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Earlier this month the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a follow-up publication to its first statistical report on female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) in 2005.  The report in its entirety can be found here: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change.  While concentrated across a wide swath of African and (to a lesser extent) Middle Eastern countries, FGM/C takes place in a variety of forms for a variety of reasons around the world.  In some countries such as Guinea, Mali and Somalia, well over 90% of girls and women of reproductive age have undergone the practice, according to the report.

In many countries, especially in rural areas, FGM/C is performed by traditional practitioners (primarily older women), but in some countries like Egypt it is frequently performed by trained health professionals.  In nineteen out of twenty-nine countries where FGM/C is concentrated, the majority of girls and women think it should end.  While often viewed as a manifestation of patriarchal oppression, rates of support for the practice among boys and men in many countries are roughly equal to that of girls and women according to the report.  FGM/C is linked to variety of both short and long-term medical complications such as severe pain, prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.

Ethnic grouping greatly determines why girls and women undergo FGM/C, with some reasons including social acceptance, beauty, preservation of virginity and a perceived association with religious beliefs (although no religious Scripture requires it). While prevalence of FGM/C amongst younger generations of girls and women is decreasing and many countries have outlawed the practice, faith communities have a major role to play in combating this form of violence against girls and women, especially in areas where it is a deeply entrenched social norm.  For instance, some faith communities have removed the cutting aspect from associated rites of passage for young women while retaining the positive aspects of the ceremony overall.

To learn more about female genital mutilation/ cutting and what UNICEF is doing to end the harmful practice, you visit UNICEF’s page on the subject here.

world_ywca_logoA new publication, Her Future, The Future Young Women Want: A Global Call to Act was recently released by the World YWCA (an Ecumenical Women member organization) in the lead up to the Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals on 25 September. The purpose of Her Future is to give young women a voice in the future they want for their families, communities and countries. It was developed following extensive consultation with young women across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, The Caribbean, Middle East, Pacific and North America and encompasses both new research and the outcomes of recent meetings of young women at regional and global levels.

Her Future makes recommendations to the United Nations, governments and civil society in four key areas that will create a future of gender equality and respect for the human rights of all the world’s 860 million young women.  These recommendations are categorized in four specific areas:

  1. End Violence Against Women and Girls
  2. Fulfillment of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights
  3. Meaningful Participation of Young Women
  4. Access to Education, Economic Empowerment and Resources

The report furthermore discusses the value of the world’s 860 million young women and the challenges they face.  To read the report in its entirety, click here.

In 2000, world leaders promised to reach eight specific, measurable goals for global development by 2015 called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The most notable of these goals was to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, as measured by people living on a $1.25 or less. Thanks in part to the strong participation of people of faith, along with many other persons and organizations working together in one massive global effort to fulfill the MDGs, we have made real progress. The number of people living in poverty has fallen to less than half of its 1990 level. Over two billion people gained access to better drinking water. The share of slum dwellers living in cities fell, improving the lives of at least 100 million people!

Yet, we still have work to do. 1.4 billion people remain in extreme poverty. Every four seconds a child dies from preventable causes and over 900 million people, particularly women and young people, suffer from chronic hunger. Climate change threatens to destroy the lives of millions more and undo much of the progress we have made so far. Inequality is growing everywhere and human rights are being undermined, especially in many of the world’s most fragile and conflict affected countries. Even with these great challenges, for the first time in history we have the resources to end extreme poverty while enabling sustainable development. As the 2015 target date for fulfilling the MDGs approaches, a global conversation on these two topics is well underway. Termed the “post‐2015 dialogue,” this conversation has already brought together thousands of government officials, non-profit organizations, business leaders, academics and grassroots activists in order to craft new goals for a global development agenda.

Despite the unprecedented openness and inclusivity of the post‐2015 dialogue, people of faith have yet to fully engage in the conversation. This is unfortunate, because as major players in fulfilling the MDGs, people of faith have much to contribute ‐ they have rich grassroots experiences to share and their members and neighbors have a major stake in what happens after 2015.  Even more importantly, faith communities are often the only grassroots networks that directly reach people living in poverty and other underrepresented global citizens. Thus, as people of faith, and specifically as girls, women and allies, we need to do our part in amplifying the voices of those who most need a strong set of new development goals – people living in poverty and communities and organizations who accompany them. We must practice what we preach, what we teach. It’s about directly accompanying people concretely, not merely multiplying words. If we, as people of faith, do not confront “the scandal of poverty,” then we are part of the problem.

People living in poverty and those who accompany them have unique gifts to share with the global community as it prepares a Post‐2015 Development Agenda. After countless consultations, reports, meetings and debates, we largely know what needs to be done and that we have the necessary resources to end extreme poverty. What we do not yet have at the United Nations is the political will to make it happen. In late June, during yet another meeting at UN headquarters in New York, a man from Latin America stood up, and in one startling statement got everyone’s attention. He simply said, “UN – I do not want to be poor anymore.” It is such dignified, hopeful people, people living in poverty and those who directly accompany them, from whom we need to hear more in the post‐2015 dialogue, for only they can build the political will to end poverty in our time while enabling sustainable development.

Inspired by that startling example of speaking truth to power, the New York offices to the United Nations of Caritas Internationalis and The Lutheran World Federation recently launched a new conversation on the World We Want platform entitled “UN ‐ I do not want to be poor anymore: a collection of faith‐inspired voices of people living in poverty.” If you’re someone who has served in a soup-kitchen, if you’re someone who has gone on a mission trip, if you’re someone who worships with people living in poverty and especially if you have experienced poverty yourself (however you define “poverty” in your local context) please contribute to this conversation by going to http://www.worldwewant2015.org/voicesoffaith. By creating a user profile and answering four simple questions, you’ll make your voice heard by leaders at the United Nations and greatly contribute towards ending extreme poverty while sustainably growing our world!

If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me at dustin.wright@elca.org. Thanks so much for reading, and we hope you can participate with other people of faith around the world in this important global endeavor!

UN Women has recently launched a new paper contributing to the ongoing debate on the post-2015 development agenda.  Entitled “A Transformative Stand-Alone Goal on Achieving Gender Equality, Women’s Rights and Women’s Empowerment: Imperatives and Key Components,” the paper lays out a vision for a transformative framework that addresses the structural impediments to gender equality and the achievement of women’s rights. The paper is available for download on the UN Women website.

In order to address the structural causes of gender-based discrimination and the paper suggests a standalone gender quality goal in the post-2015 development framework that addresses three critical target areas (quoted from the paper’s executive summary):

  • Freedom from violence against women and girls. Concrete actions to eliminate the debilitating fear and/or experience of violence must be a centrepiece of any future framework.
  • Gender equality in the distribution of capabilities – knowledge, good health, sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights of women and adolescent girls; and access to resources and opportunities,including land,decent work and equal pay to build women’s economic and social security.
  • Gender equality in decision-making power in public and private institutions, in national parliaments and local councils, the media and civil society, in the management and governance of firms, and in families and communities.

Additionally, the paper proposes a set of indicators to monitor progress in each of the three target areas.

UN Women would like feedback on their paper, and here’s where you can add your voice to the conversation:  Go to UN Women’s online consultation space on the World We Want platform, create a user profile, look through the report and then respond to various questions that will be posted online each week.  If you participate in UN Women’s consultation, please let us at Ecumenical Women know by either emailing us at ecumenicalwomen@gmail.com or by commenting on this post.  Thanks so much!

20121109-072136Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani girl who drew global attention after being shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education, is celebrating her 16th birthday today by delivering her first public address at the United Nations to the the UN Youth Assembly with a speech advocating for universal primary education, or Millenium Development Goal #2.

To watch the live webcast of her address and the entire event, click here.

MDG2_Malalav2

The Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein, the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-determination and PeaceWomen held an event at UN headquarters yesterday entitled “Men, Peace and Security: Engaging Men and Boys to Promote Gender Equality and Eliminate Gender-Based Violence.”

In recognition of how creating partnerships with boys and men is critical to establishing gender equality and ending gender based violence, this installment of a lecture series on Women, Peace and Security featured an inspiring presentation on the work of Promundo, a Brazilian-based NGO with offices in Rwanda and Washington, DC, which works to engage men and boys in gender equality and violence prevention.

Promundo’s International Director Gary Barker discussed the organization’s research on men and masculinity in several post-conflict settings, including Rwanda, DRC, Burundi and the Balkans.  One particularly powerful report entitled “Bridges to Adulthood” explores Promundo’s quantitative and qualitative research on the lifelong effect of childhood experiences of violence on men.  Simply put, the research indicates that violence begets violence, as a man’s childhood experiences strongly correlate with how he will interact with his own partners and children.

Gary also discussed the work of Promundo and affiliated organizations like MenEngage and MenCare in helping men develop positive masculine identities.  Religious institutions were specifically mentioned as important partners in this work.  Be sure to check out the inspiring video from MenCare below and Promundo’s other great resources as well.

As the CSW58 priority theme is “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls,” Ecumenical Women is focusing this summer on educating our online community about the MDGs and ongoing dialogue about what will follow their completion. If you don’t know much about the MDGs or even what they are, that’s okay, just click here to read an EW post on the basics.

As part of our initiative, back in May we wrote an initial piece describing the “post-2015 dialogue,” the global conversation currently taking place about what should follow the completion of the Millenium Development Goals in 2015. A lot has happened since then, so what follows is an updated version of that post:

There are a number of different processes providing input into the post-2015 dialogue. Click the image below for a larger infographic timeline.  Subsequent paragraphs discuss each separate process and link to relevant reports.

Post2015 Timeline

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Open Working Group was established last January in response to recommendations from Rio+20, the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. While the working group is not due to present its final recommendations to the UN General Assembly until September 2014, the related Sustainable Development Solutions Network released a report on 7 May 2013 entitled “An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development.” It remains to be seen however, if the SDGs will end up representing an entirely separate set of goals or be merged into the post-2015 development agenda.  Most UN Member States seem to be leaning toward the latter.

As part of the UN-led process, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the creation of a High Level Panel in July 2012 to advise on post-2015 development agenda. The panel was co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. After holding meetings in each of co-chairs’ respective countries (as well as brief meeting at the 2012 General Assembly), on 31 May 2013 the panel released its final report entitled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development,” which proposed 12 measurable goals and 54 targets for global development.

The United Nations Development Group) (UNDG) in conjunction with civil-society and other international organizations, recently led 88 consultations in specific countries and 11 global consultations around various themes. While a final synthesis report will be released by UNDG later this summer, an initial document was released on 20 March 2013 entitled “The Global Conversation Begins.”

UN Global Compact (UNGC), a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with principles of human rights and other areas, released a report on 17 June 2013 entitled “Corporate Sustainability and the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

In partnership with the Post-2015 Development Planning Team/Executive Office of the Secretary-General, the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is facilitating a consultation to gather critical analysis from civil society above.

All these (and other) parts of the UN-led process will be considered at a “Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals” on 25 September during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly.

There are also a number of non-UN inputs working to influence the post-2015 dialogue. Beyond 2015, for instance, is a global civil society campaign that brings together more than 620 organizations.

Whew… that’s complicated, we know! There is good news though: YOU can participate in the post-2015 dialogue about how to ensure the rights of girls and women, end extreme poverty and sustainably grow our world. Check back with Ecumenical Women in the coming days to learn about emerging ways to get involved in the global conversation.

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