- My-Linh Kunst
My third day at CSW saw a markedly reduced number of side and parallel sessions. I learned from Erica that one should plan on being here the first week as that is when all the high level speakers are here and there are many more sessions. Something to note for next year.
I also decided that since FAWCO can bring up to 20 delegates into the UN for the CSW, we should definitely publicize this next year and have a larger delegation. In addition, the parallel meetings are open to the public, so even more FAWCO-ites could attend those. This is a fantastic opportunity for FAWCO members.
My first session was a parallel meeting organized by the Woman International Democratic Federation on Achievements of the Millenium - Woman and Work, Advances and Setbacks. Anna Rocha of Brazil posed the question "Is it worth it for women to work outside the home? especially as they still have to be the main care giver at home, in effect doing double work." She emphasized that women MUST work outside the home because it gives them visibility (quote: work inside the house is invisible!). She shared good news that Brazil has laws that pose a fine on companies which have inequality in pay, laws that guarantee access to conducive working conditions, laws to help women start businesses and access to civil documents to allow women to work. The speaker from India made 4 points: 1) advances are not uniformed across countries, 2) women find work mostly in precarious employment/ unpaid care work (in India, the government actually promotes such work, starting schemes to encourage no pay social workers, activists, volunteers), 3) financial resources are not enough in areas to help women work, 4) women organizations must pressure the governments. Greece shared some interesting statistics: unemployment in women is 28% and unemployment in youth is 60% and posed the question: how to encourage women and girls to get into technology and sciences in traditional patriarchal societies. Mozambique seems to have made some strides with 40% women parliamentarians. It also has legislation to support targets for gender equality and a comprehensive approach to close the gap. The speaker reiterated Mozambique's commitment to implement the resolutions that will come out of CSW58.
My second session was a side meeting Measuring Gender Inequality in Human Development, organized by the Human Development Report Office with speakers from UNDP Gender Team and the UN Women Statistics.
Amie Gaye of HDRO shared statistics, starting with the problem statement that stated "Because of social norms and gender stereotyping, there are disparities in freedoms women and men have and the choices they can make." "The recognition of equal rights for women along with men, and the determination to combat discrimination on the basis of gender are achievements equal in importance to the abolition of slavery the elimination of colonialism and the establishment of equal rights for racial and ethnic minorities", HDR 1995. Some disparity figures:
- about 16 million girls (15-19 years old) and 2 million girls (under 15) give birth every year
- over 30% of girls marry before 18, around 14% before 15
- approximately 800 women die daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy & childbirth
- goal on MMR, many countries off-track
- women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year fetching water
- women account for only on average 21% of parliament
Labor Force Participation figures were shared, which ranged from a difference of 24.7% female vs. 73.2% male in the Arab States to 63% female vs. 79% male in Europe and Central Asia. These gaps are actually larger if it is taken into account that females concentrated in vulnerable employment where they combine reproductive and productive work (women take on low paying menial jobs, often unpaid care jobs while men work in higher paid, more professional jobs). It can be concluded that reducing inequality in unpaid work will unleash women's potential in the paid economy.
It was then shown that the Gender (In)Equality Index (GEI or GIEI) is closely correlated to the Human Development Index. Therefore the policy implications are as follows:
- Looking beyond mere sex disaggregation of data adds value to policy debate (location, minority ...)
- Countries will boost HD by addressing gender inequalities on all fronts
- Be careful of measuring the absolute gap because of levelling down - if both men & women indices are low, the gap would be small but the overall well-being is low. Need subjective measures of well-being - participatory poverty assessments.
I then headed downtown to the New School for a 4-hour session on Human Rights & 21st Century Challenges: 20+ Years after the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. This was organized by the Women's Learning Partnership and the Gender Studies Program at the New School.
The premise was that "Since 2011 there has been marginalization of human rights at multiple levels of governance, from local to global. Post 9/11, the 1990s trent towards more robust human rights policies and language gave way to an international emphasis on "hard security". A decade later, we are witnessing the inadequacy of military-centered security to promote peace, or guarantee individual safety or national security. Today, there is a need for greater attention to the status of universal human rights and the effects of rapidly evolving technological, political and economic conditions on our lives, rights and freedoms." The panelists discussed the present state of human rights and the measures needed to strenghthen the human rights movement as a foundation for human security and the development of peaceful and democratic societies.
The first panel laid out Current Challenges and the Future of Human Rights and was consisted of Radhika Balakirshnan (USA), ED Center for Women's Global Leadership, Rutgers University, Yakin Ertuerk (Turkey) President, Asylum and Migration Research Center, and former Untied Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Gay J. McDougall (USA) Professor of International Law, Fordham and former UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, and Renzo Pomi (Uruguay) Representative at the UN for Amnesty International.
The second panel talked about Making Human Rights Locally Relevant and was composed of Lina Abou-Habib (Lebanon) ED, Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action, Asma Khader (Jordan), Parliamentarian of Jordan, Sec. Gen. of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, Naeem Mirza (Pakistan), COO, Aurat Foundation and Jacqueline Pitanguy (Brazil), Founder and President, Cepia and former Minister of Women's Affairs of Brazil.
The key take-aways from the sessions for me were:
- We've come a long way since 1993 at the time of the Vienna Convention. A whole architecture for Human Rights have been established: High Commissioner with Field Offices, Special Rapporteur on the different aspects of HR, Special Advisors, Treaties like CEDAW, Treaty Bodies monitoring HR, Univeral Periodic Reviews, International Criminal Courts, CSW, UN Women to name a few.
- But now, it's time to bring it away from the "technocrats" and implementation needs to be on the ground.
- On the ground, the grassroots organizations need to collaborate in an organized, strategic and public way.
- HR has come a long way with people more defiant, more vocal, taking action, reporting with their phone, but conservative patriarchal governments prevailed. Rights that existed can be taken away any day (example given of Morocco discussing right now to remove the minimum age of girls to marry).
The session ended with a quote from Brazil "Human Rights and Democracy is like oxygen, when you have it, you don't think about it, but when it starts to be taken away from you, you gasp and panic ...".