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By Dustin Wright, Lutheran Office for World Community

In 2000, world leaders came together to set quantifiable goals for global development to be reached by 2015 in eight areas.  Some have described the goals that came out of that summit, the Millennium Development Goals as the world’s greatest promise.  The good news is that three years out from the goals’ deadline, three targets for reducing extreme poverty, improving clean water access and helping people move out of urban slums, have already been met.  While there has been partial progress in some areas, such as moving toward gender equality in access to primary education, there has been little movement toward other targets like reducing the maternal mortality rate.

As the world inches closer to 2015 deadline, the United Nations is also working to analyze successes and failures of the Millenium Development Goal program overall, and most importantly, beginning to discern what’s next after 2015… and that’s where you come in.  In partnership with civil society, the United Nations is currently leading a growing conversation with people all over the world who are contributed their input about how we should move forward as one global community.  This conversation is happening on the World We Want 2015 web platform, and the topic for this week is gender inequalities.

How can you contribute to the conversation?  First, talk with folks (especially girls and women) about gender inequalities in your local community, with a particular emphasis on how such problems are related to inequalities based on income, race/ethnicity, age, location, disability, and sexual orientation.  Next, spend some time brainstorming how the post-2015 development framework could address the needs of specific groups of women, especially those from the most marginalized groups and those facing multiple forms of discrimination.

Once you’ve spent some time talking about and reflecting on the topic, you can post your input here.  The conversation is currently being monitored by Emily Esplen from Womankind Worldwide, Nicole Bidegain from Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), and Rosa G. Lizarde from the Feminist Task Force (FTF) of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, and they’ll also be responding to your comments.  The recommendations emerging from you contributions will be included in a report presented at a high-level meeting in Denmark in February 2013 on inequalities and the post-2015 development agenda.  Make sure to contribute soon though, as the comment period for this topic will end on October 24th.  Thanks so much for contributing to The World We Want!

We sang.

We danced.

And Major Susan Naua of Papua New Guinea preached about Shiphrah and Puah’s civil disobedience and our call to work for life.

Thank you Salvation Army for leading worship for Ecumenical Women this morning!

Margryette Boyd from Aurburn, AL and here at CSW 56 with a delegation from Racial Ethnic Young Women PC, USA. Margryette gives a few remarks on the contradiction between a commission focusing on women’s equality and the prevalent realities of male dominated leadership within the United Nations system.

The Advocacy Team has been hard at work this late afternoon and evening. Some have had to leave; some have come back.

Thanks to them all!

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

Featuring:
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
Under-Secretary General
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 YWCA
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.

Email: cmoller@ohchr.org

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Join the discussion!

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.

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