Monday we departed the hotel at 7:00 to make it to CCUN by 7:30 a.m. The Young Women led worship for the Ecumenical Womens’ worship service and it went off without a hitch. In fact, it was very meaningful and uplifting. The theme of “Breaking the Jar” spoke to the idea of standing up for yourself and others as a woman even when you are with naysayers.
After worship I went to breakfast with Amanda, Lydia, and Sung Yeon at a yummy little cafe called Tudor Cafe. One of the great things about being a part of the Young Women’s Leadership Development (YWLD) group is that we have such a great group to bounce things off of, debrief over breakfast with, and really discuss some of the things we have been learning and hearing at CSW.
My first Parallel event was “Profiles in Courage: Human Rights Defenders in the Struggle to End Violence Against Women” put on by the United Nations Watch and International Council for Jewish Women. The panel of three women spoke about their personal experiences with violence.
- The first speaker, Hadeel Kouki, was a young Syrian woman who had been involved in the beginning of the revolution. She was jailed and tortured two separate times, and sought political asylum outside of Syria.
- The second speaker was Roya Hakakian, an Iranian American journalist who spoke about her experiences with gender inequality in the Middle East.
- The third speaker was Dr. Qanta Ahmed, an Associate Professor of Medicine at New York University. She told us of her experiences as a physician in Saudi Arabia, as witness to both violence and torture. She told of personal experiences of gender inequality as a female doctor in Saudi Arabia, and she spoke about her belief as a devout Muslim and the ways that she has been angry and discouraged by fanatical Islamic factions who have twisted the meaning of the Quran.
The event was so eye opening and a great way to start my week.
In the afternoon I discovered that no one had signed up to use the secondary pass to attend the official CSW UN Meeting, so Sung Yeon and I signed up to go! We got a bit lost finding the right room (the lawn building is not connected to the main building…who knew?) but we found where we were supposed to be and found a seat about half way back.
The chairwoman opened the floor up to member states to share what their countries were doing about violence against women in their countries:
- France spoke about the problem of criminalizing violence against women that can leave the woman with no funds to care for the children, and possibly no stable home. France has been able to empower law enforcement to solve these issues. They believe that sexual health and education is important and had questions about what other countries were doing regarding electronic bracelets for perpetrators.
- Portugal said that violence against women was a part of their annual campaign, particularly looking at destructive effects on children of violence against their mothers. They are focusing on jobs and training actions and strengthening relationships with migrant communities.
- Turkey talked about the Istanbul convention and said that they have been able to provide services to women affected by violence all under one roof. They stressed the importance of working with religious centers and having educational programs for men as well. One of their struggles was that 71% of women in Anatolia who were polled believed that women should obey their husbands in all things without question.
- Finland stressed the importance of involving men and boys in the learning process in order to get at the root problems, particularly violent images. They have a program called “The Boys House” that teaches young men about being men that doesn’t involve violence.
- China reminded everyone that they have 650 million women. They mentioned that they are allowing civil NGOs and civil society to play a bigger part in helping to prevent and eliminate violence against women.
- The European Union was very succinct. They said they have more laws now for violence against woman. This issue is a human rights issue. They have gender experts who act with NGOs and they believe that we need to support NGOs on a regional level as well.
- Belgium spoke about having a regional dialogue platform for players of different sectors involved with domestic abuse, to exchange good practices and implement changes. They are able to have police, medical staff and others involved in identifying abuse work together and be trained on identifying. 72% of young teens admitted to being violent in their relationships.
- Switzerland talked about the need to attack the root causes – social, economic and cultural violence. They stressed that economic autonomy is essential for balance.
- Norway spoke mainly about mobilizing men and boys in education. They also stressed the importance of the inclusion of sexual rights in the final document.
- Kazakhstan talked about the importance of motherhood, family, and children being protected. September 2nd is the Day of the Family in Kazakhstan. They have reduced the maternal mortality rates and have always respected women within the family and the society. (The representative spoke to long and the chairwoman took off her headphones and moved on while she was still talking.)
- Solomon Islands said that 2 out of 3 women suffered from gender violence in their country. They need help in focusing on climate change and the rising sea level because this causes disharmony within the community and family and is causing violence.
- Ghana spoke about reducing harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. There are laws but it is hard to prosecute because of the culture. They are looking at alternate rites of passage and getting cooperation from traditional leaders. They also have problems with sexting.
- Brazil has a violence hotline that gets 2000 calls a day. They have an integrated assistance program for victims of violence and men are forced to pay all the costs to the state for the care of the victim.
- India has put in place new laws about domestic abuse and abuse within the work place.
- Bahrain mentioned that the king of Bahrain is also discussing this topic concurrently. They put emphasis on violence against women being against Sharia. Their concern is that some people believe the law against violence is personal and that the state shouldn’t try to intervene. They have seen some opposition when the law was discussed. They would like to start educating children about it so they can get at the root causes.
- Denmark reminded that we must involve men and boys. They have hotlines and crisis centers there. This is no longer a private matter but a public concern.
- Nigeria stressed the education of both boys and girls in the matter of violence against women and said that women must be economically empowered.
- Mauritania spoke of disseminating the text of the convention and put a stress on eliminating female genital mutilation. They said that religious leaders were involved in reducing FGM by saying that it was not required by religious law.
- Slovenia said that preventing and eliminating violence against women was one of 6 priority areas set up for their national program. They are going to set up a hotline.
- Lichtenstein talked about enhancing the role of women in mediation and mentioned that they would like to serve on CSW and UN women.
- Lao PDR stressed changing the mindset of people who are deep in the mentality of tolerance to the violence. They want to address the mentality of the elderly who command respect because they need their support in changing the mentality of the younger generations. (This representative also went too long and was cut off by the chair person).
- The State of Palestine was speaking for the very first time as a recognized voice in the United Nations! It was exciting…everyone applauded!! She stressed that women in Palestine have been fighting violence for decades from Israel as well as within their own homes. Palestine is subject to Jordanian criminal code and they have asked for the Honour Crimes to be repealed in Jordan.
OKAY! So this was a three hour meeting…I was only there for 2.25 hours – aren’t you glad I didn’t stay for the whole thing?
After that was over I went to get a quick bite to eat and the joined the Intergenerational Dialogue at the Church of the Covenant. This was a really great experience. We got to share with others within our own generation as well as several generations around ours. We talked about things we had learned from our fore-mothers that we wanted to pass on as well as things we learned from our fore-mothers that we did not want to pass on. We talked about ways we have experienced gender inequality as well.
On a personal note, when I was thinking about things I had learned from my fore-mothers I thought of several things my Grandma Wilcox had taught me – her love, faith, and strength as a woman who grew up in the depression was always so inspiring to me…and of course the reminder to always take time out to swing on the porch swing with people you care about. After we left the Intergenerational Dialogue and were eating Thai Food back at the hotel I got a message from my dad letting me know that Grandma Wilcox had passed away. This was not unexpected, in fact, I have been feeling pretty privileged today be acting as a woman delegate to CSW in remembrance and memory of such a strong and faithful woman as my grandma, Coralie Wilcox. I think she would be proud.