Debrief: United Nations 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women – Beijing Plus 20 and Cities for CEDAW Campaign

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

The fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 9 to 20 March 2015. Representatives of Member States , UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs)  from all regions of the world attended the session.

The main focus of the session was on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Commission undertook a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The review (Beijing+20) also included the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, the first five-year assessment conducted after the adoption of the Platform for Action, which highlighted further actions and initiatives. The session also addressed opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda. See the Women’s Intercultural Network Beijing Plus 20 page with reports and responses to the CSW 59 outcome documents (links included). You can also see a complete history of NGO involvement with UN conferences on women from 1975- present here.

During the opening ceremony in General Assembly, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark remarked of the need for civil society to be more included in the activity of the Commission on the Status of Women. It has been observed over the last four years the growing number of NGOs attending the annual Commission meeting. This year was no exception as it boasted an attendance of around 9,000 NGO delegates, the most in history of the Commission session.

This debrief is divided into four parts that will include the Commission reports from the major regions concerning the 20 year review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), the NGO and civil society progress, Women’s Intercultural Network’s NGO panels and my takeaways from the conference. To read Women’s Intercultural Nertwork’s official NGO statement (prepared by Lenka Belkova and Jessica Buchleitner) click here.

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Jessica Buchleitner at United Nations CSW 59, ECOSOC chamber

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Jessica Buchleitner and Nwe Oo at opening morning of United Nations CSW 59

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Nwe Oo, WIN associate Lenka Belkova and WIN Board Secretary Jessica Buchleitner

I. Reports from major regions and member states on the progress related to the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) 20 year review

Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session on Beijing Plus 20

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ECOSOC Chamber during CSW debrief

 Women’s Intercultural Network is a Non-Governmental Organization Consultative to the UN ECOSOC and accredits delegates to the UN CSW.  WIN delegates attend panels and at the NGO CSW Forum, UN Side Events and UN CSW sessions. Here are some major takeaways from their conclusions:

– No country has achieved gender equality to date.
– Progress has been far to slow towards implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action marked by aggression and regression within member states.
– On a positive note, many discrimination laws have been passed in member states that forward the rights of women and girls.
– Since 1990, maternal mortality rates worldwide have decreased by 45 percent.
– Since the 4th world conference in women in Beijing in 1995, a doubling of representation in national parliaments from 11 percent in 1995 to 22 percent today ensues. This is a marked increase in women taking party in the political process.
– A marked increase worldwide of women participating in the labor force since 1995 has also been revealed.

Regional Review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) by major UN regions

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Trusteeship Council Chamber during the 5 regions report on BPFA

The Commission on the Status of Women conducted a regional review of BPFA progress on March 11 in the Trusteeship Council chamber with the 5 regional heads. Here is a summary of key points taken from each region:

1. Executive Secretary of ESCWA (Arab states region) reported:
– Much progress has been made to implement Beijing Plus 20 in the middle eastern nations, though it is difficult to attain an accurate picture of all the Arab states due to the ongoing conflict in the region.
– Gaza is in conflict and continued occupation of Palestine and this has made implementation of BPFA difficult in the region.
– Arab states have since adopted most major UN women’s treaties and 20 of the 22 countries have ratified CEDAW.
– The new Tunisian constitution is unique and new national laws were made in terms of fair wages.
– Since 1995, 87 percent of girls are enrolled in primary school.
– Since 1995, the arab nations have observed a 1/3 decrease in infant mortality rates.

2. Executive Secretary of UNESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) reported:
– 70 percent of women and girls in this region face violence because of a male partner.
– This region has the second lowest proportion of female parliamentary members.
– Human trafficking remains at an all-time high in several of the members states of this region and is a growing problem in others.

3. Executive Secretary for ECE (European Union) reported:
– Hosted regional review conference in November that revealed strong progress of the BPFA in European Union states.
– Through all EU states, legislation to forward the rights of women and girls has been improved throughout.
– Violence against women is criminalized in all states, with legal penalties.
– Education of women and girls is pervasive and boasts a high rate of equality.
– A further drop in maternal mortality rates was observed.
– A rise in eating disorders has been reported, especially among young women.
– Half of women in the EU states still experience sexual harassment and sexual violence before the age of 15.
– An increase of young women’s’ and women’s e4mployement continues.
– 25 percent of the parliament members are women yet most news stories focus on women.
– There is a large gap in financial pensions for women, especially aging women.
– The EU states would like more data studies to be conducted per the BPFA.

4. Executive Secretary of ECA (Economic Commission of Africa) reported:
– It was reported that Africa region has made significant progress in regard to the BPFA, contrary to popular belief.
– Enrollment of girls in primary school has achieved targets in the entire continent, but falls short in terms of secondary school.
– Africa had a low base in all indices and from that marking point most countries have done well by way of improvement, but still have a long way to go.
– There are currently 3 heads of states in the member states that are women and a number of new female ministers for foreign affairs.
– Africa is the best region in terms of performance in the entire world at the UN.
– There are concerns about the ongoing economic opportunities being made available to women and a strong transformative process.
– African Union proclaimed this will be the year to address outstanding BPFA issues.
– The African nations boast a 92 percent rate of compliance with BPFA.

5. Executive Secretary of ECLAC (Latin America) reported:
– There is a diverse situation for women in the Latin American nations currently of progress and violence.
– Rates of poverty for women have increased steadily since 1995, particularly in Colombia and Brazil.
– Much of the feminization of poverty is attributed to unpaid care work, a subject of the World Bank Economic Development task force.
– Governments are pushing for more reform to allow women more economic autonomy.

Recommendations by all major regional executives to drive further implementation of the BPFA:
– In the ESCWAR and ESCAP regions, women face drastic inability to give citizenship to their children.
– 30 percent of the ESCAR states are in a situation of armed conflict, where Security Council Resolution 1325 needs to be enacted.
– In ECE, all governments must continue to implement strategies to prosecute perpetrators of VAW.
– In ECE, pay equity action is in continued need and governments should create transparency tools. For example, in France, there are sanctions against companies who do not give equal pay.
– Gender sensitive budgeting is recommended in all regions.
– Governments must focus on changing the amount of unpaid care work that women are subjected to in the ECLAC region.
– ECA has a three pronged strategy for implementation of BPFA that involves the private sector, women’s rights and the social sector.
– All areas agree that more data on the progress of women is needed to pinpoint better reforms.

II. NGO progress with Beijing Platform for Action
The variety of NGO sessions we attended yielded information on several fronts, namely the subject of masculinity, land rights, labor force participation, violence and armed conflict and the subject of unpaid care work, a theme that has echoed into this year’s CSW 59 and widely discussed at CSW 58 last year. Several panel discussion stuck out to me, namely one about UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the situation of women in Ukraine where we heard from the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Several NGOs were conducting studies on masculinity and its perception in culture and contribution to violence against women. There has been significant progress in dispelling cultural myths surrounding what defines a “man”, by teaching men to respect women.

Perhaps one of the most influential panels of all was one that featured Zakia Hakki- the first female Iraqi Kurd judge who is also a key player in drafting the new constitution for Iran. She clicked through an extensive PowerPoint presentation of the effects of ISIS on the Middle East and the destruction it wields. Through a tearful speech she showed a photo of 10 children locked in a metal cage about to be burned alive and exclaimed that the Kurds and Iraqis just wanted their land back. You can view her presentation here (Zakia_presentation), but be forewarned that the images are very graphic.

Here are some photos from a few of the panels:

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NGO reps from Chechnya discuss the situation on women and girls

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Siobhan Neilland of Onemama.org discuss land rights in Uganda at the Africa Caucus

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A young woman from Mozambique speaks about teen girls at the US Mission to the UN

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A discussion on Masculinity – a study conducted by the Dutch government in Syria

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With Zakia Hakki, first female judge from Iraqi Kurdistan and a key player in drafting the new constitution

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Panel with Iraq ambassador on ISIS and the Yazidi Kurds

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Two time Nobel Prize nominee Chai Ling of China discusses her work regarding the One Child policy

III. Women’s Intercultural Network NGO panels on Beijing plus 20 and Cities for CEDAW.
This was a big year for Women’s Intercultural Network at the UN. WIN is a Peer Leader for the civil society NGO leg of the Cities for CEDAW campaign. Our goal is to get US mayors in cities of all sizes and cultures to agree publicly that they will support a CEDAW ordnance in their city government. We hosted two panels, the first Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN) panel convened an interactive and solutions oriented forum with shared innovative strategies for implementing the Beijing Platform for action in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.  A stellar group of panelists spoke  that included Siobhan Nieland and Marie Murphy with those on the flyer below discussed how we can capitalize, organize and politicize our critical concens for gender equality for all women and girls. Joining WiN at the forum were women from NGO, governmental and the private sector.

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The second panel was co-hosted with the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women where we featured Reverend Mary Sue Barnett from Louisville, Beth Denghan from North Carolina and Yolanda Mendoza from Salt Lake City – three women who are pushing the CEDAW ordnance in their municipalities. Mary Sue Barnett was able to get the mayor of Louisville to sign CEDAW into action!  I also presented the civil society portion of the campaign, emphasizing the importance of government (San Francisco Department on the Status of Women) and civil society to work together. Since the panels we have had an enormous of interest in the campaign and thousands of sign ups. It was very successful. For more information about starting a campaign in your city please contact: citiesforcedaw@winaction.org and visit the weblog for more information on how to get involved.

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Emily Murase, DOSW, Nancy Kirshner Rodriquez, Executive Director of CA Commisson on the Status of Women and Girls, Beth Denghan, Reverend Mary Sue Barnett, Yolanda Mendoza and Jessica Buchleitner at United Nations CSW 59 on Cities for CEDAW panel

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Jessica Buchleitner discuss 50 Women, Book One and the CEDAW ordnance at United Nations

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Reception at the Roosevelt House
WIN also co-hosted a reception at the Roosevelt House in honor of the late Congresswoman Bella Abzug with her daughter Liz. A group of noted feminists and diplomats attended and gave testimonials about Bella and cheered at a film of Bella’s life. It was an honor to welcome diplomats,women in media and academia along with noted NGO women leaders to the event in honor of a woman who gave so much to the world. Liz Abzug currently heads the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute that works with young women and girls by  inspiring, mentoring and training them to become leaders in creating positive social and economic change. To see all the photos from the event click here.

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Marilyn Fowler, WIN with Jean Shinoda Bolen and Liz Abzug at the Roosevelt House, Bella Abzug Reception

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WIN Board of Directors – Diana Goodrow and Jessica Buchleitner

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WIN Board member Mary Ann Ellison, Uganda advisor to WIN and founder of Onemama.org Siobhan Neilland and Board member Diana Goodrow

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Marilyn Fowler, Peggy Kerry

 

IV. Our takeaways

Several of our delegates have provided summaries of their experiences at CSW 59 that will be posted soon here below.

Jessica Buchleitner, Secretary, Board of Directors
My personal takeaways this year are of course the big, glowing accomplishment of the fact that I had 50 Women, Book One with me in tow and was able to present it on Women News Network’s panel and the Cities for CEDAW panel with Women’s Intercultural Network, where I am a director on the Board of Directors. Not only did the copies I brought sell out, but they book also received extensive praise and interest for its inclusiveness of all the major world regions. After the glorious mix of the WTF roller coaster ride it was publishing the first book in the series, the UN was practically a paid vacation as getting to present it there in front of heads of states and seasoned diplomats was rather fabulous. I also feel it is giving many of the causes these women represent the much needed attention. I attended the conference alongside contributors Nwe Oo, Jane Anyango and Book Two contributor Siobhan Neilland. It was an honor to share the stage with them.

Below are some photos of its debut!

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With contributor New Oo at the United Nations opening day of CSW 59

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Speaking on WNN panel at UN about the experience of compiling it

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Jessica Buchleitner with 50 Women, Book One

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In General Assembly room with 50 Women, Book One

 

 

 

 

2014 Women’s Equality Day

  WOMEN’S EQUALITY DAY 2014
       A CALL TO ACTION FOR BEIJING+20

On Saturday, August 23, 2014,  WIN brought together intercultural, intergenerational California ‘movers and shakers’ who shared their stories and reports on the critical concerns in their regions and organizations.  They came to the Bay Area from all corners of the state – Arcata north coast, San Diego, Central Valley, Napa, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Jose and from Massachusetts.  WIN gave the Circle of Courage Award to Krishanti Dharmaraj, Jene McCovey and Marily Mondejar, and our Jedi Knight award to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. Elmy Bermjo was welcomed back to The City as Region 9 Representative from the Secretary of Labor. She Keynoted and Moderated a  “Community – Corporate Conversation”  that framed a collaboration of women from all sectors for a unified agenda. See attached Program for all the players and sponsors.

These conversations and reports will inform the California Women’s Agenda (CAWA) for the US Women’s Non-Governmental (NGO) Country Report in 2015.  We will also receive input from the other 5 Policy Chairs and 10 California counties, and your voice counts.  Please post your priorities and comments on the CAWA Survey Monkey HERE.  With more highlights to come.

One more thing… join our Cities for CEDAW Campaign!  A key priority for the US Women’s Agenda. Get information and sign up  HERE!

YOUR VOICE COUNTS!

View the program here: WED14 ptd prog (pdf)

Photos coming soon!

Women’s Equality Day 2014 – Join us!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOIN WIN HERE FOR YOUR MEMBERSHIP DISCOUNT!
http://winaction.org/Documents/membershipform.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

The Millennium Development Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening morning

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

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UN Secretary – General Ban Ki Moon opens CSW 58


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


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

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

UNESCO making a statement on the MDGs


NGO panel presentations

Domestic Violence

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


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

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

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North Caucasus panel

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


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

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

Annette Mukabera and statistics on Ugandan women

Raihana Polpalzai on Afghan women

Yasuko Wachi on women in Japan


US Women Connect: Technology and Women’s Advancement

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

Mary Ann Ellison, Executive Director, Flowering Hope

Michelle Ozumba, Executive Director, Women’s Funding Network

Jessica Buchleitner, WIN Board Member, reading for Elahe Amani


Our important panels regarding CEDAW

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

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

The Convention focuses on three key areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cities for CEDAW, Marilyn Fowler, Part 1

Cities for CEDAW, Marilyn Fowler, Part 2


The UN and Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Personal Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here we go…moving forward….

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

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

 

 

A WIN delegate reflection on UNCSW 58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Convention focuses on three key areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related links:

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

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

–        Read the agreed upon conclusions from UNCSW57

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

California Women’s Policy Summit 2014

California Women’s Policy Summit 2014

Advancing Women’s Health, Wealth & Power

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

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

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

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

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

  • CalWORKS

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

  • Policy Objective #1

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

 Background

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

 Recommended Actions

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

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

 Policy objective #3

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

 Background

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

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

 Recommended Action

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

 To find more recommendations for action go here.

 California Domestic Workers Coalition

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

 Policy objective #1

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

 Background

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

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

For more information go here.

  • Women’s Foundation of California

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

Policy objective #1

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information go here.

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

What We Have to Do in California – Closing Session

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

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

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

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

Conversation with Muslim artist Sophia Ahmed Sattar

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

Women’s Equality Day Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christine Pelosi accepting the Princess Leia Award

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

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

Group photo of WIN and our partners!

Group photo of WIN and our partners!

Farkhundeh – An Explosion of a Deferred Dream in Afghanistan

By Elahe Amani,

Published by:  A Safe World for Women 

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
BY LANGSTON HUGHES 1902–1967

Screen capture of a video showing the murder of Farkhunda by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 19 March 2015. Image source: Wikipedia | ATN NewsATN News

Screen capture of a video showing the murder of Farkhunda by a mob in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 19 March 2015. Image source: Wikipedia | ATN NewsATN News

The case of Farkhunda’s brutal killing is now closed. Thousands came to the streets of Kabul and around the world to demand justice for horrendous and vicious crime of misogyny against Farkhunda. The justice system of Afghanistan swiftly prosecuted the civilian and the police and now, we know the result. Forty-nine people were brought to trial. Twenty-seven were found not guilty eighteen civilians and nine police officers. Twelve convictions have been handed down to civilians, eight guilty of violence against women and four sentenced to death for mob killing. Ten police officers have been convicted for their failure in protecting Farkhunda and dereliction of duty after failing to stop the public lynching. The brutal killing of Farkhunda, the height of the anger and violence perpetuated by a group of men in the capital city of Kabul stroked a cord in the heart and mind of Afghan people particularly women and they protested the injustice from Kabul to Hamburg to the Afghan community of Fremont in California.

Was Justice served in the case of Farkhunda? Was this case a “turning point “for women’s rights in Afghanistan? Is it true that the incidences of violence against women are on rise? Was there any political motivation for handling such a publicized case swiftly?
On March 19th two days before the Afghan New Year a 27 –year-old woman, named Farkhunda, was brutally killed by a mob of angry men for allegedly burning a copy of Qur’an in Kabul, the capital City of Afghanistan. The violence sent shock waves to the world as investigations revealed that Farkhunda had not burned Qur’an and in fact she worked as a religious teacher. The intensity of violence that was perpetuated against Farkhunda was shocking.
Farkhunda was beaten to death, then her body was ran over by a car and then burned, all in presence of police officers who did not take any action when she was asking for help with her last breath. This cruel and inhuman incident ignited explosion of the “deferred dream” of Afghan women for security and protection from violence. Afghan women and men came to the streets in Kabul to protest this crime and demand justice.
The investigation revealed that Farkhunda got into an argument in front of the mosque where she worked with a mullah selling charms. The wicked and evil hearted mullah accused Farkhunda to get even with her. According to CBC news on March 22nd, “The mob of men beat 27-year-old Farkhunda before throwing her body off a roof, running over it with a car, setting it on fire and throwing it into a river near a well-known mosque. According to an eyewitness, protesters were chanting anti-American and anti-democracy slogans while beating the woman.”

Farkhunda’s mob killing exploded the anger of Afghan women, human rights community and women activists and raised many questions as the incidences of violence against women is on rise. Most recently on Dec. 30, 2014 Tolo News reported about the rape of a twelve-year-old girl by the Afghan Local Police (ALP) forces in Nijrab district of north-eastern Kapisa. Many other such incidences of violence against women and girls are happening on daily basis, often not event reported.

The global as well as Afghan media captured the sentiments of people and outburst of their anger to what happened to Farkhunda by many news articles, opinion and editorial pieces, press releases and petitions to bring justice to the men who perpetuated this gross violence on Farkhunda. As the story unfolded about the detail of what happened and how it happened and why Farkhunda was murdered by the mob of angry men, it was revealed that Farkhunda was neither mentally ill nor disturbed rather this cover was used initially by the family to hide the shame and dishonored of allegedly burning Quran .
Many women activists were skeptical about the “mental illness” and had an educated guess that since Farkhunda’s behavior was a disgrace and shameful, perhaps, her father said so to save face. Although being mentally ill is also considered shameful in many countries including west and south Asia, it is considered less shameful than blasphemy. Burning Qur’an is considered such as ‘despicable’ crime to a Muslim that most sane persons would not commit this.

On March 22nd, Mirwais Harooni in a report for Reuters wrote: “ Farkhunda was a teacher of Islamic studies, according to her brother, who denied media reports that she had been mentally ill. He said this was a made-up defense by their father, who wanted to protect the family after police told them to leave the city for their own safety.” “My father was frightened and made the false statement to calm people down,’ said Najibullah, who is changing his second name to Farkhunda in memory of his sister.

UN officials in Afghanistan strongly condemned the brutal killing but picked up on the “mental illness” and stated that “We are particularly worried by reports that the woman had suffered from mental illness for many years,” but, later Mark Bowden, acting head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said “The brutal murder of this woman is an unspeakably horrendous act that should result in those responsible being prosecuted, to the fullest extent possible, under Afghan law”.

In the aftermath of this crime, contrary to the Islamic tradition, Farkhunda’s casket was carried by a dozen women to the gravesite in north Kabul’s Khair Khana neighborhood while public outpoured grief and demanded that the perpetrators were brought to justice. Violence against women is major barrier to human rights and dignity and despite the fact that the Elimination of Violence against Women Act (EVAW) was passed in 2009 during the era of Hamid Karzai Ex Afghan President, the rampart violence against women in public and private spheres are a major concern. Indeed Afghan women security and human rights is at a critical juncture.
The Elimination of Violence against Women Act (EVAW) criminalizes twenty two offences, starting from forced prostitution to denying women their inheritance, the law prescribes punishments for offenders and summarize a number of state responsibilities. Most particularly, Article 6 enshrines seven victims’ rights, including the right of prosecution, legal representation and compensation. While the 2009 Act marked a major turning point in the legal status of Afghan women. But, passing a law in the absence of political will to implement it will not curtail the rampart violence against women. Afghanistan is also signatory to numerous international rights treaties and obliged under international law to respond to reports of violence against women. According to UN statistics, out of 650 reported cases between October 2012 and September 2013, the law was applied in a mere 109 cases. On average, over the past three years, the EVAW act has only been applied to between 15 and 17 percent of reported cases.
The Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan (AIHRC) in a report published in Dec 2013 stated that “During the first half of the current year, 4154 cases of violence against women have been registered by 1179 complainants referred to different office of the AIHRC. Therefore, 1179 women have suffered from one or other forms of violence against women during the first six months in 1392. Usually the victims are faced with more than one form of violence at the same time. For this reason the number of violations is higher than the number of complainants.
The above-mentioned figure shows about a 25 percent increase in the number of cases of violence against women that were registered in different offices of the AIHRC during the first half of the last year. This figure indicates that the situation of in the country is terrible. The increased number of such cases registered in different offices of the AIHRC can imply several meanings. It may mean a high level of public trust on the Commission or it can be interpreted as weak rule of law and corruption in the justice and judicial system or limited access of women to justice. Anyway, the high level of violence against women indicates an appalling and shocking condition of in the country. “
On 12 November 2014 in the finalized Statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, asked for sustainable measures to address the causes and consequences of violence against women, including at the individual, institutional and structural level.
At the end of a nine-day mission to Kabul, Jalalabad and Herat regions of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan she stated, “I have been mandated by the Human Rights Council to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to recommend measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Violence against women and girls is a widespread and systemic problem that has an impact throughout the lifecycle of women and girls, whether it occurs in the public or private spheres. It precludes the realization of civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and development rights, and is a barrier to the effective exercise of citizenship by women and girls.”
Manjoo’s sentiment is also shared by Rona Popal, Executive Director of the United States based Afghan Coalition. In her interview statements with me she spoke of the brutal killing of Farkhunda. “What happened in Kabul Afghanistan is all due to 35 years of wars in Afghanistan. Wars completely destroyed our religion and culture of Afghanistan. More than 80 % of Afghans have mental problems. They see every day people are being killed in front of them in pieces so people have no feeling toward each other and to their community,” outlined Popal.
Rona’s comment about the decades of war in Afghanistan and the region’s insensitivity to violence is also shared by the UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo. “The four decades of prolonged armed conflict across the country has contributed to significant levels of instability, insecurity, violence, rule of law challenges, and poverty and underdevelopment, which have obstructed the effective realization and enjoyment of human rights for people of Afghanistan. It must be stressed that the insecurity, pervasive levels of gender-based violence and an ever-present climate of fear has had a disproportionate impact on the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights of women and girls,” said the Special Rapporteur.
In response to the question I asked Rona if she is concern about women safety in today’s Afghanistan and why? She responded: “I am very much concern about safety of women in Afghanistan. They are not safe even from their families. I always think they have to be trained how to take care of themselves. “
The fact that most of the young men participated in Farkhunda’s killing were “city boys” reminds us that not only these young men in their twenties but perhaps their fathers lived through the three decade of war. The culture of violence, the unprocessed anger instilled over 3 decades, continues to be passed on to the young generation.
After Farkhunda’s brutal murder, a dozen of men suspected to be involved were arrested and few police officers were removed from their position. Rona believes that “Afghanistan government want to do something to stop people’s anger but they cannot do that much. To change people bring their trust back to government. The government has to bring a system, rules and regulation that be acceptable by people. Also culturally competent sociologists and psychologists need to be at work to heal the psychological effects of the long lasting decades of war of various communities. “
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released its Report on the Taliban’s War Against Women on November 17, 2001. The report concluded “The Afghan people want, and the U.S. Government supports, a broad-based representative government, which includes women, in post-Taliban Afghanistan………… Only Afghans can determine the future government of their country. And Afghan women should have the right to choose their role in that future. “
The report included the transcript of the radio address delivered by first lady Laura Bush and she concluded that because of the military occupation of Afghanistan “women are no longer imprisoned in their homes.“ But this was a premature declaration of victory!
Ending the atrocities of the Taliban and ensuring that women’s rights and freedom are being honored was one of the prime justifications for U.S. intervention. But after 14 years which costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $1tn, the country still lacks the basic infrastructure to protect the safety of women under the rule of law.
“Many activists are concerned that the transition for the withdrawal will increase the incidences of violence against women. Particularly contextualizing the fact that women were pushed to the sideline and neither US not Afghan Governments did not honor Security Council Resolution 1325 which calls for presence of women at peace negotiations,” says Sima Samar
Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), told Reuters In January of 2014 that as the withdrawal deadline draws near for international troops, women in tribal areas are less protected, leaving them vulnerable to violent assaults.
“The presence of the international community and provincial reconstruction teams in most of the provinces was giving people confidence,” Samar said. “There were people there trying to protect women. And that is not there anymore, unfortunately.”
She also noted that poor economic conditions and the lack of security are also contributing factor to the rise of incidents.
“Killing women in Afghanistan is an easy thing. There’s no punishment,” Suraya Pakzad, who runs women’s shelters in several provinces, told Reuters.
According to UN Women Chief Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcukain January 2014 violence against women in Afghanistan is “pandemic,” with 87.2 percent of women experiencing some form of physical, psychological, sexual, economic or social violence.
In my interview with Rona Popal I asked her in what ways Afghan community outside Afghanistan and other global women activists who care for respect, dignity and safety of Afghan women can help so we don’t have another Farkhunda?
“We need the world to listen to Afghan women. We’ve had a bad experience after 9/11. The world came to help but it backfired on Afghan women: for example women are right not to take the veil off from women. After 9/11 in our trip to Kabul we did talk to lots of women and we asked them why they wear the burqa? They said because of security if these warlords see that I am young or beautiful, they will kidnap me or my daughters. So they can help but they should be sensitive to the people believes. Let the people decide what is good for them, “outlined Popal.
The deferred dream of Afghan women for peace and security in public and private spheres of their lives exploded with the manifestation of deep rooted misogyny in lynching Farkhunda. Many women activists, those who painted their face to resemble the atrocities inflicted on Farkhunda and participated in widespread demonstrations, those who broke the patriarchal traditions of only men carrying the casket and took Farkhunda on their shoulders to the cemetery, the journalists who penned their anger and frustration and demand justice, the community that raised the hope that Farkhunda case be a turning point and the beginning of an end to the deep rooted gender injustice in Afghanistan demanded justice for Farkhunda.
The case is now closed and many activists and Farkhunda’s family are questioning if the justice was served? Faridullah Hussain Khail in an article on Tolo News reported that Kabul Primary Court Judge Safiullah Mujadidi sentences “evoked fierce criticism among some people in Kabul with one MP claiming the judge’s decision had been politically motivated. “ I am very sorry that political compromises have been seen in the court. The Kabul Police chief has close ties with the president and the crime investigation chief has close ties with the CEO,” said Farkhunda Zahra Nadiri MP. Another critic was the mother of Sharaf Baghlani who was sentenced to death. She asked why the driver of the car that ran over Farkhunda and the person who set Farkhunda on fire were not sentenced to death.
While efficiency of court proceedings is a desirable quality, but efficiency should not compromise serving justice to the case and due process for the defendants. It took only less than two months for the judicial system of Afghanistan to arrest, investigate and put on trial 49 men accused of being engaged at different stages of this horrendous crime and handing down sentences from one year to death sentences. The response of the judicial system was prompt as many demanded, but was it thorough? Some argue that it was not and the case was wrapped up quickly for political consideration and in response to the public pressure. Ahmad Shuja, an Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch was quoted in an article published on May 20th in Foreign Policy that “We now see what has become a pattern in highly publicized cases,” he continues “The government tries to expedite the proceedings to put the issue behind it. That not only adversely impacts due process rights but also demonstrates the lack of seriousness with which the government approaches cases of violence against women.”
The view expressed by many human rights activists also indicates that the hearings lasted only three days, and defendants were given few minutes and no opportunity for their defendants to introduce their own witnesses and even more serious fraudulent and misconduct aspect of this trail was that some defendants, including one ultimately sentenced to death, did not had a defense lawyer at trial.
Kimberley Motley, the American attorney who represented the family of Farkhunda, in an article published by The Telegraph on May 20th, stated “There can be little doubt that this case was a defining moment for Afghanistan, women’s rights “. She continues “How it (this case ) has been prosecuted will show the world what Afghanistan is really made of and what the legacy of billions of dollars investment – and a 13 year international intervention that recently came to an end – has resulted in.” The above unfounded optimism assessment of the importance of the case and particularly highlighting the “legacy of billions of dollars investment “ by Kimberley Motley would be better understood in the context of the history of her presence and her legal capacity in Afghanistan. As stated on Motley Legal she “worked as a Justice Advisor with US Department of State funded project in Afghanistan. In this capacity she was given the remit to raise the capacity of Afghan Defense Attorneys and has trained of hundreds of Afghan Attorneys throughout the country.”
The reality is that while many cases of violence against women go unreported or being ignored Farkhunda brutal killing was in public, pressuring Afghan society to confront their brutal realities, especially as it was documented on mobile phones and the footage went viral on social media. Farkhunda lynching “exploded” as the women’s rights activist who endured the bleak years of Taliban, who endured the military occupation of US for the last thirteen years are holding the government of Afghanistan accountable to respect them as equal citizens as reflected in the constitution of Afghanistan that “the citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law”. Afghan women are inspired by the global movement to end violence against women and striving to make their deferred dream of peace and security at home and in society a reality.
When I asked Rona Popal about the result of this case she stated: “I am very upset to see all the injustices in everyday life of Afghan women. Abuse of women is part of the culture in Afghanistan. Women are invisible in the society. Women still being discriminated abused and persecuted. There is more work need to be done before we reach equality and respect for women’s rights. The everyday reality of Afghan women is that the political instability pushes back all the reforms. Khaled Hosseini was right when he wrote in his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, “Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.” Afghan women need more support to bring justice.”
The reality is that despite close to fifteen years presence of US military forces in Afghanistan and donor driven projects of “ empowerment “ of women, both the United State and Afghan governments did not kept their promises to Afghan women.
I recall when I was leaving Kabul to return back to U.S. in May 2003. I asked a group of women working in NGOs in Kabul if they have a message for their sisters in U.S. and they said. ‘Elahe, tell them not to forget about us”. Let us stay committed to the cause of safety and security of Afghan women. The global women’s movement needs to listen to Afghan women.

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Elahe-AmaniElahe Amani

Peace activist and WNN – Women News Network special reporter on Iran, Elahe Amani, works with immigrant women who are part of the South Asian, Iranian and the Middle Eastern ethnic communities in Southern California to help women from these communities build peace at home and in society. Amani is also chair of Global Circles at Women’s Intercultural Network, a global women’s organization with grassroot circles in Uganda, Japan and Afghanistan. Amani has also lectured through the Women’s Studies Department and is also on the advisory board of The Women Center at CSU – California State University in Long Beach, California.

Follow Elahe Amani on Twitter: @elahe4peace

Silence Did Not Protect Farinaz Khosravani

By Elahe Amani

http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/global-news/mid-east/iran/4872-farinaz-khosravani.html

Farinaz Khosravani

Audre Lorde, feminist scholar of 1970s once said, “Your silence will not protect you”  and women globally know this reality.

While gender justice has moved closer from margin to the center of global agenda particularly during the last 40 years, still patriarchal power structure is deep rooted in many parts of the world. One billion rising to end gender violence is the manifestation of one of the many campaigns to end gender based violence in public as well as private, in home as well as community, by governments, in conflict zones as well as assembly lines. The reality is that our world in neither safe for women who are silent because they feel it protects them from a whole host of harms nor it is safe for women who are brave and outspoken, women who believe their silence neither protect them nor other women, for women who risk their lives to stand tall against misogyny, patriarchal power structure and gender violence. We are witnessing that the lives of women like Farkhunda in Kabul and Farinaz in Mahabad are being perished. We also witness the death of brave women like Selwa Bugaidhis in Libya, Sabeen Mohamud in Pakistan and even arrests and detentions of women who stand on the side of justice like Nargess Mohammadi in Iran who broke the code of patriarchal silence.

On May 4th, Farinaz Khosravani, a 25 year-old Iranian Kurdish woman fell/jumped from the fourth floor of Tara Hotel in Mahabad where she worked. Mahabad is a city in northwestern Iran with approximately 280,000 ethnic Kurds.   While the exact circumstances about her death are still unexplained, the Kurdish media reported that at the time that she was alone with a member of Iran’s intelligence and security forces. Amnesty International article on May 8th, referenced that people of Mahabad alleged that the member of Iran‘s intelligence and security forces had threatened to rape Farinaz.

Following the incident, angered demonstrators clashed with police on Thursday May 7th and set the hotel on fire and throwing furniture from the Tara Hotel’s rooms. According to ARA News at least two people were killed and over 50 were injured when riot police resorted to tear gas, bullets and batons to disperse the demonstrators.

Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of MENA region at Amnesty International said that Amnesty International has not yet been able to verify the precise number of arrests and casualties. He also added that “We have long documented how Iran’s security forces have a history of using excessive force to quell protests – in direct violation of international law” and “Instead of resorting to intimidation and excessive force, the authorities must launch a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of the young woman in Mahabad as well as the allegations about the use of excessive force in the policing of protests that her death sparked.”

Mahabad Mayor Jaafar Katani told Iraqi Kurdish news agency Rudaw that “people must wait until the investigation results are out”Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’Ispoke person of the Justice Department also made comments related to this case and encouraged people to wait for the result of the investigation. Mahabad’s prosecutor, Aslan Heydari, also stated in his interview with IRNA on May 8th that investigation into the “suspicious” death of the woman is being conducted “very carefully.” Officials in Iran, connecting the sparked demonstrations to instigation of foreign media and inviting people to be calm and trust the authorities for conducting their investigation. The narrative coming out of the local residents in Mahabad is that the owner of the Tara Hotel Nader Molodi made arrangements with the members of the intelligence and security forces to uprate his hotel from four to a five star hotel in exchange of making arrangements so that Farinaz be made available to him. The story concludes that when Farinaz was in the hotel room with the intelligence officer, facing to be raped, she decided to jump from the fourth floor and commit suicide to keep the honor of her family.

While the exact circumstances of Farinaz death is still not known, what were her choices? How would the community that are now setting the hotel on fire and demanding justice would have reacted to her if she was alive? Was her life in danger in the hands of the close male relatives, to keep the “honor “of their family? Would the community ostracize her even if she would have not been killed in the name of “honor”?

How would Farinaz have reacted if she believed that she could defend the integrity of her body and protect herself from the rape? Would the legal system defend her? How would the community would have responded to her? Would the crowd in the streets of Mahabad have defended her human rights to protect herself even if she had to resort to violence?

Farinaz and hundreds of women and girls like Farinaz know firsthand that a rape victim will be re-victimized in societies like Iran. They know firsthand that even the faded away laws on the book does not mean justice being served for them.   They know the world is not a safe place for them. Let us all transform silence Into action. Silence will not protect us!


Elahe-AmaniElahe Amani

Peace activist and WNN – Women News Network special reporter on Iran, Elahe Amani, works with immigrant women who are part of the South Asian, Iranian and the Middle Eastern ethnic communities in Southern California to help women from these communities build peace at home and in society. Amani is also chair of Global Circles at Women’s Intercultural Network, a global women’s organization with grassroot circles in Uganda, Japan and Afghanistan. Amani has also lectured through the Women’s Studies Department and is also on the advisory board of The Women Center at CSU – California State University in Long Beach, California.