Women’s Equality Day 2014 – Join us!

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Join us on August 23 in San Francisco! Get your tickets today to reserve a seat!

 

Women’s Intercultural Network invites you to celebrate the 94th Anniversary of US women achieving the vote and share priorities for the 20th anniversary review of the Beijing Platform for Action on August 23rd. A panel of notable women from the NGO/grassroots sector and women from the corporate/entrepreneur sector will hold a progressive conversation about mutual concerns and how they can collaborate for women’s equality.

We are welcoming Keynoter Elmy Bermejo back to the Bay Area as the Representative to the Secretary of the Department of Labor, honor human rights and social justice activists Krishanti Dharmaraj, Marily Mondejar and Jene McCovey and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon receiving the Jedi Knight award. There will be briefings from California and other US states’ activists on their agendas for Beijing+20 with lunch from Above and Beyond Catering. All at a doable price.

Another major focus at this year’s event will be the Cities for CEDAW Campaign that WIN is Peer Leading with the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. Come get involved with that.

Oh, and we are bringing back the popular silent auction Bazaar for the shoppers and closing with a wine and cheese mixer.  Come and stay as long as you can, stay for all  and ‘come as you are’

Become part of  history making movement and add your voice to the California and US Platforms for action beyond 2015. Your voice counts. Go to the WIN website for more information on this years’ extraordinary event and last years to see the energy generated at:  http://winaction.org/events/wed.html

See you on August 23rd at the African American Art & Culture Complex!

JOIN WIN HERE FOR YOUR MEMBERSHIP DISCOUNT!

http://winaction.org/Documents/membershipform.pdf

Follow this page and the WIN Facebook for program updates and other highlights.

United Nations 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women Debrief

The following debrief was prepared Jessica Buchleitner, Secretary, Board of Directors, WIN

The fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women  (CSW 58) took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from March 10 to March 21 2014. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attended the session.

This year’s Priority theme was the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls and the Review theme was the access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

The Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) are eight international developmentgoals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. All 189 United Nations member states at the time (there are 193 currently) and at least 23 international organizations committed to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, the goals follow:

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality and empowering women
  4. To reduce child mortality rates
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

Each goal has specific targets and dates for achieving those targets.

As of 2013 progress towards the goals was uneven. Some countries achieved many goals, while others were not on track to realize any. A UN conference in September 2010 reviewed progress and concluded with the adoption of a global plan to achieve the eight goals by their target date. New commitments targeted women’s and children’s health and new initiatives in the worldwide battle against poverty, hunger and disease.

The purpose of CSW 58 was to identify the barriers to implementation of these goals in terms of women and girls and develop strategies to overcome them.

Panels and Presentations from the Commission on the Status of Women and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Opening morning

Opening morning took place with an address from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon regarding the Millennium Development Goals and current progress.

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UN Secretary – General Ban Ki Moon opens CSW 58


Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
, Executive Director of UN Women, spoke about the current progress of the Millennium Development Goals and then opened up the floor for delegates to give their statements in a high-level roundtable session to exchange experiences, lessons learned and best practices on the priority theme.


Accelerating Progress on the MDGs for Women and Girls: High level statement from Heads of UN Agencies

Several heads of major UN agencies delivered statements on Tuesday, March 11 regarding measures they are taking to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals.  UN Women, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) all reported on their specific areas and actions in several member states, with a particular focus on Africa.

UNESCO making a statement on the MDGs


NGO panel presentations

Domestic Violence

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A group of NGOs gave a presentation on engaging law enforcement to handle domestic violence. Here is part of the speech delivered by a DV prosecutor based in Texas.


World Bank breakfast: At a special reception hosted by the World Bank Group, the subject of women working in unpaid care positions was thoroughly discussed by several representatives, including Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development. The group produced a printed report on global research of this topic. Below is a video of  the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights speaking about unpaid care work and lack of attention to it as a human right and a photo of Jeni Klugman.

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Engaging men and boys to achieve the MDGs (Brazil, Switzerland, MenEngage
): We heard briefings from several representatives from Brazil, Switzerland, South Africa and Nicaragua discussing their goals of breaking social stigma and societal traditions that discourage men from being part of their families. They work with young boys into their adulthood to ensure an understanding of the concept of gender equality.

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North Caucasus panel

A panel of representatives from the North Caucasus region of Russia discussed the prevalence of domestic violence and bride kidnappings in the republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya. It was reported that groups of NGOs working with Chechen women leveraged the CEDAW ordinance to put pressure on Chechen officials to curb the practice, citing that the it is illegal in the Russian Federation, in addition to being considered a sin in Islamic law. Recently, a fine of one million rubles was introduced as punishment for anyone kidnapping a woman as a bride in Chechnya. These anti-kidnapping laws were first introduced in 2010. The video below by one panelist accurately describes the situation of Chechen women:


Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN): Winning Strategies on the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW and the Millennium development Goals for Gender Equality

Our WIN panel consisted of our global partner delegates brought from Afghanistan, Uganda and San Francisco. We heard from Raihana Polpalzai, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at Kabul University and the Honorable Annette Mukabera, former MP, Republic of Uganda, Professor Yasuko Wachi of Josai University (Japan) and several others . Here are a few video excerpts:

Annette Mukabera and statistics on Ugandan women

Raihana Polpalzai on Afghan women

Yasuko Wachi on women in Japan


US Women Connect: Technology and Women’s Advancement

Longtime Women’s Intercultural Network national level partner, US Women Connect presented a panel on the role of technology in advancing women and girls. We heard from Mary Ann Ellison (WIN Board Member) of Flowering Hope, Michelle Ozumba of Women’s Funding Network and I read for Elahe Amani of University of California Fullerton. Here are videos of our presentations:

Mary Ann Ellison, Executive Director, Flowering Hope

Michelle Ozumba, Executive Director, Women’s Funding Network

Jessica Buchleitner, WIN Board Member, reading for Elahe Amani


Our important panels regarding CEDAW

CEDAW is perhaps the single most important subject addressed every year at the United Nations CSW meeting.

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty that focuses on women’s rights and women’s issues worldwide. Developed by the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Convention addresses the advancement of women, describes the meaning of equality and sets forth guidelines on how to achieve it.

The Convention focuses on three key areas:

  • civil rights and the legal status of women
  • reproductive rights
  • cultural factors influencing gender relations

It is not only an international bill of rights for women but also an agenda of action. Countries (UN member states) that ratify CEDAW agree to take concrete steps to improve the status of women and end discrimination and violence against women. As evidence of these ongoing efforts, every four years each nation must submit a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Composed of 23 experts nominated and elected by the ratifying nations, the Committee’s members are regarded as individuals of high moral standing and knowledge in the field of women’s rights. CEDAW annually reviews these reports and recommends areas requiring further action and ways to further eliminate discrimination against women. It is an important international measure of accountability.

For example, the Convention requires ratifying nations to modify social and cultural patterns to eliminate gender prejudices and bias; revise textbooks, school programs and teaching methods to remove gender stereotypes within the educational system; and address modes of behavior and thought which define the public realm as a man’s world and the home as a woman’s, thereby affirming that both genders have equal responsibilities in family life and equal rights regarding education and employment.

Interestingly enough, the United States is the only industrialized nation that refuses to ratify CEDAW. Of the 193 U.N. member nations, 187 countries have ratified it. The United States is among the countries that have not — along with the Pacific island nations of Tonga and Palau, Iran, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

In 2002, although the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-7 to approve the treaty, it was never sent to the full Senate for advice and consent to ratification. The Senate has never ratified CEDAW, and without ratification, the U.S. is not bound by its provisions.

At this year’s CSW, we started the Cities for CEDAW campaign and kicked it off with two presentations in partnership with the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women.

Here are videos of Marilyn Fowler of Women’s Intercultural Network (our NGO) speaking about CEDAW and WIN’s initiatives to mobilize women at the state, national and global level to push for it.

Cities for CEDAW, Marilyn Fowler, Part 1

Cities for CEDAW, Marilyn Fowler, Part 2


The UN and Social Media

The UN has upped the ante in terms of social media presence. This year, we were given access to more meetings that traditionally were closed. In each meeting we were encouraged to take photos, videos and to tweet. It appears that the UN is making more effort to share the content of the meetings on the internet. I have not observed this extent of social media participation in previous years. To view a complete social media overview of CSW58, see the UN Women Storify page.

One reason for an increased participation is the use of gadgets that are more prevalently on the market then they were in previous years. When I attended the conference in 2012, I saw far less participants using tablets to take photos or tweet. This appears to be a rising standard.

Recent actions of member states to increase progress of the Millennium Development Goals

The following are recent actions of member states towards furthering the progress of the MDGs.

- Bangladesh has implemented policies for the eradication of poverty among women by strengthening social services. Programmes and policies such as the allowance to widows and destitute women and a maternity allowance have been reported to have helped provide food security to a large number of poor women.

- In 2009, Guyana launched a single parent training programme which provides training to single parents to enable them to undertake paid employment.

- Sierra Leone abolished primary education school fees for all children as of 2007.

- Burkina Faso has implemented the BRIGHT programme that provides daily meals for all children and take-home rations for girls, to reduce the time they spend on household chores and increase time for them to allocate their studies.

- Nepal has adopted several gender equality and social inclusion measures, such as ensuring that at least one woman serves on school management committees.

- Egypt endorsed the “Healthy Mother, Healthy Child” initiative to reduce the risks of maternal and neonatal mortality through increased access to maternal and reproductive health services, reduced fertility rates, the utilization of antenatal care and skilled attendance at delivery, as maternal health has a direct impact on neonatal and child morbidity and mortality.

- Guinea Bissau and Kenya have enacted new laws to prevent female genital mutilation while national policies, frameworks, and laws in support of reproductive health and rights have been developed in Armenia and Cambodia, with the support of UNFPA.

- Paraguay has implemented a national plan for the control and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

- Nepal has introduced school and community-led total sanitation programs across the country in order to establish child-friendly, gender sensitive and disability- friendly water, hygiene and sanitation facilities.

Agreed Conclusions of UNCSW58
Agreed Conclusions are now available and can be accessed here.

My Personal Reflections

Honestly, there were tears in my eyes leaving the UN this year.

The collective soul of the conference was utterly powerful. To be part of a group of people from all corners of the world who live and breathe the desire to change corrupt systems, end suffocating traditions against women and stir dialogue concerning issues others normally turn a blind eye to is a transcending, powerful experience.

As I watched the UN disappear from the back window of the airport taxi, the words of the song of the Statue of Liberty echoed in my mind: “Give me your tired, your poor, your hungry, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Some of these women spent their life savings just to come to this conference and present important issues in their countries. Others brave death threats every day to do the work they do. For the past three years, groups of Iranian women were unable to attend because of the regime. Last year, Nobel Prize winner Tawakkol Karman was unable to get out of Yemen to speak at consultation day. For some of these NGO groups, planning the travel and scraping together the funds takes years in the making. It is inspiring to witness the extent people will go to for the purpose of sharing important information and to exercise their voice.

I remembered a Chechen woman taking the microphone from her translator only to passionately explode in a verbal fervor about the condition of Chechen women, to show her 1 billion rising video and explain the practice of bride kidnapping.

I remembered the group of high school girls from Mexico who boldly approached Jayne Anyango and I to introduce themselves and chat with us about their desire to end the violence and murders in Ciudad Juárez.

Then there was the Russian guard manning the front gate who remembered me from prior years and the Ugandan guard in the main building who I joked with in the morning. There were also the African women in their bright patterned dresses and the diplomats with frowning brows in their black suits. My favorite lunch spot is the Moroccan street vendor who sells kebab sandwiches outside the UN Church Center building. When he saw me approaching him on the first day, he called out to me excitedly.

Every part of the experience is transcending; a patchwork of new and familiar faces. Some frowning, some smiling, others crying.

I know the UN is not perfect, as many of its notable missions have failed in the past. There are slews of criticism about its operating procedures, officials and budget. I am aware of these arguments and judgments and do not see the UN with rose-colored glasses.

Yet, to observe the collective hope for peace in all those who journeyed to New York for CSW 58 is to witness a phenomenon of unyielding faith.

The tired, the poor, the hungry and the believers will all return again next year, in huddled masses, to reconvene towards building a world free of violence. A world where women do, indeed, breathe free…

And here we go…moving forward….

Read my debriefs from the previous two years of CSW57 and CSW56.

Read our official statement for Women’s Intercultural Network that Lenka Belkova and I authored. 

 

 

A WIN delegate reflection on UNCSW 58

WIN delegate Dalia Lababidi, shares her reflections on UNCSW 58 in this post. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in International Relations at University of San Francisco and has a particular interest in the well-being of Syrian women and girls.

Bosnian and Syrian women collaborate for peace, panel at UNCSW 58

Bosnian and Syrian women collaborate for peace, panel at UNCSW 58

As a first time participant in the UNCSW’s 58th session, I was very thrilled to be part of WIN in this great event. Needless to say, it was a rewarding experience to be in NYC, and getting the opportunity to meet Women from all over the world who gathered for one cause, to bring equality for the “She” inside each one of us. It was amazing to see women flying thousands of miles just to get their voices heard, and to push the wheel of change forward for the better of the upcoming generations. I was very touched by the story of Professor Raihana Popalzai from Afghanistan who made it to the US after a long journey to tell the world the dire conditions of life that women in Afghanistan face on a daily basis.

In spite of the tremendous difficulties that she had faced, Raihana’s project made a difference, and girls were willing to some extent to go to school or college to learn. Raihana’s story was one of many stories that not only focused on the obstacles and constraints, but also brought a glimpse of hope in a better tomorrow. This conference opened my eyes wide on many realities I had not been aware of. Yes, we can and we will make a difference. To put it succinctly, as Jessica Buchleitner routinely stated when concluding her emails, we are “moving forward”…

A summary from our Board Secretary: Why am I going to the United Nations?

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In 2012 (UNCSW56) and 2013 (UNCSW57), I attended the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting. Next week, I am heading back for my third trip to UNCSW 58.  Over the years, I’ve been consistently asked to explain what I do there. So here goes…

I jumped on board with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Women’s Intercultural Network 3 years ago after finishing all the interviews for 50 Women. So many world events and major issues facing women emerged in the stories and I was moved. I didn’t want to just publish narratives anymore- I wanted to take a seat at the table and fight to get the women most often overlooked and unheard at that same table with me. Undoubtedly, it’s impactful to produce narratives, but what could I do about the issues arising at their core?

The question then became: How do I merge policy and diplomacy with the grassroots?

Truth be told – I hate politics. Despise them. Frankly, I think political campaigns are a disgusting waste of money and only result in slanderous garbage. The millions that Obama and Romney spent on their political campaigns last election makes me cringe. Yet, like politics or not, they are a fact of life and a central force dictating law, order, customs, ways of life, and most of all- economics.

I’ve always been more of a “grassroots” girl. I like operating at the community level; I like town hall style meetings, forums and working one on one with people.  My analogy of the global community is a round table where everyone speaks to one another openly and freely while eating dinner together.

The United Nations is a bit of that. Since we can’t include the ENTIRE global community at that table (that would be a rather large table, potentially reaching the planet Saturn) each member state sends a representative to take a seat. Some argue that those representatives are unfairly chosen and eat too much of the food. Others argue that the dinner party attendees who contribute more to the UN budget get dessert when others seated around them don’t.

So what is my group’s piece of the pie and where is our seat at this dinner party?

Read on…

What is the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and NGO CSW?
Every year the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meets for 10 working days in order to review the global progress of women’s rights. During that time, NGOs consultative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) meet in parallel to the commission to present research, field work, documentation, and panels of experts to brief other NGO attendees on what is happening on the ground in UN member states. The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of ECOSOC.

The NGO I am representing as a member of the Board of Directors is Women’s Intercultural Network. Our seat at the dinner party table is in the ECOSOC section, presenting at NGOCSW.  Though we are one of hundreds of NGOs, our mission is strong and our voices loud.

The priority theme of this year’s conference will explore the barriers to implementation of the United Nations millennium development goals for women and girls.

A brief overview of the UN
The objectives of the United Nations include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict.

Its role since its creation in 1945 has expanded in tandem with global climate and political changes. It adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and CEDAW in 1979.  After the Cold War between the United States and USSR ended, the UN took on major military and peacekeeping missions in Kuwait, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo with varying and arguable degrees of success.

There are 5 principal organs represented in the chart below. Our NGO, Women’s Intercultural Network is consultative to the Economic and Social Council, which also houses the Commission on the Status of Women. This is visible in the diagram below. Click on it for the PDF version. These diagrams reveal which of the five principal bodies each UN entity is classified under.

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Criticism and Funding
There exists much criticism about the United Nations’ outreach, operations and involvement on the world stage.

Scholar Jacques Fomerand believes the most enduring divide in views of the UN is “the North-South split” between richer Northern nations and developing Southern nations. Southern nations tend to favor a more empowered UN with a stronger General Assembly, allowing them a greater voice in world affairs, while Northern nations prefer an economically laissez-faire UN that focuses on transnational threats such as terrorism.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are also a critic’s dream come true as they are often regarded as debt enslavement agencies, allegedly causing high debt in developing countries to leading nations. Both are multinational lenders in the global financial system. Although the loans are supposedly intended to help the countries, they cause them to take on debt and pay interest remaining under the condition of the UN institutions, run by the bigger UN budget contributing players. Journalist Sebastian Mallaby discusses these criticisms in depth in his interview here.

The United Nations is financed by assessed by voluntary contributions from its member states. Currently the United States is the highest contributor – funding 22 percent of the overall budget. This can be a double-edged sword. As it is often touted, the highest budget contributor is generally the one with the most power and this can cast a shadow of radical self-interest over the mission-at- large of the organization.

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Two faces of the UN: the symbiosis of Policy and Grassroots

The UN consists of Policymakers and NGOs. One part can’t function without the other. The NGOs are on the ground, on the front lines of the action to report back to the policymakers the critical needs in each member state.

Watch a video interview I did last year to see why the two are synonymous.

The CEDAW Ordnance and the United States
This is perhaps the single most important subject addressed every year at the United Nations CSW meetings. Pay close attention to this topic, as it if first and foremost on the agenda:

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty that focuses on women’s rights and women’s issues worldwide. Developed by the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Convention addresses the advancement of women, describes the meaning of equality and sets forth guidelines on how to achieve it.

The Convention focuses on three key areas:

  • civil rights and the legal status of women
  • reproductive rights
  • cultural factors influencing gender relations

It is not only an international bill of rights for women but also an agenda of action. Countries (UN member states) that ratify CEDAW agree to take concrete steps to improve the status of women and end discrimination and violence against women. As evidence of these ongoing efforts, every four years each nation must submit a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Composed of 23 experts nominated and elected by the ratifying nations, the Committee’s members are regarded as individuals of high moral standing and knowledge in the field of women’s rights. CEDAW annually reviews these reports and recommends areas requiring further action and ways to further eliminate discrimination against women. It is an important international measure of accountability.

For example, the Convention requires ratifying nations to modify social and cultural patterns to eliminate gender prejudices and bias; revise textbooks, school programs and teaching methods to remove gender stereotypes within the educational system; and address modes of behavior and thought which define the public realm as a man’s world and the home as a woman’s, thereby affirming that both genders have equal responsibilities in family life and equal rights regarding education and employment.

Interestingly enough, the United States is the only industrialized nation that refuses to ratify CEDAW. Of the 194 U.N. member nations, 187 countries have ratified it. The United States is among seven countries that have not — along with the Pacific island nations of Tonga and Palua; Iran, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

But why, if CEDAW has been backed by three presidents?

President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty guaranteeing gender equity within its first year. In addition to Carter, two other presidents have attempted to push forward CEDAW. Urged by the Clinton administration in 1994, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on CEDAW and recommended it be ratified. Yet Senator Jesse Helms, a leading conservative and longtime CEDAW opponent, prevented a vote in the Senate.

In the early years of his administration, President George W. Bush looked favorably on ratification of CEDAW but later changed his position. In 2002, although the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-7 to approve the treaty, it was never sent to the full Senate for advice and consent to ratification. But the Senate has never ratified CEDAW, and without ratification, the U.S. is not bound by its provisions.

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Conservatives and CEDAW
The main opposition of ratification of CEDAW comes from conservative groups and the religious right who are concerned that CEDAW will challenge the laws and culture of the U.S.

In arguments against CEDAW, many say it will negate family law and undermine traditional family values by redefining the family, force the U.S. to pay men and women the same for “work of equal value” thus going against our free-market system, ensure access to abortion services and contraception, legalize prostitution and undermine the sovereignty of the U.S.

Therefore, the U.S. is the only democracy that has not ratified CEDAW. It remains in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The Senate has held hearings on CEDAW five times in the past 25 years but failed each time to bring the treaty to a vote on the floor.

CEDAW has empowered civil society organizations to demand that governments respect women’s human rights and to adopt policies to limit sex trafficking, domestic violence, child marriage and discrimination in the workplace.

Just last year I conducted an interview with an NGO president from Georgia who informed me that bride kidnapping was drastically reduced in Georgia due to an adoption of a new law and accountability by law enforcement to prosecute perpetrators and imprison them for up to eight years. I was able to truly see how far and wide the UN’s reach can go to protect women who otherwise would not be protected or historically have not been protected.

CEDAW is an issue each and every year, with no sign of changing. This year, we are bringing together the mayors of several U.S. cities in our Cities for CEDAW initiative. Since San Francisco was the first municipality in the United States to ratify CEDAW, we are hoping convincing a few more will help twist the arm of our senate counterparts. If cities are adopting CEDAW, why not the nation?

In conclusion, I hope this explains my role at the UN along with Women’s Intercultural Network. As a I prepare in the next two months to welcome the first50 Women book into the world (so much hard work for the last year!), I want to continue to share my attempts at wielding positive change. A large part of my responsibility for being able to attend the UN meetings, I believe, is to bridge the outside world with its efforts. Only thoroughly informed and collectively can we succeed with its initiatives. Divided or ignorant, we fail.

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Related links:

-        Lenka Belkova and I authored this newly released UNCSW 58 conference document regarding the implementation of Millennium Development Goals 3 and 5 on behalf of Women’s Intercultural Network.

-        Read my debriefings from UNCSW56 (2012) and UNCSW57 (2013)

-        Read the agreed upon conclusions from UNCSW57

-        Watch my interview with A Band of Wives about UNCSW 57

California Women’s Policy Summit 2014

California Women’s Policy Summit 2014

Advancing Women’s Health, Wealth & Power

By: Lenka Bělková, Development and Policy, Women’s Intercultural Network

Although women today fully participate in the economy, they still fare lower in wages than their male counterparts. Notoriously, female led occupations pay less than male occupations with the same level of education. Single mothers are overwhelmingly more vulnerable to poverty, which in turn has an effect on the child’s development and life chances. On the other hand, holistic family health, emotional, mental and physical, and family economic stability endow children with lasting, positive impacts. These points served as the springboard for cross-sector discussions on the status of women and their families in California.

The annual summit on women and families took place at the Sacramento Convention Center, January 16.  Conference hosted by California Center for Research on Women and Families presented array of panels addressing burning issues for women and their families. Field experts spoke on the subjects of health care reform, poverty and women economic empowerment, paid family leave, health disparities between race, ethnicity and gender, as well as sexual assault, teen health and opportunities, or early childhood education and childcare.

Here are some takeaways from the Women, Poverty and Economic Empowerment panel with recommended actions.

At the Women, Poverty and Economic Empowerment panel senator Holly J. Mitchell welcomed everyone with statistics: the amount of poor people has risen in California since 1995 and, further, California leads the nation in the highest poverty rates. Today 23.2% of children live in poverty in California and 45% of children living with single mothers in California are poor. Moreover, poverty and access to quality education affect child’s life opportunities and chances to succeed. As Jessica Bartholow, Legislative Advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the programs that are being cut need to remain to help families, and with the little we can do, at least preserve human dignity: “We are not even talking here about lifting [people] out of poverty, but about building a little respect.” The question today remains how to at least economically stabilize people in need. In all, socioeconomic safety net for families is essential to avoid penalizing children further into their adulthood for being born into poverty.

  • CalWORKS

Here are some recommendations from CalWORKs to keep programs that assist families in need:

  • Policy Objective #1

Ease the impact of the 2012 budget cuts to CalWORKs and increase grant levels to reduce deep poverty.

 Background

The Budget Act of 2012 (SB 1041) included nearly a billion dollars in cuts to the CalWORKs program, and also restructured CalWORKs in significant ways. Thought grants were increased by 5% in the Budget Act of 2013, they remain below half of the federal poverty level, a level that child development experts say is very dangerous for young children.

 Recommended Actions

A: The Legislature and Administration should closely monitor its new commitment to early, client-focused engagement and act swiftly to postpone the welfare-to-work 24-month cut-off if CalWORKs clients are not receiving early services.

 B. The Administration and Legislature should act immediately to increase grants to a level sufficient to prevent harm to children and to stabilize families so that the welfare-to-work investments are better utilized to achieve long-term self-sufficiency.

 Policy objective #3

Support work, health and early child learning opportunities for families with parents rehabilitating from prior criminal convictions.

 Background

High recidivism rates threaten the economic stability and the safety of our state, communities and families. Following the 2011 prison funding realignment and as the state faces court orders to reduce prison size, we embrace proven models for achieving cost-effective solutions to California’s high recidivism rates and to improve outcomes for families with an adult member re-entering the community after a stay in jail or prison. Research shows that while poverty status is a powerful predictor of recidivism among women, those women who receive state-sponsored support to address short-term basic needs when they leave prison reduce their odds of recidivism by over 80%.

 The federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (August 22, 1996) placed a lifetime ban on receiving Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grants for people with past drug felony convictions. Later, states were allowed a full or partial opt-out of this ban. California maintains the lifetime ban for all CalWORKs parents with prior drug felony convictions and for CalFresh applicants who wre convicted for sale, possession or manufacturing of drugs. Children in homes with an adult who is ineligible due to this rule are denied child care, and their parents are not supported in securing work. The denial of benefits in reality acts as a sentence for further failure.

 Recommended Action

Enact legislation allowing people who have served their time for a drug felony conviction and are complying with their probation or parole to participate in CalWORKs and CalFresh and stop denying their children access to early learning environments.

 To find more recommendations for action go here.

 California Domestic Workers Coalition

These are recommended actions from California Domestic Workers Coalition, represented by Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director California Domestic Workers Coalition and Mujeres Unidas y Activas. She related today’s domestic workers fight to the fight of workers in 1938, to the enactment of Fair Labor Standards Act, a legislation that set standards for minimum wage and overtime pay for workers.  But, at the time, the law did not include the protection of domestic and farmworkers.  Therefore, the implementation of the AB 241 bill is crucial due to persistent human rights abuses, unfair wages, unregulated working hours, and unsafe working conditions in this sector. Accompanied by female entry into workforce, domestic labor is predominantly female. It is an industry that is becoming more and more needed, especially as babyboomer generation approaches retirement and require home assistance.

 Policy objective #1

The California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE) should move aggressively to implement AB 241 and increase education and enforcement for all labor protections affecting domestic workers.

 Background

Domestic work continues to be seen as an industry in the shadows. There remains a widespread misunderstanding of what qualifies as domestic work and a tremendous lack of knowledge – on the part of state agencies, domestic work employers, and domestic wokers alike – of current labor law protecting domestic workers. With greater education and vigilant enforcement of the current statutes protecting domestic workers, we can make significant strides to shift the culture of domestic work, finally recognizing the dignity and value of the domestic workforce that cares for our homes and loved ones.

  1. A.     The DLSE should provide all district offices guidance on implementation strategies for AB 241. District personnel should be trained on the requirements of AB 241 and other statutes protecting domestic workers and to offer technical assistance to assure domestic workers have ready access to state wage claim enforcement mechanisms.
  2. B.     DLSE district offices should enlist the California Domestic Workers Coalition, with its trainings, materials, and other resources and expertise, to provide district office personnel with an industry overview and to provide resources to domestic worker claimants as needed.
  3. C.     The DLSE should develop and maintain a system to monitor data on claims filed by domestic workers, including information on the type of domestic work performed, the regular and overtime hours worked, the pay received, and the outcome of the case.
  4. D.    The DLSE should assist with outreach to 3rd party agencies and other employers of domestic workers and provide materials that inform them of their responsibilities. The DLSE should utilize the California Domestic Workers Coalition’s practical guides on how to implement AB 241.

For more information go here.

  • Women’s Foundation of California

Director of Programs, Nikole Collins-Puri from the Women’s Foundation of California introduced an improved Workforce Investment Act (WIA). A new strategy to develop training and education for women that would prepare them for better paying positions. Up until today, WIA program has overlooked the real problems of women who struggle with chronic poverty and unemployment due to insufficient skills and education. Programs such as this should help women to enter non-traditional female jobs while creating an access to higher wage jobs. Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs Act (Women WIN Jobs Act) is a strategy to develop training and educational programs for women to support economic mobility.

Policy objective #1

The Legislature and Governor should enact a Women and Workforce Investment bill to increase low-income women’s participation in high-wage, high-demand occupations in which women make up less than 25% of the current workforce.

Background

Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs should be equipped to serve as a bridge between the labor market and postsecondary education, serving as a catalyst for women’s career development. Women an dothe disadvantaged groups have specific needs that must be recognized and addressed if they are to enter good, higher paying jobs. As we anticipate the outcome of HR 951, the Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs Act (Women WIN Jos Act), California can position itself as a viable candidate for federal funding that would invest in programs that recruit, train, and retain low-income women in high-wage, high-demand fields that are nontraditional for their gender.

Deliberate attention and a comprehensive set of policies that address the full range of employment barriers will allow our workforce system to better serve women. Passing a Women and Workforce Investment bill would require:

1)    workforce providers to increase women’s training and placement in higher wage jobs with career advancement,

2)    caseworkers and other agency staff to be trained about workplace laws(e.g. paid sick leave, compensation, discrimination, etc.) and nontraditional employment options for women;

3)    employers to cerate a work environment that is flexible and addresses barriers to employment for women;

4)    coordinated collaboration between workforce, education, and welfare systems to deliver comprehensive services that minimize barriers to employment for women; and

5)    a Workforce Investment Board (State Board) that has established benchmarks and success measures to track the progress of low-income women moving into higher wage jobs that result in sustained self-sufficiency.

For more information go here.

Women and their families need policies that support their social and economic advancement. In an era when women are breaking glass ceilings while millions of others remain on the bring of poverty, the next step becomes to extend the social mobility to others with direct political participation.

What We Have to Do in California – Closing Session

Research shows the continuous under-representation of women in political leadership in the USA. Inter-Parliamentary Union summarized the statistics as follows: The international average of female representatives in national legislative bodies is 19%. While countries like Rwanda ranks 1st with 56%, or Andorra with 53% of women leaders (Scandinavian countries remain in the top 10 along with countries like South Africa or Cuba whose numbers show 39% or higher for women representation in national governments), the US ranks 91st with only 17% of women leaders in legislation (2011). American women leaders do not even reach the international average – data that brings forward many questions on democratic decision-making.

One of the main obstacles, as other research suggests, is the lack of political ambition. Simply put, women do not feel confident enough to run for an office in the US. Betsy Cotton, director of close the gap California, appealed to women during the final session to run for office and help to identify leaders.  And to imagine the social, environmental and economic progress that would come with women leadership, Kimberly Ellis, Executive Director of Emerge California, evoked a vivid picture of California where women lead in political participation:

“Women took the lead to redefine the society’s social contract to re-claim their democracy and re-write their constitution […] Women decided to wage in a new age feminist revolution that had five golden pillars: to educate women, to recruit women, to train women, to mentor and support women, and to demand policies be implemented to break down the barriers to women’s ability to advance their health, wealth, and power.  And as a result, humanity experienced rebirth. Our environment was cleaned up, restored, protected. Our economy was fair, inclusive, and growing. Universal health care, child-care and pre-school was a law of the land. Our education system was the envy of the world. College was free to anyone who wanted to better themselves and become more educated citizens. Our food was clean, organic and free of hormones and antibiotics […] We had safety nets in place to protect the less fortunate, and we stamped out poverty and homelessness […] We put systems in place to address and correct the impact of generations of institutional racism and sexism […] Pay equity was finally a reality with women making 110% of what men made (…because women live longer). And finally, we no longer had to debate whether or not women would have the right to decide what to do with their bodies, making the reproductive decisions [… ]“

“I believe that our world is ripped for feminine leadership. I believe that having more women involved in politics will offer peace to our planet […] Ladies, this time is for us to rise together to change our state, our country, and the world to advance women’s health, wealth, and power.”

Conversation with Muslim artist Sophia Ahmed Sattar

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Recently, we hosted an evening of delicious food and stimulating conversation with Pakistani artist Sophia Ahmed Sattar! Here are some photos of the event. Be sure to check out her website!

Women’s Equality Day Event

Our recent Women’s Equality Day event August 24, 2013 was a raging success at the African-American Arts and Culture Complex in San Francisco!  We discussed critical concerns that are challenging California women and girls and related them to the global  Beijing Platform for action.  We were graced with the presence of Christine Pelosi, who accepted our Princess Leia award for her amazing mother Leader Pelosi.  Accepting our Circle of Courage Award was Lys Anzia, Founder and Executive Editor of Women News Network , and Rebecca Blanton,  dynamite new Executive Director, California Commission on Women as of March , briefed us on her work and vision for the state CSW.

Sign on to participate in co-creating the  2015 California Women’s Agenda (CAWA) with us and to receive updates on plans and emerging issues for  Beijing+20, 2015. Join WIN HERE , send in the WIN Member Form, or email us at win@WINaction.org

View the Outcome Summary Report from the Discussion Tables at the event.

More photos from the Women’s Day Event August 24, 2013 and videos with soon to come!  There’s a whole lot more!

Attached is Leader Pelosi’s letter of acceptance of our award  and  a commendation letter from Senator Dianne Feinstein.  We’re so proud of our women legislators!

“Call to Action on Issues Impacting Women and Girls”
Priority issues raised at this event will help co-create agendas for a California and US Women’s Plan of Action that goes to the UN Commission Session for a celebration of Beijing+20 in 2015 as part of efforts to amplify women and girls’ voices and impact US and global deliberations. Read more here. We welcomed farm worker leaders from the Central Valley, grassroots activists, women’s organizations, legislators, and other interested groups. Participants discussed priority issues important to their communities. Among those were  economic justice, education, health, violence against women and human trafficking. These key concerns were framed by a shared consensus on the ratification of CEDAW at the federal level as a founding document for further progress in women’s rights. Our event was a beginning, a step forward in creating empowerment, identifying critical issues, and problem solving with strategic solutions.

Be sure to read Board Member Kathleen Cha’s Concluding Remarks.

YOUR VOICE COUNTS!  Join WIN now and be part of the CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S AGENDA, 2015.

For more information on how to add your voice to CAWA+20 email  us at win@WINaction.org!

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Christine Pelosi accepting the Princess Leia Award

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Board members Jessica Buchleitner and Ana Maria Sanchez standing with the amazing Aileen Hernandez (center in orange hat) and Elahe Amani, Chair of WIN Global Council

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With Jessica Buchleitner (Board Secretary), Marilyn Fowler (President and CEO of WIN), Emily Salgado, Rebecca Blanton (Executive Director of CA Commission on the Status of Women and Girls), Emily Murase (SF Department on the Status of Women).

Group photo of WIN and our partners!

Group photo of WIN and our partners!

Join us! 2013 Women’s Equality Day!

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Join us for our annual Women’s Equality Day meeting in San Francisco at the African America Arts and Culture Complex, Hall of Culture!

Buy your tickets today on Brown Paper Tickets!

The San Francisco Department on the Status of Women (SFDOSW) and Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN) invite you to join us for lunch celebrating the 93rd Anniversary of US women achieving the vote, honoring key social justice activists, with provocative conversation, good food and great networking. We will also acknowledge the 25th Anniversary of the March on Washington in process in DC also.

Forum tables on the issues driving California women with policy activists, legislators, interested media, corporate partners and everyday women and girls of all ages and cultures

Every five years we ‘reboot’ our agendas for a California and US Women’s Plan of Action that go to the global agenda at the UN. This is a critical year to launch an effort for the most important gathering of women since 1995 – a celebration of Beijing+20 in 2015.

Join us on August 24th and hear about a game plan for the first grassroots US Women’s Plan of Action since 2000 and for San Francisco’s leading role in the first National Women’s Conference since 1978. We are launching a REBOOT of the US WOMEN’S PLAN OF ACTION that will go to the UN Beijing+20 Review and give women and girls a stronger voice in US and global deliberations.

The discussions that we hold and the stories we hear on August 24th will be included in these Action Plans. We need to hear the voices of all California women and girls and YOUR VOICE COUNTS.

See last year’s Equality Day page for an idea of the energy generated by participants with some of the outcomes. (www.win-cawa.org/events/wed.html)

Event Highlights: Rebecca Blanton, Executive Director, California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, dynamite researcher, activist and political psychologist; Lys Anzia, Founder and Editor-at-Large, WOMEN NEWS NETWORK, and other Special Guests to be announced.

This event is ideal for women’s groups and anyone interesting in advancing women’s equality!