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Rochelle in UN GA hall

by Rochelle Rawls-Shaw, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegate to CSW57; this was originally written as an email to her community at San Francisco Theological Seminary

I felt it was time to share with you all the exciting happenings and history-making things going on here at the United Nations. For the next two weeks, March 4-15,  women ( some 5,000 are registered, no one is absolutely certain how many will participate) will come to the UN for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This year’s theme is the Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

I’m part of the Presbyterian delegation which has over 70 people at this year’s Commission. This  includes girls and men from across the US. Our delegation is a member of the Ecumenical Women (EW) delegation which has over 200 people from different denominations and church organizations.

I attended two full days of orientation that began last Friday when the Presbyterian delegation met. Our delegation includes individuals from Presbyterian Women and Young Women’s Leadership Development as well as Presbyterians working to end violence against women and girls and PC(USA) national staff. As we fellowshiped, we shared information about our ministries and explored our purpose at CSW: to advocate for justice and equal rights for all women and girls around the world.

The EW orientation met Saturday. The day began with breaking bread together and included 2 worship services. I had a significant role in the worship service at the end of the day. I was the narrator/storyteller in the story/presentation on the story of Jepthah. It was awesome!

Every day for the next two weeks of the CSW, EW delegates begin the day by worshiping together in the chapel at the Church Center for the United Nations. Each represented denomination or church organization is responsible for preparing one worship experience focused on a biblical passages about women. I was responsible for leading the Presbyterian worship service on Tuesday. It included Presbyterian women from New Zealand. It was titled Laying Down The Stones. It was well attended and a blessing to all who were present.

There are planned marches all around the world for this Friday, March 8th – International Women’s Day. I will be there with our delegation as we march for justice and equality for all women and girls. I will be representing women, Presbyterian, and SFTS!

A poem by Djamillah Samad, National Executive of Church Women United:

imagesee me in no shoes, my feet bare upon the ground,
see me in no shoes barely free from a war of states, they say we are free now
but, see me in no shoes, what does freedom mean?

see me in these shoes, shoes big and broken, not really made for me
see me in these shoes walking roads dark and troubled, in a marriage not meant to be,
see me in a union of race mixing and identities stolen.

see me standing in these shoes, wife of a mill owner, I’m  often denied by him in public,
see me compelled by color, class, and gender, pushed to say so little,

see me in these shoes, brand new for this occasion, never worn before,
listen as my youngest girl is crying by my grave, watch her put her own shoes on,
now, watch the slowness of her walk, her life is rapidly changing,
see her sadness in a few years as her daddy’s mills go sold to others  because I am gone on home.

see me in these shoes, shoes not very new
see me in these shoes owned by another little girl whose story, life and access so different than my own,
see the shoes they passed along to a girl who has no mother.

see me in these shoes, I’m not even 14, standing frightened at the porch door,
telling that ole sheriff that my daddy is not here,
see me now in just one shoe, the other lost in the struggle for my life,
make this man leave me alone, I fight in fear, I cry, I fail.
see me hold my other shoe, rocking and crying all alone,
I know my daddy could not have defended me, he’s almost as powerless as me.

see me in these shoes,  I feel I must leave home,
see me riding this train looking for work up north,
see me in my work shoes, maid to a woman who’s not much better off than me, I hear her sobs at night grieving a life gone south.

see me in these shoes, holding out my hand for my pay, we both knowing she pays me less than is my worth,
now see me in the shadows watching her as she steals it back,
she knows I can’t say a word, I know that she can’t either.

see me in these shoes now new and shiny but leaving once again,
see me in these shoes, years later walking on other streets,

see me say I do for a second time, I don’t really love him, it’s safe.
see me in these slippers staring at this child, too tired to read or hold her, I’ll just buy her a toy, tell her to sleep,
see me in these shoes, no one knows which ones I have on.
see my daughter stare at me in my repose, few words were exchanged these last few years, now in my death it is far too late.

see me in these shoes, running for the bus
this is not the first time my eye has been blackened and screams gone unheard,
I just know the next time will be different.

see me mother these children, they’ve aged before my eyes, look, as the years just whiz right by,
But, see them stop talking, is it them, or is it me, not opening up, never admitting they are hurting too,
see them wearing their own shoes, I wonder how much they hide.

see me in your shoes mommy, they’re  so pretty, heels so high.
see me in your shoes, so big upon my six year old feet.
see me in your shoes mommy, walking down our street,
see me walking in your footsteps, will I be just like you?


Artist Mary Button sat down with the Ecumenical Women Communications Team yesterday to give some background information on her artwork, CSW57 and what inspires her.  Check out the video above.


Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women speaking to a group of about 175 Ecumenical Women delegates to the 57th Commission on the Status of Women on 2 March, 2013.

Nearing the end of our first amazing day of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women at the UN, we absolutely needed to post the following video of a powerful worship experience we had as Ecumenical Women this past Saturday evening.

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when God is silent.

View the entire album on Picasa.

All photos taken by Jennifer Becker.

The following Oral Statement was delivered to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Fifty-fourth Session, on February 26, 2010 by Constance Mogale or Lana Finikin.

As organizations committed to partnering with Haitian women to ensure their effective participation in rebuilding Haiti, we call upon member governments and international humanitarian aid agencies present at the CSW to commit to actions that will ensure that all future relief, recovery and reconstruction investments declare and adhere to measurable standards of gender equality. In the current period of relief and temporary shelter, in the design and distribution of entitlements, and in the planning and rebuilding of infrastructure and development programs, we urge implementing actors to establish collaborative processes that are anchored in formal partnerships with Haitian women’s groups (particularly local grassroots groups) who are empowered and resourced to take public leadership in the protracted process of reconstruction.

As a coalition of groups and networks active in the global women’s movement we will partner with Haitian women’s groups to ensure that equitable, transparent, and socially just standards are adhered to in all phases of recovery and will regularly monitor:

Participation: Haitian women are disproportionately impacted by the crisis as well as key to their country’s recovery. Thus we expect to see a large and diverse number of Haitian women’s organizations consulted and included in needs and damage assessments, and in the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of post-disaster aid programs. Financing large numbers of grassroots women and their community organizations is essential to ensuring that — women’s needs and priorities are reflected in relief and recovery and that displaced women are socially legitimated as a key stakeholder group.

Leadership: The legacy of Haitian women’s leadership at home, in workplaces and across communities is a strong foundation for designing, implementing and evaluating long-term recovery as well as continuing aid. Women’s leadership and care-giving work should be recognized and supported by policy and program mandates and transparent resource commitments that enable women to play meaningful, sustained and formal roles in the long-term recovery process. And, as social and political leadership positions are restored or created Haitian women must hold a proportional share.

  Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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.

It reads,

[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.

Ecumenical Women likes to hear from you. Read and comment on the statement!

by Sonali Salgado, Inter Press Service (IPS)

The United Nations has realised that if it wants to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it will have to partner with like-minded faith-based organisations (FBOs).

“It is important to invite religious leaders and faith-based organisations and other secular organisations and work together. It’s the only way,” Gladys Melo-Pinzon of the FBO Catholics for Choice told IPS. “The U.N. and the other international agencies understand that it’s true,” Melo-Pinzon said. In recent years, the United Nations has tried to work more closely with faith-based organisations (FBOs). “We’ve been working with the U.N. and hope to continue working with them,” Yousseff Abdullah told IPS on behalf of the FBO Islamic Relief. For the past few years, Islamic Relief has worked with UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP). A joint Islamic Relief-UNFPA effort has led to the establishment of women’s centres in Sudan.

Unfpalogo

From August 3-4, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) gathered representatives of 41 FBOs -including Islamic Relief and Catholics for Choice - and numerous international agencies ranging from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the WFP for a meeting in New York. Since Dec. 2007, UNFPA has asked FBOs working in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean: “What should we do better? What should we do more? What projects should we work on, and in what particular ways?” At the New York meeting, Azza Karam of UNFPA told IPS, FBOs were presented the “shopping list of recommendations.” According to Karam, they were told to select the areas that FBOs and international agencies would “work on together for the next three years.” “UNFPA is hosting this meeting because it is part of the culmination of the vision of its Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid,” Abubakar Dungus of UNFPA told IPS. Since she became director of the UNFPA in 2000, Obaid has been leading the drive to collaborate with FBOs. “She has said that development work would be more strategic and sustainable when such actors – already among the world’s largest basic health-care providers – were engaged in common efforts on the MDGs,” according to Dungus. Obaid stresses that FBOs are key players in health care services. “In most developing countries, anywhere between 30 to 60 percent of basic health is being served through faith-based organisations,” Karam told IPS. “In Latin Ameica, 70 percent of hospitals are still run through or by the Catholic Church.” Moreover, the World Bank has noted that, in some countries, health services offered by FBOs are better than those of the government.

At the two-day conference here, FBOs and international agencies identified reaching gender equality and improving reproductive health as the goals on which they would collaborate. “Partnerships between faith-based organisations and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, are critical to enhancing efforts to reduce maternal deaths and end violence against women,” UNFPA said in a press release. Maternal health and female empowerment are two of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2000. The MDGs also include eradicating hunger and poverty; achieving universal primary education; reducing child mortality; combating HIV/AIDS malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental stability; and developing a global partnership for development.

The maternal health goal is “at the heart of the MDGs but lags behind the most,” Dungus said. “This is the 21st century and yet women are dying because they’re giving birth or trying to give birth,” Melo-Pinzon stressed. According to the UNFPA, FBOs can assist in reproductive health not only because of their significant role in the health care industry, but also because of their position in individual communities themselves. There is “a critical personal and community-based connection between the people and the faith-based organization centres providing services,” Obaid said. Melo-Pinzon concurred. “The main actors who can approach grassroots and communities in general are people who are related to faith,” she told IPS. “When you’re in conflict,” she continued, “faith gives comfort.” Obaid noted, “the profound moral authority that religious leaders have” and “the fact that religious organisations are the oldest social service providers humankind has known.”

But, quite ironically, as some FBOs strive to improve reproductive health and gender equality, they are betraying the edicts of their church. In their efforts to develop reproductive health, Catholics for Choice, for instance, promotes access to contraception despite the Vatican’s strong opposition to contraceptives. “We are challenging the wrong policies of the Catholic Church, which is misunderstanding the principles of compassion,” Melo-Pinzon said. “We’re saying ‘you’re wrong! You’re wrong!’”

We hope that all Ecumenical Women delegates returned home safely and are now rested from all of the hard work during CSW.

EW would like to follow-up on some of the conversations that we were able with two small groups to have during the last days of CSW to evaluate our work together as a means to improve our work together. Therefore, we ask that you take 5 minutes to fill out this online survey. Your responses help us to improve the orientation and our effectiveness as a coalition during CSW. We warmly welcome all of your thoughts and responses.

Please fill this online survey out before 3 April 2009.  If you are unable to access the link above, the survey can be found by copying and pasting the following link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=BmmYANnblcbiGy0JsrkqXQ_3d_3d

Thank you!

In a very exciting turn of events, Ecumenical Women was requested by the CSW to deliver not one, but two oral statements on behalf of our coalition.  The first statement, on the topic of women and the financial crisis, was read aloud on March 5, 2009 by EW member Verónica Biech, a young woman of Argentina, stating:

For Ecumenical Women, genuine development is one that fosters just, equitable and caring relationships. Equality between women and men of all races and classes is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice; it is a fundamental prerequisite for development and peace. Due in large part to the efforts of pioneering UN conferences on women, there is now growing acknowledgement that development cannot be attained without gender equality.

We affirm that women are also part of the solution to the global financial crisis. It is critical, therefore, that women are intentionally, strategically and systematically involved in the discussions and decision-making processes around the global financial crisis

Ecumenical Women’s second oral statement was read today at the United Nations by Facia Boyenoh Harris of Liberia, another young woman representing Ecumenical Women.  The topic of the statement was the priority theme of CSW53: “The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV and AIDS,” of which Ecumenical Women reiterated our core stance on the issue:

In conclusion, as women and men of faith, we are committed to the creation of a more equitable society between women and men that is also free from AIDS. Grounded in our faith and commitment to global justice, we believe that the church – at its best – can be a transformative center which models gender equality, resists systems of oppression, supports and promotes women’s rights. We reaffirm our belief that both women and men are created in God’s image. We recognize that the face of AIDS is becoming younger, poorer and more female, and we all must partner to meet the needs of these women where it exists.

A 2008 International Women's Day demonstration in Delhi, India

A 2008 International Women's Day demonstration in Delhi, India

Conference Room B was packed with women this past Thursday morning. It was a wonderful sight – and sound – and a reminder of how impoverished our decision making bodies are when they exclude women from their chambers of power. For those women who are isolated in their own societies because of their championship of gender equality and human rights it would have been a rare moment of support and solidarity.

The UN is fortunate in having a current Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, who is dedicated to building gender equality and, in particular, to zero tolerance for violence against women and girls. It will, of course, be an even healthier institution when the wall of portraits of former Secretary-Generals includes female faces alongside the male.

Mr. Ban and others do bring the possibility of this day — International Women’s Day — a little closer through working to eradicate violence against women and girls, identifying this as both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality. Mr Ban reminded us that “real men respect women”, that only men can choose to change their behaviour, and that “the time to change is now.”

The Australian slogan of the White Ribbon movement of men against violence against women and girls was greeted with great enthusiasm: “Not violent. Not silent.” It would be a true celebration of International Women’s Day if this could be in the hearts, minds and voices of many men this coming year and beyond.

Then, please God, some year soon we will have no more stories like that of an 18 year old Congolese girl raped by 4 soldiers and ostracised by her family or a 14 year old Liberian girl raped by 5 soldiers and then married by their commander. Zero tolerance for violence against women. The time to change is now!

The Salvation Army Children's Choir

The Salvation Army Children's Choir

Once again we were blessed this morning with a worship service that seemed to perfectly restore and replenish our spirits. Yesterday, the children’s choir of The Salvation Army was unable to make it to our worship because of a traffic hold up. Last night they stayed in a hostel near the United Nations so they would be sure to worship with us this morning. So much the luckier are all of us, because surely we were all in need of the blessing of energy today, in particular, as we received word late last night that Ecumenical Women were chosen to be part of an interactive expert panel at the UN on “the gender perspectives of the financial crisis.” The leaders of our advocacy teams were up late into the night tightening and refining our contributions to the agreed conclusions. Gulping down coffee, I made it into the worship service as the children were finishing their first song. Luckily, Rev. Stone called the children back to wild applause from the packed pews. The children launched into a fierce, beautiful song called I am a friend of God. Quickly, we all were on our feet, waving our hands in the air and feeling the tremendous blessing of being able to gather together every morning, sing, dance, march, and, today, join voices with joyous children.

Later in the afternoon, before going into the Anglican Consultative Council panel Empowering the Girl Child I tried to remember the energy of our children as my own energy was flagging. In 2007 the focus of the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women was on ending all forms of discrimination and violence against girls. Therefore, the focus of this important panel was on giving girls from across the globe a space to talk about the progress and challenges they have experienced in the two years since the Agreed Conclusions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and Violence Against Girls. The panel started with members of the Anglican Consultative Council calling on all the girls in the room to introduce themselves to all of us. As these girls were introducing themselves I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would be like today if I had had the opportunity to involve myself in the pursuit of women’s rights at the UN. Indeed, all the girl panelists affirmed their desire to be involved in our processes. As church women we can stand to learn much from listening to our children’s experiences as child soldiers and as survivors of gender based violence across the globe. After the girl panelists spoke, members from the Working Group on Girls facilitated a powerful discussion about practical ways we can engage with girls and integrate inter-generational conversation into our communities. One easy way to start this process is to visit the Working Group on Girls website. You can find a toolkit for introducing the 51st CSW Agreed Conclusions to small groups of girls with girl friendly language, including sets of Indicators on the issues of Health and Poverty.

Throughout the course of my first week here at my first CSW I have heard strong, smart women advocate for the involvement of women on all levels of policy-making. Surely, it is just important for women advocates here to provide space for the voice of girls as we move forward in our pursuit of gender equality.

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