Monday, March 3, 2008

Mira Hall's Reports from the UNCSW! Part 3

UN- Day 3: In a show of their commitment to gender equality financing, the World Bank fails to show upThis morning I attended the opening ceremony of the 52nd UNCSW (United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.) There were huge line ups starting very early in the morning outside the visitors entrance of the United Nations Building. A sharp contrast between two groups filling the line was obvious.

Granola styled free wheeling feminists, and conservatively stuffy business suits of primarily male representatives from all over the globe. I originally thought that the suit clad participants were government delegates for our commission, however I later learned (while sitting in the only indoor smoking area in New York City) that the others were staticians from all member states of the UN.

I had coffee with the head of the department of statistics from Jordan as well as the head from Croatia. The head from Jordan was extremely personable, waxing poetic about his Queen. He was very proud of her contribution to gender equality, and listed off five different government departments dedicated to the study and subsequent implementation of policy to promote Gender Equality in Jordan.

I was very impressed with the pride he showed and the interest he had in the UNCSW. He mentioned that he had even made a point of stopping in on our events to hear the speakers. Mister Croatia was friendly enough, but not very personable. He didn’t seem to have much use for small talk, and I on the other hand feel uncomfortable sitting at a two person table and not speaking to the person across from me. So that conversation was more limited, but he seemed very concerned with the effects of climate change that he had noticed in his area.

Getting back to the spirit of Jordan, however, the first panel that I witnessed was a special event on actions against violence against women. There was a panel of five people including the moderator. Within the panel, there were three men and two women. The focus of the panel seemed to surround the necessity of including men as allies in the fight against violence against women.

The first speaker was a young female who works in Haiti with the Commission of Women Victims for Victims. This is an anti rape movement that started following the second collapse of Haitian society (that resulted in militarization of the area.) The first speaker (I wish I could remember her name) talked about how rapists are rarely convicted in Haiti, and how sometimes a female victim of rape will be killed to restore her family’s honor. She spoke about a grand March of women clad in white dresses and black masks in one of their demonstrations which you can read about here:

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/09/01/news/CB_GEN_Haiti_Rape_Victims.php

She also talked about the importance of the day to day peer support that women victims provide to each other following rape. I am personally very aware of our own local despair surrounding high rates of violence against women, and hearing her speak led me to dream of someday gathering all victims within the Territory to March to the Legislature. Following her presentation was Michael Coffman from the White Ribbon Campaign. That organization was formed following the Montreal Massacre and is Canadian based. They employ a variety of methods to try to redefine “manhood” to remove violence from acceptable behavior within the social norm.

All members of the White Ribbon Campaign have made a solemn pledge never to use an act of violence on a woman.Kevin Powell is a young black activist who tours the country giving lectures on using Hip Hop for social change, and analyzing the effects of White Patriarchy Models on the black community.

He opened his presentation with the recognition of two violent acts that he had committed against women in his younger days. He said that following the incidents he was challenged by women in his community on the behavior, and that since the incidents he has actively attended psychotherapy stating that engaging in violence against women is a mental illness.

He gave the audience 5 points that men need to stop the violence:1- Own the behavior, own the mistake2- Get help! If you engage in this behavior you NEED mental health help!3- Learn to listen to the voices of women4- Men *must* redefine manhood.5- Men HAVE to be allies to women.He spoke passionately about engaging young men on his tours with frank discussions with language that was relevant to who they are and what social framework they come from. It was really interesting and inspiring.

Next was a lawyer from India who spoke from his experience as a male child in a family of feminists. He supported what the other panelists had already said, and then went on to say that mentoring young men in anti violence so that they can then go forth into their communities and peer groups is essential. He also stressed that within the current social framework that men will more actively listen to other men. He also said that in order to move government support feminists must try to explain benefits of gender equality in terms of the economic as well as social benefits.

I was impressed with the speakers and I am looking forward to hearing back from northerners on how relevant they feel that these ideas are to the North. It did strike me, listening to Kevin Powell that northern kids, particularly aboriginal seem to identify strongly with hip hop and rap music. It also made me think of Herb Norwegian, the former chief who was all apologies for his behavior before a judge with the power to sentence him, but dismissive of it when his behavior impacted his economic benefit. I’m very glad that he was ousted, and I hope that he uses this time to think about the five actions outlined by Powell to seriously modify his behavior.
http://www.menstoppingviolence.org/News/news.php

Following this enlightening panel event, I was finally off to hear what the World Bank had to say about financing for gender equity. I’m a political economics student with Athabasca University. School is so expensive that I usually take one class at a time and will probably be in my late sixties by the time I finish my undergrad. However, in the meantime I try to soak up anything that is relevant to the discipline and have reaped the benefits of the grades that I see when I complete my courses (at a snail’s pace.)

At any rate, I was very excited. Seeing actual people that work for the world bank and hearing them speak on any issue would be akin to going to a rock concert for me. I was so happy to be given the opportunity to be breathing the same air in the same room as these powerhouse people who determine the economic fate of the world. I even ditched out of my smoke based networking in the café early, so that I could get a seat close to them. I arrived and others where there patiently waiting. I sat with a South African woman who develops policy for the government and idly chitchatted about our respective states of health care and education. Time ticked on and on.

Disapointingly, the World Bank Reps failed to come. I was very disappointed and was the last one in the room, long after everyone else had given up and left.In closing, it was a generally good day. I have lots of food for thought, and was even surprised by a South African nun who described a primary health clinic that she works in. It mirrored the work that happens at the Great Slave clinic, except for the fact that they have an early childhood education program and a nursing program in their clinic that teaches young South African women general care and hygiene, subsequently allowing them to go on in nursing or homecare, and other health based jobs. I suppose that we have medical and nursing students who come to our clinic. We have it in a way, but because their system standards are a bit lower, it’s more informal and therefore easier for local women to access.

1 comment:

Ayesha said...

Poverty has a woman's face. Global prosperity and peace will only be achieved once the entire world's people are empowered to order their own lives and provide for themselves and their families. Societies where women are more equal stand a much greater chance of achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015. Every single Goal is directly related to women's rights, and societies were women are not afforded equal rights as men can never achieve development in a sustainable manner.
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