choose to be aligned with Iran, Somalia and Sudan, the three other countries that have failed to ratify CEDAW?</p><p>I am particularly puzzled by this state of affairs, since in many other ways, the United States, and the West in general, has been flooded with an unprecedented public &ldquo;aha&rdquo; on the issue of women&rsquo;s rights. My graduate school colleague, Sheryl Wudunn, and her spouse, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, have written a widely heralded bestseller called, <em>Half the Sky</em>, that provides eloquent testimony from women&rsquo;s rights advocates around the globe and makes a strong argument for why women&rsquo;s rights need to be &ldquo;the cause of the 21C&rdquo;. Numerous public gatherings, including the <a href="http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/">Clinton Global Initiative</a> and the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, have featured world leaders from Michele Bachelet of Chile, to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of the UK, calling for the full realization of Women&rsquo;s Rights. The corporate world, despite the economic crisis of the past 18 months, has made a public display of its commitment to <a href="http://www.10000women.org/">&ldquo;Investing in Women.&rdquo;</a> CEOs like Lloyd Blankstein of Goldman Sachs, to Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, and Rex Tillerson, of Exxon Mobil, seem aligned and on-message about why women and girls are the new &ldquo;micro-credit&rdquo;.</p><p>Yet, if one looks past the rhetoric, the reality is sobering indeed. Women and girls still make up the majority of the poor. They have paid the highest price in this recent economic downturn losing jobs, becoming more vulnerable to domestic violence as male unemployment rises, and being pushed into survival sex or victimized by traffickers as they search for ways to feed their families. Female infanticide and foeticide have increased rather than decreased in places like India and China, where growing incomes have not changed a culture of son preference, but simply enabled families to make more technologically advanced choices that perpetuate women&rsquo;s inferior status. The militarization of communities and the increasing presence of small arms and weapons from low income communities in East Los Angeles and the border towns of Mexico, to the villages of the DRC, have placed women and girls at greater risk of being raped, violated and sexually assaulted.</p><p>Even in the rarified world of private philanthropy, the statistics are grim &ndash; less than 7% of total US Philanthropic Giving last year went to organizations serving women and girls and headed by women. I can speak from my own experience at the Global Fund for Women: we struggled to maintain our funding at pre-crisis levels in 2009. Our 650 grants worth $8.5 million fell far short of the over 2,500 requests we had for support from women&rsquo;s groups in 170 countries. We know that although they hold up both half the sky and more than half of the solutions, we need to create a more just, equal and sustainable world, for as things stand they are barely scraping by financially.</p><p>So, we are headed back to the streets and to UN negotiating rooms this March as we mark 30 years since the passage of the Women&rsquo;s Rights Treaty (<a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a>) and 15 years since Beijing. We will do this for the daughters and sons who are now teenagers, so that they can see themselves as a part of these struggles and remember that it is not for ourselves alone.</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 women's movements women's human rights patriarchy feminism Kavita Ramdas Wed, 24 Feb 2010 19:22:09 +0000 Kavita Ramdas 50447 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What’s wrong with a democratic world with justice, equality, development and peace? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cora-weiss/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-democratic-world-with-justice-equality-development-and-peace <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As Cora Weiss reflects on the Beijing ’95 conference on women her dream is that we do not make war safe for women, but that we make women safe by ending the scourge of war </div> </div> </div> <p>My mos<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women-2010" target="_self"><img class="image-left mceItem" src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4362747754_f7ce082bdb_o.jpg" alt="Women UN limited logo and link" height="36" width="116" /></a>t vivid recollection of the 4th World Conference on Women where 15 years ago nearly 30,000 women gathered in China is of nine refugee Tibetan women. The <a href="http://www.savetibet.org/">International Campaign for Tibet</a> sent Reed Brody, a human rights lawyer, to support the women who, out of hundreds who applied, were granted visas and also permitted to hold an officially approved event at the NGO Forum. They were constantly harassed by Chinese police. Frightened, but determined, Brody helped them agree to a silent demonstration at the gates to the Forum in Hairou. They made gags of the yellow silk scarves that were gifts from China to all the participants, and stood in the rain with tears flowing, locked hand in hand while cameras broadcast their message around the world on the plight of Tibet.</p><p><img class="image-centred mceItem" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/TibetanWomen.gif" alt="Tibetan Women" height="226" width="354" /></p><p>Civil society women gathered and sang &lsquo;We Shall Overcome&rsquo; as these brave women, who had never engaged in such activity before, feared arrest. They were the first exiled Tibetans to demonstrate inside China. Looking for a safe space, Brody, now counsel with Human Rights Watch, brought them to the Peace Tent and simply said &ldquo;protect them&rdquo;. My first such experience.</p><p>This popular non-governmental &ndash; though I prefer to say civil society &ndash; forum, called for looking at the world through women&rsquo;s eyes. The UN Conference theme &lsquo;Equality, Development and Peace&rsquo; and delegate&rsquo;s deliberations resulted in the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/pdf/Beijing%20full%20report%20E.pdf">Beijing Platform for Action</a> (BPfA).</p><p>While Peace was one of the three official legs, the Platform for Action devoted only one of the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/index.html">12 critical areas of concern</a> to women and armed conflict. It states that &ldquo;peace is inextricably linked to equality and development&rdquo; (the other two legs) and called &ldquo;for equal access and full participation of women in power structures, and increasing the participation of women in decision making&rdquo;. Education for a culture of peace was considered necessary, and it recognized that women&rsquo;s NGOs have called for a reduction in military spending. But as Felicity Hill wrote to me, &ldquo;it was a standalone recognition of women and war issues, with no analysis of the scourge of wars and threat of nuclear weapons poised on hair trigger alert.&rdquo;</p><p>Hill, now Australia Sen. S. Ludlam&rsquo;s assistant, has done a close reading of documents emerging from the <a href="http://www.5wwc.org/conference_background/1975_WCW.html">1975</a> (Mexico), <a href="http://www.choike.org/2009/eng/informes/1454.html">1980</a> (Copenhagen) and <a href="http://www.5wwc.org/conference_background/1985_WCW.html">1985</a> (Nairobi) World Women&rsquo;s Conferences and finds the Beijing Platform &ldquo;just not as strong as the previous documents which were more assertive of women as part of the solution, through an analysis of international relations, rather than women as problem, women as victim in armed conflict&rdquo;.</p><p>The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) this year is convened for a review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action. At an initial meeting held on February 18th, the <a href="http://www.ngocsw.org/en/main">NGO Committee on the Status of Women</a> (NGO CSW), in collaboration with the UN Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), brought five women speakers and Canadian Ambassador Stephen Lewis to a so-called roundtable for an hour and a half, expecting to engage the several hundred women in the audience in a dialogue. At the meeting, woman speaker after speaker gave statistical reports on how many more, or less, women are literate today, or poorer, or more or less educated. The quantity never gave way to quality, so we don&rsquo;t know if women or girls are learning about gender equality, human rights, social and economic justice, non-violence, or whatever else it will take to make a culture of peace.</p><p>Not one speaker referred to <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/sc/1325.html">UN Security Council Resolution 1325</a> (SCR 1325) the 10-year-old, civil-society-driven landmark law that calls for women&rsquo;s participation at all levels of decision making, prevention of armed violence and protection of women during conflict. Nor was <a href="http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sc9364.doc.htm">SCR 1820</a> on Women, Peace and Security and sexual abuse mentioned. No one spoke of the massive consequences of war, or the fact that war is not women&rsquo;s history, as Virginia Woolf taught us. No one spoke of the obscenity of diverting desperately needed resources for women&rsquo;s development to war and the arms trade. Not one woman called for women to be at every table where the fate of humanity is at stake, as <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bella_Abzug">Bella Abzug</a> preached at Beijing.</p><p>Only Stephen Lewis insisted that women and children are not one word, as the Beijing Platform would suggest. Women need their own agency, children have one, UNICEF, he declared. &ldquo;Modest, only infinitesimal, progress has been made since Beijing&rdquo;, he said with honesty, and called for the emergence, at last, of the international agency for women, <a href="http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/globalcenter/policy/unadvocacy/gea.html">GEAR</a> - not as a catalytic advisory body, but as an operational body working on the ground with adequate funding. &ldquo;The UN represents all member states, but if it can&rsquo;t represent 52% of the world&rsquo;s people it shouldn&rsquo;t be in business.&rdquo; The struggle for gender equality is the most important struggle in the world today&rdquo;, he bellowed to the applause of the crowd. Lewis was Canada&rsquo;s ambassador to the UN and former deputy chief of UNICEF. He now heads the Stephen Lewis Foundation focused on treatment and eradication of HIV/Aids.</p><p>In Hairou, when the French tested nuclear bombs in the Pacific, killing fish on which islanders were dependent, causing radioactivity that left women, men and children disfigured and with unbearable cancers, women immediately formed an anti-nuclear protest, which Chinese police tried to prevent and then silence and disperse.</p><p>In 1995 UNESCO issued a statement on <a href="http://www.unesco.org/cpp/uk/declarations/wcpbei.htm">Women&rsquo;s Contribution to a Culture of Peace.</a> Nothing in this year&rsquo;s CSW looks as if it will refer to the Peace leg of the BPfA.</p><p>March 8th, International Women&rsquo;s Day, around which the CSW is convened, started in 1910 to devote one day to the demands of women for equality and combine their gender-specific struggles with the struggle for world peace. This year, Women for Women International will host a <a href="http://www.womenforwomen.org/events-supporting-women/international-womens-day.php">Bridge</a> campaign demanding an end to war and asking women and men to get together on bridges around the world to say, NO! to war and YES! to peace and hope. But this comes from civil society, not from the UN, not even its women&rsquo;s commission despite the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/preamble.shtml">UN Charter</a> which calls for an end to the scourge of war.</p><p>On the official CSW interactive panels, the topic &ldquo;From conflict and war to peace-building and reconstruction: making women&rsquo;s experiences count&rdquo; was originally part of the program. Why was it taken out? DAW does not seem to have an answer. However, from conversations with two missions, I learned that there's a feeling among member states that CSW should address other issues. They think that the time to address SCR 1325 and other women's peace and security issues is in October, reports Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, International Coordinator of the <a href="http://www.globalpeacebuilders.org/en.html">Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. </a></p><p>Mavic (who is also co-chair of the NGO CSW) still has some hope because while Beijing 95&rsquo; had only one section on women and armed conflict, she says &ldquo;since then we have the May 2000 <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/windhoek_declaration.pdf">Windhoek Declaration</a> and Namibia Plan of Action on &lsquo;Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Peace Support Operations&rsquo; and the October 2000 groundbreaking, unanimously-adopted SCR 1325 on Women Peace and Security&rdquo;. These were followed by three more Security Council resolutions on women peace and security. However, Mavic adds, &ldquo;the talk is not matched with the walk. There is a huge gap between international law and member state implementation. Most of the work making a difference in the lives of women is being done at the local level by civil society organizations. There are only 18 National Action Plans for SCR 1325 so far. This highlights the need to push for greater accountability at this CSW, not just for the Beijing Platform, but for SCR 1325 and <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a> and all other women&rsquo;s human rights and peace instruments.&rdquo; Mavic also wants to see the immediate appointment, as does the European Union, of a new Under-Secretary General for the new UN Women&rsquo;s Agency, GEAR, and calls on the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margot_Wallstr%C3%B6m">Margot Wallstrom</a> &ldquo;to engage women&rsquo;s organizations in a robust dialogue.&rdquo; That is what she hopes the 54th CSW will produce.</p><p>Sayre Sheldon, the President Emerita of <a href="http://www.wand.org/">WAND</a> (Women&rsquo;s Action for New Directions) recalls the &ldquo;peace tent with ever changing demonstrations of the costs of war for women and the ways they had developed for opposing it&hellip;.the contrasts between the Forum and the official conference in Beijing: hot, crowded tents vs. large air-conditioned halls, women heads of families vs. Heads of state, many of them men, passionate voices vs. official language&rdquo;</p><p>Sharon Bhagwan Rolls from Fiji&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.femlinkpacific.org.fj/">femLinkPacific</a> remembers their consultations with women from rural communities: &ldquo;Their voices were loud and clear endorsing the need&hellip; for an end to violence not just by governments, but community and faith based groups as well.&rdquo;</p><p>NGO CSW co-chair Roz Harris, a member of the US staff at San Francisco in 1945, was optimistic, saying that when women gathered in Mexico the general view was that we were demanding our rights. By Beijing women were talking about what they were doing. And Afaf Mafouz, another co-chair, said that the impact of these international conferences is to challenge governments.</p><p>Susan Davis worked with Bella Abzug in <a href="http://www.wedo.org/">WEDO</a> (Women&rsquo;s Environmental and Development Organization) and was at Beijing. Bella said of the Platform of Action, &ldquo;we&rsquo;ve got the words, now we need the music. And the music is action.&rdquo; Bella, she reminds us, was not content that women stay within the CSW arena, preferring to see the whole problem. Susan is now the President of <a href="http://www.bracusa.org/">BRAC</a> USA, a microfinance organization that started in Bangladesh, working to reduce poverty and empower women and girls in Asia, Africa and Haiti. Davis says, she is &ldquo;not sure that the CSW can come up with anything that matters&hellip;it doesn&rsquo;t have power over resource flows. CSW delegates represent governments not set up to address all issues on the global agenda through this one arena. But I would love to see the CSW decide to model gender-balanced decision making and show the world the difference it can make on reaching decisions on anything urgent- the economy, real conflicts now raging, climate change, etc&hellip;.We need to change our strategies and tactics. Women need to increase economic and political power to change our gender&rsquo;s subordinated social position.&rdquo;</p><p>I used to say, women, women everywhere, but not enough in power. And now, with tea party women claiming space, I say it takes more than ovaries. We need progressive women, women who support gender equality, peace, development and justice. We need more women in the UN like Helen Clark the new head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Michele Bachelet now in Haiti for UNIFEM, and Margot Wallstrom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.</p><p>We need women with courage to call for alternatives to war, to call for reallocation of the trillions now wasted on wars and an out of control arms trade, for the abolition of nuclear weapons, women who will welcome our sons raised by feminist mothers, so women and men will work together for a future where poverty will no longer be tolerated, where illiteracy will be unheard of, where women and men will have equal access to fair employment, and everyone will enjoy health care.</p><p>There is too much at stake. Oceans are rising, cancers are spreading, people are trafficked and in slavery, rape is the cheapest weapon of war, women are seen as victims, not resolvers and initiators and peace makers. It does not have to be this way. What would be wrong with a democratic world with justice, equality, development and peace?</p> 50.50 50.50 UN Commission on the Status of Women 2010 Cora Weiss Wed, 24 Feb 2010 18:30:09 +0000 Cora Weiss 50444 at https://www.opendemocracy.net