Iran’s Seat at the UN Commission on the Status of Women Gender and Regional Politics at the UN

Elahe Amani

Apr 27, 2021

On April 21st, the Islamic Republic of Iran was elected again to have a seat at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, a UN body that is “ …the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. “This election faced a frustrating, disappointing, and enraging reaction by Iranian women human rights defenders, feminist and gender equality activists. Undoubtedly, there cannot be a ground of any claim that Iran sought re-election to the Commission on the Status of Women / CSW because of a commitment to advance and protect gender equality and women’s empowerment, the goals of the CSW.

The problem and disappointment of membership of countries with a poor record on gender equality are not limited to Iran. Currently, Saudi Arabia ranks 147 on the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, is a member state of the CSW, and Pakistan was also re-elected again to have a seat the Commission on the Status of Women for the term 2022–2026 ranks 153. Iran ranks 150 of 156 countries listed on the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 (Page 10).

The UN Commission on the Status of Women/ CSW is a functional body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women that established by the Commission of the Economic and Social Council ( ECOSOC ) on 21 June 1946. CSW is instrumental in “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. “

Members of CSW are elected by the 193 states that make up the UN General Assembly. First, the Assembly elects 54 of its member states to serve on ECOSOC. Then, ECOSOC elects 45 states to serve on CSW for overlapping periods of four years: 13 from Africa, 11 from Asia-Pacific, nine from Latin America and the Caribbean, eight from the Western European and Others Group, and four from Eastern Europe. However, in the vast majority of cases, elections are uncontested — there are only as many candidates as there are vacancies in each regional group.

The value of the UN and its commissions lies in its universality and inclusivity because it seeks to involve all states in a dialogue about women’s human rights, gender equality, laws, and norms, and holds the position to raise standards through engagement and support, as well as through challenge and censure.

While the negative publicity from electing countries with poor records on women’s rights can potentially provide an opportunity to shed light on gross violation of women’s human rights and discriminations against women, but contextualizing the global backlash of women’s rights and the harsh reality that women and girls are facing, it is disheartening and disappointing particularly to generations of feminist and equality activist in countries like Iran. The reality is that the presence of countries such as Iran or Saudi Arabia with gross violation of women’s rights compromise the moral force of this body and damaging the credibility of the Commission. These are not countries renowned for their advancement of women’s rights and the record of their voting on the commission attest to their role as regressive forces in the discussion at the annual session and the final “Agreed Conclusion “, the document that the Commission on the Status of Women each year produces after the March session at the UN headquarters in New York.

Beyond the gender politics and politics of gender, beyond the political agenda of state and non-state actors including some civil societies, the Islamic Republic of Iran has one of the poorest records in terms of women social-economic, and political empowerment and has not even signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women / CEDAW, the Bill of Rights of women.

The UN Secretary-General report that was released in 2020, detailed Iran’s human rights abuses including its discrimination against women and girls “in law and practice, including with regard to family matters, freedom of movement, employment, culture, and sports, as well as access to political and judicial functions.” Also in the annual address to the U.N. Human Rights Council, U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, noted: “some positive steps” for Iranian women and girls in education and citizenship rights. But he also said, “egregious gender-based discrimination persists in law, practice and societal attitudes, disempowering women and girls from participating and contributing in society.”

In the international community, some argue and have this misconception that membership of countries with poor records on women’s rights or human rights, in UN functional bodies such as Human Rights Council or Commission on the Status of Women would encourage these countries to take steps in the right direction. However, during the multiple times that Iran had a seat in the Commission on the Status of Women, Iran neither encouraged nor took any significant action in the right direction to improve women’s rights records. During the four years of Iran’s previous term at the Commission on the Status of Women, women’s social, political, and economic rights were continuously violated, more women’s human rights defenders were imprisoned, women were sentenced to exercise their civil rights and objection to compulsory Hijab, the number of women in poverty particularly women as head of household increased, child marriage was promoted by state media, no action was taken to legally protect women and girls from various forms of violence and safety and security of women was more endangered than previous years.

During the election of member states on April 21st, 43 of the 54 nations in the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted in favor of the re-election of Iran to the Commission on the Status of Women for a four-year term beginning in 2022. It is speculated that at least four current members in the block of western European countries of ECOSOC, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Swiss, United Kingdom, United States, or Portugal voted in favor of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It should be noted that While typically ECOSOC regional groups’ nominations for the Commission on the Status of Women, the U.S. usually exercised its authority as an ECOSOC member to call for a symbolic vote and they requested the vote on April 21st.

While the role of countries like Iran, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia is very limited in the “Agreed Conclusion“ and any resolutions emanating from the session, but there are strategies that other member states can take to nullify the presence of these countries. In 2017, The Belgian Prime Minister issues a public apology of his country vote to put Saudi Arabia as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Instead of questioning the credibility and role of the UN and its commissions including the Commission on the Status of Women, global civil society should strategize on strengthening the voices of civil society at the UN. The official reports of functional bodies of the UN including the reports to the Commission on the Status of Women do not include the submission of civil society reports ( NGOs). It is expected that the Member States develop meaningful engagement in civil society in all their diversity and as part of their presence at the UN Commission. But, it is clear in societies like Iran or Saudi Arabia or a whole host of other countries, because of lack of democracy and freedom, engagement of civil society is limited to a few GONGOs. For this very reason, civil society shadow reports have been developed voluntarily, often to challenge, inform, and/or strengthening the country reports and shed light on the reality of women and girls’ life that are not included in the country reports.

As an Iranian American, I hope Iranian civil society, including but not limited to women’s organizations collectively strategies on preparing comprehensive and inclusive shadow reports about the harsh reality of Iranian women and girls, documenting the many aspects of gender discriminations and regressive policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the diaspora, we have the opportunity to contribute to the civil society voices and the women’s movement, build coalition and collaborations and keep up the voices and spirit of the Iranian independent women’s movement.

In the words of Arundhati Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

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

Commission on the Status of Women

Sixty-seventh session

6-17 March 2023

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.

Since the Fourth World Conference’s adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) in 1995, Women’s Intercultural Network, a United States based organization, has been at the forefront working locally and globally to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. In 1995, recognizing technology as vital to communication, Women’s Intercultural Network collaborated with Apple Computer to set up a Local Area Network in Beijing to connect with and provide real-time updates to members and civil society partners in the US on the workings of the Conference. Committed to advancing the Beijing Platform for Action, Women’s Intercultural Network built the first state policy mechanism to implement the BPfA, known globally as the California Women’s Agenda, then leveraged the power of technology to connect groups of women from the USA, Uganda, Iran, Afghanistan, Japan and around the world with the US policy mechanism for the BPfA. Women’s Intercultural Network’s decades of engagement at the annual Commission on the Status of Women has included panels on technology and education along with technology in the context of peace and security. Given our history, global network and stalwart commitment to advancing women’s human rights globally and locally, Women’s Intercultural Network supports the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality in urging a global multi-sector mobilization to shape a feminist digital future. Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of the digital revolution requires addressing socio-cultural, data-driven and regulatory challenges faced by both public and private sector actors. The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation will advance work towards the Global Digital Compact proposed in the Common Agenda, in close consultation with Member States, the technology industry, private companies, civil society, and other stakeholders. The role of civil society and the leadership and representation of women and girls is paramount.  

As the Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation seeks to advance work towards the Global Digital Compact proposed in the Common Agenda, efforts by Member States, the technology industry, private companies, civil society, and other stakeholders must consider and be informed by the diverse needs and insights of women and girls to ensure a robust and inclusive digital transformation that benefits society and marginalized individuals.  

Digital transformation holds tremendous potential, but also great peril for women and girls. Women and girls in all their diversities must have equal access to opportunities to use, lead, and design technology and innovation. Progress in this area requires the world to address the significant digital divide and entrenched gender norms that continue to limit the aspirations of young women and girls. Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of the digital revolution necessitates investments in digital infrastructure alongside policies and programs that support women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Addressing gaps requires funding, urgent multilateral and multi-stakeholder commitments and accountability. 

Data collection must be deliberate, funded and disaggregated. 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 by mainstreaming gender.

To this end, WIN connects CEDAW to local action. Since 2014, the Cities for CEDAW Campaign has identified vital links between human rights, gender equity, and local public policy.  Resolutions and Ordinances have taken shape in localities across the United States committed to the well-being and empowerment of women and girls and their families. To date Women’s Intercultural Network and its partners have guided 15 cities committed to tracking and measuring disaggregate data by enacting ordinances that incorporate anti-discrimination human rights standards and strategies into local governance, modeled by the UN CEDAW Treaty.         

These ordinances, along with the 40 City/County Resolutions have established commitments to CEDAW concepts and practices. An additional 35 U.S. cities and 10 counties are exploring this initiative, demonstrating the growing consensus that CEDAW is a roadmap to gender equity, inclusion, and sustainability at the grassroots. The Cities for CEDAW Campaign mandates a Gender Analysis. These analyses provide localized disaggregated data 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. These gender-based equity initiatives across the country will enhance critical data needs and analyses, addressing crucial digital divides that limit access and opportunity for women and girls.  Inability to participate in civil society due to lack of connectivity or vocational and technical skills is a form of discrimination outlined by CEDAW. The gendered nature of cyber crimes is yet another. 

Diverse cities have committed to improve the status of women and girls in paid and unpaid labor, childcare, access to education, social and financial services with attention to intersectional outreach to overcome racial inequality, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and bias experienced in rural, refugee and indigenous communities. Progress relies on disaggregated data, but also necessitates funding, education and training alongside innovation. CEDAW cities and counties are addressing the digital divides that plague both urban cores and rural areas, increasing educational and employment opportunities for marginalized women and girls. 

The digital revolution is a transformational moment in history that holds the opportunity to advance equity and human rights globally or perilously undercut both. 

Women’s Intercultural Network proposes the following recommendations: 

1. Member states must deliver commitments to finance and advance gender equality and accelerate progress by implementing strategies and digital policies informed by stronger engagement with the private sector, civil society, with increased focus on women’s leadership. 

2. Digital advances must be inclusive, intersectional, support women’s human rights and strong societies. Member states and the private and public sectors must commit to responsible use of data, upholding the rights and privacy and safety of individuals. Technology, innovation, policies and services must be informed by and reach the most marginalized including rural, poor, indigenous, refugee, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled. Gender biases in Artificial Intelligence algorithms replicate patterns of discrimination; therefore, deliberate design must advance gender equality and non-discrimination in technology and development. AI technologies used for surveillance, such as facial recognition, also raise safety issues. For example, these technologies could be used to curb the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and used against those who partake in peaceful protests, including human rights defenders. 

3. Strategies must center a Human Rights framework to ensure policies, programs, and initiatives are equitable for women and girls, and all marginalized groups. Member states and stakeholders must prioritize innovative and sustainable technologies, projects and programs that advance gender equity through social, economic and environmental solutions. 

4. Education must focus on access, infrastructure, and closing the digital divide. Curriculum delivery must advance to leverage online learning. Investing in building a culture of digital literacy for marginalized communities requires collaborating with civil society organizations and school districts to ensure success.

In the United States, the digital divide is an old problem in the new normal. As things stand in 2022, “24 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet, and many more cannot connect due to gaps in digital equity and literacy and/or because the service is priced beyond their reach. To connect every household, Congress has tasked states with federal broadband funding and oversight from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

A 2020 study by Common Sense Media, “Education SuperHighway” found that 30 percent of US K-12 grade public school students live in households without either an internet connection, a device adequate for remote learning, or both. Sixty percent of these disconnected students can’t afford digital access; up to 40 percent face adoption barriers (e.g., a deficit of digital literacy skills or an inability to complete the signup process for low-cost broadband service); and 25 percent lack access to reliable digital infrastructure (an issue primarily impacting students in rural regions, in particular, Native American students). 

Intersectionality, race exacerbates the digital divide. Black and Hispanic households account for nearly half of all Americans without internet access at home. It’s not surprising that 70 percent of Blacks and 60 percent of Hispanics are insufficiently equipped with digital skills to compete in the current job market. According to Deutsche Bank report, “America’s Racial Gap and Big Tech’s Closing Window,” 76 percent of Blacks and 62 percent of Hispanics could get shut out of or be underprepared for U.S. jobs by 2045. 

The situation is similarly dire across the country’s 574 tribal nations. The American Indian Policy Institute determined that just 67 percent of tribal lands in the continental U.S. have access to broadband internet and only 20 percent of Native American respondents said their tribe offers digital literacy resources and initiatives.

Pre-pandemic, over 183 million (32 percent) 3 to 17-year-old school children in Asia and the Pacific lacked internet at home. A UNICEF survey of youth in 10 countries in Asia revealed that 61 percent of students do not receive digital literacy education in schools.

Pandemic-related school closures forced many students to rely on virtual learning despite no internet access. UNICEF estimated that 80 million children in East Asia and the Pacific did not access any learning during the 2020 lockdowns. School closures in Iran and education bans in Afghanistan have impeded the education of millions of girls. Entrenched patriarchal social norms impede progress for women and girls. Lack of access to technology widens the gender divide in the workforce as economies rapidly digitize, most jobs require digital literacy. These issues, in addition to conflict and violence, authoritarian regimes, and the absence of democracy have compounded humanitarian crises with women and girls paying a heavy toll.

Covid-19 changed the global digital divide from a problem into an urgent crisis for health and education. Less than 25 percent of low-income countries provide any type of remote learning, only relying on radio and TV. This mode of education was prevalent in both Iran and Afghanistan. In contrast, nearly 90 percent of high-income countries provided remote learning opportunities, almost all online. One notable exception is Uruguay, which,15 years ago, introduced a national one-to-one laptop/tablet program with connectivity for primary and secondary students. It is a fact that the internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.

5. Laws and Policy Reform must create a framework of accountability and must consider Digital Privacy Laws, Responsible data usage, Cybercrime, Online Trafficking in persons, and digital extortion. Now is the time to protect the online space by challenging digital harassment and democratic backsliding and making those who govern digital platforms accountable. In the United States and Canada, one in five young women report having been sexually harassed online. Moreover, some groups of women, including human rights defenders, women in politics, journalists, bloggers, women belonging to ethnic minorities, indigenous women, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, and women with disabilities, are particularly targeted.

6. Technological investments must meet the moment. Prioritizing women in clean energy investments, access to capital, job training, hiring, ownership, and new business creation is important in closing the gender gap.  Now is the time to broaden intentional pathways for women and girls’ advancement in technology to ensure their equal access to and full participation in technical and decision spaces.

“Investments in closing the digital gender divide yield huge dividends for all.” Secretary-General Guterres

Women, Life, Freedom: A Statement of Solidarity with Women in Iran

October 2022

The Women’s Intercultural Network stands in solidarity with the brave women and girls of Iran who are weaving a feminist future in Iran and the entire region.

The demonstrations ignited by the police killing of Jian ( Mahsa ) have entered their fourth week in Iran and the Diaspora. On September 16th, the police arrested and beat to death the 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Jian (Mahsa) Amini, on the street in Tehran for her “improper hijab.” The anti-government protests and civil unrest started hours after Jian’s death at the hospital, intensified, spread to all 31 provinces, and reached at least 83 cities within days. Although more than 150 people have been killed, and thousands have been arrested, the protest among the young and old continues.

Iran has seen multiple eruptions of protests over the past years, many of them fueled by desperation over economic difficulties. However, the new wave of protests led by women and girls is against something at the heart of the identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran: the compulsory veil. The compulsory veil is emblematic of the Iranian people’s control, censorship, and oppression.

At its core, this is not about any individual person’s faith, this is about the human rights of the Iranian people, with women and girls leading at the forefront.

Women and girls burned their scarves and cut their hair in powerful displays of defiance. Political bodies of the generations born and raised in the last 43 years are now revolting against the laws depriving them of their choice, security, and fundamental economic, social, and political rights.

In response to these protests, on September 19th, the Iranian government blocked internet access, followed by nationwide restrictions on social media. These actions were intended to curtail freedom of expression, isolate resistance from the rest of the world, and cover up government abuses.

The slogan “Jin Jîyan Azadî,” or “Women, Life, Freedom,” is a famous Kurdish women’s movement slogan. This was chanted at Amini’s funeral in Saqqez, where she was born. The slogan recognizes respecting a woman’s autonomy and the right to choose what to do with one’s body, whether it is to cover it with hijab or not, and challenging authoritarian regimes and patriarchal power structures. As many other creative slogans were chanted in the protests, it shows that the uprising is against authoritarianism and has challenged any political, social, and cultural tyranny with a liberating approach.

As the organization that embarked on the Cities for CEDAW campaign in the United States, the only western country that has not ratified CEDAW, we also support the continuous struggle of Iranian women to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women as Iran also has not ratified CEDAW.
Please join us in supporting the voices of women and girls in Iran.

Elahe Amani
Chair, Women’s Intercultural network

Statement of Solidarity: Afghan Women and Girls Deserve Protection of Human Rights

October 2022

A day is not passed that the world is not witnessing yet another human rights violation of Afghan women and girls. From being forced out of public spaces to being denied education and work opportunities to being unable to leave their homes without male guardians accompanying them. The continuous reports of violence and bloodshed of women and girls, lack of access to education, and ethnic cleansing policies are making headlines, yet the world is silent.

The suicide bombing in Kaaj tuition center in the western part of the capital, which the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) noted in a tweet, is a Hazara and Shia-majority area, left more than 53 dead and more than 110 injured, the vast majority were young women. The district is predominantly a Shia area and home to the minority Hazara community, historically one of Afghanistan’s most severely persecuted groups.  While historically, ethnic cleansing, slavery, and other acts of violence and discrimination excluded Hazara people from the government, economic opportunities, and social dynamics even before August 2021. However, according to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan Richard Bennett, the discrimination and abuse have continued more intentionally since August of 2021.

Female students resisted these atrocities and, for several days, protested in the streets of Kabul, compromising their safety and security to seek justice for the victims of the suicide bombing. While the UNAMA tweeted, “Our human rights team continues documenting the crime: verifying facts & establishing reliable data to counter denial & revisionism.” But the Afghan community is still awaiting justice to be served. 

These acts of violence against girls’ rights to education and violence perpetuated against the Hazara ethnic minority were yet another page of the long history of violence and lack of safety and security for Afghan women and girls.  Education is a fundamental human right and must be respected  by all Afghans regardless of gender and ethnicity. The generations who were born and raised in the last twenty years face harsh realities and regressive policies that don’t have a place in the twenty-first century.

Women’s Intercultural Network, with twenty years of engagement in the empowerment and protection of Afghan women and girls’ human rights, is deeply concerned about the various forms of violence against women and girls in Afghanistan and holds the people in positions of power accountable.

We stand firmly on the side of Afghan women and girls and are committed to raising their voices and breaking the global silence. Afghan women and girls deserve their human rights, nothing more and nothing less. 

Elahe Amani

Chair, Women’s Intercultural Network

Kansas Vote NO

By: Dr. Gail James

Marilyn Fowler, Founder and CEO of WIN for over 20 years, started her professional and civic career in Kansas City.  She was on the Planned Parenthood Board and was President of the Commission on the Status of Women. Two founding Board members of WIN (Gail James and Linda Thurston) were based in Kansas.   So, Marilyn would be thrilled to hear of the recent success of the Vote NO campaign in Kansas since her commitment to reproductive health and rights permeated her life of service to women and girls.

Coverage of the Vote NO campaign has been widespread since it was the first vote in the nation to reflect post-Roe reality.    Legislators on the Right have long sought to contain the KS Supreme Court’s support for abortion rights by forcing an amendment to the state constitution, which would have virtually eliminated women’s access to abortion services.   In response, a coalition was formed comprised of ACLU Kansas, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Trust Women (A Wichita-based organization whose founder, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered by an anti-abortion activist), and URGE, Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity.  

This Coalition, Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, promoted the Vote NO Campaign,, by developing a clear strategy to focus on Kansas values of constitutional justice and to coalesce campaign strategies for candidates and those for issues.  Revolving around fundamentals: clarifying the unclear ballot language (intentional obfuscation by the right), focusing on canvassing, phone banking, and voter-to-voter connections, the approach sought to encourage a NO vote by reminding voters, however conservative or unaffiliated, that this amendment would be detrimental to women and girls and their families.   Most importantly, the Coalition determined that Kansas voters would respond to messaging rejecting “government overreach” into personal lives and would react positively to women’s personal stories.  A massive

volunteer cadre of students and men and women of all ages, spread out over the state, including faith leaders who objected to the extreme views and tactics of the Vote Yes campaign.  

Millions of dollars, a million calls, and thousands of doors knocked: the Vote NO advocates prevailed by a margin of approximately 60% to 40%.   Lessons to be learned: 1) even conservative voters realize that access to abortion services is a critical element of healthcare; 2) extreme legislators do not reflect the views and wishes of the public; 3) the Vote Yes side, supported by the Church and evangelical views, created the “Value Them Both” slogan, which did not address the lack of support for family healthcare; 4) the campaign opened the door to questions about “forced pregnancy,” which voters have now rejected.

The huge voter registration, turnout, and fund-raising proved that the public can be motivated to respond to ballot initiatives on issues that impact them directly.   The successful vote on the Kansas amendment may usher in a new phase of

reproductive justice issues on ballots in many states.  However, no one in the state is resting on laurels; we are preparing for the next onslaught of extreme legislation by right-wing ideologues. The November elections will test the strength of judicial support and key campaign races.    But we know now that “when we show up, we stand up and speak up.”

WIN’s founder, Marilyn, would be so proud of her Kansas friends!

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.

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.

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.  


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.