Message- Elahe Amani WIN President

Greeting from Southern California, I cannot believe we are entering July and uncovering the veil of a new normal after fifteen months. It was a period of many challenges including but not limited to the concerns for the health of family and friends, those who lost their jobs during the hard-hit months of 2020-21, unpredictability, and an overload of virtual meetings in “Zoom land.” It was an intense physical and emotional period of our lives. Now, we seek to re-energize ourselves as we push forward, leaving the last fifteen months in the rearview mirror! 

As the new president of WIN, elected in January 2021, I would like to share my thoughts, hopes, inspiration, and a bit of my history with WIN.  First and foremost, I am honored and excited to work with the current board of WIN. The harmony, commitment, and synergy of the board makes me believe that together we will make change possible, connect women and girls across cultures and assure that all women and girl’s voices are heard in public forums for full participation in their governments, societies, and economies.  

My history with WIN commenced when I attended the Beijing Women Conference, much awaited for a decade as I missed the third International Women Conference in Nairobi due to illness of a loved one. On our long flight from San Francisco to Shanghai, China, along with more than seventy other women and girls from the Bay Area of California, I met Marilyn Fowler, the founder of WIN. After the Beijing Women Conference, Marylin and I stayed in touch.  As an active member of WIN, located in southern California, I was an advocate for “Bringing Beijing Home.” Through this initiative, I shared the lessons learned and my experiences not only at various campuses of California State University but also with ESL classes in downtown LA.  Along with community activism, I taught in the Women Studies Programs of CSU, two of my beloved courses, “Global Women’s Movement” and “Women in Cross-Cultural Perspectives.” With my students, in these courses, we examined, reflected upon, and unpacked UN Women’s Conferences, “The Beijing Platform for Action,” and “Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies.”   

As Chair and President of the Commission on the Status of Women at California State University Long Beach, and WIN board member,  I presented at the majority of the CSW NGO forums since 1995 along with other regional conferences including the first (1998) post-Beijing Latin America conference in Cuba.    Being an active part of WIN during conversations about : 1)establishing “Circles”, the “ Cities for CEDAW ” national campaign; 2) hosting Uganda delegation, being part of the WIN grassroots delegation to Afghanistan; 3) working closing with Afghan Women Network to select a delegation from Afghanistan women to visit California; and 4) having an all-day event, hosting the delegation from Afghanistan by (RIP) President Gordon of California State University Fullerton. These are but a few of many other memories weaved into my life during the last 26 years, which makes WIN an important part of my life and identity.  

As a women’s human rights advocate, CEDAW, The Bill of Rights of Women and Girls was important to me even before my path crossed WIN. I learned about CEDAW in 1984 as a result of an introduction to (RIP) Billi Heller, the founding member and chair of the national committee on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. So, clearly, when the Cities for CEDAW campaign was coined by the collaboration of the SF Commission on the Status of Women and WIN in 2013 at one of the informal gatherings of CSW, it was dear and near to my heart.

So here we are, in June of 2021, I am honored to serve an organization that I have been serving in different capacities in the last 26 years, I am committed to do what is needed to unmask the talents, commitments to gender equality, justice, and the creativity of the global network of WIN to make a meaningful, positive, impactful difference for women and girls.    

Now is the time that with collaboration and coalition-building we join efforts to ratify CEDAW locally and at the national level and ensure that the rights and dignity of every woman and girl are honored and protected. As the past chair of Global Circles of WIN, the goal of reinvigorating the circles of WIN and forming new circles is still at the heart of WIN.  

My goal with the post-pandemic of WIN is to continue to offer quality and diverse programming that helps the interest and needs of our members and WIN community. The quarterly newsletter will keep the community of WIN informed of the latest events and updates about our community organizing and CEDAW efforts at local, national, and global levels. As a mediator, I also value collaboration and coalition building amongst civil society entities that are striving to accomplish gender equality and justice, locally and globally.  

Three Women, Three Generations, One Shared Vision for the Future of Afghanistan

WIN hosted this well-attended event on the 14th to bring the voice of three women, three generations who were forced to leave Afghanistan recently to save their lives and the lives of their families. The program was in English. In this event, we were honored to have the following amazing change-makers.

Najiba Ayubi – Journalist

Award-winning journalist Najiba Ayubi – is an Afghan journalist and activist for human rights and freedom of the press with over two decades of experience covering news stories in the country. Ms. Ayubi has worked under anonymous threats and attacks from government entities for her reporting on politics and women’s rights. As Managing Director of The Killid Group, she leads a team of reporters working in print, broadcast, and online media that includes two of the country’s most popular magazines (Killid Weekly and Mursal Weekly) and eleven radio stations with a total of 12 million listeners and about 100 affiliated radios. She has refused calls for censorship and is passionate about independent media.

Ms. Ayubi is the co-founder of the Afghan Independent Media Consortium and the Freedom of Expression Initiative, which aims to provide resources and support for independent journalists in her country. In recognition of her courage and contribution, Ms. Ayubi won the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 2013.

The Killid Group General Director Najiba Ayubi, has been included in the first-ever list of 100 information heroes by Reporters Without Borders in 2014. The tireless advocate for freedom of expression Najiba Ayubi from Afghanistan has been recognized by the Swedish Section of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its annual Press Free-dom prize.

Ms. Ayubi is a specialist in managing all editorials, print materials including (magazines, booklets, brochures, news articles, etc…), digital media substances (DHSA/TKG owned websites, social media – Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter), and production and broadcasting of radio programs covering all walks of life. She worked reporting on crimes of war, transitional justice, social protection, and domestic violence. Najiba is a well-trained trainer.

She serves as head of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) Afghanistan chapter. Under Najiba’s supervision, a book was created by the IA-WRT Afghanistan chapter, ( Ahesta Wa Paiwasta (Slowly but Successively) which consists of 20 in-depth interviews with Afghan female journalists. Ms.Ayubi is the author of Shadow In The Dark expressive stories and realities of life of Afghan women & girls.

She directed a documentary ‘’ dar Edama e-Raah (The on-going path)’’ which shows the difficulties facing woman journalists in Afghanistan’s 100 years of history.

Najiba holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ebn-e-Sina University and graduated in Middle and Top Management Courses from Cranfield University, UK. She is a graduate of the Oslo-Met Certificate Course of Peace Journalism from the University of Oslo.

Latifa Ahmadi – Women’s Rights Activist – WIN Board Member

I am Latifa Ahmady from Afghanistan. I have 39 years and have 4 children.

I completed my primary and secondary education in Pakistan. I got my Bachelor’s Degree from Kabul Educational University- faculty of English Literature and my Master’s Degree in International Relations from Avicenna University- Kabul -Afghanistan. I dedicated my life to empowering women to break the chains of oppression, discrimination, and violence against women. I was a representative of Afghan women who participated in different European and Asian International women gathering for revealing the real conditions of Afghan women.

• Women activist since being 14 years

• Former Executive Director of OPAWC (Organization for Promoting Afghan Women Capabilities)

• Present Director of EBFO (Enter to Bright Future Organization)

I worked in different areas, but I spent most of my life period for OPAWC [Organization for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities]. I was responsible for the overall management of this organization and coordinating and updating provincial activities. Worked hard to teach the women to defend their rights and to participate in the women’s movements for their rights. Involved in reporting to donors and government agencies, involved in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating different projects, and Involved in developing training on different issues. I volunteered much of my time to extend OPAWC ‘s activities in different fields in different provinces in order to pave the way for more women and girls to walk through and learn. I volunteered my life and time for helping women and children in different fields.

Formally worked as administrator and translator in OPAWC, worked as Instructor in Private Institutes and Courses, worked as a translator and provincial coordinator in Ministry of Education of Afghanistan worked as freelancer translator in BBC monitoring Afghanistan, worked as a project assistant in COSPE Onlus an Italian Ngo and from October 2009 to May2017 worked as Executive Director of OPAWC. I resigned from OPAWC on May2017 in order to give the chance to other young women to take the lead.

I Registered and headed a new NGO named (Enter to Bright Future Organization) in Dec2018. The Objectives and Goals are to help vulnerable women and children and the youth generation. We had two small projects but could not find funds due to lockdown and Covid-19.

In December2020 my family was at high risk and there was no way to stay there, so we left Afghanistan and went to Uzbekistan, and from there came to Sweden.

Marva Dashti – Journalist

Marwa Dashti is a young passionate woman from Afghanistan, her work and passion lie in the same line of work as her Father. Her father Fahim Dashty was the biggest advocate for freedom of speech in Afghanistan and he lost his life defending the freedom he believed in. Marwa Dashti from a young age dreamed to follow her Dad’s footsteps, she started volunteering at Afghanistan National Journalist Union (ANJU) at the age of 17. After the fall of Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban, Marwa faced a lot of barriers after losing her Dad. On her way to Canada, she did not stop working and serving her nation. She served as a community mediator for a well-known charity and the embassy of the USA in Albania helping refugees transition.

CEDAW Ordinance Santa Clara County

Here is the WIN letter of support to the Policy Committee of Santa Clara County CSFC ( Children, Seniors, Families Committee) supporting the CEDAW Ordinance. The outstanding collective work of a host of organizations, including WIN and Cities for CEDAW, was highly effective, and the two supervisors ( Chavez and Ellenberg ) pulled the items and added them to consent. In addition, they specifically directed County Counsel to come back to the September meeting with a Draft CEDAW Ordinance and collaborate with the County’s Commission on the Status of Women to draft the ordinance. Our hat’s off to Nancy Bremeau for orchestrating such excellent support.

Cities for CEDAW Quarterly Meeting

The Cities for CEDAW quarterly meeting on June 18th, 2022 brought a number of people together locally and globally. At this meeting, We had an excellent presentation by Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi, CEDAW Chair, San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

The quarterly meetings of Cities for CEDAW are open to everyone interested to learn more about implementing CEDAW, the Bill of Rights of women and girls, at the local level. Here is the recording of this meeting. https://fb.watch/dVKUGeexur/

WIN / Cities for CEDAW Written and Oral Testimony for District of Columbia Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Amendment Act of 2022

Dr. Gail James

The Women’s Intercultural Network was pleased to submit written testimony and stand for oral testimony on 6/30/2022 for the Council of the District of Columbia on the Bill to implement efforts to address discrimination against women and girls. B24-649, the “Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Amendment Act of 2022”. Here is the link to three hours and 13 minutes round table on CEDAW. http://video.oct.dc.gov/VOD/DCC/2022_06/06_30_22_Facilities_Housing.html

San Diego’s CEDAW Ordinance: the value of national support, legislation overview, and the importance of focusing on poverty and intersectionality

Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi

In May 2022, San Diego County adopted an ordinance reflecting the principles underlying The United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The Value of National Support

Leading up to the adoption of this historic legislation, our County benefited tremendously from insightful, impactful, and timely support from individuals and entities across the nation, particularly the Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN) and the Cities for CEDAW Campaign (C4C). As Chair of the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls’ CEDAW Committee, this national network was vital to our Commission’s effective CEDAW advocacy.

As soon as our Board approved the drafting of an ordinance, a national network of CEDAW experts – including from WIN and C4C – sprung to action to assist our Commission’s CEDAW work. These dedicated CEDAW advocates provided insight during our drafting phase, submitted formal public comment to strengthen our ordinance, and wrote and called in to encourage our Board of Supervisors to vote to adopt our ordinance. This network also participated in our public forums, which we organized to obtain community input on our draft language to ensure our ordinance represented the needs of all women and girls in our region.

CEDAW representatives – from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles – volunteered their time to share their experiences working on and implementing similar legislation. In fact, C4C Advisory Committee member Mary Hansel joined Pittsburgh Gender Equity Commissioner Judy Hale to volunteer time to serve as a panelist at our public forums. This helped us educate our community about the value of CEDAW legislation, and the importance of effective implementation. C4C also worked relentlessly to support our ordinance through CEDAW-based education, including Mary Hansel who dedicated countless hours to educate the community through a local op-ed on behalf of C4C.

Legislation Overview

Our CEDAW ordinance contains six sections. The Local Principles of CEDAW section addresses seven areas: economic development; the criminal legal system; political and civic engagement; healthcare; gender-based violence and harassment; housing and homelessness; and transportation, library services, parks and recreation, and environmental health services. The Local Implementation of the CEDAW section delineates the implementation plan, including the intersectional gender analyses, and the intersectional gender equity action plans. After the baseline intersectional gender equity analysis is completed, each County department, office, program, board, commission, and other operational unit will develop an intersectional gender action plan. Simultaneously to the development of the unit-specific plans, the County will also develop a five-year Countywide intersectional gender equity plan.

The Importance of Focusing on Poverty and Intersectionality

As a Commissioner, a Vice-Chair, and the CEDAW Committee Chair, I am proud of the progress that will be made as this important legislation is implemented. As a poverty law and civil rights attorney, I am particularly proud that our ordinance centers women in poverty and mandates an intersectional discrimination approach. Through my work representing low-income individuals and nonprofit organizations that serve low-income individuals, I know first-hand how poverty disproportionately adversely impacts women. From my role as an adjunct law professor teaching USD Law’s Poverty Law course, I am also acutely aware of the history and legislative intent underlying the programs and services intended to serve low-income women.

In San Diego – and globally – women are significantly more likely to live in poverty than men. Women are also more likely to live in extreme poverty than men. Single parent households with children headed by women are more likely to live in poverty than married couple families. Minoritized women-headed households with children are more likely to live poverty than white women-headed households with children. A majority – 80% according to one report – of women in jails are mothers, and the majority of these mothers were the primary caregivers for their children. Having children is the single greatest predictor of whether someone will face eviction, especially minoritized women who continue to be paid significantly less than white women. 

Given the vital role policy plays in poverty alleviation, it is imperative that CEDAW ordinances center poverty. In drafting the ordinance, I worked to center poverty, which was consistent with our CEDAW advocacy which drew attention to Census Bureau data illustrating the level of poverty – and extreme poverty – experienced by women and girls in our region. I am proud that our CEDAW ordinance explicitly includes the administration of public benefits, because of the impact public benefits have on minoritized women with children living in poverty. Once implemented, our ordinance will allow us to identify, analyze, and eliminate discriminatory barriers in all services and programs, including the administration of public benefits. As a result, our ordinance will address – and remedy – the discriminatory effects experienced by the most socioeconomically disadvantaged women in our County.

It is also of utmost importance that CEDAW ordinances mandate an intersectional discrimination approach. This is necessary to ensure that this work mitigates – rather than perpetuates – discrimination. I am proud of the language in our ordinance that makes clear how each gender equity analysis will be conducted – and each plan will be developed – through an intersectional framework. I am also proud that our ordinance contains a clause that specifically addresses intersectionality. That clause states “Multiple forms of discrimination compound to disadvantage and oppress women, including race, ethnicity, immigration status, disability, familial status, and age.”

Through this poverty-focused and intersectional approach, our ordinance envisions and sets forth a framework to ensure that everyone is free from gender discrimination of any kind. In implementing our ordinance, our County will apply an evidence-based, data-driven approach to identify, analyze, and remove discriminatory barriers. This will serve to assert and advance the rights of all San Diegans, particularly women in poverty and minoritized women.  

Conclusion

In summary, our County benefitted tremendously from the support of a national network of CEDAW advocates, particularly WIN and C4C. Their support, efforts, and expertise throughout this process was invaluable. This CEDAW network continues to provide support as San Diego County enters its implementation phase. Thank you WIN and C4C for improving the lives of women and girls in San Diego County.   

Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi is a Commissioner and Vice-Chair of the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. Since 2019, she has chaired the Commission’s CEDAW Committee and is a founding member of the statewide CEDAW Challenge Team. A graduate of University of Michigan, University of California Davis School of Law, and the Racial Justice Institute, Parisa has represented low-income, minoritized families and individuals in civil rights and poverty law cases across California since 2010. In addition to practicing law full-time, she serves as an adjunct law professor at USD Law, where she teaches the law school’s Poverty Law course.

CEDAW and Sexual Assault

Elahe Amani – April 2022

April is the sexual assault awareness month.  It is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.  During this month, States, territories, community-based organizations, rape crisis centers, government agencies, businesses, campuses, and individuals, plan events and activities to highlight sexual violence as public health, human rights, and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.   

Few words about the history of April as the sexual assault awareness month.  During the 1970s we saw significant growth in prevention and awareness of sexual violence across the United State, following the general trend of social activism throughout the decade. Moving beyond awareness of the issue, the Bay Area Women Against Rape opened in 1971 as the nation’s first rape crisis center offering immediate victim services. With this heightened awareness of sexual violence, state coalitions began to form, beginning with Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape in 1975.

As early as 1976, Take Back the Night marches rallied women in an organized protest against rape and sexual assault. These marches protested the violence and fear that women encountered walking the streets at night. Over time these events coordinated into a movement across the United States and Europe. Because of this movement, broader activities to raise awareness of violence against women began to occur.

As we know these national efforts, were the context for valuable contributions of American women in the language of CEDAW, as an International Convention, a convention is also known as the “Bill of rights for women and girls “. 

In the early 1980s, activists used October to raise awareness of violence against women and domestic violence awareness became the main focus. In the late 1980s, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) informally polled state sexual assault coalitions to determine the preferred date for a national Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

A week in April was selected. By the late 1990s, many advocates began coordinating activities and events throughout the month of April, advancing the idea of a nationally recognized month for sexual violence awareness and prevention activities. SAAM was first observed nationally in April 2001.

Survivors, advocates, and state coalitions mobilized around the creation and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.  I was part of the movements in 1991 the Coalition of Women from Asia and the Middle East CWAME was established and I was co-chair of it.  The focus of CWAME was on violence against women in the political framework of Women’s Human rights.   We were very active in representing the women in immigrant communities of Asia and the Middle east in the efforts leading to enacting and implementation of VAWA.  This bill was the first national law requiring law enforcement to treat gender violence as a crime rather than a private family matter. VAWA was also designed to strengthen legal protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence as well as expand services to survivors and their children

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center was established in 2000 by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Center for Disease Control. In 2001, the NSVRC coordinated the first formally recognized national Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign and still facilitates it today. In 2005, the campaign shifted to the prevention of sexual violence, and the first tool kits were sent out to coalitions and rape crisis centers across the country. Awareness for the campaign culminated in 2009 when Barack Obama was the first president to officially proclaim April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

While we all hear the terms sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse ARE often lumped together and interchangeably used, the severity of the crime, the punishment, and the law each fall under different categories.  

While sexual harassment falls under civil law, sexual assault falls under criminal law. Sexual assault is any type of intentional physical conduct that the victim has not consented to.  Any form of sexual violence, including the four terms above, are violence against women, a major public health concern. 

Now what does sexual assault has to do with CEDAW?

since the general assembly voted on CEDAW in 1979, The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), which is charged with reviewing the performance of each state under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), CEDAW provides a well-developed framework for addressing violence against women globally and locally.

As I shared CEDAW was the outcome of the serious global conversation on violence against women particularly THE ANTI VIOLENCE and women’s human rights in the United State. However, the text of CEDAW does not refer explicitly to gender-based violence.    That is why the CEDAW Committee went on record in 1992 when it adopted a General Recommendation that explicates the core issues with respect to gender-based violence and the required remedies. Moreover, CEDAW country reviews consistently address violence against women, and the topic has been the subject of a number of individual communications under its Optional Protocol.

The CEDAW Committee took these steps before the concluding report of the World Conference on Human Rights placed women’s human rights front and center in the global quest for equality in 1993. In that year, feminist activists including American women were instrumental in the adoption of the “World Conference Declaration and Program of Action” statement that “Gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including those resulting from cultural prejudice and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated.” At that time, however, neither the Conference participants—almost all the countries in the world—nor the nongovernmental organizations that lobbied for the issue, recommended adopting a treaty specifically focusing on violence against women.

CEDAW Committee has always updated the concept of CEDAW by issuing “general recommendations” to make the treaty more effective in its approach to gender-based violence. CEDAW Committee General Recommendation No. 19 from 1992 was historic as it clearly framed violence against women as a form and manifestation of gender-based discrimination, used to subordinate and oppress women.  It unequivocally brought violence outside of the private sphere and into the realm of human rights.

It was on 14 July 2017, that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) adopted General Recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women, updating General Recommendation No. 19.

General Recommendation No. 35 elaborates on the gender-based nature of violence, building on the work of the Committee and other international human rights mechanisms, as well as developments at national, regional, and international levels.

General Recommendation No. 35 is also a milestone in the below-referenced items :

  • “It recognizes that the prohibition of gender-based violence has become a norm of international customary law;
  • It expands the understanding of violence to include violations of sexual and
  • It calls for the repeal of all laws and policies that directly and indirectly excuse, condone and facilitate violence; and
  • It emphasizes the need for approaches that promote and respect women’s autonomy and decision-making in all spheres of life. “

Cities/ counties for the CEDAW campaign or any other efforts are to create a framework for improving the status of women and girls locally, to make women ‘s rights and dignity a reality in our communities, and hold the people in a position of power accountable to take action, to address all barriers and allocate new and additional resources to accomplish for eliminating all forms of discriminations against women and girls.  

1998 San Francisco CEDAW Ordinance, required action in the form of preventive and forward-thinking efforts to ensure that city resources, policies, and actions do not intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against women and girls from any community.  

the San Francisco CEDAW Ordinance in 1998 proved that an ordinance on CEDAW and the cities and counties’ commitment with the support of civil society organizations can tremendously improve the safety and security of women and in particular reduce gender-based violence.  Here are some of the highlights:

1.   44 Months Without Domestic Violence Homicide – Cross-agency approach to

domestic violence response led to a record 44 months without a single domestic violence homicide.

2.    Gender Equality Principles Initiative – Seven gender equality principles ranging from employment and compensation to supply chain practices support more productive workplaces for both women and men.

    3. Developed Proper Police Codes – Collaboration between the Department on the Status of     Women, the Police Department, 911 response team, Office of the City Attorney, and other agencies to adopt new codes for stalking, child abuse, and elder abuse.

    4. Expanded Language Access – Trained 150 emergency personnel in basic Chinese and Spanish     phrases for responding to domestic violence and partnered with local foundations to provide     phones to access 170 different languages at crime scenes.

    5. Family Violence Council – Addresses family violence across the lifespan by bringing together advocates working against child abuse, and domestic violence, and proposes policy reforms to improve the criminal justice, social service, and community-based programs.

    6. San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking – A coalition of community-based organizations and government agencies to eliminate modern slavery.

    7. Mayor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking – A holistic effort, staffed by the Department on the     Status of Women, with participation from law enforcement, public health, child welfare, the school district, and community-based organizations that work with trafficking survivors.

    8. Gender Analysis of City Agencies – Government agencies examined their policies, programs, and services to ensure that they are non-discriminatory and fully serve all communities of women and girls. Nine city agencies have undergone such analysis.

    9. Violence Against Women Prevention and Intervention Grants Program – The Department on the     Status of Women distributes grants totaling $3 million to 24 community-based organizations.

    10. Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance –Working parents and caregivers have the right to request a flexible or predictable work schedule without fear of retaliation.  

May we have CEDAW implemented in every city and county of our state and the entire United States.  

NGO CSW66, Groundbreaking & Historic

A note by Elahe Amani, Chair of Women’s Intercultural Network

The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66)—the second largest UN intergovernmental meeting in New York—closed its two-week-long session on March 25th. The priority theme was achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs, and the review theme was women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work (agreed conclusions of the sixty-first session).

CSW66 Agreed Conclusions were groundbreaking and therefore ‘historic’ for the UN as it is the first time CSW has recognized the connections between climate change and gender equality and confirmed that all women and girls are disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change such as droughts and floods and other environmental crises, and offer specific actions which the Member States, UN agencies and Civil Society/NGOs can take to ensure resilience, mitigation, and sustainable recovery, especially for all women and girls.

This historic session acknowledged and reaffirmed women’s and girls’ leadership as a key to addressing climate change, environmental, and disaster risk reduction for all. 

The agreed conclusions adopted by the Member States are a blueprint for world leaders to promote women’s and girls’ full and equal participation and leadership in the designing and implementation of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies and programs moving forward. 

What the Statement of the CEDAW Committee expressed at the 44th session on August 7, 2009, on Gender and Climate Change that “women are not just helpless victims of climate change – they are powerful agents of change and their leadership is critical. “ became a reality by the CSW66 historical Agreed Conclusion.

Here are the sessions organized by WIN and those we are thankful we had the opportunity to contribute and present. 

“At the crossroads of Climate, Gender, and Peace: Integrating Climate and Security across the UN Policy Agendas”.

24 March 2022 | 12:30pm-2:00pm EST Women’s Intercultural Network joined with  Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), UN Women, Shifting the Power Coalition, and the Australian Mission to co-sponsor A virtual informal discussion on how some of the key recommendations of CSW 66 can be operationalized in practice through existing platforms (i.e., the UNSC and UN Climate and Security Mechanism, the Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact (WPS-HA Compact, etc.) 

The conversation was Moderated by Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, GPPAC Pacific Regional Representative & Regional Director – Shifting the Power Coalition and began with Marina Kumskova, GPPAC Senior UN Policy and Advocacy Advisor sharing an overview and key takeaways from the CSW66 Agreed Conclusions.

Given the backdrop of UN Security Council Resolution 2242 (S/RES/2242) recognizing the impacts of climate change and the global nature of health pandemics on the trajectory of conflict, and given the inaugural meeting of the Informal Expert Group on Climate and Security in November 2020, which was followed in February 2021, by the UNSC convening for a high-level open debate on climate and security,  governments and civil society recognize the linkage between climate vulnerability and conflict fragility. 

In this discussion, global peacebuilding and development experts shared the key takeaways from the CSW discussions and the ways the key commitments can inform peacebuilding and development action. This discussion continued building on the ongoing progress in the development of global policy and finance supporting climate security action, including from an intersectional feminist perspective. References were made to important lessons learned from local peacebuilding networks – through their various entry points – who have been able to consolidate knowledge and expertise on climate and security and systematize information exchange through institutionalized channels of multi-stakeholder action. Noted was UNDP report “What Infrastructures for Peace support Peacebuilding in the context of Fragility and Crisis”.

Speakers included:

Christine Clarke, Ambassador for Women and Girls, the representative of Australia 

Kyra Luchtenberg, Peace and Security Analyst, Peace, Security and Humanitarian Section at UN Women

Carolyn Kitione, Shifting the Power Coalition Learning Coordinator 

Olha Zaiarna, GPPAC Regional Representative for Eastern Europe, Ukraine 

Marion Akiteng, Gender Focal Person at Centre For Conflict Resolution (CECORE), Uganda

Catherine Wong, Policy Specialist – Climate and Security Risk, Crisis Bureau UNDP  

Ms. Hayley Keen, Australia’s Mission to the United Nations

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

15 December 2021

E/CN.6/2022/NGO/144
Agenda 2030 puts gender equality at the core of sustainable and inclusive
development. Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls
will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets. The
achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible
if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.
(UNFPA) Gender must be mainstreamed. Sustainable Development Goal 5
recognized gender equality as a fundamental right in itself, and instrumentally
valuable as a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Despite this recognition, equality remains elusive.
The brunt of the dual crises of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the economic
“she-cession” has been shouldered by women, with effects exacerbated along existing
racial, social, and economic lines. These crises intersect with the climate crises to
create a trifecta of vulnerability for the most marginalized. It’s the world’s poorest
and those in vulnerable situations, especially women and girls, who bear the brunt of
environmental, economic, and social impacts. Women and girls face greater health and
safety risks, as water and sanitation systems become compromised and in situations
of scarcity, they take on increased domestic and care work.
Through their experiences as early adopters of holistic and regenerative
agricultural techniques, first responders in crises, entrepreneurs of green energy, and
decision-makers at home, women offer valuable insights and solutions into better
managing the climate’s changes and its risks. Despite this, their collective and
individual lived experience and leadership are often overlooked and undervalued.
Building a sustainable future entails harnessing the knowledge, skills, and leadership
of women in climate action. Because women sit precariously at the intersection of
many daunting social problems including poverty, climate change, and violence, it is
critical that they be safe and empowered to reach their full potential. Gender mainstreaming will accelerate progress across all SDG’s. It’s no wonder then that
women’s leadership is explicitly called for in the preamble to the Paris Accord.
Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the
context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and
programs is an urgent multilateral and multi-stakeholder endeavor.
UN Women has identified important priorities:

  1. Enhancing understanding and expertise by all stakeholders on gender
    mainstreaming and the integration of a gender perspective in the thematic areas under
    the Convention, Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Accord.
  2. Enhancing disaggregate data collection and knowledge of the application
    of gender-responsive tools and methodologies to realize gender-responsive
    implementation of decisions.
    Women’s Intercultural Network proposes the following recommendations:
  3. Member states must honor existing climate commitments and implement
    new strategies and policies to enhance results, including stronger engagement with
    the private sector, indigenous peoples, and civil society, with an increased focus on
    gender equality.
  4. Mitigation and adaptation strategies must center a Climate Justice Human
    Rights framework to ensure policies, programs, and initiatives are equitable for
    women and girls, and all marginalized groups. The climate crisis is a transformational
    moment in history that holds the opportunity to transform not only the energy sector,
    but discriminatory structures of governance, and unsustainable economic models.
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    Integrated sustainable projects and programs that advance social, economic and
    environmental solutions must be prioritized.
  5. The creation of a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate
    change is needed to increase accountability for women’s and human rights abuses
    linked to climate change and to guide governments on addressing climate change from
    a human rights perspective.
  6. Climate Change Education must become a mandatory curriculum at all
    levels, including the development and implementation of educational and public
    awareness programs on climate change and its gendered effects. Curricular guidelines
    provide a solid framework for facilitating and financing the development,
    implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of gender-inclusive Climate Change
    Education. (S. Aibe, K. Gross 2021)
  7. Girls’ participation in local, national, and international climate fora by
    creating guidelines for youth engagement in climate decision-making processes.
    Publicize the critical and intersectional roles that women and girls play in accelerating
    climate adaptation and resilience activities in families and communities, and the
    expertise they bring from their daily lives. (S. Aibe, K. Gross 2021)
  8. Climate solutions must center on both indigenous and women’s leadership.
    Their role in decision-making, protection, and management of resources is crucial.
    Women and girls face a disproportionate risk of food scarcity, water availability,
    violence and climate, and conflict-induced migration. Policies must be informed by,
    and responsive to, their needs. Indigenous communities steward 80 percent of the
    world’s biodiversity. Conservation initiatives and the protection of carbon sinks are
    vital to mitigate climate change and avert its worst effects. Ample evidence shows
    protecting forest-dependent communities, the rights of Indigenous peoples’ tenure,
    ensuring women’s participation in local forest governance delivers major benefits for
    the climate. Furthermore, in cases where women have been fully involved in local forest
    governance that delivers both livelihood and conservation benefits, forest
    regeneration and canopy growth improved. (Human Rights Watch)
  9. Best practices in just climate-responsive legislations and strategies should
    be replicated.
    a. Illinois offers a prime example of transformative legislation at the state
    level. The groundbreaking Climate and Equitable Jobs Act is legislation that
    will bring lessons learned to states across the country that are poised to make an
    equitable transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. The Climate and Equitable
    Jobs Act marks one of the nation’s greatest advancements in climate justice and
    workforce transition, creating integrated solutions that advance equity and
    climate objectives.
    b. Women’s Intercultural Network encourages states, non-governmental and
    the public and private sectors to fund and apply the gender-focused evaluation,
    practices, and metrics outlined in CEDAW to bring this global framework to
    local communities to advance women and girls’ equity and accelerate progress
    across all SDG’s. The sustainable cities initiative of UN-Habitat and the work
    to realize SDG 11 have spurred policies, programs, partnerships, and initiatives
    to address local risk and resiliency. Gender mainstreaming is imperative to
    ensure this work is inclusive, equitable, effective, and sustainable. Women’s
    Intercultural Network has been connecting CEDAW to local action. Since its
    launch in 2014, the Cities for CEDAW Campaign has identified vital links
    between human rights, gender equity, and local public policy. As Resolutions
    and Ordinances have taken shape in numerous localities across the United
    States, it is clear that advocates, both men, and women, see their communities as
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    responsive, organic, and committed to the well-being and empowerment of
    women and girls and families. To date, under the aegis of Women’s Intercultural
    Network and partners, 10 cities have enacted ordinances that incorporate anti-discrimination human rights standards and strategies into local governance,
    modeled by the language of the UN CEDAW Treaty.
    These ordinances demonstrate the growing consensus that CEDAW is a roadmap
    to gender equity, inclusion, and sustainability at the grassroots level. In addition to
    US municipal ordinances, there are currently 10 county governmental bodies that
    have adopted the CEDAW model to identify inequities. The Cities for CEDAW
    Campaign mandates a Gender Analysis to study and address discriminatory policies
    and practices. These analyses provide localized disaggregate data points on
    employment, social services, access, and participation. The resulting data informs
    strategic plans and policy decisions. Adopting a local CEDAW framework provides
    oversight and creates the measurement mechanisms essential to track progress.
    Oversight bodies like Gender Equity Commissions and Task Forces have been
    instrumental in addressing equitable inclusive decision-making, pay equity, work-related imbalances, safety, and violence against women.
    Climate risk is a vulnerability multiplier. Because CEDAW cities are more
    equitable, they are inherently more resilient. Closing the gender gap builds individual
    and community resilience.
    The CEDAW framework is instrumental in advancing the BPfA. It provides
    local governments, in partnership with civil society organizations and the private
    sector, the tools to build a sustainable infrastructure for gender equality. CEDAW
    establishes that climate justice and sexual and reproductive health rights are
    interlinked in the human rights and empowerment framework.
  10. Climate Investments must match the scale and urgency of the problem.
    Prioritizing women in clean energy investments, access to capital, job training, hiring,
    ownership, and new business creation is important in closing the gender gap and a
    necessary step to “building back better.” These mitigation investments must include
    retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency; adopting renewable energy
    sources like solar, wind; helping cities develop more sustainable transport: bus rapid
    transit, electric vehicles, and promoting more sustainable uses of land and forests.
    Programs and policies that protect Coastal Wetlands, promote Agroforestry and
    regenerative farming, decentralize clean energy distribution, and fund integrated
    solutions that address adaptation and mitigation will promote resiliency.

Meet Our Board Member – Latifa Ahmady

Latifa Ahmadi was born in Afghanistan and completed her primary and secondary education in Pakistan. She got her Bachelor Degree from Kabul Educational University- faculty of English Literature and Master Degree in International Relations from Avicenna University- Kabul -Afghanistan. She dedicated her life to empower women to break the chains of oppressions, discrimination and violence against women. As a representative of Afghan women, she participated in different European and Asian International women gathering for revealing real condition of Afghan women.

  • Women activist since she was 14 years old
  • Former Executive Director of OPAWC (Organization for Promoting Afghan Women Capabilities)
  • Present Director of EBFO (Enter to Bright Future Organization)

She worked in different areas, but she spent most of her life for OPAWC [Organization for Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities]. She was responsible for overall management of this organization, coordinating  provincial activities. She worked hard to teach the women to defend their rights and to participate in the women movements for their rights. Involved in reporting to donors and government agencies, involved in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of different projects, Involved in developing trainings on different issues.  She volunteered much of her time for extending OPAWC ‘s activities in different fields in different provinces in order to pave the way for more women and girls to walk through and to learn.  She volunteered her life and time for helping women and children in different fields.

Formally worked as administrator and translator in OPAWC, worked as Instructor in Private Institutes and Courses, worked as translator and provincial coordinator in Ministry of Education of Afghanistan, worked as freelancer translator in BBC monitoring Afghanistan, worked as project assistant in COSPE Onlus an Italian Ngo and from October 2009 to May2017 worked as Executive Director of OPAWC. She resigned from OPAWC on May 2017 in order to give the chance to other young women to take the leadership.

She established a new NGO named (Enter to Bright Future Organization) in Dec 2018. The Objectives and Goals of this organization was to help vulnerable women and children particularly youth generation. She had two small project but funding was a challenge due to lockdown and Covid-19.

In December 2020 she and her family were not safe in Afghanistan and had to leave under a very difficult circumstances to Uzbekistan.  Latifa and her husband and four children are not residing in Sweden.