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A new side event has been announced:
Enhancing Women and Girls’ Leadership: A Perspective from Rural Communities
28 February 2012
Chapel, Church Center for the UN
8:45 am – 10:15 am
Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee
WIPSEN-Africa’s Projects on Gender and SSR
West Africa Women Election Observation Team
Young Girl’s Transformative Leadership
Co-sponsors: The Lutheran World Federation and Ecumenical Women at the UN
H.E. Marjon Kamara, Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations and Chair of the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women welcomes everyone to this year’s session.
Note that the volume appears to be low
Harriet Tubman. Eleanor Roosevelt. Maggie Kuhn. Naomi Rose. Merdine T. Morris.
On this day – who are the women who have served as advocates for whom you give thanks?
Advocacy took central stage at the Ecumenical Women‘s Orientation. The afternoon workshops focused on advocacy and with good reason.
The “agreed conclusions” will be the primary outcome of the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. The 45 Member States of the Commission will create a set of concrete, action-oriented recommendations for action by governments, intergovernmental bodies, and other relevant stakeholders. These recommendations will call for implementation at the international, national, regional and local level. They will address the primary theme for the 56th Session of the Commission: “the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”
We come to the Commission – representatives of the Ecumenical Women member organizations and other NGOs – to advocate for concepts, themes, and language to shape those agreed conclusions. In the case of Ecumenical Women, we do so guided by faith in Jesus Christ and the policies of our respective organizations.
As we advocate, we follow in the footsteps of our sisters who have gone before – we stand beside our sisters who live the struggle.
For whom do we give thanks this day and everyday?
I met a delegate from Myanmar. Her name is Naw Lee Myar. “How did you come?” I asked. “Your- country is non democratic and you cannot get a visa easily.” She explained she was sponsored by the Asian Rural Institute and the United Methodist Church. She could not believe that God provided this opportunity since she had no means at all. She is so appreciative. I feel so ashamed for taking so many things for granted. I am grateful to have met this wonderful sister who is working with women in the rural area of what was once known as Burma. I hope to listen to more of her stories. I hope we all will.
Volunteer at Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
Naw Lee Myar is in the gray with the blue lanyard.
Ms. Michelle Bachelet
UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
October 28, 2010
We, as Ecumenical Women at United Nations, celebrate your appointment as the head of the new United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – UN Women.
Ecumenical Women is an international coalition of church denominations and ecumenical organizations which have status with the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations. We were created in the context of Beijing +5 to draw attention to the fact that women of faith stand for the advancement of women’s rights, equality and peace. We affirm the promotion of gender equality and justice from a human rights perspective. We maintain that the contributions and empowerment of women and girls of all ages are fundamental, enshrined in the Beijing Platform for Action and international law, and necessary to meet all of the Millennium Development Goals.
Through our global membership, which includes representation and partnership in Chile, we followed your political commitment for gender equality. Now we welcome the opportunity to support your worldwide outreach to women and young women, especially the ones who have been historically excluded from development as well as from promoting peace and economic justice.
We call upon UN Women to embrace an inter-generational approach and to strengthen partnerships with faith based organizations and building on existing best practices such as the UNAIDS faith-based organizations (FBO) or UNFPA FBO partnerships. We acknowledge that, at times, religion has been and is an obstacle to advancing gender equality, but we also firmly believe that it has been and can continue to be a great resource toward advancing the status of women.
As we have for many years, we will be actively participating at the upcoming 55th session of the Commission on the Status for Women and we are looking forward to that opportunity to work with you as well.
With your leadership at UN Women, we look forward to cooperating in partnership with you to advocate for a better world that we believe is possible!
Be assured of our prayers and continuing support for the changes that empower women and girls for lives free of violence and participation in efforts to eradicate poverty and all forms of discrimination.
Anglican Women’s Empowerment
Association of Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand
Church Women United
International Anglican Women’s Network
Lutheran Office for World Community
Medical Mission Sisters
National Council of Churches, USA – Women’s Ministries
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Salvation Army
United Methodist Women
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church & Society
World Council of Churches
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women
World Student Christian Federation
[Athena Peralta, World Council of Churches Consultant on Poverty Wealth and Ecology, presented the below address during the United Nations’ General Assembly Hearing with Civil Society on the Millennium Development Goals, 14-15 June 2010, New York]
Tackling the roots of poverty
For Christian churches and the worldwide ecumenical movement, eradicating poverty is nothing less than a moral and ethical imperative. We believe that God’s will is for all humanity – regardless of gender, religious belief, race and ethnicity – to experience life in fullness and in dignity. Thus, together with many civil society organisations (CSOs), we at the World Council of Churches (WCC) applauded the United Nations (UN) in 2000 for taking leadership in the articulation and adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), foremost of which is the internationally agreed goal to halve the number of people “living” in poverty by 2015. Discussions on poverty eradication must continue to be a main concern of the UN, where broad participation of all nation-states and civil society could take place. As 2015 looms closer, there is an urgent need for the international community to revisit and deeply consider the structural, historical and interconnected roots of impoverishment and the required policy- and systemic transformations leading not just to the attainment of the MDGs but to the eventual eradication of poverty.
The WCC remains profoundly concerned that the global financial and economic crisis – which continues to wreak havoc on economies including in the Euro zone – has thrown tens of millions more people into poverty, swelling the ranks of the disempowered, hungry, thirsty, unemployed, sick and homeless, and further derailing the achievement of the MDGs. At this stage of the crisis, many countries are being forced to adopt stringent fiscal policies that imperil economic recovery as well as social and ecological protection – at a time when such protection is needed most.
If anything, the global economic turmoil has called into serious question the previously widely accepted role of deregulated and liberalised global financial and trade structures in reducing poverty: current evidence points to the opposite. Yet the international community appears not to have adequately absorbed these sobering lessons. Prevailing financial and trade paradigms are still driven, at core, by the pursuit of ever-higher growth rates and short-term returns at the expense of people’s economic, social and cultural rights and the health of our increasingly fragile ecosystems. Mere economic growth, however, has already been shown to be an unsustainable, inefficient – and in some cases, ineffective – way of addressing the global poverty crisis.
Against this light, the WCC reiterates its calls for governments and international institutions – with the democratic participation of all peoples – to pursue economic policies as well as build economic frameworks that move away from the current paradigm that is focused on unlimited growth and based on structural greed towards models founded on pro-poor, redistributive growth; universal provisioning of common social goods; sustainable consumption and production; and investments in small-holder agriculture (which continues to be the main source of livelihood for people and women in poverty), social reproduction and ecological protection.
Critical to lifting societies and people out of poverty is a much more equitable distribution of assets (capital, technology, land, education, health care, among others). A wealth of studies reveals that the lack of access by the poor (especially poor women) to assets necessary to achieve socio-economic security as well as higher productivity and income is a “fundamental constraint” on poverty eradication.
Emphasising the pivotal role of MDG 8 (global partnerships for development) in meeting the rest of the MDGs, governments and international institutions must seriously respond to widening inequalities among and within nations and the global financial and trade structures that propagate and deepen these inequalities. Much more attention ought to be placed on developing policies and structures that enable wealth-sharing among and within countries.
Poverty eradication is of course a critical goal in and by itself. At the same time, the WCC has long argued that many of the violent conflicts that continue to rage in different parts of our world stem in large part from the socio-economic deprivation experienced by communities. Thus, measures to eradicate poverty and close socio-economic gaps are important pathways to strengthening social cohesion and achieving lasting peace at local, national and global levels.
We believe that mobilising the financial resources needed for poverty eradication and the achievement of the MDGs – particularly through creative forms of taxation inasmuch as taxes are the only sustainable source of development finance – is a matter of political will, yes, and also of moral courage. At the onset of the global financial and economic crash, governments in rich countries were able to put together trillions of dollars in a matter of months to resuscitate ailing financial institutions; and global military spending continues to increase, amounting to US$ 1464 billion in 2008 alone (SIPRI 2010). We need to re-examine and dismantle such a perverse system of priorities that places more import on rescuing big banks and acquiring machines that kill people than on emancipating people from starvation and homelessness. Clearly, the often put forward excuse of a dearth of financial resources to overcome poverty is instead more indicative of a dearth of life-affirming values and morals – a dearth of justice, solidarity and care.
What the international community can and must do in 1660 days
Reshaping the unjust financial and trade structures that generate and reinforce poverty and inequality is a long-term undertaking requiring coordinated action and meaningful cooperation among and between governments and international developmental institutions, as recognised by MDG 8, beyond 2015. Yet this does not preclude the international community from taking immediate measures and initial steps towards deep-seated transformations. Therefore, the WCC calls on governments and international institutions to commit to the following actions at the MDG Summit in September 2010:
- Enact urgent financial reforms and support further high-level discussions with substantial civil society participation under the auspices of the Financing for Development process to build an international financial architecture that not only distributes socio-economic risks fairly but finances job-creating production, social reproduction and environmental sustainability; and in particular with a view to:
- Achieving stronger democratic oversight of international financial institutions, by making them subject to a UN Global Economic Council with the same status as the UN Security Council as proposed by the Stiglitz Commission;
- Creating and/or transforming financial regulatory institutions and mechanisms and implementing financial transaction taxes to deter speculation (whether on currency, food and other commodities) and capital flight;
- Supporting regional initiatives that decentralise finance and empower people in the global South to exercise control over their own development through bodies such as the Bank of the South, the Asian Monetary Fund and the Bank of the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América;
- Strengthening tax systems by establishing an international accounting standard requiring country-by-country reporting of transnational companies’ economic activities and taxes paid and forging a multilateral agreement to set a mandatory requirement for the automatic exchange of tax information between all jurisdictions to prevent tax avoidance;
- Establishing a new global reserve system based on a supranational global reserve currency and regional and local currencies;
- Setting up a new international credit agency with greater democratic governance than currently exists under the Bretton Woods institutions;
- Setting up an international bankruptcy court with the authority to cancel odious and other kinds of illegitimate debts and to arbitrate other debt issues;
- Regulating and reforming the credit agency industry into proper independent supervision institution(s), based on more transparency about ratings and strict regulation on the management of conflict of interest; and
- Using innovative sources of finance, including carbon and financial transaction taxes, to pay for global public goods and poverty eradication.
- Resume the Doha Round of trade talks and review free trade agreements based on the objective of transforming multilateral and bilateral trade and investment rules and agreements in support of realising the enshrined rights to food, water, health, education, and gainful and decent employment; and in particular to:
- Implement workable common international regulations to end agricultural import dumping; and
- Establish international commodity agreements setting stable base prices for products.
- Channel resources away from military spending and odious and illegitimate debt payments to investment areas with potentially strong anti-poverty impacts, particularly small-holder agriculture, social development and ecological sustainability; as well as ensure that development assistance to poor countries is not diminished in light of current pressures to rein in fiscal deficits.
- Discuss and adopt new and more balanced indicators that factor in social and ecological costs and benefits, and therefore better measure and monitor global socio-ecological-economic progress.
The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) is requesting input from civil society on a thematic report on discrimination against women in law and in practice, and how the issue is addressed throughout the United Nations human rights system, including CEDAW. For more information on the role that civil society plays at the UN, please visit: Esango.un.org.
Any relevant information for this study is welcome. Your input would greatly enhance the quality of this report and ensure that it considers issues that may not have been adequately addressed, such as the situation of indigenous women, SOGI issues, etc.
This report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council at the September 2010 session. Read the Call for Input for more information.
Please send your responses directly to Cecilia Moller, Acting Coordinator of the Women’s Rights and Gender Section.
Telephone: +41.22.928 9265
Deadline: 15 May 2010, maximum 3000 words
Anastassia Zinke interviews Rev. Joyce Kariuki, acting general secretary of the Anglican Councils of Africa.
Was this your first time attending the Conference on the Status of Women (CSW)?
I have been here several times before. The last one I attended was the CSW focused on the Girl Child. I think this is the fourth time that I have attended a CSW. This year I was requested by the archbishop to come. They send someone yearly, but some years for personal reasons I have been unable to serve as the delegate.
What have you learned or taken away from this year’s CSW?
We cannot let the Beijing Platform for Action to be eclipsed by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or be dropped as a tool in addressing women’s rights. We are far from achieving our goal. It is a struggle to keep this movement going, to achieve the empowerment of women. The Beijing Platform is useful to us though, because it reminds us and equips us to keep this struggle going. It helps articulate women’s issues. We can refer to it and make sure – through the use of the right language – that others understand.
What are the pressing issues that you see in Kenya? In the church?
Also, gender equity in the church needs to be addressed. We are far behind the governments in terms of gender equity. This will not do. The church ought to be the model for society. We also have to acknowledge the huge reach that we have. We reach everyone: girls, women, men, and boys. We have the ability to ensure that the message is being heard.
This can be complicated however. There is a debate that the girl-child has been promoted so much that the boy-child has been left behind. So now I include the boy-child, so that it is about holistic participation in change. However, we have not forgotten that that the child-girl has been in a difficult situation. We all have become involved, and help them become and stay students.
Another significant issue is domestic violence against women. When there is violence, a woman is reduced to nothing. We need to change this. The church has not been able to address this yet. During this conference, however, I heard a South African man talk about his work of leading men to address violence against women. Men themselves condemning the violence. They see that it is their issue. This is powerful and a model that I would like to see adopted in Kenya, so that men don’t push the issue aside.
In Kenya, we are changing the constitution. This presents a great possibility for women. We need to finish this process. Though we can critique the government, we cannot let this opportunity pass. We must recognize that we all function under the government, so we need to partner with the government to get the constitution to its the best stage.
Every year thousands of women and men from around the world gather in New York to join in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. From policy makers to directors of NGO’s to people of faith, these women and men spend two weeks discussing, discovering, and deciding the ways in which the United Nations and its constituent bodies will approach questions of gender equality and women’s rights.
This weekend ten young adults from the Episcopal Church arrived in New York despite all types of transportation and weather related odds to begin a one-week journey through the 54th UN CSW. From all backgrounds, they come representing not only themselves but all young adults of the Episcopal Church. We invite you to engage them as they undertake this journey, to listen to their reflections, to ask them questions, to engage locally the dialogues they enter internationally, and above all, to hold them and the women they represent in prayer.
Please take a moment to learn more about these young women and men as they experience, explore, and advocate at the UN CSW 2010 over the next five days.
With great hope,
Jason Sierra & Karen Longenecker, Co-Conveners
The Civil Society Unit of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is moderating an on-line discussion on Women and Human Rights, focusing on issues of accountability and access to justice.
The discussion started on 1 February and will end on 28 February. Sub-themes are:
- National legal frameworks challenges, trends and best practices with respect to legal protection of women’s human rights (Week 1);
-Accountability challenges, trends and best practices with respect to ensuring accountability for violations of human rights of women, including violence against women (Week 2);
-Access to justice challenges, trends and best practices with respect to womens access to justice (Week 3);
-Summary, wrap-up and observations (Week 4).
Each week starts with a short introduction to the theme to trigger and encourage a constructive and fruitful on-line discussion, to be summarized and analyzed in order to contribute to the Beijing +15 review. The discussion is part of a series of United Nations online discussions dedicated to the fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000); and is coordinated by WomenWatch, an inter-agency project of the United Nations Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality.
The United Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has launched a month-long online discussion on Women in Power and Decision-Making. Dedicated to the fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), as well as outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000), these discussions will be a contribution to the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women to take place 1-12 March 2010.
by Onleilove Alston
In America many people make New Year’s Resolutions to set goals as they go into the New Year. Most resolutions involve breaking a harmful habit or beginning a positive one. This New Year’s I want to challenge all of us to make the resolution to resurrect Beijing by supporting the advancement of women’s rights at your church, in your communities and on your jobs. If you choose to take-up this resolution review the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Become familiar with the document and share it within your community. One way in which you can advance women’s rights is by advocating for women’s leadership in local churches and denominations. March is Women’s History Month and you can advance women’s rights by teaching a Sunday school class on women in the Bible. On a broader level if your state or nation is considering legislation that affects women get involved by lobbying your governmental officials. Consider mentoring a younger woman in your church or community this year and encouraging her to be a leader. Individually you can make a donation to a women’s organization or ministry. Personally you can resolve to advocate for yourself and other women when faced with sexism and gender discrimination. One important way you can help resurrect Beijing is by attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City from February 26 to March 3. Even if you can not attend the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women take-up a local cause that affects women: childcare, sexism in the workplace, women’s wages or any issue that affects women in your community.
2010 and the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action gives us a unique opportunity to consider the advancements women have made since the Fourth World Conference on Women and to fight against the disadvantages we still face as a global community. The New Year always presents us with new opportunities for growth and advancement, 2010 will present women with the opportunity to advance our cause for equality. As a global community let’s unite and resurrect our rights, our voices, and our cause. Let’s Resurrect Beijing! Have a blessed, safe and prosperous New Year from Ecumenical Women!
Nepali human rights defender Saathi Roundtable, explaining how a new strong international agency for women could benefit women locally:
“If we wash with a bucket of water and start from our feet, the water is wasted washing only our feet. But if we pour the water over our heads, we can wash our whole body.”
The United Nations is a galvanizing force in setting new international standards and commitments to protect and promote women’s human rights especially those at risk of violence, or facing poverty. But the UN’s capacity to support national implementation of these international agreements is woefully underfunded and inadequate. This has limited the potential for women around the world to fully enjoy their rights in practice.
The four small UN agencies exclusively dedicated to women’s issues lack the necessary status, funding and country presence to enable the wider UN system and national authorities to fully implement their obligations. Other, larger UN agencies, sometimes can make a difference, but advancing women’s human rights and gender equality is usually a small part of their mandate. And none of these agencies are adequately supporting the important work of women’s human rights defenders.
In September 2009, after years of persistent campaigning by women’s human rights advocates around the world, all 192 member states of the UN General Assembly finally adopted a resolution agreeing to the creation of a consolidated and stronger UN agency for women.
According to Charlotte Bunch, Founding Director of Center for Women’s Global Leadership, USA, “the General Assembly has at last taken decisive action to create a new gender equality entity on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Beijing women’s conference in 2010. It is a great victory for women’s rights as well as for the coalition of women’s and other civil society organizations. Now we must ensure that it is a robust and transformational body, capable of advancing the realization of women’s rights on the ground, urgently and effectively.”
In order to achieve this, the agreed new women’s agency urgently needs sustained political commitment from all governments and immediate, substantial funding to ensure its effective establishment and success.
Take action! Show your support for a new strong UN women’s agency!
In preparation for the 54th session of CSW, which will review the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, Ecumenical Women submitted a statement to the UN Secretary-General.
[We] affirm that God’s world was meant to be one of abundance for all persons, with fundamental rights and dignity for both women and men. Women, however, are disproportionately robbed of this abundance. We are called to challenge the gender bias of institutions and seek justice for those who are blocked by institutional barriers.
On workshops and conferences, EW learnt how Beijing 1995 had concrete impacts on women’s lifes. But despite these success stories, many goals of the Platform remain unfulfilled even after 15 years.
In it’s statement EW highlights five areas that are crucial for gender equality: Patriarchal understandings of gender, power and leadership; Violence against Women; Economic Barriers; Education and Training; Vulnerability of Marginalized Women and Girls. A greater commitment in these areas is necessary in order to meet all the Millennium Development Goals. Therefore EW urges the Commission, the UN, and it’s member states to undertake concrete steps for institutional change.
“When the mayi-mayi (community-based militia groups in the DRC) attacked my village, we all ran away. In our flight, the soldiers captured all the girls, even the very young. Once with the soldiers, you were forced to marry one of the soldiers. Whether he was as old as your father or young, bad or nice, you had to accept. If you refused, they would kill you. This happened to one of my friends. They would slaughter people like chickens. They wouldn’t even bury the bodies they slaughtered—they would even feed on their flesh. I even saw a girl who refused to be ‘married’ being tortured.”
Jasmine, 16, the DRC
On this UN International Day to End Violence Against Women, I would like to raise an important and rather invisible subject: the issue of the Girl Soldier.
International Criminal Law considers the enrolment of children as warriors as a war crime in many texts, including the Rome Statute of 1998 establishing the International Criminal Court (Article 8)2)b)xxvi)):
For the purpose of this Statute, “war crimes” means: (…)
(b) Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts (…)
(xxvi) Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities.
The Rome Statute also classifies enlisting children as a war crime in the setting of a non international conflict, at article 8)2)e)vi). This is of enormous importance as contemporary wars tend to be internal rather than international, and foreseeing these cases can prevent war criminals to get away with a “Would the international community kindly don’t interfere with the my country’s issues please? I’m busy killing, raping and enrolling people here”. The ICC is thus currently trying Democratic Republic of the Congo warlord Thomas Lubanga for conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers.
It is reported that girls make up for 1/10 to 1/3 of the child soldiers in armed conflicts, depending on the country.The issue of the girl soldier is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention within the International Community; yet it should, as it crystallises all types of violence women and girls have to bear in times of peace.
For there is nothing better than a good crisis to get a society flaws out in the open.
Why, and how, do girls become soldiers? There could be many reasons to that, including that the girl voluntarily joins the militias. Girls are also forced into waging war, whether physically or emotionally, by blackmailing them: “If you do not come and fight for us, oh well, we’ll just torture and kill your family”. Indeed, girls are central to the war machine: they act as sex slaves for the soldiers, fight like boys and men, and perform all kinds of chores. No wonder they’re regularly abducted.
However, let us dig a teensy bit deeper into the so-called “voluntary” joining of girls in armed conflicts. Studies have shown that girl soldiers joined militias to escape domestic violence or abuse, but also in an attempt as self-protection: some girls declared preferring to go and fight rather than wait for militiamen to come and rape or kill them. Summing up, girls tend to join national violence to escape from the domestic violence they have to bear, and to shield themselves from the seemingly inevitable abuse they will face eventually.
Just because they were born a girl.
Needless to say, girl soldiers will be abused by their brothers in arms or by their supervisors, sometimes getting pregnant, which can assure them the eternal rejection of their community and family, sometimes getting HIV/AIDS or other STDs, sometimes both.
I have to say, I had a hard time digesting the extraordinary amount of violence, stigma, abuse and torture that girl soldiers have to face: they are enrolled because of violence (whatever its form), used (in all the acceptations of the word) and rendered afterwards to civil life, full of hatred, to bear the enormous stigma and contempt of their society, having lost all sense of self. Their reinsertion into civil life is even more difficult than for their male counterparts, because of the women and girls’ status in the society: in most societies, raped and abused women are synonymous of disgrace and dishonour, and a girl who has been known not only to be a fighter but also to carry a militiaman’s child is to be ostracized. That the girl is a victim doesn’t even come into the equation with this reasoning.
Civil society organisations and the international community set up rehabilitation centres, providing the children with education, counselling and health services. Sadly, the advocacy for rehabilitating girl soldiers will be long and painful, so set in stone is the prejudice towards these girls. However, it is also important to note the strength and resilience of the former girl soldiers, who, even though they have been maimed, tortured, abused, raped and ostracized, carry on living, day by day, nurturing their hopes and licking their wounds.
Every day should be the International Day to End Violence Against Women Day.
For more information and testimonies: