Standing Together!

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

 

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

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

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

 

Marilyn Fowler

WIN President/CEO

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Convention focuses on three key areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related links:

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

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

–        Read the agreed upon conclusions from UNCSW57

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