According to a recent infographic compiled by the research team at Learnstuff.com, it most certainly is! We have along way to go before women are equally at the table. Even after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law, we women are still lagging behind our male counterparts, yet have higher education. What could be contributing to this phenomenon? Tell us in the poll below…
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 56, February 26 – March 9.
UN Theme: Empowering Rural and Indigenous Women
The Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN) and US Women Connect (USWC) invited all NGOs to an interactive Roundtable and Forum on “Winning Strategies for Economic Participation of Rural and Indigenous Women.” The Forum expanded on the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Women’s Economic Summit, San Francisco Declaration globally adding experiences and comments of rural and indigenous women working ‘on the ground’, living with an economy and surviving economic polices they often have no voice in making.
Our goal: All women are vital as participants in economic recovery locally and globally.
Following are video excerpts from the Forum:
Dian Harrison-Chair of the Board (WIN) ; Advisory Council, Kayunga Peace Centre, Republic of Uganda
Marily Mondejar-President, Filipina Women’s Network
Mona Motwani-Human Rights Attorney; Co-Founder , SPARK San Francisco
Kathy Wan Povi Sanchez-Founder Tewa Women United; Co-Chair, US Women Connect
Daphne Casey-Director, United Nations Volunteers
Thank you to our Co-sponsors:
Southwest Airlines, San Francisco Commission on Women, Women’s Intercultural Network, US Women Connect, Women News Network, TEWA Women United, Filipina Women’s Network, NOW Foundation
Following are sample video interviews by See Jane Do about the UNCSW theme “Empowering Rural and Indigenous Women”. See more interviews on their web site at seejanedo.com
By: Rose Aguilar
Some of the most undercovered stories of 2010 were actions taken by ordinary people standing up for a more just and equitable society. People are taking to the streets on a regular basis across the country, but unlike the corporate-sponsored Tea Party — whose spokespeople can’t answer basic questions about the deficit they claim to be so worried about — those who believe in health care, affordable housing, economic justice, education, a living wage, and a better life for all rarely, if ever, get the attention they deserve. Instead, the media, even the alternative media, spent the better part of last year obsessing over the Tea Party and manufactured personalities like Sarah Palin, while ignoring people like 85-year-old Julia Botello.
Last month, Botello was among 22 people arrested for blocking the doors of a Chase Bank branch in downtown Los Angeles. Over 200 people, many of them homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction, took part in the action organized by Home Defenders League and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
According to the Alliance, these families have never participated in an event or protest before, but they have exhausted all other options. Imagine if over 200 Tea Partiers took part in a similar action. Imagine if an 85-year-old Tea Party member was photographed being led away by two cops, one holding each arm. Not only would this video footage be shown over and over again on the cable shows, Julia Botello would be bombarded with interview requests, but because she’s standing in solidarity with people who are losing their homes, she’s only been contacted by two other reporters.
“If we’re united, we’re a better force. We need to stand together,” she says. “I use my voice for the people. I know all of the councilmen and councilwomen in my area. I’m not afraid to speak and ask for better conditions for my community.”
Botello found her voice 10 years ago after falling and hurting her knee on a routine walk home. Her South Central Los Angeles neighborhood was usually dark because the street lights rarely worked. “We usually had only one light that worked, so I went to local council meetings and raised my voice. Why are our streets dark? We need light. My neighborhood hasn’t been dark since.” She’s been going strong ever since. If there’s an action focusing on an issue she cares about, she will do whatever it takes to be there, even if it means rescheduling an overdue eye surgery. “I still have time and I want to keep going.”
In addition to the Chase Bank action last month, several other grassroots actions failed to receive the attention they deserve. These actions, no matter how small, should not be discounted. Let’s hope these voices and demands become too loud to ignore in 2011.
– On December 9, thousands of inmates in Georgia state prisons began a six-day strike to call attention to their treatment and to demand basic human rights: a living wage for work, educational opportunities, decent living conditions and health care, and an end to cruel and unusual punishment. It was largest prison strike in U.S. history, but the New York Times was one of the few mainstream outlets to cover it.
“Perhaps there was a larger hand at play—one that did not want the deplorable conditions of the Georgia prison system to surface,” writes Death and Taxes’ Joe Weber.
For extensive coverage, analysis and interviews with inmates, you had to turn to independent outlets like Facing South and the Black Agenda Report. “They want to break up the unity we have here,” said an anonymous strike leader in an interview with the Black Agenda Report. “We have the Crips and the Bloods, we have the Muslims, we have the head Mexicans, and we have the Aryans all with a peaceful understanding, all on common ground.”
By refusing to work or leave their cells, the inmates brought attention to prison labor and the growing prison-industrial complex, two issues that rarely get covered in the national media. In These Times ran a piece about Georgia’s hidden prison labor force and The Irish Times ran a piece about what prison life is actually like in Georgia, which has the highest prisoner-to-resident ratio in the U.S. with 60,000 prisoners and 150,000 people on probation. According to the piece, African Americans comprise 63 percent of the prison population, but only 30 percent of state residents.
“Even though reports are stating that the strike is effectively over, the momentum created by the activities of these inmates cannot be understated,” writes Boyce Watkins, founder of the Your Black World Coalition. “By coming together in such an amazing way, the individuals in the Georgia State correctional system have made a strong statement for human rights around the world.”
– On December 11, a few local media outlets in Waterville, Maine reported on an action organized by the Maine Fair Trade Campaign to call attention to President Obama’s decision to bring the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement to Congress for a vote. The group, which opposes NAFTA and CAFTA, rang a bell 31 times in honor of the more than 31,000 Maine-based jobs that have been outsourced since 2000. “People all over the state have suffered because of this,” said campaign board member Sarah Bigney in an interview with The Morning Sentinel. “We know what the impact of NAFTA has been. We must say no to this madness. We know it will continue to worsen the job crisis.” According to the Economic Policy Institute, the deal will increase the deficit with Korea by $16.7 billion, and cost 159,000 U.S. jobs within the first seven years after it takes effect.
Public Citizen says it’s up to Congress to make the “right decision and reject this deeply flawed, job-killing” deal, which is an expansion of the deals negotiated under the Bush administration. “As a Senator and then as a presidential candidate, President Obama opposed the deal,” says a statement on Public Citizen’s site. “He pledged to replace the damaging NAFTA model. In June 2010, President Obama said he would start renegotiating parts of the agreement in preparation for sending it to Congress. But he only focused on some modest changes to automobile trade issues. This came after over 100 members of Congress and over 500 unions, environmental, faith and other organizations called on him to meet his commitments and really fix Bush’s old text. The deal Obama is now pushing directly conflicts with his campaign commitments.”
Congress is expected to vote on the deal in February.
– On December 15, workers, union activists, and community supporters took part in more than 40 actions at Rite Aid stores in 11 states to raise awareness about low wages and health insurance cost increases. In These Times, one of the only outlets to report on the National Day of Action, ran a piece by AFL-CIO campaign coordinator Rand Wilson. He writes that the actions were “sparked by a rash of poor decisions by Rite Aid officials across the country.”
“In Lancaster, California, Rite Aid executives stalled talks with 500 warehouse employees for nearly two years. Now officials are proposing to gouge employees by ‘marking-up’ the cost of health insurance 28 times over the increases charged by insurers. In Rome, New York, Rite Aid is closing a distribution facility that pays family-sustaining wages and benefits and provides workers with a voice on the job. Work is being shifted to a nearby location that pays low wages with few benefits and no job rights.”
Watch a video of the action in Oakland, California.
– On December 16, 131 veterans and their supporters were arrested after chaining themselves to the White House fence during a snowstorm to demand an end to the ongoing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Veterans for Peace, it was the largest veteran-led demonstration in recent years, but just like Winter Soldier, the action was completely ignored by the corporate media. Dave Lindorff reports that it was blacked out of the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.
“None of us expected that these illegal wars of aggression would immediately stop due to our simple action, but we did hope that we would send a message — a message that there are citizens who do not support our government’s illegal wars and occupations; a message to the world that we are shamed by the actions of our government and we will do everything we can to stop it,” writes veteran and peace activist Leah Bolger. “It is our sincere hope that this action will be a spark that ignites the consciousness of others; that our refusal to obey and willingness to put our liberty on the line will give them the courage of their own convictions and they will also begin to act in resistance as well.”
In New York City, 75 veterans, members of Grandmothers Against the War, including two in their 90s, the Green Party, and other groups stood in solidarity with the activists in DC. Eleven people were arrested for blocking an intersection near the military recruiting station in Times Square. Joan Wile, founder of Grandmothers Against the War, writes, “It is hoped that the New York protest along with the big one in Washington served as a wake-up call to the American people about the tragedy of this hopeless and destructive war. Wake up, America!”
At another solidarity action in San Francisco, 26 people were arrested for taking part in a die-in and blocking the doors of the Federal Building.
– On December 20, six people were arrested for trespassing after they locked arms and climbed the steps to the Bank of America entrance in Clayton, St. Louis. According to organizers, some 80 people gathered in front of the bank to raise awareness about a pending foreclosure facing Mary and Mike Boehm. Mary Boehm says after her husband lost his job in 2009, she applied for the mortgage modification program designed to keep people in their homes. On November 8, 2009, Bank of America told her she qualified, but she needed to turn in additional paperwork in order to be officially approved. Even though the Boehms never missed a payment, they received a notice in November 2010 saying they were in default. The foreclosure proceedings began on December 26. The action was organized by the grassroots group Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.
Watch KMOV’s coverage here. A class action lawsuit has since been filed in St. Louis federal court against Bank of America for allegedly refusing to participate in foreclosure prevention programs despite taking $25 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program money, according to the Courthouse News Service.
Original Article found here:
April 28, 2010
2010 is a significant year for the global women’s movement. It marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA), the 30th anniversary of Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW), known as the “Bill of Rights of Women and Girls, “ and 10 years since the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) were drawn up. It is a time to reflect, measure the progress, and work on the challenges, failings, and future prospects.
This year, the meeting at the Commission on the Status of Women ( CSW), brought together the UN official delegations, and NGOs as the Beijing Plus 15 Forum was also on February 27th & 28th in New York. The NGOs in a two days intense programming reviewed the progress of the governments in their commitments to implement the goals set at the Beijing Conference in 1995, in addition to shaping a global conversation about the new UN Women’s Agency (due to be created by June 2010 ) and contribute to the General Assembly meeting on MDGs in September 2010.
In 1995 the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing adopted the global policy framework Platform for Action (PFA), which has been the he most comprehensive and progressive document for women’s rights and empowerment ever since. The fact remains that fifteen years since the Beijing Declaration, there has been progress in the status of women and advancement of gender equality, but that progress has been slow, uneven, and has not achieved the goals set at the Beijing Conference.
The following are the Twelve Critical Areas of Concern of the Beijing Platform for Action: Poverty—education and training—health—violence against women—armed conflict—economy—power and decision-making—institutional mechanisms—human rights—environment—girl children.
From March 1st through the 12th, the CSW and more than 2000 representatives of NGOs, gathered in New York City to address the issues in the above-mentioned areas, in order to facilitate an “exchange of national experiences, lessons learned and good practices.” The theme focused on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women” as outlined in the review report of the UN Secretary-General. The following is a very brief summary of the review of the implementation of the PFA by member States :
PFA stresses that eradication of poverty is of top priority in promoting women’s rights and empowerment. UNIFAM’s “Women, Poverty and Economies” (source: http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/women_poverty_economics/) indicates that “Poverty implications are widespread for women, leaving many without even basic rights such as access to clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and decent employment. Being poor can also mean they have little protection from violence and have no role in decision making. According to some estimates, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor. They are often paid less than men for their work, with the average wage gap in 2008 being 17 percent. Women face persistent discrimination when they apply for credit for business or self-employment and are often concentrated in insecure, unsafe and low-wage work. Eight out of ten women workers are considered to be in vulnerable employment in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with global economic changes taking a huge toll on their livelihoods.” Needless to say that certain groups of women are more vulnerable to suffer poverty, such as women farmers, migrants, older women, immigrant and refugees women and women with disabilities.”
Progress has been uneven across regions and within countries. While poverty in eastern Asia, for example, declined from 39 percent in 1995 to 19 percent in 2005, poverty levels in sub-Saharan Africa were only reduced from 57 percent to 51 percent over the same period. The current worldwide financial and economic crisis threatens to reverse the progress made in poverty reduction. There should be an increased focus on upsetting up means of social protection of women in poverty and their families, on increasing women’s access to land ownership, property, and other productive resources, as well as to increase their access to financial services, such as micro-credit, savings, insurance, etc.
2. Education and training
Access to education increased globally for girls at all levels especially in primary education. The ratio of girl to boy first-graders increased globally from 92 girls per 100 boys in 1999 to 95 girls per 100 boys in 2006. In 1999 there were 96 women per 100 enrolled in higher education institutions globally. By 2006 women outnumbered men, bringing the proportion to 106 women to 100 men. While in developed and transition countries, in the Caribbean and the In the Pacific and in Middle East regions, women tend to outnumber men, but also continue to lag behind men in many other parts of the world, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Gender segregation in the field of study remains widespread. Limited study choices of women and girls can lead to limited career choices and less earning prospects.
The world continues to progress towards gender parity in education, as many countries have successfully promoted girls’ education as part of their efforts to boost overall enrolment. But gender disparities in education are clearly evident in some regions. Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and Western Asia have the largest gender gaps in primary enrollment. At this current rate of progress, the MDG 3 target of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015 remains far from being achieved.
Efforts should be made to focus on education as a priority goal in national policies, to promote non-discriminatory education, to increase access to formal education, and to sustain attention to non-formal education and training of skills.
3. Women and health
Over the past decade countries have made efforts to establish and to improve the health infrastructure by broadening the range of services and quality of care. Regarding HIV/AIDS, emphasis has been on prevention, education regarding sexual and reproductive health, counseling /therapy, and testing and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. However maternal mortality rates remain high worldwide. Every year, 536,000 women and girls die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth, or following delivery. Urgent resources and special attention are needed to reduce maternal mortality rates and to increase women’s access to health services, especially in rural and poor regions.
While some countries have succeeded in significantly reducing maternal death rates in the past decade, more than half a million women die every year – or one woman every minute – from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. MDG 5, which seeks to improve maternal health, calls for a reduction by three quarters in the maternal mortality ratio from that of 1990, and for the achievement of universal access to reproductive health.
But this is the MDG towards which there has been the least progress so far. This reflects the low priority given to the empowerment of women and meeting women’s needs.
UNICEF figures estimate that the number of child deaths in 2008 declined to 8.8 million from 12.5 million in 1990, the base line year for the Millennium Development Goals. But the global rate of improvement is still insufficient to reach the target of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
Since 2001, a large majority of countries have integrated issues related to women into their national HIV policies and strategic plans and have attained gender equity in HIV testing and the delivery of anti-retrovirals. But 25 years into the AIDS epidemic, gender inequality and unequal power relationships among women and men continue to have a significant influence on the epidemic.
Globally, about half of all people living with HIV are female, with variations within regions, countries, and communities. In Sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 60 percent of people living with HIV are female and in Southern Africa, girls are 2 to 4.5 times more likely than boys to become infected with HIV.
4. Violence Against Women (VAW)
Since the review of the PFA in 2005, violence against women has been a priority issue at the global, regional, and national levels. Numerous countries have adopted policies on VAW in general, or on particular forms of violence, such as domestic violence, trafficking, female genital mutilation/cutting, and forced marriage. Many states also have incorporated VAW into their national policies on gender equality, health, HIV/AIDS, and migration as part of their overall goals of development.
In 2000, the UN Security Council adoption of Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace ,and security underlines its commitment to ending sexual violence in armed conflict .The global campaign “UNITED to end violence against women” launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2008, will run through 2015. A database was also set up on VAW, a global one-stop site for information on measures taken by member states to address VAW. As of November 2009, more than 80 states have submitted information to the database.
Violence Against Women remains a major global concern to respect the human rights of women and girls. Women and girls experience violence at home, in community and also violence perpetuated by states. The growing presence of “Non-State Actors” role in Violence Against Women is a major concern particularly in Moslem majority countries.
5. Women and armed conflict
The Security Council’s landmark Resolution 1325 in 2000 has been adopted to ensure women’s full participation in the process of peace, security, and the elimination of sexual violence against women in armed conflict. Women’s role in post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction should be protected and promoted. In 2006, the Peace-Building Commission was established with provisions to mandate gender perspectives be included in all aspects of its operation.
As of February 2010, out of 27 United Nations peacekeeping operations, special political missions and peace-building support offices, women headed only 4 missions and were deputy heads of only 5. Some countries emerging from armed conflict have made efforts in promoting women in decision-making positions in government, police force and the parliament. Countries such as Rwanda, Angola, Mozambique, Nepal, Burundi, Timor-Leste ,and Afghanistan, are now among the 30 countries with the highest representation of women in parliament.
Since the Beijing Platform for Action, there have been several Security Council resolutions addressing women’s security needs. In 2000, the Security Council passed Resolution 1325 which established women’s rights in a conflict context as a security matter.
In 2008, Resolution 1820 was the first resolution to recognize conflict-related sexual violence as a matter of international peace and security. In 2009, Resolution 1888 followed. This resolution provides for concrete ways to track progress through establishing a reporting process and a mechanism to hold Governments and the UN accountable. These are landmark resolutions but they are only the beginning of what must be done to ensure the security of women throughout the world
Research by UNIFEM indicates that in 10 major peace processes in the past decade, women were on average six percent of negotiators and under three percent of signatories. Only five peace accords have referred to the use of sexual violence as a military and political tactic, despite its increase in both frequency and brutality.
6. Women and the economy
In 2008, an estimated 52.6 percent of women were in the labor force, compared with 77.5 percent men. Women are more likely than men to have low-paying and low-status jobs. Gender wage-gaps are estimated to be in the range of 3 to 51 percent, with a global average of 17 percent. Women also continue to have disproportionate responsibility for unpaid work, such as home care and care for ill/disabled family members, which hinder them from full participation in education and career-building. During general economic crisis, women also are more vulnerable than men to layoffs and unemployment. Climate change also has impacted negatively on farm women in some parts of the world, where droughts and the securing of water have added hardships to women’s work.
On the positive side, countries have adopted measures through legislature and implementation of policies to address discrimination against women in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, and dismissal due to pregnancy and childbirth. A few states offered the private sector tax and social security incentives for hiring women. Awareness-raising campaigns were also launched for the public through seminars, manuals, and information dissemination.
More women than ever before are participating in the workforce; women occupy almost 40 percent of all paid jobs outside agriculture, compared to 35 percent in 1990. But almost two thirds of women in the developing world work in vulnerable jobs as self-employed persons or as unpaid family workers. In Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, this type of work accounts for more than 80 percent of all jobs for women. In developing countries, women consistently lag behind men in formal labor force participation and entrepreneurship, earn less than men for similar work, and have less access to credit and lower inheritance and ownership rights than men do.
As a result of the global economic crisis, many more women are being pushed into vulnerable jobs with limited or no safety nets that guard against income loss during economic hardship. The large number of women unpaid workers in family businesses also adds to their already heavy burden of unpaid care work in households.
7. Women in power and decision-making
Progress has been made in women’s political participation and decision-making positions. Globally, women held 18.8 percent of seats in single/lower chambers of parliament as of November 2009, as compared to 11.3 percent in 1995.
Women’s parliamentary representation has its greatest gains in the Americas, with 22.6 percent women in parliament, in the European countries with 21.5 percent , in Asia, 18.6 percent, in sub-Saharan Africa 17.8 percent, in the Pacific region 13 percent, and in the Arab States 9 percent.
As of November 2009, women were heads of state in 8 countries and heads of Government in 6 countries. In comparison, in 1995, 12 women were heads of State or Government. In the civil service, women have made progress in representation at the middle managerial levels. The judiciary and law enforcement sector remain mainly male dominated. However at the international level, 9 out of the 18 judges of the International Criminal Court are women, as of November 2009. Women make up 30 percent of the police force in only two countries—Australia and South Africa, with the global average below 10 percent.
Quotas and other temporary measure have been instrumental in increasing women’s representation in public life. Quotas have also been used in civil service recruitment processes, and in the selection of judges. Some member states have made the mandatory requirement that women represent 40 percent of the board of directors of state-owned companies within a specified time frame. Training and capacity development of women leaders as candidates and elected officials in public speaking and fund- raising and other skills have also been pivotal in women’s increased political representation.
Now, more than ever, more women are holding political offices. As of January 2009, women had reached the highest parliamentary position – presiding officer – in 31 parliamentary chambers. By March 2009, 15 women were serving as heads of state or government, up from nine in 2000.
Impressive gains were made in Latin America and the Caribbean, where women hold 22 percent of all legislative seats, the highest regional average. But women still hold less than 10 percent of parliamentary seats in Oceania, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. The global average of women holding parliamentary seats (18.6 percent) is far from the target of 30 percent set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. At the present rate, it will take another 40 years to reach gender parity.
8. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
Increasingly, countries have established institutional mechanisms for gender equality in the legislative branch. Many countries report that all critical areas of concern outlined in Platform for Action (PFA) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have been addressed by national institutional mechanisms. But the effectiveness of these agencies has been hampered by inadequate human and financial resources. Reliable data are also not available to adequately monitor the implementation of gender equality in all its aspects.
9. Human rights of women
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the most comprehensive legal frame work for action to promote women’s human rights. With 186 state parties as of December 2009, the Convention is the second most ratified international human rights instrument. Countries have increasingly included in national constitutions and legal reforms the principles of gender equality. Several states have adopted legal provisions prohibiting discrimination against women and women’s legal rights on housing, education, health care, the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, disability, and other social entitlements.
Many states have launched national awareness-raising campaigns to promote women’s human rights and to combat negative attitudes on gender stereotypes. Public media, print, electronic, audio and other means, have been used to spread human rights information on large scale. The increasing cooperation between Governments and NGOs in legal and policy reforms on gender issues has proved to be of great value.
While the GO/NGO representatives from Iran declared that Iran has not ratified CEDAW and will not because it “undermines the role of family,” there was a positive assurance that ratification of CEDAW in US is now closer than it has been in any other time over the last 30 years!
10. Women and the media
Mainstream media is the most important and effective tool to disseminate information. PFA stresses the two strategic objectives to promote women’s rights and educate public attitude on gender stereotypes through the media: “to increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication; and to promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.”
More than a decade after PFA, women worldwide have increased their role in the public media, though employment inequalities between women and men persist, and women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making positions (i.e. in in advisory, management and regulatory bodies of the media industry). Gender stereotypes in the media also persist. The data collected from 76 countries by the Global Media Monitoring Project in 2005 indicated some progress of women in media. For example, women reporters increased from 28 percent in 1995 to 38 percent in 2005 across all media types.
The hot issue of “Women and Social Media “was discussed at two panels organized by Women Intercultural Network. At the panel of titled “Social Media and Social Movement,” it was concluded that based on the current statistics, contrary to women and media, in social media “ WOMEN RULE.”
11. Women and the environment
Some progress in this area has been made as countries are starting to make plans to include women in environmental decision-making, to recognize women’s right to access to natural resources for their livelihoods, their right to property and land ownership, and their right as consumers of agriculture, health and sanitation resources. But the under-representation of women in key positions in environmental agencies has limited their contributions to public policy-making, such as strategies on climate change. There is still a broad gap in public awareness of “gender-specific perspective on natural resources management and of the benefits of gender equality for the promotion of sustainable development and environmental protection.”
12. The Girl child
PFA recognizes the importance of the protection of the basic rights of the girl children, such as education, health, security and the chance to develop their full potential as human beings. In developing regions, the girl child is almost always treated as a lesser human being than her male counterpart.
Countries increasingly have recognized that the laws and legal reforms on the protection of children should include provisions to protect the girl child. A number of African countries and countries with immigrant communities have criminalized female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM)–a special form of violence against the girl child. Some countries enacted laws to prohibit forced marriage, while others raised the legal age of marriage to protect girls.
A growing number of countries have enacted legislation to combat the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography and the trafficking of children. Countries also responded to the risks posed by the Internet by setting up measures and/or cybercrime police units against the spread of pedophilia and pornography.
A growing number of states conducted awareness-raising campaigns to prevent violence against children with public marches, exhibitions, publicized announcements and the creation of specific websites. Crimes and violence against children, especially the girl child, remain wide-spread and unabated. Trafficking, child prostitution, forced early marriage, FGM, and other issues are still issues still to be tackled.
Besides the information the Beijing 15 report provided, by a number of UN sessions and official UN documents, there were a few interesting panels conducted by the NGOs on the latest developments on women.
Sex trafficking of women and young girls was discussed and updated in several panels by the Soroptimist International, The Coalition Against Trafficking of Women, and other NGOs. The two above-mentioned NGOs have done great work and are reputable in their chosen fields. The conclusion of the discussions is that vigilance, legislation, and enforcement of existing laws are all much needed.
Another panel entitled “Voices of Haitian Women” gave perspectives of Haitian women in general and on their role in the crisis in particular. Several panels on pro-life issues, one of which was entitled “Conceived in Rape Symposium,” was the most controversial. The nine panelists who were conceived either in rape and/or incest, gave their testimony of life experiences. Many panels on health and gender equality were also educational and thought-provoking.
CSW/2010 stands out not only as the review year of the Beijing Plus 15, it also could be known as the year of General Chaos at the UN. The delegates of global NGOs had to stay up-to-six-hours-queuing for registration, roped-off corridors, darkened familiar conference rooms, detoured passage- way to unfamiliar rooms, less-than-spirited panel discussions, hard-to-get-admissions to panels, etc.
The CSW 54 ended with lingering questions crying out for answers.
Were there any commitments to protect the universality of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights?
Was there any significant progress on the proposal to set up a separate U.N. agency – officially called a gender entity – for women?
And were there any indications of increased funding for gender-related issues, including resources to battle sexual violence?
The answers were mostly in the realm of political uncertainty, as the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) assessed the state of women’s rights, 15 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing approved a wide-ranging plan of action on gender empowerment.
On the positive side, important issues such as human trafficking, which is no longer seen as an emerging issue, was understood as part of a global space that required attention. An international coalition of over 300 NGOs, mostly made up of women’s rights activists, has been pursuing a global campaign for Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) in the U.N. system. Charlotte Bunch, founding director of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University and co-facilitator of the GEAR campaign, told TerraViva that decisions about gender architecture reform are part of the system-wide coherence process in the General Assembly.
“So the CSW is not really an arena for formal progress in terms of the resolution,” she said. “However, we do feel there has been a lot of progress in terms of gaining more governmental support and attention to this issue during the CSW.”
For example, she said, a significant number of countries from all regions spoke in support of the new architecture in their speeches. The secretary-general himself called on governments to take action to create the entity without further delay, she pointed out. Bunch said the NGO action – holding up a ‘GEAR UP NOW!’ sign in the balcony during his speech on International Women’s Day on March 3rd – was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the audience and a wave from the U.N. Chief.
Natalia Cardona of Social Watch, an international network made up of coalitions of civil society, said as far as her organization was concerned, the CSW was a success because “it captured the dynamism of women’s activism at the highest level.”
“There is no other place where women activists can come together and discuss women’s human rights situation from all over the world,” she said.
However, the space in terms of government accountability and government accessibility has dwindled since 1995 when the world conference on women was able to make key advances in terms of women’s rights as enshrined in the Beijing Platform for Action. There is a sense now in the women’s movement that this 15th anniversary of the Beijing Conference was not much of an anniversary.
All in all, CSW 54 and Beijing plus 15 was a success but huge political challenges are ahead of global women’s movement to hold their governments accountable for their commitments at Beijing.
(This article used many NGO reports and other media sources including UN agencies and NGO forum documents)
The bailout of Wall Street is particularly galling for women on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, says Mimi Abramovitz. They’ve already spent the past 30 years steadily losing ground without anyone seeming to notice or care.
Today we sit and watch as the high-rolling gamblers and critics of “big government” take welfare. These are many of the same people who thought it was just fine to deprive millions of women of critical resources and let them fend for themselves.
Even before the catastrophic news out of Wall Street in recent days, women have been worried about their economic security.
Last March a Gallup poll found that in the past two years more women than men said that they worry about the economy (64 percent versus 57 percent). The same holds for health care, crime, the environment, drug use, unemployment, hunger and homelessness.
More men are employed by Wall Street and more men have money invested there. That means the male anxiety meter is probably much higher now that they risk losing their jobs, pensions, portfolios and homes. But women’s worries have probably shot up even more.
Women are likely to lead in the economic-anxiety gap because distressing economic events fall harder on people with less. “I don’t play the stock market, but it does affect us. It affects me personally. It affects the little guy,” a female dispatch supervisor of a limo company that serves investment bank employees recently told the New York Times.
The same holds for all the secretaries and housekeepers who keep investment houses clean and running.
Decades of Lost Ground
But what makes the bailout of the fat tomcats so galling is that women at the bottom of the economic ladder have lost ground during the last 30 years, with very few seeming to notice or care.
From F.D.R.’s New Deal in the 1930s to L.B.J.’s Great Society in the 1970s, the expansion of government programs for the middle class and the poor – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, public assistance, as well as health and social services – provided a modest economic backup for women who predominate among recipients.
Great Depression leaders who saw government as the solution to that economic crisis bailed out banks in exchange for tighter regulations to curb speculation. But they also created cash-assistance programs that increased women’s purchasing power and protected them against economic hardship.
Those programs redistributed income downward and expanded the capacity of the federal government to kick-start the economy while cushioning consumers and workers from the vagaries of the market.
Beginning with President Carter in the mid 1970s, our leaders changed their tune, blaming economic woes on “big government.” Successive administrations relaxed the rules on financial markets and cut funding for the safety net.
Benefits Didn’t Trickle Down
Advocates of “less government” promised that benefits would “trickle down” to the rest of us. Instead their laissez-faire strategy weakened government benefits, one of the three interlocking pillars of economic support counted on by thousands of women from all walks of life.
The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that government spending for domestic discretionary programs fell from a high of 4.8 percent of national output, or gross domestic product, in 1978 to 3.4 percent in 2007. That equals billions of dollars in cuts. Except for rising health care costs, spending on entitlement programs – such as Social Security, unemployment insurance and public assistance – also fell from 8.5 percent of the gross domestic product in 1983 to 7 percent in 2007.
During the past eight years, war spending zoomed ahead, bringing us to the present spectacle, where we see U.S. military spending exceeding that of the rest of the world combined.
Meanwhile, Bush tax policies diverted dollars from public services and boosted corporate profits to a record high of almost 14 percent of national income while the share going to wages dropped to its lowest level since 1929. Combined with relaxed government oversight and rampant speculation the way was paved for abusive mortgage practices that turned Wall Street into one big profit bubble waiting to pop.
With these excesses as a backdrop, women saw their other two pillars of economic security weaken as well: marriage to a wage-earner and paid employment.
Falling marriage rates combined with three decades of sagging male breadwinner wages have undercut the capacity of matrimony to provide women with the financial security it once offered.
Wobbling Wages and Work
From 1979 to 2006, the real value of the median weekly wage of men 25 years and older fell steadily to $797 from $807.
The massive entry of women into the work force since World War II – one of the most significant social trends in modern U.S. history – gave them a third pillar of support. But this too is now wobbling.
As male wages stagnated many women went to work – not as a matter of choice, as headlines about women opting in and out might suggest – but just to make ends meet. Between 1970 and 2005 the proportion of married couples with two earners jumped to 62 percent from about 46 percent, Labor Department data show. The U.S Women’s Bureau finds wives’ contribution to family income rose to 35 percent from 26 percent.
But many of today’s 68 million wage-earning women have recently suffered more job losses than men and a larger drop in wages than the general population, according to the Women’s Bureau. In 2006 full-time female workers earned an average of $627 week or about $32,000 a year.
While we watch the spectacle of the government channeling untold billions of taxpayer dollars into failing Wall Street giants the three pillars of economic support for women – the safety net, marriage and wages – continue to crumble.
The public bailout of corporate America may be necessary given the risks of a collapse to the global economy. But why is it that the rich and reckless accept “welfare” for themselves while steadfastly rejecting the same for women in need? It’s time to take a billion here and there to assist the women raising families on too little income to keep a roof over their heads.
Mimi Abramovitz, the Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor of Social Policy at Hunter College School of Social Work, is the author of “Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Policy From Colonial Times to the Present,” the award-winning “Under Attack, Fighting Back: Women and Welfare in the U.S.” and co-author of “Taxes Are A Women’s Issue: Reframing the Debate.” She is currently writing “Gender Obligations: The History of Low-Income Women’s Activism Since 1900.”