The Politics of UN and UN Politics

UAE-SAUDI-WOMEN-DRIVING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image001.png

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

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

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


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

 Authors: Jessica Buchleitner and Lenka Belkova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iranian Circle of WIN Delegation to the UN CSW 60

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

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 2.04.59 AM.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussed and Drafted by Representatives from:

The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute

FemResources

Iranian Circle of Women’s Intercultural Network (ICWIN)

UNA Women Greater Kansas City

US Women Connect

Women’s Equality Coalition Greater Kansas City

Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN)

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

May 2016

 

 

Women’s Intercultural Network at UN CSW 60, March 2016

Written by Lenka Belkova, WIN Associate Director

In March WIN participated in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) 60th session in New York with an unprecedented number of NGO accredited delegates. This year’s UN CSW primary theme addressed women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.

Women’s Human Rights and Sustainable Cities with CEDAW and Habitat III panel at NGO CSW FORUM NY, March 15 2016

WIN’s star panel at the Forum “Women’s Human Rights and Sustainable Cities with CEDAW and Habitat III” was moderated by Elmy Bermejo, Region Nine Representative to the US Department of Labor in conversation with distinguished speakers Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of Center for Women’s Global Leadership,  Rutgers University; Araceli Campos, Commissioner, LA Commission on the Status of Women; Lois A. Herman, Editor and Publisher of Women’s United Nations Report Network; Ross Uchimura, CEO, Solariv, Sustainable Smart Village-Nepal; June Zeitlin, Director of Human Rights Policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Soon-Young Yoon, former Chair UN CSW NGO NY and visionary of Cities for CEDAW.

During the panel discussion Krishanti Dharmaraj stressed the importance of policies’ relevance for diverse communities to remain effective. With regard to Cities for CEDAW campaign, LA Commissioner Araceli Campos offered examples from Los Angeles on how a CEDAW ordinance can bring a change fostering fairness and inclusiveness by providing new programs for disadvantaged communities and training city employees to assist in identifying human traffickers. Long time advocate for US CEDAW ratification, June Zeitlin, reminded everyone that passing of CEDAW at the federal level is still as important as implementing it locally. Lois Herman, delivered passionate remarks on CEDAW education and mainstreaming while Ross Uchimura, whose ambitious plan to bring solar panels to Nepal with his company while upholding CEDAW principles, captured audiences attention with applause. Soon Young-Yoon, who paid a short visit to our panel, spoke about Habitat III.

The panel was well received and we hope that it incited even greater interest in the growing movement for local policies reflecting human rights principles.

WIN Co-Sponsored several other panels discussing topics from violence against women, technology for women’s empowerment, CEDAW activism in the USA, women’s entrepreneurship and support for refugee girls.

WIN Caucus at Ms Foundation, Brooklyn, NY

As every year, WIN invited organizations to comment at our annual Caucus on the UN CSW 60 Draft Agreed Conclusions for a collective statement addressed to US government representatives to the UN CSW.  Participating organizations included The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, FemResources, Iranian Circle of Women’s Intercultural Network, UNAWomen Greater Kansas City, US Women Connect, Women’s Equality Coalition Greater Kansas City and other community leaders from around the country. Our final statement highlighted the importance of

  • recognizing women’s contribution to the economy and society at large.
  • the rights of girls to underline girls’ unique needs and challenges, such as trafficking, genital mutilation, or the prevalent issue of child brides.
  • recognizing the importance of securing data for implementation and action.
  • increasing resources for marginalized population and strengthening accountability of all member states to develop effective actions and policies to adequately address gender based discrimination.
  • corporations that must be part of the discussion and accountability on upholding human rights.
  • the role of technology in empowering women and girls.
  • the right of access to information as a fundamental and universal right, necessary for economic empowerment and the fulfillment of other rights.
  • the right to gender identity as a key human right that must be as such addressed throughout the UN CSW 60th Agreed Conclusions.
MS Foundation

WIN Caucus

Many thanks go to our UN NGO delegates, panel speakers and everyone who engaged with us during UN CSW 60 in giving women and girls a stronger voice.

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.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

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!

10389344_685586961476595_8364090514959733478_n

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.

1912419_650946438273981_141471138_n

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

1505632_650927074942584_510891780_n

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.

1974373_10200942071028961_1375358504_o


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.

1148816_10200958105789820_894739450_n


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.