Friday, April 24, 2015

CSW59 - 21st Century Challenges to Cross Border Movements - Philippine Commission on Women

         21st Century Challenges to Cross Border Movements was an excellent side event at CSW59. It was organized by the Philippine Commission on Women. The speakers at this panel were: Ms. Jean Enriquez - CATW-AP (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women - Asia Pacific), Secretary Imelda Nicolas (Commission on Filipinos Overseas), Ms. May-I Fabros (Philippine Commission of Women), Professor Aurora de Dios (Miriam College), and Ms. Emmeline Verzosa (Philippine Commission of Women).

            There was a gender focus on migration in the context of natural disasters, climate change, and armed conflict. There was a particular focus on the Philippines. The panelists also discussed refugees that fled from the Gulf War, the Asian Tsunami, and the Libyan crisis to name a few. Overall, these conflicts and natural disasters have left millions displaced and seeking refuge.

            The migration and refugee issue is quite pressing in the Philippines due to the typhoon that devastated their country in 2013. Over 4 million people have been displaced and 48% of those displaced are women. This displacement leads to the vulnerability of women and a need to protect and promote the human rights of women.

            These conflicts and natural disasters have created long term impacts for many individuals and affected communities. Due to the crisis, many refugees and asylum seekers are smuggled and trafficked for labour and/or sex. Many women are forced into prostitution in order to help their families due to the desperate and terrible conditions that they are facing.

            In 2013, there were 4.5 million refugees from Syria and many of these refugees get caught in the crossfire, are raped, suffer from starvation, and are isolated, The refugees are also unable to receive aid if they are not registered in the country which they are seeking aid. This poses other problems such as children not being able to attend school and thus this continues the cycle of poverty.

            The main problem is that there is no international legal framework that protects these asylum seekers, despite the fact that it is a major issue affecting the lives of millions. Movement is a sign of life and there needs to be more help available to those in need.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Report prepared by Ruth Suderman, Member of the University Women's Club of Winnipeg, and a Member of the NCWC Delegation

Some Notes on sessions attended at the CSW 2015

March 8      Consultation Day (Celebrate the Feminist and Womens Movements 1975 -2015)

This opening event certainly felt like a celebratory welcome to delegates. Everything from the opening songs by the Women of the World, the welcoming messages by Soon-Young Yoon, Chair of NGO Committees on the Status of Women/New York, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women, the speakers and panelists throughout the day, provided positive energy and food for thought.

Women of the World

We were urged to look at progress in regard to the issue of violence against women. As an example, domestic violence is now considered a crime. Education on the issues of violence against women needs to occur at all levels. We need equality across the board. "The world must change, not the women."

Particularly striking was the keynote address by Ruchira Gupta (Women of Distinction Awardee and winner of a Clinton Global Citizen award) as she spoke about the issues she raised in the production of the documentary "The Selling of Innocents" and the fight to end sex trafficking in India. She urged us not to settle for rescuing just the top portion of the girls in the lower rungs of poverty but to work at helping the very last girl.
Other speakers and panelists urged us to:
- "speak about feminist economy rather than women in poverty"
- acknowledge the diversity and depth of the movement in various regions"
- examine the fundamental resistances to the laws and tools in place, but not yet implemented.

- examine why many women are still left behind in the present economic structures.
- realize that the backlash is very strong, and particularly strong in extremist places -- this is about us, all of us.
- realize that in some societies, patriarchy is used to create divisions between us.
- understand that political use/ misuse of religion is used to divide us
- recognize that CEDAW helps to establish where we want to be.

Dr. Gertrude Mangella

 Dr. Gertrude Mangella spoke about What Beijing Plus 20 Must Accomplish. Some statements that caught my attention were:
"The next conference in 20 years needs to be organized by women not yet born."
"We need to pass the slow drivers in government."
"Support the right women (stop supporting the right men.)"

"We need to do our homework after this conference." Dr. Mangella was elected to the pan-African parliament and then became its president. She saw this as doing her homework from Beijing.

During a panel discussion in the afternoon, Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland, talked about the price that needs to be paid to achieve our goals and the negative impact of climate change (omitted in Beijing) especially on women. The young people spoke about their hopes for the future and the progress they feel they have made to this point.

Young Activists' Perspectives with Mary Robinson
Celebration March, March 8

This march was upbeat and celebratory. The speeches were dynamic.
Celebration March to Times Square
NGO Orientation, Monday March 9

This session provided a needed overview of the history of the UN and the World Conferences on Women, government meetings, parallel and side events. This was helpful for me as someone new to CSW.
Energy Access as a Key Driver of Gender Equality, Monday, March 9

In this presentation by a panel, "energy is women's business" was at the core of the presentation. Access to clean energy is crucial for women and children" as they are the ones who suffer the most when clean energy is not available, The Beijing Platform did not touch on energy.

They estimated 4 million deaths due to kitchen pollution and smoky kitchens. Another health concern is that the women were carrying 40 pounds of water on their heads daily causing spinal injury and damage to reproductive organs.

If water, sanitation, clean energy (cook stoves) and electricity are not available, women suffer disproportionately. Income generation also depends on available energy.

Panelists speak about the need for energy access for women
Making the Invisible Visible: Partnering to End Violence Against Women and Children in Rwanda, March 9

We were shown the powerful results that can come from the collaboration of UNICEF, Zonta and UN Women. The one- stop centers for medical and psychosocial care in Rwanda for survivors of violence provide assistance to women in need.
NGO CSW Forum Reception, March 9

The NGO CSW Forum held a reception for all UN and NGO delegates attending CSW59 at the Armenian Convention Center Ballroom. We were welcomed to the North American/European section of the ballroom by Soon Young Yoon, Chair of NGO Committees on the Status of Women. It was at this reception that Ruchira Gupta was awarded the Woman of Distinction Award for 2015. There was a large buffet available to all attendees. Music was provided by an all woman mariache band.

 Kenya Womens Economic Empowerment . . . , March 10

This presentation provided information on an organization in Kenya (called JOYWO for Joyful Women) that empowers rural women to take control of their lives. Women are offered small loans to start small businesses, usually involving agricultural production. JOYWO has facilitated the mobilization of approximately 190,000 rural women into groups allowing them to raise capital and make these small loans. Women have gained confidence and learned new skills, especially when it comes to personal and small business finances.

Key to the success of the project has been the support of Her Excellency Mrs. Rael Ruta, patron of the Joyful Women Organization.
JOYWO panelists
Gender Inequality and Climate Change - How to tackle a Double Injustice, March 10

This panel was chaired by Martha Chouchen-Rojas. The French minister, Pascale Boistard's main point seemed to be that women in power at ALL levels of government needed to take action. Mary Robinson echoed this and extended it -"poor women are disproportionately affected by climate change." "Women should be in all aspects of the climate change discussions." "Women are in the front lines as climate change is happening." She observed this first hand in her visits to Africa. Climate change discussions "need to be people centered." Adaptations costs. We need more financing. Climate change discussions need to recognize the different impacts on women and men. "The climate world is still very male driven by science and numbers. A gender balance is needed in these discussions. Climate change is the most serious human rights issue. "We are the first generation to see its impact and the last generation to have time to do something."

Lakshmir Puri spoke more generally about the gender blind process till 2010. She would like to see the term "women's empowerment" included in the terminology of climate change discussions because it makes more developmental sense.
Child, Early and Forced Marriage Indicators for Progress, March 10

The Honourable Dr. Kelly Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, spoke about the fact that in Canada we have laws to prevent child, early and forced marriage.

Greta Rad Gupta talked about measuring progress: 1. Where we have been, 2. Where we are going and 3. The role of data

700 million women alive today were married as children.

Salam Kanaan from Jordan talked about the many Syrian refugees in Jordan. 630,00 are registered but the government believes the true figure is around 1.5 million. There has been an increase in the number of Syrian child marriages for several reasons: protection, financial, male refugees can emigrate more easily if married.

Hope, a young woman from Kenya, spoke about the need for community sensitization, the need for harsher penalties and stricter laws, and the need for parents to see the benefits of education for girls.

Francoise Girard from Women's Health Organization spoke of the need to take into account the whole girl, the need to look at the root causes of child marriages like the devaluation of girls. Schools need to be girl friendly and girl centered.

She urged us to go for one strong indicator of success in the upcoming years eg. the percentage married at 18+ in the 20-24 age bracket.

I wondered why Canada had chosen to support this particular issue (although an important one) when there are so many issues like murdered and missing aboriginal women that affect so many more women in Canada.
Progress Report of the Beijing Declaration at Twenty: Preventing Violence Against Indigenous Women in the Western Hemisphere and Addressing Our need for culturally Relevant Health Care Services, March 10

At the Beijing Conference, there were just a couple of references to indigenous peoples, not enough. Indigenous women and girls are 8 more times at risk of exploitation in the USA than the general population of women. Of concern is the Keystone pipeline. Man camps along the pipeline prey on vulnerable indigenous women. Mining and fracking are considered environment violence, because water is contaminated. This affects reproductive capabilities. Children are dying; this is seen as a form of genocide. However, governments see this form of mining as development.

We need to learn to work with governments. Women need culturally specific treatment in health care. The indigenous speaker from Ecuador spoke about some hospitals for natural births and the use of mid-wives. Indigenous peoples still need to be acknowledged as people with rights.
Implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325 & CEDAW Women Peace Security, March 11

The keynote speaker was Marilou McPhedran. She spoke about the legal framework for peacebuilding, an antidote to legal and policy fatigue. We want to use legal frameworks to shift the culture of violence (rape) to a culture of peace. She outlined the various Security Council resolutions that are in place together with the CEDAW GR 30 document. Her conclusion was that autonomous feminist movements are the most powerful tool against violence.

Implications of forced displacement of Iraqi families due to ISIS terror, March 12

This panel became a very heated discussion on the issues facing the Iraqi people as a result of the ISIS terror. Many times, the discussion and arguments tended to diverge from a concentration on how the ISIS attacks and the resultant refugee issues affected women to a general discussion of the impact on the country.
Judge Dr. Zakia Hakki speaks about issues in Iraq

 We used to be #1, March 12

Canada was #1 on the equality index in 1995; now we are #23. The five member panel presented some powerful albeit disheartening information about the womens movement in Canada. The panelists were contributors and writers of the document Progress on Womens Rights: Missing in Action, a shadow report on Canadas Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Some of the points made during this presentation included:
 - The womens movement has become fragmented because of government funding cuts and a change in focus. The labour movement tries to support various projects but simply cannot replace government. The labour movement has taken up such causes as child care and violence against women.

- We need a national action plan and policy to address violence against women. This needs to include a stand-alone policy on intimate partner violence or sexual assault.

- The federal government funding shift to the Housing First model has not taken into account the reasons for womens homelessness. Womens homelessness tends to be hidden and is often the result of violence. Due to the cut in funding for the National Council on Welfare, there is no gender specific information about women in poverty.

- We need policies that focus on girls: regarding violence against girls, their mental health and emotional well-being, and their education.

- The federal governments cancellation of the long-form Census has significantly hampered progress for women on many fronts.

- Womens leadership in civil society is critical. The resolution of the Security Council together with CEDAWs work has laid the legal groundwork for us. Autonomous feminist movements are the most powerful tool against violence.
Mary Scott, NCWC, introduces the session and panelists

Gender Equality and Aging Society: the Asian Perspective, March 13

The panel brought varying perspectives to the discussion. The most valuable section was some of the conclusions:

-all data be gender and age desegregated
-support a long life learning approach to technology and aging
-strengthen community networks
-make the invisible visible
-integrate aging into all policies (absent from Beijing)

 Other Meetings Attended:

Morning Briefings March 11-13
Daily Canadian Government Briefings
A CFUW Meeting
Two IFUW Breakfast Meetings

General Comments

I found my experience at CSW59 to be exhilarating. Hearing so many perspectives on gender issues, appreciating the diverse positive strides throughout the world, I was moved by the efforts to improve the lives of women made by so many people.

It is evident that a great deal of thought goes into the wording of the statements and resolutions.

I was impressed with the work being done in several African countries like Kenya and Rwanda. These are tangible steps. I am disappointed in Canadas efforts in the area of violence against women.

I liked the fact that there was a large spread of age groups in attendance. This is a hopeful sign. However, I hope the push to include aging women in the language and the dialogue on all womens issues is heard.

Climate change is having a disproportionately harder effect on women than men. Something to think about.

Ruth Suderman

Thursday, March 19, 2015

National Council of Women of Canada Signs on to the Regional Caucus Statement

 CSW59 Political Declaration: Women's organisations in Europe and North America call on UN member states to Commit, Accelerate and Invest in women's and girls' human rights

NCWC along with many NGOs from the North American/European Caucus have signed on to a statement, stating that the political declaration is not an ambitious, serious and forward-looking commitment and raises severe concerns for women’s organisations.

Women’s organisations should be supported to participate in the work of the CSW and regional meetings on gender equality, including on the post-2015 agenda, due to their instrumental role in promoting women’s and girls’ rights. Women’s organisations and feminist groups should be systematically included in national delegations to the CSW, given access to negotiations, and be able to speak and intervene during general and panel discussion.

See the full statement here.

Working Methods

This is an important document, and it sets down the role of NGOs at the Commission on the Status of Women - will they have the ability to influence the negotiations that go on.

Negotiations on the CSW Working Methods as agreed will be adopted tomorrow at the United Nations.
Read 18th March version with facilitator's comments

Sunday, March 15, 2015

NCWC Delegate Sue Calhoun's Report

March 13th
Just back from the first week of the 59th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York. This is a two-week period each year where the 193 member countries of the UN are required to come in, and report on what they're doing to improve the status of girls and women in their country. It's about intergovernmental negotiations, although since the governments are there, so are the women. Some 8,500 women representing 1,000 NGOs world-wide are there this year. So while governments negotiate, there are also “Side events,” with “high level” government representatives that are held in the UN building, and “Parallel events,” held in the UN Church Centre across the street plus other locations. This is my sixth time in eight years, and I love it. Here’s a brief overview of some of the many things going on. 

March 8th
Photo 1 – Apollo Theatre
Consultation day for the NGOs is always held on Sunday. Organized by the NGO-SWC/NY committee, it’s always a good chance to get a preview of what the issues are. This year, it was at the Apollo theatre in NYC. How cool is that!

Photo 2 - UN building
Theme this year, Beijing Plus 20, celebrating The Beijing Declaration and platform for action, and assessing where we go from here. Today, the phrase "Women's rights are human rights" is so widely recognized that we tend to forget how difficult it was to establish that concept a mere 20 years ago. The fact that so many women’s groups come, as NGOS CSW/NY chair Soon-Young Yoon said Sunday, shows not only important civil society has become to the UN but also how the UN has become an extraordinary avenue to raise women's issues on the global stage 

Photo 3 - CSW59 poster up

Photo 4 - IWD March to Times Square on March 8th

Photo 5 – Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Powerful address by UN Women Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at Consultation Day on Sunday. Moving forward, she said, we need to focus not on what needs to be done but how we will get it done. In the next 15 years, “we need to break the back of inequality once and for all. This can be done. This is not mission impossible. It is the last mile.” The objective now is Planet 50-50 by 2030. 

Photo 6 – Dr Gertrude Mongella
Wonderful as well to see and hear from Dr. Gertrude Mongella, former Under-Secretary-General for the UN Fourth World Conference on Women on “What Beijing + 20 Must Accomplish.”
Photo 7 - Ban Ki-moon

March 9th, opening - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the CSW with a review of progress since 1995, and called it unacceptably slow, with stagnation and even regression in some cases. There are five countries in the world w/o a single woman in parliament; eight w/o a female Cabinet minister. He wouldn't name them - they know who they are. In his report, the SG said that progress has been particularly slow for women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. He called for greater participation by men. "Truly powerful men are those who work for the empowerment of women."   A synthesis of the SG’s report on the 20-year review and appraisal of the implement of the Beijing Platform for Action can be found here.

Photo 8 - CEDAW
CEDAW and Gender-based Violence: Progress and Challenges 20 years after Beijing. Interesting panel discussion moderated by Japanese Association of International Women’s Rights Board member Professor Mitsuko Horiuchi. One of the panelists reminded us that Canada has been found “in grave violation” under CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all kinds of Discrimination Against Women) for its treatment of Aboriginal women and girls. A report out of Geneva on March 6th found that the Canadian police and justice system have failed to effectively protect Aboriginal women, to hold offenders to account, and to ensure victims get redressed. CEDAW made 38 recommendations to correct the situation; Canada has accepted 34. The US is one of the few countries in the world that has never been a signatory to CEDAW.

Photo 9 – Glen Canning presenting
Monday afternoon, Status of Women and YWCA Canada co-sponsored a session on cyber violence, and the list of speakers was excellent. It included Glen Canning from Nova Scotia, Canada, whose daughter Rehtaeh Parsons was a victim of cyber violence; Diane Woloachuk from the Canadian Teacher's Federation; speakers from YWCA New Zealand, in Australia, Microsoft and the McGill Research Centre on emotional intelligence. SWC Minister Kellie Leitch opened the session by pointing out that 84 percent of victims of cyber violence are women under the age of 24. "It's as powerful and painful as any other form of violence," she said. Woloachuk from the Teacher's Federation noted that the safety zone for girls is getting smaller and smaller. Students receiving mean messages through social media take them seriously, become unable to learn and fall into depression, she said. Excellent speakers, lots of good strategies, information and resources.  

Photo 10 - “End Child Marriage"
Tuesday March 10 - Canada and Plan International co-sponsored a session on Tuesday on "Ending child, early and forced marriages.” 700 million women in the world were married off as children, and the consequences are disastrous: early pregnancy with resulting health problems; no education; lost opportunities; childhoods denied. GirlsNotBrides is a worldwide partnership of organizations trying to end it.

Photo 11 - With YWCA Canada Board member Rebecca Coughlin in the General Assembly room.

Photo 12 - With Bertha Yenwo, she runs a NGO for women entrepreneurs in Cameroon.

Photo 13 – Canada’s Status of Women Minister Dr. Kellie Leitch gives her report to the General Assembly.

Photo 14 – Speaker explaining Gift Box project

Wednesday, attended a session organized by the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons on “What’s Changed, What needs to change since Beijing.” Statistics on Human Trafficking continue to worsen – HT is the fastest growing crime in the world, after drugs and guns, a $150 billion industry – there are nonetheless good examples of work being done to stop trafficking and rescue women and children who have been victims. One is, which gives voice to young women through video. Another is, an innovative project created by STOP THE TRAFFIK and the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking launched during the 2012 London, England Olympics. GIFT boxes are walk-in pieces of public art used to educate people about human trafficking. 

Photo 15 – Stop HT poster

Photo 16, woman from Brazil, talking about the MenCare+ program implementation in her country.

A cross-cutting issue addressed in many of the sessions is violence, defined broadly: domestic violence; rape and sexual assault; child, early and forced marriage; FGM; honour killings; cyber violence; prostitution; human trafficking; rape as a tool of war ... and the list goes on. A common theme, the increasing need to engage boys and men. As a speaker from the Nordic Network said Wednesday, "We put all our energy into helping victims ... We talk to women about escaping and taking care of themselves. We need to talk to boys and men because among them, we'll find the perpetrators." Attended a session Thursday sponsored by, an NGO that "works globally to achieve a culture of nonviolence and gender equality by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls." Founded in Brazil in 1997, the group is supported by the UN, World Bank and World Health Organization. It is implementing a program called MenCare+ in four countries. Another program is, which encourages men around the world to stand up for gender equality, and which was launched at the CSW a few years ago. Still another program for men is, which is a grass-roots movement that encourages men to actively interfere when domestic violence is occurring. I like this one, although not sure about the safety of it in the Canadian context. We need to start thinking more about this in Canada. 

Photo 17, in conference room 1
One of the “good news” pieces from this year’s CSW is that the daily de-brief by the NGO-SWC/NY committee is now back in the UN building. I’ve been going since 2008, and we’ve always been across the street at the UN Church Centre. But civil society participation is now so large, that they’ve given us conference room 1 in the UN building. As Chair Soon-Young Yoon said, we’re back! And we’re not leaving! 

Photo 18, Sue Calhoun in conference room 1

Photo 19, with Mary Scott, head of Canada’s National Council of Women delegation (of which I was a member).

Photo 20, Always great to see friends again, with Lucina Kathman, vp of PEN International from San Miguel, Mexico.