WIN Statement in Recognition of Women’s Unpaid Care Work Addressed to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 61st Session

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Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”

Statement submitted by Women’s Intercultural Network, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.

The Secretary-General has received the following statement, which is being circulated in accordance with paragraphs 36 and 37 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.


Addressing Unpaid Care Work as a Barrier to Economic Empowerment and Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in All Member States

 Authors: Jessica Buchleitner and Lenka Belkova

Women’s Intercultural Network’s mission is to ensure that all women and girls have a voice in their government and economy. It is also critical that their voices be heard during the 61st annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women in regard to the economic empowerment of women in the changing world of work. It has increasingly come to our attention that unpaid care work is deterring economic empowerment.

In the context of our current global workforce, stable employment is disappearing and is being taken over by “increasing numbers of contracted staff and fixed-term contracts with a rise in work/service contracts and temporary work” as stated by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2000. Further, The Future of Work, World Employment Confederation, 2016, reported that global unemployment has increased to 201.3 million in 2014, and since 2007 it has been about 31 million more unemployed.

Further, gender disparities in the global workforce persist. According to the International Labour Organization, women are paid less than men globally as in most countries they earn on average only 60 to 75 per cent of men’s wages. This is because they are more likely to be wage workers and unpaid family workers and more likely to engage in low-productivity activities and to work in the informal sector, with less mobility to the formal sector than men.

Economic empowerment deficits do not begin with female achievement, rather the age-old issues women have had to grapple with such as caring for family and children which often amounts to unpaid care work. If women put many more hours into household and care activities than men, this greatly disadvantages them in the workplace. The majority of care work such as cleaning, cooking, and caring for children or the elderly, is performed by women and girls and is usually unpaid. Although this work is critical to the proper functioning of communities, unpaid care work has been largely ignored by economic and social public policy initiatives.

According to the US Department of Labor, The United States has seen increases in college-educated women, most notably during the first part of the 20th century, in the 1970s, and now. According to the Pew Research Center there are more women enrolling in college than men, particularly Hispanic and black women. With the increase in college degrees, there are now more women seeking careers that were once solely headed by men. In 1980, for example, 12.4 per cent of attorneys in the United States were female. Today, women make up 36 per cent of the professionals. Despite the promise this appears to provide, these statistics will shrink if issues like unpaid care work are not addressed.

For decades, the United Nations, and in recent years UN Women, pushed for reforms for unpaid care work. The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action referred to the unequal distribution of unpaid care work between men and women as a barrier to gender equality. It called on states to establish and increase data collection of unpaid care work and design policies that recognize its importance to provide equal rights to those of perform this type of work.

In 2013, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights stated that the unequal burden of unpaid care work on women, especially women in poverty, was a barrier to women’s full enjoyment of their human rights and this institutionalized inequality needed to be addressed by countries across the globe.

Studies show that reducing a women’s share of unpaid care could increase agricultural labour productivity by 15 per cent and capital productivity by as much as 44 per cent in certain countries. Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund states that if women were able to fully realize their market potential there would be significant macroeconomic gains.

Recommendations on the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

In addressing the changing nature of employment and current gender disparities we recommend adopting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women as the tool for a policy framework that includes the socioeconomic rights of women in city and state legislation. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women cites in Article 11 the responsibilities of the government to guarantee equal access to employment to women and men. Article 11 not only stresses the right to work but also the right to same employment opportunities. Moreover, essential rights for all are also mentioned as the right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to job security, the right to equal remuneration, the right to social security, the right to paid leave, the right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions. These rights cannot be fully realized if women’s childbearing will remain on the margins of policy decision-making. Women as mothers and carers must become an integral part of how we think of economic development. Women’s rights need to be protected in respect of pregnancy and maternity.

We invite all United Nations member states to implement in full the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to protect women and guarantee equal opportunities to all regardless of their gender. Furthermore, the role of the Convention in local and international policies is key to a successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the eradication of poverty should become a global reality.

Women in the changing world of work need to be accounted for as equal citizens and partners in economic development in a globalized world where traditional sectors among which the two most important sources of work, manufacturing and agriculture, are in fast decline.

We must innovate to accommodate to changing work conditions and be more inclusive to workers from young to older generations, women and men. Women’s work needs to be compensated whether at home or at work. All work is valuable to society including self-employment and unpaid volunteer work.

To address better access to employment, women need training, education, re-qualification, financial loans, but not only economic and educational support. Motherhood must be respected with policies that reflect it, such as paid leave, protected employment, and investment into care economy. As 2016 report done by International Trade Union Confederation highlights “investing the equivalent of 2 per cent of GDP into the “social infrastructure” of education, health and social care services” it would create the potential to increase women’s participation in the workforce by 25 per cent within the next years”. The study found that both women and men would benefit from increased job opportunities.

Access to work is essential for individual’s well-being and women have been left behind long enough. With the changing nature of work, we have an opportunity to redress the ongoing overall inequality and exclusion of women from decent jobs. For this to be achieved, we need meaningful enforcement mechanisms. Leaving women out of social and economic decision-making will only hinder any economic development with the declining nature of employment stability and rising employment insecurity. All Member States must realize the imperative of effectively implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to elevate not only women from poverty but also whole families and their children.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home.

Changes to New York State Paid Leave Policies

Cathryn Harris-Marchesi

 
New York State Paid Sick Leave (“NYSSL”), signed into law in April 2020 by Gov. Cuomo reinforces the States recent trend in increasing protections for workers as well as individuals who are victims of sexual assault and/or domestic violence. NYSSL provides paid time off for eligible employees under a new category of “safe leave” as well as the traditional “sick leave.”


NYSSL provides “safe leave” for employees when and employee or employee’s family member has been the victim of domestic violence, as defined by the State Human Rights Law, a family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking due. New York State has specifically determined that “Safe leave” is permitted to be taken for any of the following purposes as it relates to the domestic violence, family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking: 1) to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other services program; 2) to participate in safety planning and/or temporarily or permanently relocate; 3) to meet with attorney or social services to obtain legal advice and/or prepare for or participate in any criminal or civil proceeding; 4) to file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement; meet with a district attorney’s office; 5) to enroll children in a new school; or 6) to take any other actions necessary to ensure the health or safety of the employee or the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.


Alternatively, “Sick leave” pursuant to NYSSL is defined by the NYSSL as: 1) for mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, regardless of whether it has been diagnosed or requires medical care at the time of the request for leave; or 2) for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; or need for medical diagnosis or preventive care.  Eligibility for NYSSL covers both full-time and part-time private sector employees irrespective of industry, including employees who work for non-profits and private schools. Public sector employees, employee who work for the federal, State or local government, are not covered by the NYSSL. Private Sector Employers must provide leave in accordance with the following:


• Employers with 100 or more employees must provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per
calendar year. 
• Employers with 5 to 99 employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar
year. 
• Employers with 4 or fewer employees and net income of greater than $1 million in the previous
tax year are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. 
• Employers with 4 or fewer employees and net income is $1 million or less in the previous tax


year are required to provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per calendar year.
As of September 30, 2020, eligible employees commenced accruing leave at the rate of one hour per thirty hours worked and can start taking leave pursuant to the NYSSL as of January 1, 2021. Employers are permitted to require that leave be used in increments but may not set the minimum increment at more than four hours. Unused leave pursuant to the NYSSL may be rolled over into the next calendar year, however an employer is not required to provide more than fifty-six hours of paid leave per annum pursuant to the NYSSL. If an employee resigns or is terminated, the employee is not entitled to receive
payment for unused leave under NYSSL.


The NYSSL prohibits relations against employees who use leave pursuant to the new law.
For example, an employee must receive their regular rate of pay during leave. The employer is prohibited of reducing the employee’s rate of pay while on leave pursuant to NYSSL. Similarly, the employee must be returned to their original position when retuning from leave. The NYSSL is a significant tool to protect workers and provide paid leave to contend with issues that effect employees ability to perform at work and live health lives.
Note: Benefits available to employees through both NYSSL and the New York State COVID-19 related paid sick leave, passed into law on March 18, 2020, should not run concurrently. Practitioners are currently anticipating guidance from the New York State Department of Labor on this issue.

Interview with Dr. Gail James

Elahe Amani

2021-02-28  

Dr. James, I know you received your B.A  in History and Political Science from Elmira College, New York, and your Ph.D. in French Literature from the University of Arizona. You also studied abroad at the Sorbonne, University of Paris.  Where did you first get involved in working for women’s rights advocacy?

My first awareness was in college, when I first realized that my parents raised me to be a person, not a wife and mother.  I felt freer than my peers, less bound by social norms.  Also, I attended a women’s college, where everyone had an opportunity to step forward and engage.  Then, as the Second Wave of Feminism was taking energy in the 70-80’s, there was an effort to recruit and train young women for leadership.  I was then selected for “Leaders for the 80’s,” a college program to improve the status of women in administration.   I grew to realize that feminist advocacy involved personal reflection, leading to a “perspective transformation,” so that we could see ourselves clearly as independent, confident and accomplished leaders.  I then began to serve on boards that served the interests of women and girls, and to bring diversity and inclusion into the white male-dominated domain of higher education. 

I know you were honored to be in the Political Hall of Fame.   Why is women’s political participation important?  

As Martin Luther King has noted: “ I cannot make you stop hating me, but we can make laws that stop you from lynching me.”   This is a powerful vision of why the continuous evolution of ideas into policy and law makes such a difference in people’s lives.   Human rights, political power and policy directions are crucial to women’s interests in the political sector.  Why are women still only 25% of legislative leadership?  Who will decide?  Who will act on behalf of the under-represented, the marginalized?   Whose voices will be heard?  This is why we encourage civic engagement and active participation in communities, workplace governance and in the political sphere.  As we say in training: “Vote!   Then, Do More Than Vote!” 

We all were counting down to January 20, 2021, for the last four years.  This new chapter in the politics of this country was made possible by many, including millions of women of this country.  What you think should be the priorities of this administration for women and girls? Your wish list?  

I believe that all issues are women’s issues.  Therefore, we are not only interested in pay equity for women in the workplace, but we must pay attention to the income inequality that this country is facing.  Economic justice is not just a campaign slogan, but a fundamental priority.   For me, securing the Equal Rights Amendment and ensuring reproductive justice will guarantee that women – their human rights, bodily autonomy and personal safety – will promote the general public welfare.  I am pleased to note that this administration has re-established a Gender Equity Council, which will develop the research essential for women and girls in education, environment, health and work that is so needed, as well as workable policy plans to move forward for improvement.

Dr. James, you are a true change maker.  In addition to serving higher education institutions for 36 years, you also served the non-profit sector in a whole host of organizations that all shared the same values predominantly on the empowerment of women, girls, and other marginalized groups. You also are a founding member of the Women’s Intercultural Network in 1994.  What was your motivation? How did you connect with Marilyn Fowler and Eileen Hernandez to establish the Women’s Intercultural Network?

I met Marilyn Fowler in 1976, when we worked together on a grant to recognize women during the US Bicentennial celebration.  She drew me into her circle, connecting me to her “tribe,” as she called her friends and like-minded colleagues.  This was her pattern, and why she excelled at organizational development, building networks and coalitions, training young women, and most importantly, creating life-long friends and admirers.   By the early 1990’s, we had collaborated, shared friends and interests, traveled together and rejoiced as the 2nd Wave of Feminism evolved.   Through Marilyn, I met Eileen Hernandez, Fay Wattleston, Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug, some of the great foremothers of our time.  In 1994, we attended a conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on International Women’s issues, where the Women’s Intercultural Network was conceived, in collaborative commitment to global women’s lives. Marilyn saw the critical need for diverse groups of women to come together, to interact in collaborative networks, not hierarchical organizations.   By 1995, upon return from the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Marilyn had WIN ready to implement the Beijing Platform for Action via CAWA, the California Women’s Agenda.  Since then, WIN has established itself as a lead voice for “local-global” women’s activism and networking.

 I know you contributed to Cities for CEDAW locally, nationally and you even attended global meetings of CEDAW in Geneva.  What does CEDAW mean to you?

I believe that human rights are local: they play out in how people are treated in workplaces, schools, housing, communities.  Therefore, when we can enhance human rights at the grassroots level, then we are truly reaching people’s lives.   So, when Cities for CEDAW was launched in 2014, it represented a pathway to addressing the discriminatory practices at the municipal level, where a city ordinance could affect positive change.   This, to me, was an immediate and direct approach to assuring equity, safety and empowerment for women and girls in our localities.  The opportunity to meet CEDAW advocates in Geneva led me to appreciate that human rights activism is vibrant across the world, and that we have so much to learn from each other’s experiences in the fight for equity and social justice.

You are on the Executive Board of WIN, what are your aspiration for WIN?

I am committed to re-animating Marilyn Fowler’s legacy of connection and cross-cultural activism, by making WIN as relevant in the 21st century as it was at its inception.  I see WIN’s potential as a fulcrum of implementing Beijing Platform for Action and Cities for CEDAW on the national level, and to connect across cultures for global solidarity among women and girls. My vision coordinates with WIN’s mission to activate the Global Circles, the UN connection and to spur on the national Women’s Agenda that is so needed to move us forward.   I want WIN to incarnate the “go-to sisterhood” that Marilyn Fowler envisioned over 25 years ago.  Her legacy will stay relevant, if we carry forward the torch, actively looking ahead.

As an inspiration leader, what is your message for younger women who are striving for gender equality?

For me, women’s issues make us citizens of the world.  So, my message would be to get interested in the world around us, be a learner, get informed, get prepared, to make your voice heard.   The messages of feminism are clear:  equal means equal, our bodies are ourselves and must be respected, sisterhood is powerful, patriarchy is based on fear, which is the mind-killer.   Fear is paralyzing, so deal with your fears, and find a way to move forward.   When in doubt, think of what our dear mentors, Marilyn Fowler and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would do:  keep going, keep fighting, keep focus, use your brain and voice to make our world better.  Also, as former Texas Governor, Ann Richards, used to say: “Prince Charming isn’t coming. So make your life matter.”  I would add one more thing:  Give yourself the gift of personal power and meaning. 

Thank you, Dr. James.

 

 

Statement submitted by Women’s Intercultural Network to the Sixty-Fifth Session of Commission on the Status of Women March 15-26, 2021

Since the Fourth World Conference’s adoption of the Beijing Declaration and
Platform for Action (BPfA) in 1995, Women’s Intercultural Network has been at the
forefront working locally and globally to achieve gender equality and the
empowerment of all women and girls. Ensuring women’s full and effective
participation in decision making in public life and eliminating violence against
women are integral to our organizational mission.
Women’s Intercultural Network built the first state policy mechanism to
implement the BPfA, known globally as the California Women’s Agenda, then brought
that mechanism global through US Women Connect and Global Calling Circles –
connecting women from the USA, Uganda, Iran, Afghanistan, Japan and around the
world – with the US policy mechanism for the BPFA. Our leadership on the Cities for
CEDAW Campaign has taken the United Nations Women’s Treaty – The Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – to the
grassroots of America with 70 cities currently engaged. Local adoption of CEDAW
advances the equality of women and girls at the grassroots and provides a local
mechanism to advance progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated inequality. In the United States women
represent the most economically impacted. According to United States Census Bureau
data, of the 38.1 million people living in poverty in 2018, 56 per cent – or 21.4 million
– were women. The coronavirus pandemic has put women and families at an increased
risk of falling into poverty, as they face greater economic insecurity, due in large part
to unprecedented unemployment that has disproportionately affected women. Women
are falling further behind men in the recovery and are 5.8 million jobs below
pre-COVID employment levels. Further the burden of unpaid care has increased and
continues to fall disproportionately on women.
Gaps in wages, healthcare, childcare, and lack of access to paid family leave
impede women’s participation in decision making and public life. The Human Rights
Council (2018) published a report on extreme poverty and human rights in the United
States, revealing inadequate social protections and social services, and noting the
gendered nature of poverty, racism, disability and demonization of poverty or healthcare.
Institutionalized racism and disability further limits individuals in their rise out
of poverty. The Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and beyond has
revealed the urgency to address systemic and institutional racism that adversely
impact health outcomes for people of color and limit their full and equal participation
in public life. Even to the extent of exposing greater voter restrictions in communities
of color.
Access to healthcare, safety, personal agency, and autonomy are foundational to
gender equality and women and girls’ full participation in public life. Thus, Women’s
Intercultural Network deeply disapproves of the recent United States regressive
policies on women’s human rights. From the “global gag rule” to a domestic gag rule,
defunding United Nations Population Fund, the threat of vetoing a UN Security
Council resolution on women, peace, and security because it mentioned survivors’
sexual and reproductive health and rights, to the establishment of the Commission on
Unalienable Rights that appears to directly threaten sexual and reproductiv e health
and rights, to the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative that
completely disregards the need women and girls access health care, the United States
is increasingly hostile to advancing gender equality and women’s human rights to the
extent that the Administration has looked to garner support at international forums
from other anti-choice governments to push back on the global consensus around
sexual and reproductive health and rights. The recently released USAID Gender 2020
E/CN.6/2021/NGO/97
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Policy is regressive and harmful in its failure to acknowledge human rights of all
persons regardless of sex, citizenship, or gender identity. The policy narrowly defines
sexual relations as occurring strictly in the context of marriage – a definition out of
step with reality. Among the dangers of this policy are its impact on women and girls’
access to contraception. Without agency, access, and ability to control one’s
reproduction, women cannot fully participate in public life.
The aforementioned curtailing of women’s human rights stands in direct
opposition to the BPfA and undermines progress on the Sustainable Development
Goals. In the US, the current patchwork of healthcare coverage across states leaves
many women and girls uninsured and creates an environment in which women die at
higher rates than they do in comparably wealthy countries from preventable maternal
and gynecological cancer-related deaths. Human Rights Watch documented
(29 November 2018) how Alabama’s failure to expand Medicaid eligibility, along
with a mix of other policies and practices, has led to a high rate of preventable cervical
cancer deaths that disproportionately impacts black women in the state. Alabama,
along with Texas, has the lowest Medicaid eligibility levels in the nation and is
seeking a waiver to make eligibility even more difficult. Maternal mortality rates are
higher for women of color.
As pertains to violence against women, according to the World Health
Organization, violence against women is a major public health problem and a
violation of women’s human rights. It is rooted in and perpetuates gender inequalities.
Additionally, the National Institutes of Health – United States National Library of
Medicine cited alarming trends in United States domestic violence during the
COVID-19 pandemic. Women and girls face violence and harassment in public spaces
and online, too. #MeToo helped expose the endemic abuses that women face in the
workplace. 2020 should see the start of the structural reforms needed to end violence
and harassment at work for them, and all workers, on a global scale. To this end the
2019 International Labor Organization Convention on Violence and Harassment at
Work is an important step.
The United States Department of the Interior noted on 11 September 2019 that
the Violence Against Women Act and the Tribal Law and Order Act have brought
attention to the high rate of violence in Indian Country and the gaps in identifying
crime trends in Indian Country. Federal studies have shown that in portions of the
country with large Native American populations, Native women are killed at a rate
10 times higher than the national average, yet, reauthorization has stalled.
Solutions to violence against women must include individualized support and
systemic interventions that center survivors and ensure environments are safe and
supportive. It is also important to invest in efforts to shift culture within every
institution to internalize a deep commitment to promote healthy relationships and
respect for individual dignity across gender and identity and reject toxic masculinity.
When identifying barriers that limit women’s full and equal participation, it is
essential to recognize the harm women face in health effects and during extreme
weather events, which also exacerbate existing gender inequities.
The Women’s Intercultural Network has been charting a roadmap to engage
women and girls and bring the global compacts of the BPfA and Sustainable
Development Goal 5 to local communities collaborating with other partners to
spearhead a national Cities for CEDAW campaign supporting grassroots activists to
spur local governments to pass ordinances that employ CEDAW principles to advance
equity. The campaign allows local officials, women’s and human rights groups to
shape their own community needs in order to improve women’s economic
opportunities, increase girls’ participation in STEM, and combat human trafficking
and violence against women. As the United States remains the only industrialized
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nation not to ratify CEDAW, Cities for CEDAW is a vital mechanism to bring this UN
Global Compact to local communities to transform women and girls’ lives.
San Francisco, the first city to adopt a local CEDAW ordinance in 1998, has
centered women’s human rights and achieved results through gender analysis and
equity audits across services, budgets, employment, and agencies. The San Francisco
Department of the Status of Women in collaboration with local police and the District
Attorney’s Office has set our to retool the process of managing human trafficking to
accurately identify survivors and prioritize their support over victim criminalization.
The CEDAW framework is instrumental in advancing the BPfA. It provides
local governments in partnership with civil society organizations the tools to build a
sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and
girls by dismantling barriers, centering the voices of those most marginalized, and
addressing violence that impedes progress.
The Women’s Intercultural Network encourages states, non-governmental
organizations, and the public and private sectors to fund and apply the gender-focused
evaluation, practices, and metrics outlined in CEDAW to bring this global framework
to local communities to advance women and girls’ equity

Violence Against Women & Girls & COVID-19 Are BOTH Pandemics

WUNRN

http://www.wunrn.com

Mediators Without Borders International – MBBI

https://mediatorsbeyondborders.org/violence-against-women-and-girls-pandemic-and-gendered-dimension-of-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR17Scmk2slnCLTxrv_DzIDRPJFRoSTdRE4cU41Dg4ClXoKLO_j1KuF7fRo

Imagine there was a pandemic that globally impacted close to 1.3 billion women and girls at some point in their lives.    Imagine that the economic cost of this pandemic was 25 times more than war and terrorism, and accounted for 4.4 trillion dollars (5.2 of global GDP). Imagine the lack of prevention strategies, and treatment of this pandemic causing the death of more than 50,000 women, 137 women across the world every day.  Contrary to the Pandemic of COVID-19, a recent outbreak, this gender-based pandemic is deep-rooted. The name of this pandemic is family violence.        

The intersection of violence against women, a major public health pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused horrifying 30 percent global surge in domestic violence, heighten domestic tensions and more importantly severely limited the ability of service providers to help victims. As families face the challenges of more tensions, financial uncertainties and other pressures, women, and girls facing more intensified vulnerabilities.  From France to Iran, from Germany to the United State, from India to China “Stay home”, means isolation with an abuser and more control and violence. 

Violence against women is a global challenge and like COVID-19, demand a collective global solution to it.  The political will of the governments and policymakers in partnership with peacebuilders, human rights and women organizations, academics and other public and private entities needed to make a peace-able world at home and in society for women and girls.   Women must have equal representations in all planning and decision-making in combating violence from home to conflict zones as the outcome proven to be more sustainable.   

By the end of March 2020, over 100 countries worldwide had instituted either a full or partial lockdown, affecting billions of people.  This social distancing and stay home directives for many women and girls means being locked down in an abusive place. UN Secretary-General Guterres on April 5th said “For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes. I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.” Recalling that he has been requesting cease-fires in conflicts around the world, he warned that “violence is not confined to the battlefield”.

It was just a month ago on March 8th, International Women’s Day that millions of women filled the streets of the world’s large and small cities to protest gender violence and inequality.  From the peaceful demonstration of mothers of murdered girls in Mexico City to demonstrators in Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, from women demonstrations and rallies in the Philippines and  Jakarta to women putting the graffiti of the victims of state violence and detention on the streets of Tehran, women declared loud and clear that enough is enough.  They demanded an end to violence against women in the public and private spheres.

The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. “and intimate partner violence in which current isolation has intensified also refers to” behavior by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.”   

In March 2020the global community also was to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) for two weeks, the 64th Commission on the Status of Women ( CSW ) was to bring more than 15,000 women to New York City to conduct an assessment of current challenges that affect the implementation of the Platform for Action.  

In light of the outbreak of COVID-19, CSW 64 held a shortened session with only the participation of New York-based delegations.  Many civil society organizations, worked on the preparation of this session for more than two years, they were to address failed promises of the states who signed the Beijing Platform For Action ( BPFA)  25 years ago. 

One of the twelve areas of concern in BPFA was Violence Against Women.  Governments committed to taking actions on “Condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women” and to “Enact and/or reinforce penal, civil, labor and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to punish and redress the wrongs done to women and girls who are subjected to any form of violence, whether in the home, the workplace, the community or society.” However, 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries, more than 630 million women live in countries where domestic violence is NOT considered a crime.    

In the United State, In the context of domestic violence, according to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. Intimate partner violence alone affects more than 12 million people in the United State each year, and 30 to 60 percent of intimate partner violence perpetrators also abuse children in the household.  The Violence Against Women Act, landmark legislation in 1994 that directs the country’s response to domestic violence, has been reauthorized in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014 but since 2019, waiting for reauthorization by the senate.  The 2019 bill is being opposed by the National Rifle Association as it includes some measures that would tighten gun restrictions on individuals accused and convicted of domestic violence. It passed the House and now faces a battle in Senate. Among its provisions, the bill would make it illegal for individuals who are subject to temporary domestic violence protective orders to own a gun, as well as individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking. It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by adding dating partners to the definition of domestic violence under federal law. 

Women face particular challenges due to gun access, as women are five times more likely to be killed if their partner owns a gun. Despite such danger, the US recently watered down the definition of domestic violence to include only physical harm at the level of a felony, excluding psychological abuse, coercion, and manipulation.   

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that a growing number of callers say that their abusers are using COVID-19 as a means of further isolating them from their friends and family. “Perpetrators are threatening to throw their victims out on the street so they get sick,” in an interview with TIME, Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline said, “We’ve heard of some withholding financial resources or medical assistance.”

Globally, in other countries, with   England shut down, charities have offer online support and urged employers, bank staffers, health workers and neighbors to be extra-vigilant, adding that even a note dropped in a grocery bag could be a lifeline for a woman trapped with an abusive partner.  In Spain’s Canary Islands  and far beyond pharmacists who hear a woman ask for a “Mask 19” know that it is a code to call authorities.  In China, a Beijing-based NGO, Equality dedicated to combating violence against women, Equality, has seen a surge in calls to its helpline since early February, when the government locked down cities in Hubei Province, then the outbreak’s epicenter.  In Germany, some of the hotels are made available to domestic violence victims and German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged the country to stay indoors, organizations also have voiced fears over increases in child abuse while schools remain closed.  In  Iran according to IRNA, the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the calls seeking support for domestic violence have increased by more than 30 percent. 

As Arundhati Roy said “Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt as nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.  Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.  We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks, and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Let us imagine a more peace-able world, let us imagine a world that women human rights and dignity respected, let us imagine a world more equitable and just for the whole human race!

* Written by MBBI Member (11 Years) and Consultant Elahe Amani. Elahe Amani is on the faculty of the International Peace Training Institute.  She is also chair of Global Circles of Women’s Intercultural Network

Women Equality Day 2019 – 100 Years of 19th Amendment in California

“After Congress passed the proposal on June 4,1919, each state had to ratify the amendment. Some state legislatures offered continued resistance, This was not the case in California. On Nov. 1, 1919, Governor William D. Stephens called a special session of the legislature to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Before the vote, more than one-hundred members of the state suffrage association hosted a luncheon honoring the entire legislature, the governor and other executives. California ratified the Susan B. Anthony Amendment with little contention.”

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How women gained the right to vote in California?

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Organizers of the 1911 Amendment 8 campaign gathered in San Francisco for a publicity shot.

Photo: Women Voting Throughout the Years

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1896 meeting of Suffragist leaders: standing (l to r) Ida Husted Harper, Selena Solomons, Carrie Chapman Catt, Anne Bidwell, (seated) Lucy Anthony, Dr. Anna H. Shaw, Susan B. Anthony, Ellen Clark Sargent, and Mary Hay.

Photo: California Historical Society, San Francisco, CA

 

The Politics of UN and UN Politics

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AFP PHOTO/MARWAN NAAMANI
Elahe Amani
 Chair Global Council of Women’s Intercultural Network

Electing Saudi Arabia, a country that is ranked 141 out of 144 Gender Gap Global Index in 2016 to United Nation’s Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), a commission that is defined as the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. “is like putting China or Iran in charge of eradication of death penalty in the world. It is disheartening and absurd. But, it is not the first time that we encounter such elections/appointments.

Back in 2010, when Iran was a candidate for Human Rights Council, I wrote in an article titled “ The Politics of UN Human Rights Council and Iran’s Candidacy” and stated “ The candidacy of Iran for the UN Human Rights Council is comparable to electing apartheid South Africa to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or to awarding the US for humane treatment of detainee’s right after the world was shocked with pictures revealing sexual torture and humiliation of naked prisoners.” Iran did not secure the seat at UN Human Rights Council but was elected in 2010 to the Commission on the Status of Women and it still holds the seat till 2018.

On April 19th “ The Council elected by secret ballot 13 members to four-year terms, beginning at the first meeting of the Commission’s sixty-third session in 2018 and expiring at the close of the sixty-sixth session in 2022: Algeria, Comoros, Congo, Ghana and Kenya (African States); Iraq, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan (Asia-Pacific States); and Ecuador, Haiti and Nicaragua (Latin American and Caribbean States). “

Under the cover of a secret ballot, only seven countries voted at the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting in New York did not write Saudi Arabia’s name down on their ballot papers. Of the 54 members of the ECOSOC, 23 are the United States, Australia, Brazil, Japan and 10 members of the European Union (plus three Western European countries not in the E.U.) A simple calculation shows that 47 out of 54 countries agreed that Saudi Arabia deserved a slot from 2018-2022. The 10 E.U. members are Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The three non-E.U. European members are Andorra, Bosnia and Norway. It seems one would expect that at the very least, several European countries also opened door for Saudi Arabia to be elected to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Saudi Arabia is now one of 45 countries sitting at a commission to “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women,” according to the UN.

The gender segregation of men and women who are not “Mahram “means any interaction of a woman with a man who is not her father, brother, husband and son is not lawful (unmarriageable kin). According to Sharia Law, every woman should have one of the above man as her guardian. Under the global pressure to change the antiquated gender policies of Saudi Arabia, in March 2017 Saudi Arabia launched its first ever girls’ council meeting which some of the western media also called it an “encouraging initiative “. But, there was a problem. When the pictures of the inaugural meeting of Qassim Girls Council went public, the platform consisted of 13 men and no women. While it was officially stated that women were involved in organizing and launching the event, but they were watching the event in an another room linked via video. The state gender policies clearly forbid men who are not “Mahram “ to a woman to mix — a state policy that is strictly being enforced. So, when the image of 13 men embarking on Qassim Girls Council went viral, it was neither funny or satire. It was the reality of gender segregation of one of the most powerful friends of western democracies in the Middle East.

Other than Qassim Girls Council, other initiatives and efforts have seen recently been undertaken. The kingdom is the ONLY country that women are not allowed to obtain driver license. In 2011, activists launched a campaign to encourage women to disregard official state policy that effectively prohibit them from driving. Campaigners urged women to post images and videos of themselves behind the wheel on social media. But the campaign failed to change the law. Also, there has been efforts to challenge Saudi guardianship laws which prevent women to seek employment without the permission of their male guardian. The few new appointments of women as the chief executive of a bank or the country stock exchange are symbolic steps taken by Riyadh to change the image of a country that in 2017, still it’s most public buildings including banks, offices and universities, have separate entrances for women and men. Parks, beaches and public transportation are segregated in most parts of the nation and there are criminal charges against unrelated men and women for any encounter although the deep rooted patriarchal system always consider more severe punishment for women. Women just recently gained the right to vote but the guardianship laws consider women in permanent legal minors. Compulsory hijab also in Saudi and Iran and gender engineering to keep women out of public places are among other barriers to women’s rights and dignity.

One might question then what is the rationale behind the “friendship” of such a country with western liberal democracies? Let us remember that Saudi Arabia is one of the major military spenders of the world with a military budget in 2015 amount for 87.2 billion and rank the third highest after US and China. Most recently in Feb 2018, while the White House declined to discuss its plans, but it was leaked that a roughly $300 million precision-guided missile technology package for Riyadh will be approved.

The support of Helen Clark, the former administrator of the UN Development Program and prime minister of New Zealand, was shocking. In her tweet she “justified “and supported the appointment . She tweeted “It’s important to support those in the country who are working for change for women. Things are changing, but slowly.” While when Iran became member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women United State and many other western countries expressed concern that the membership of Iran will damage the credibility of the Commission. But others with the same philosophy of Helen Clark, justified it as it will being Iran “to the fold “. The reality is that these are the politics of UN and UN politics and it is hard to even imagine that these decisions bring about significant changes to the gender inequality and gender segregation neither in Saudi Arabia nor in Iran that women have relatively more agency compare to Saudi Arabia.

While a multilayer strategy at global, regional, national and local level is needed to make gender equality a possibility, but these appointments are short of contributing to it.

Standing Together!

A MESSAGE FROM WOMEN’S INTERCULTURAL NETWORK (WIN), PRESIDENT/CEO, MARILYN FOWLER

 

images-1.jpgOur deepest gratitude for Hillary’s courage to keep fighting against a merciless opposition and break the glass ceiling with the popular vote.  She survived the battle with honor to lead another movement another day.  Shout outs to Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris and all the women warriors who braved this election. And, with much appreciation for our awesome President Barak Hussein Obama and First Lady Michele Obama who fought for us eight years with grace and dignity. WIN’s roots go back to the women’s and civil rights movements in the ‘60s.  This week felt like that era to me and the outcome has been paralyzing.

But we must move on as we have always done. WIN rose out of the early human rights movements to build strong women’s networks empowered locally with links to women in other states, countries, cultures and religions. WIN brought the 1995 UN Women’s Conference to California with CAWA, a sustainable state women’s policy mechanism. In 2015, WIN brought the global UN CEDAW effort local for the Cities for CEDAW campaign. We believe that you can not know a country’s politics without knowing its culture. Our mission has always been to bring women together across cultures for collective action. Our mission hasn’t changed, only our tools and strategies change. See more on the 2017 CAWA  Report and Plan of Action on our website.

WIN stands ready to mobilize against sexism, bigotry, racism, misogyny, fascism and oppression of any kind. But we can’t do it without you. Let’s reach out to US women who sent an election message to us of frustration, mistrust, anger and fear. Please stay with us. We will be stronger together.

 

Marilyn Fowler

WIN President/CEO

Iranian Circle of WIN Delegation to the UN CSW 60

Written by Elahe Amani, ICWIN Steering Committee Member, Chair WIN Global Council

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Since 1995 I have been attending the UN women conferences and CSW sessions.  This year, the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, I had the pleasure to attend the session along with a delegation of seven amazing Iranian American women from ICWIN.

The Seven members of the newly formed Iranian Circle of Women Intercultural Network, Afsaneh Akhajavi, Soudabeh Farokhnia, Nazanin Amani,  Zohreh Mizrakhi,  Shahla Bebe, Manijeh Badiee attended the 60th CSW session at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 14 to 24 March 2016 and like every other year, brought thousands of women together.

The diverse ICWIN delegation along with other WIN members and affiliates attended many civil society / NGO workshops, UN sessions and engaged at all levels to shape the global agenda.    Non of the ICWIN members ever attended UN, CSW session so the attendance gave the delegation a better insight in the work of the United Nations and  the role of civil society organizations at CSW Forum.

Independent from the UN, the NGO CSW Forum gave ICWIN delegation and thousands of other activists from around the world the opportunity to discuss issues pertaining to women and girls, to network and share strategies/good practices.  

One of the most valuable experiences for the ICWIN delegation was attending the WIN caucus at the Ms. Foundation.  The discussion on the challenges and opportunities of the women’s movement in US and globally, issues that need to be highlighted at the “ Agreed Conclusion “ of the 60th session, strategies to keep the momentum of gender equality movement particularly in light of the US election was one of the amazing experience of the ICWIN delegation.  The discussion formulated in the official Recommendation and insights for Agreed upon conclusions  of the WIN  to the official US delegation to CSW. 

Upon the return of the delegation back to Southern California, the delegation organized a community event at Kanoon Sokhan in Santa Monica and shared their experiences along with a PowerPoint presentation. The delegation is also planning to translate key documents of the 60th session to Persian and publish it.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND INSIGHTS FOR AGREED UPON CONCLUSIONS (WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT AND THE LINK TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT), UNCSW60, 2016

The Women’s Intercultural Network submitted the following Caucus Conclusions for consideration in conjunction with the United Nations Committee of the Status of Women annual meeting, which was held in New York, March 14-25, 2016.

The WIN Caucus’ primary comments focus on securing assurances by State Parties, corporations, and other entities to uphold the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and dedicate the necessary resources to ensuring the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls around the world.

Specifically, the WIN Caucus calls on all relevant parties to take note of the following:

  • The rights of girls need to be reiterated throughout the Agreed Conclusions document to underline girls’ unique needs and challenges, such as trafficking, genital mutilation, and the issue of child brides.  Governments must be held responsible for allocation of all necessary funds and resources to strengthen the empowerment of girls in accordance with the provisions of CEDAW, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and all other relevant international law.
  • State Parties and International Organizations, including the United Nations and the Committee on the Status of Women, must ensure that corporations are an integral part of the discussion and implementation of procedures for upholding human rights.  Governments need to ensure corporate accountability for human rights violations in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 and should pass all necessary domestic law to ensure such accountability.
    • It shall also be recognized the corporations have a special role in assisting with mitigation and adaption to climate change and work to ensure sustainable development models in line with local populations, specific cultural and economic contexts, and indigenous rights to law and natural resources.
    • Special attention should be paid to the role of extractive industries in considering sustainable development and the protection of the rights and needs of women and girls.
  • State Parties must increase economic, social, political, cultural, technological, and educational resources for marginalized population and strengthen accountability of all member states to develop effective actions and policies to adequately address gender based discrimination.
    • Public-private partnerships have a crucial role to play in providing these resources and states should take all necessary action to ensure their participation.
    • It should be recognized that technology companies have a special role to play in sustainable development and the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
  • Women and girls are entitled to access the information necessary to ensure their effective growth and development and protect and promote their rights in equality and dignity. The right of access to information is a fundamental right, as outlined in numerous international treaties, court cases, and policy documents, and is necessary for empowerment and the fulfillment of other rights crucial to the empowerment of women and girls.
  • The WIN Caucus calls on all state and non-state actors such as corporations to defend the human rights defenders within their territory and around the world from abuse, harassment, punishment, torture, and death. We call for a stronger statement by states and the Committee on the Status of Women condemning actions against human rights defenders and a statement of understanding that enhanced protections are going to need to be different in different contexts and cultures.
  • We call on all states to actively work to internalize the founding documents and the resolution that came out of CSW60. Such internalization needs to include legislation, the judiciary, police, and civil society, as well as the education system. All states must work to ensure that at whatever their current level of internalization, they actively work to improve the situation within their own territory, including an emphasis on Art. 5(a) of CEDAW which calls upon states to work to modify culture patterns detrimental to achieving equality and equity.

In closing, sustainable development cannot be achieved without recognizing women’s contribution to the economy and society at large. Women’s Intercultural Network and its partners support UN-Women’s call for countries to step up their efforts and implement effective solutions and strategies and close the global gender gap — by 2030.

Discussed and Drafted by Representatives from:

The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute

FemResources

Iranian Circle of Women’s Intercultural Network (ICWIN)

UNA Women Greater Kansas City

US Women Connect

Women’s Equality Coalition Greater Kansas City

Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN)

Editors: Elahe Amani, Member of ICWIN Steering Committee; Lenka Belkova, Associate Director, WIN; Kathleen Cha, Former Co-Chair, WIN; Dana Zartner,  ‎Associate Professor and Chair, International Studies Department, University of San Francisco

May 2016