Monday, February 28, 2011

Youth lobbying for amendments to Agreed Conclusions

After giving ourselves about 1,5 day to catch some breath from the first full-power week of CSW, we were eager to get back to work again by the time it was Sunday afternoon. We had some quick sms and e-mail mobilization, and in the evening we met with Michiel Andeweg and Nathalia Pereira Vredeveld of Choice for Youth and Sexuality, and Maria Inés Romero and Sarah Kennell of Youth Coalition at the UNFPA office, to discuss our input as youth present here in New York, on the developments of last week, particularly the first draft of the Agreed Conclusions on the main theme.

Our amendments

It was truly inspirational to meet with this group of young people (19-28) with such clear opinions and ideas on how we could improve the conclusions. Within an hour we had formulated some concrete amendments. We all went back to our hotels and e-mailed around our input to each other. By the time it was 23:30, this document was the result: 4 concrete suggestions for amendments, referring to SRHR and HIV/Aids related issues, as well as a supporting comment on the removal of religious barriers, and the importance of acknowledging that different forms of the family exist around the world.

Though WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform is not a youth organization by itself, we do believe that working with youth is incredibly important. Being a hybrid network of individuals and organizations, we have played a role these days at the CSW in bringing various levels (you could also read years) of experience together and supporting NGO delegates of all ages to find each other and work together.


Today we armed ourselves with 130 copies of the suggested amendments and headed to the Informals, where the government delegations discuss page by page the comments made by each country on the draft Agreed Conclusions. We handed out our amendments to every government delegate we could lay our hands on. In that way, we came to talk to delegates from a.o. Malawi, Austria, Zambia, Chile, and of course our own delegates from the Netherlands and the EU. We were truly pleased to find that many of those we did not know personally yet, were very open to us approaching them, and they were asking us to explain what this one-pager was about. We are confident we did the best we could to get our points across. The coming days it will be up to the delegates to pick these issues up and use them during the formal discussions.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

National Council of Women Does not Represent Egyptian Women

Egyptian women’s organisations make a firm statement that the Egyptian delegation at the CSW does not speak for the New Egypt. They are calling for real political, social, cultural and economic change and women’s agendas have to be part of it. Yet this will not be the case when people from the previous regime continue to be in power. The Coalition of Women’s NGOs in Egypt call on us to sign their petition for rapid dissolution of Egypt’s National Council for Women. You can read why below, and sign the petition here.

Women in the revolution

We interviewed Hibaaq Osman from international NGO el Karama and had e-mail contact with Mozn Hassan, Director of local NGO Nazra for Feminist Studies and Egypt Advisor for Global Fund for Women. They told us similar stories. The January 25 revolution was joined by all Egyptians who called for change. Women from different political views, cultural backgrounds, urban and rural classes, participated and were key actors. Hibaaq: “In Egypt, the women stood next to the men saying: we want change! Nobody said: ‘you are a woman so you can not participate.’ The women were good enough to stand next to the men.” The revolution reached certain results, one of which was the overthrow of the previous regime.

The New Egypt

Now these women find their voices in danger of being marginalized again. When the constitution and new political positions are negotiated, women are muted again. Hibaaq: “The same men that they were standing next to during the revolution, when they get into positions of power in the New Egypt, they say that women are less equal. This is a result of new actors getting integrated in systems of the old regime.” The old regime is also continued through women’s voices that fakely represent the New Egypt. Mozn: “The National Council for Women (NCW) which was headed by Suzan Mubarak, wife of previous president Hosni Mubarak, kept for years tryingg to manipulate the communities as a voice of Egyptian women. They did lots of fake unreal changes in order to show the international community that they are empowering women. What we learnt from the January 25 experience is that women who participated in it are refusing NCW & Suzan Mubarak rule, because it is part of the regime that we refuse. The trial of NCW at the CSW this year is giving the wrong message and a dangerous one, as if Egyptian women are supporting the previous regime. This is just wrong!”

Women demand their voices to be heard

How can we prevent women from being muted again? Hibaaq: “First of all, no-one is going to ‘give’ us anything. Women in Egypt should and will continue to demand our rightful place in the new systems. It is about time for a new generation that believes women are equal to men. My generation of women (she is about 40) was fighting for it, the new generation knows it and is out there asking for it.” Though this may largely be an internal matter, women’s representation at the CSW is something that concerns the international community, and one that we all can take action in. The Coalition of Women’s NGOs in Egypt hopes to distribute their statement by independent feminists &women's rights NGOs, refusing NCW representation, and have voices from all over the world supporting independent women to build the New Egypt with a clear gender agenda that could do real empowerment for women.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Launch of UN Women: ‘Honouring the Past, Envisioning the Future for Women and Girls’

Today, history was written. Although, because of its name, it seems that the launch of UN Women is only meaningful for half of the population, namely women, we believe it should be celebrated by men as well. It is a signal that men cannot go about the world’s challenges alone, and that men and women, girls and boys should run the hurdles- and enjoy the fruits of their efforts TOGETHER.

We had almost given up already, thinking we would not be able to get access to the United Nations General Assembly Hall to attend the official Launch of UN Women. However, with our persistence, we found ourselves right there amongst all those government and NGO representatives to watch Ban Ki-moon, Princess Cristina of Spain and many other exemplary persons celebrating this big step in reaching gender equality across the world.

UN Women made a strong statement by opening the doors of the GA to civil society. The fact that we, as well as many other NGO representatives, were given access to the event ‘relatively’ easily is a symbolic indication of transparency, ownership and willingness to cooperate with civil society. It shows the recognition that “thanks to civil society, whose relentless effort has led to success, UN Women has been founded” (Ban Ki-moon).

To share the highlights of the great speeches that were given – they truly gave us goosebumps – here are some quotes!

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and ‘man behind UN Women’:

“Establishing UN Women is possibly the best thing we could do.”

“I dream of a world where women can express themselves, make decisions, be capable leaders and can become a genetic engineer.”

“To invest in women is the right thing to do, it is also a smart thing to do”

Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Derector, UN Women:

“There is no limit to what women can do!”

“I am UN Women, we are UN Women!”

Joy Ogwu, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, UN Women Executive Board:

“Equal opportunities for women is not a gift, it’s a right we have long since earned.”

Quoting Nyerere (first President of Tanzania): “Is anyone fast on one foot?”

Princess Cristina of Spain:

“Women are key agents of change and empowerment”

“All women deserve dignity, respect and equity.”

Ted Turner, Founder of the UN Foundation (and the CNN):

“Evidence is clear, investing in women is the smartest thing to do for development”

“Public-private partnerships are essential for UN Women to reach its goals: for funds and for ‘minds’.”

Geena Davis, Academy-Award Winner:

“The reality is that gender stereotypes remain deeply entrenched in the media.”

“If they see it, they can be it.” (about the impact of positive role models in the media on boys and girls)

Other people who spoke were Christiane Amanpour, Joseph Deiss and Rakhi Sahi, as well as Shakira and Nicole Kidman through a video message and satellite connection.

The celebration finished with a song, ONE WOMAN, sang by a number of great artists and the United Nations International School Choir. The song was especially composed for this occasion. See the chorus below:

We are One Woman

You cry and I hear you

We are One Woman

You hurt, and I hurt, too

We are One Woman

Your hopes are mine

We shall shine

…ending with a General Assembly full of women, many activists for years –decades?- standing, clapping and deeply smiling with a twinkle of euphoria in their eyes. And even though our critical minds would have loved to see more MEN in this historic event, it is all quite moving to witness… UN Women has the potential to make a difference for so many women and girls, as well as boys and men. We wish Michelle Bachelet and the whole team of UN Women all the best in their efforts to fulfil this potential. We as civil society offer our support, skills and energy to work together to reach greater gender equality in every corner of the world.

Dutch government delegation

To hear more about the latest developments in the formal UN member states' negotiations, today we (civil society) met with the Dutch delegation from OCW, Carlien Scheele and Charles de Vries, and the new Dutch Permanent Representative at the UN for gender and SRHR, Hinke Nauta.

EU negotiations

Carlien informed us about the EU negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions. Every year the EU member states come together during the CSW to negotiate amongst each other what they would like to change or add to the draft conclusions. Sometimes they largely agree, at other times they largely don’t, and it has happened that the EU split up in two blocks over more ‘controversial’ issues.

During the EU coordination meetings in the past few days, the Dutch delegation plugged a selection of our Joint NGO recommendations. After two EU meetings there was already agreement between the member states, a unicum in the at least a decade. The notion of women as agents of change was added to paragraph 4, as were the notion of education and training to stop violence against women (on initiative of OCW itself), women entrepreneurship, and reintegration of women and girls into formal education after pregnancy.

Regarding the often disputed topic of sexuality and reproductive health and rights education, an agreement was reached: the addition of the notion of ‘rights’ was not included. The Dutch delegation would have preferred it was and communicated this through informal means, however they chose to agree to maintain coherence within the EU delegation.

Yesterday the EU finalized their input. On Monday the EU will start negotiating with the other UN member states. Carlien and Charles will continue supporting the spokesperson for the EU from the sideline. In the meantime they continue their efforts to explore the field for including LGBT issues in the CSW and UN Women.

Dutch Permanent Mission at the UN

Last but most certainly not least, WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform and Choice for Youth and Sexuality met with Hinke Nauta, who is since a couple of months the new Dutch Permanent Representative at the UN for gender and SRHR. It was an informal meeting where we introduced ourselves and our work, and exchanged thoughts on important issues and possible solutions. The visions in which we can definetly find each other include the importance of involving youth in gender and SRHR issues, and the importance of working with boys and men.

Today: Launch of UN Women!

The official launch of UN Women, today at 6:30 PM New York time!

"Honouring the Past – Envisioning the Future for Women and Girls", will be hosted by Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women.

It will be emceed by Ms. Christiane Amanpour, with other distinguished speakers and performers.

Watch in LIVE through the UN webcast:
Choose Channel 6 from the menu on the right

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CSW Day 2 – Some formalities that turned out to be quite informal

No civil society access to formal UN sessions

Our evening was totally made yesterday when we managed to get our hands on an access pass for the public tribune of the official UN members states´ session for day 2 of the CSW. Today however, we found ourselves blocked by security guards at the entrance. The UN Security Council had organized an unscheduled meeting in ´our´ room. CSW55 discussions were moved to a room without possibilities for public presence.

The UN Headquarters have been under construction for several years now, which can make space limited and information sharing unorganized. It did make us wonder though, how high the Commission on the Status of Women is ranked on the UN´s priority list. On the other hand, the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region deserve all the intention of the international community they can get. We aim to give you some more information particularly on the situation of women in the region in the coming days, when we will talk to MENA NGOs.

EU requests civil society for input

This afternoon we participated in the briefing of the Permanent EU mission at the UN. We were pleased to find that, besides informing us on their activities (formal negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions have barely started), the EU delegates were requesting our input and concrete recommendations to improve the draft version of the conclusions.

Our Joint NGO statement was presented by Ines Orobio de Castro from partner organization E-Quality on behalf of Dutch civil society. Many of our recommendations had either already been mentioned and/or were backed up by other civil society representatives. Furthermore, we were quite content to find that the EU mission had already formulated additional paragraphs to the Agreed Conclusions, which address some of our main issues.

Such as regarding the importance of life skills, sexuality and reproductive health education to enable girls and boys to make informed choices; removal of physical barriers in access to education; the importance of (primary) education not only as a goal in itself but as a means for women and girls to get a decent job; and the importance of addressing gender stereotypes and involving boys and men. In the coming days the EU delegates will do their best to bring these issues to the table during the formal negotations on the Agreed Conclusions.

MALE gender activists: a conversation with David Makala

In several sessions throughout the day, I find myself in the room with the same person. Apparently my interests are similar to his... In the last session of the day, I sit next to him. I find out that he is called David Makala and that he is a Gender and Development Practitioner from Tanzania. One of the very few African men that I have seen at the CSW. In the room at this last session of the day, the atmosphere is tense… an activist vibe is detectible, especially when a lady stands up and shouts “Patriarchy has figured us [women’s activists and feminists] out!”. I wonder what this does to him, as a man, to be a women’s, or rather gender activist amongst so many women who seem to have a rather negative attitude towards men.

“Patriarchy is a monster, but we should not be afraid”

David tells me that there is no way, men can be successful without women, neither can women without men. “I come from a gender perspective, we need to tackle this monstrous Patriarchy together”, says David. “You know, poor men suffer just as much as women, patriarchy impacts girls and women, but also boys and men”. Therefore he believes that men should take greater part in important negotiations and discussions on gender equality such as during the CSW. Because, when men are not part of the equation, we will be going in circles and little structural progress will be made in reaching an improved position for girls and women in the world of today.

Girls-Boys Dialogue

I expected another session called Girls-Boys dialogue to respond exactly to that desire: putting both boys/men and girls/women into the equation. The session was particularly for youth under 18 and surprisingly the room was quickly filled. Where have all these youth been in the past few days? I quickly understand why I haven’t heard or seen them. None of the about 100 youth really stands out and guides the discussion. Girls are too shy and boys lean back. What can spur these youngsters to start a Third Wave of Feminism or should we rather call it ‘Genderism’?

Quotes of Today

To avoid bombarding you with a large number of blog texts each day, we will be simultaneously using the WO=MEN twitter account for the quotes of the day. Click HERE to see the Twitter messages! You are welcome to FOLLOW us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Official opening ceremony CSW 55

Today was the first official day of CSW55. This morning at 10, all UN entities (government delegations) collected at the UN Headquarters for the formal opening ceremony. The UN sessions are closed to the general public, however, some lucky NGO representatives manage to get their hands on access passes for the public tribune (we will not bother you with the procedures). Kirsten van den Hul, UN Womens-representative for the Netherlands, was one of them and shared her impressions with us. Click on the links below to read the full speeches of the key note speakers.

Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary-General spoke about the status of women. She emphasized that we have made progress, but it is not nearly enough. For example, 2/3 of all illiterate adults are women. This figure has not changed in the past 20 years.

Ambassador Lazarous Kapambwe, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) gave an impressive speech about the importance of investing in women for social development. He stated that ECOSOC welcomes and supports UN Women, which was met with laud applause from the country delegates.

Then Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, made her appearance. The enthousiastic reaction from the official government delegations confirmed what we observed yesterday amongst NGO delegates: women and men from around the world have set their hopes on UN Women to make a significant difference in women’s status and gender equality in the coming years.

You can watch the full the opening ceremony on film by clicking here.

Public-private partnerships

Financing NAP 1325

During the panel on Investing in Peace: Financing 1325 & the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, Sara Lulo (Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School) & Greg Starner (White & Case LLP's Commercial Litigation Group) shared their experiences on strategies to work with the private sector. Sara: “Doing good is good business.” This is why the private sector is getting more and more involved in 1325 related, not for profit activities. (For more information, contact Dewi Suralaga from Dutch development organization Cordaid who also participated,

What is in it for the private sector? Greg: “We as a law firm like to see our lawyers on the ground getting experience, as an opportunity to develop expertise. We also like the idea to contribute to programmes that fit our objectives. We want to feel like we are adding value to local communities or international initiatives.” How does a law firm fit in a National Action Plan (NAP) 1325? “Make concrete where we as private sector can add specialized expertise. We need to address our roles specifically in NAPs for 1325.”


There can be mutual suspicion. NGOs can have the prejudice that companies do wrong through their business, and attempt to compensate through CSR projects. Companies can have concerns about corruption, inefficiency, low impact of the money and resources that have been invested, and dangers to employees. Sara: “We need to acknowledge what the other one is seeing on the other side. Both can bring real value to the table. It is very important to put in place some kind of accountability mechanism, so companies will feel comfortable that they can see concrete results and won’t be put at risk.” Greg: “Companies are results driven, so we need measurable strategies and indicators.”


Sara: “We need to identify champions in the private sector, and equip them to sell the importance of working on, for example 1325 related issues, internally in their companies, with concrete indicators and statistical data to back up their argument. Fuerthermore, they want to know where their money is going. Therefore we need research and quantitative data. We have to emphasize that it is not just a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue (framing). The more information people have, the stronger their engegement will be, and the better they can sell it within their companies.”

Sara continues: “What do we mean with private sector? Not just big businesses, also small local businesses, law firms, media, the health sector. Think creatively! The service sector has a lot of experience and expertise which can be valuable. What is financing? It is not just money. Think of how we can do more with the relationships, such as support in kind: skills training on the ground, or one-time small supplies such as donating 10.000 batteries for flashlights in refugee camps.

UN Women and the private sector

Also UNIFEM/UN Women chose public-private partnerships as a central issue in their interactive workshop on this year’s priority theme. Together with Global Compact (a global platform which convenes companies together with a.o. UN agencies), UNIFEM developed 7 Womens Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

Anthony de Jong (Business Development and Resources at UN Women, the only Dutch employee thus far) explained his work on getting companies enthousiastic to invest in UN Women. Some large international companies have already confirmed that they will provide funding.

Obstacles and solutions for women's access to the private sector

People from countries as diverse as the United States, Australia, Taiwan, South Africa, Nigeria,Canada, Norway and the Netherlands discussed what their most significant national obstacles are to participation of women in the private sector. It turned out women from the global South first mention poverty and lack of education primarily, masculine corporate cultures/structures are only secondary. Women from Northern countries mentioned lack of childcare facilities and flexible working hours, lack of women in top positions, the pay gap and minimal pregnancyleave possibilities (the Netherlands globally lags behind with men getting only 2 days after their child is born!).

They also talked about possible solutions. Companies should not wait for their governments to set quota, but should take their own initaitives to improve the gender balance in their organizations. Also the supply chain of products to their organization must be diversified. Furthermore, companies need to become more flexible towards their employees, for the benefit of both women and men: such as more flexible working hours and possibilities to work from home (‘het nieuwe werken’).

Male involvement: example from Zambia

After a rather theoretical presentation full of data from the US during the Parallel session on 'Relational Aspects of Gender Equality in Sport: Male-Female Collaborative Advocacy', Mathilda Mwaba from Zambia is asked to take the stage. She is the Executive Director of NOWSPAR, a Zambian organisation that promotes gender equality through sports. She actually comes with much more interesting ‘real’ information about her experiences in challenging gender stereotypes by not only assisting girls and women, but also by starting a dialogue with boys and (young) men.

Mathilda & Mathilda Mwaba, with Kirsten van den Hul

(yes there were men present as well, we just really like this picture)

Every Body Matters

It feels refreshing when Mathilda explains how the organisation is confronted with the reality of the relational context: men want to be involved as well in fighting for greater gender equality! “We cannot avoid including men in our work” says Mathilda. She explains how turning men into supportive partners can have a multiplier effect on challenging violence against girls and women. Sports is a great positive means to accomplish social change. Since “sports is a mirror of society”, such social change within the context of sports can have a positive impact on society at large as well.

A lost opportunity

Altogether, it was a very inspiring presentation. However, during the discussion in the last 30 minutes, little was tried to link Mathilda’s knowledge to the research from the US and Scandinavia. A pity, because here was the opportunity to connect knowledge and ideas about similar problems in different contexts: one of the main benefits of coming together as NGOs, isn’t it? Mathilda came with a clear message, and luckily, her message reached me and through me, it reaches you. More info about NOWSPAR you find HERE.

WO=MEN on USA university blog

During the NGO Consultation Day, we met an inspiring student, Mariam Yaqub from Lehigh University who got inspired by our message that gender stereotypes need to be challenged, and that men need to be proactively involved in solutions to violence and discrimination against girls. After Joni's statement, she came towards us to ask for more information. She interviewed us over some drinks, which in the end became a pleasant exchange of experiences. You can read her blog with her reflection on our conversation here. Great to meet other activist youth at the CSW!!

Read Mariam's blog!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Highlights of the day – NGO Consultation day

We’ll give you a daily dosis of inspirational quotes. There’s so much going on we simply can’t go into detail on all of it, so this is a selection that might trigger some thoughts…

  • “Women can, Yes we can!” Michelle Bachelet states with great confidence. The audience cheers and applauses, the head of UNWomen is already loved by experienced women activists. See for more reflection on Bachelet’s speech the blog below.
  • “We have to stop it, because it hurts. Even as a man, I also know it.” A young US marine (male) stands up to speak his mind on men’s roles in ending violence against women and girls.
  • “That right there, is a micro-representation of what is wrong in this world: we are not moving, because we are quite comfortable where we are now…” Dutch Women respresentative at the UN Kirsten van den Hul makes a sharp observation on the behaviour of two NGO representatives who do not want to move up a few seats so we can sit together (eventually they did though :)
  • “I think I want a third wave feminism.” Donelle Wheeler from UN Women Australia shares our opinion that young women are highly underrepresented during this meeting and that most sessions would benefit quite a lot from some interactive facilitation methods.
  • “Have you thought about ways to involve those women who cannot be present today, for example through conference calls?” Colorfully dressed Eleanor Nwadinobi from NMWA Nigeria questions the inclusiveness of UN events as a result of high costs and requirement to pay with credit card. (Bachelet: “Yes, we think cooperation with women from civil society all around the world is of utmost importance”).
  • “Aha, it’s an ‘equates’ sign. I want one, that’s such smart marketing!!!” An enthousiastic young lady quite likes the WO=MEN buttons that represent equality, and immediately pinnes it on her sweater. So did many other women that we gave the flyer to today.
  • During the Closing session we took the mike to ask attention for the fact that violence against women is a gender issue; affecting both women and men; needing gender stereotypes to be removed; and that girls are not only victim but also change agent, just as boys and men can be partners, role models, peer educators, and change agents as well (see NGO statement on the review theme). Afterwards, we spend about half an hour talking to women who shared their own experiences from the field on the importance of male involvement.

NGO Consultation Day: CSW -1

Michelle Bachelet (Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General for UNWomen)

About 300 people, nearly all women, in the main room of the Salvation Army are full of excitement. It is the day before the official start of the CSW and we are already together to share our contact cards, experiences and ideas. On top of that, Michelle Bachelet who is the head of UNWomen and a great example comes to speak! Expectations are high…

Civil society: partners of UNWomen!

Michelle Bachelet starts off with sweet words in a room full of women activists and organisations: “today, the NGO consultation is the corner stone of the CSW.” When Bachelet states that civil society is part of the solution to reach greater gender equality, she gets a standing ovation from the NGO representatives present in the room. UNWomen depends on the support and partnership with civil society, and “NGOs are key partners of UNWomen” says Bachelet. Action is added to the words as the question is posed: “How do you, as NGOs, see your involvement with UNWomen?” The level is set high and it looks promising for the coming two weeks.

UNWomen: a Catalyst of Change

How is UNWomen going to make a difference within the large UN network? Clealry, UNWomen is still trying to find its place within the UN structure. It seems confident in knowing what its added value is. Bachelet argues that UNWomen is there to besides reaching its own goals, also to influence and contribute to the agenda of UNDP, UNICEF and other UN institutions. “UNWomen should be seen as a catalyst of change.” The question that remains is whether UNWomen will become a kind of gender watchdog within the UN, or whether it will step beyond that with its own programmes. The answer is given swiftly: “We don’t tackle education directly, this is the responsibility of UNESCO. We don’t tackle health direclty, this is the responsibility of institutions such as the WHO”. UNWomen seems to be the gender igniter, ensuring that all existing UN institutions mainstream gender in their policies… but don’t we aspire it to be much more than that?


Going more into the content after all the institutional talk, Michelle Bachelet discussed the vision of UNWomen. “Women will never have equal rights if women are not empowered”. Empowerment is the main theme in her argument. Women should be empowered by improving their political participation and making their voices heard. Secondly, economic empowerment is essential and instrumental. Access to, quality ánd relevance of training and education need to be taken into account. Lastly, voices of women need to be better heard in particularly conflict mediation. “Women in conflicts are powerless”. Increasing the number of female mediators is one way to tackle this problem, but also, Michelle argues that male mediators need to be sensitized to the voices of women in their constituencies. Attention for men in addressing gender issues comes back sporadically throughout the consultation but to our taste way too little…

Rineke van Dam

Junior Representative WO=MEN

Friday, February 18, 2011

Get involved: sign the CSO statements!

By Joni van de Sand
WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform

In just a couple of days the CSW55 kicks off! Before we can really start our participant observation of the United Nations’ diplomatic jungle, we will give you a short update on what we have been up to. We also present some relevant documents for you to take notice of, hopefully read, and perhaps even sign?! (you will go where many have gone before you…)

Civil society cooperation
In the past few weeks WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform has cooperated closely with other civil society organizations - amongst which E-Quality, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Vrouwenbelangen, the International Council of Women (ICW) and many more - to collectively formulate statements and recommendations regarding this years relevant themes. (If you don´t know how it all works with the CSW and the differences between main theme/review theme/emerging issue, etc, have a look at the CSW55 website)

Main theme
During a consultation meeting with Dutch civil society representatives we discussed the main theme Access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. This discussion has led to the formulation of 10 concrete recommendations to our own government (which is what they call in UN language our “UN entity”) as well as to all those other governments which have signed the quoted agreements, as well as to all those organizations and individuals that are active in the field! Please read the statement by clicking here.
If you wish to sign this statement on behalf of your organization, please send an e-mail to Ines Orobio de Castro from E-Quality by clicking here.

Review theme
Relatively new is the statement and recommendations we have formulated on this year’s review theme The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child. The statement is partially a result of the meeting when the main theme was discussed (see above) and has been further sharpened with experiences and insights from our own work. The recommendations focus on challenging gender stereotypes, as we argue for the recognition and portrayal of women and girls not only as victims of violence and gender inequalities, but also as agents of change to overcome them. Also, we argue in favour of active involvement and engagement of boys, adolescent- and adult men as positive actors in the elimination of discrimination and violence against the girl child. We depart from the idea that a world without gender discrimination and gender based violence is for the benefit of all.
Please read the statement here. If you want to comment on this statement, or if you wish to sign it on behalf of your organization, please send an e-mail to blogger Joni van de Sand from WO=MEN, by clicking here.

Emerging issue
In addition, our blogger Rineke van Dam (WO=MEN and AMREF/Flying Doctors) will be presenting an oral statement during the Panel 4 discussion on Gender equality and sustainable development. We do not have any document yet, however the two statements above will provide input for this one. Furthermore we will actively look for cooperation (writing and signing) meanwhile in New York. Women in Development Europe (WIDE) will surely be one our partners.
If you also wish to provide input and/or are interested in signing the statement, please send an e-mail to Rineke van Dam, by clicking here.

Our next post will be from New York!

Gender, Women and the New Dutch Government

By Rineke van Dam
Junior representative WO=MEN

Gender and the emancipation of women remain hot topics up to today. In spite of strong commitment to work on gender equality through international agreements, implementation on the ground is not always taking place effectively. For instance, when the new government took position in the Netherlands at the end of 2010, there was much commotion in the press when the names of proposed ministers were presented: sixteen out of twenty are men, leaving only four women in such leading and exemplary political positions. Media attention soon died away, but the Netherlands is left with a male dominated government.

MDG3 Fund in Danger?
Gender ratio in the government is one way to look at its ‘women-friendliness’. Of course, priorities and policies are of primary importance as well. To our great pride, the Dutch government has a special budget for MDG3, which is spent on initiatives that promote the emancipation of women. However, with all the enthusiasm in budget cuts -the new Dutch government had to drastically cut its spending- it was also planned to retrench the ‘Gender-Fund’: a huge setback in the fight for gender equality. Luckily, with support from civil society organizations, politicians and the wider public, an effective lobby curbed these plans: Five million Euros was put back into the fund…

Gender: a Crosscutting theme
It would be shortsighted to think that the Gender-Fund alone could achieve gender equality. Gender is a crosscutting theme, which stands out clearly from the diverse issues included in the main topic of the upcoming CSW: “Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work”. Education, just to pick one element, is crucial for the emancipation of girls and women. For instance, educated girls are less likely to have unwanted and/or early pregnancies, and they chose to have fewer children. Moreover, child and maternal mortality are significantly lower for educated women. Coming back to the women-friendliness of the Dutch government: it has been decided to remove education as a priority theme in development cooperation. This means that the Dutch government will reduce funding for organizations that invest in improving access to education in the Global South.

A big leap backwards?
It is time to acknowledge that gender, just like education, is a complex, cross-cutting theme that does not deserve to be considered in isolation. Better access to education for girls cannot be seen separated from investments in gender equality through an MDG3 Fund. They come hand-in-hand!

The argument that investments in education have not everywhere, one-for-one resulted in economic growth is not valid. Lack of economic growth in the Global South has many other causes! For instance, protective agricultural policies that prevent African farmers, mostly women(!), from exporting their products into the European Union.

Besides, the Dutch government should recognize the value of education as going far beyond direct economic growth. It is a long-term investment and lies very much at the basis of the emancipation of women and girls. Moreover, it contributes to improved food production, health, safety and many other developmental goals. It is sad that the Dutch government does not acknowledge this complexity and long-term vision. Thereby, it seems to have taken a big leap backwards in the emancipation of women in the world of today.

Gender is still a relevant topic, and with this attitude, Joni and I will get on the plane tomorrow to travel to the 55th session of the CSW in New York.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Status of Women in 2011

by Rineke van Dam (junior representative WO=MEN)

The Big Apple, symbol for economic vibrancy, cultural exchange and tempting opportunities. When I receive the call from Joni van de Sand working for WO=MEN that I have been selected as junior representative to attend the 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, I feel thrilled and a bit intimidated. Such an opportunity needs to be harnessed. The same evening, I delve into the program for the upcoming session. I need to be well prepared to valuably contribute to discussions on the position of women in the world of today.

Missing Women
The theme under review is the ‘elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child’. This theme makes me think about Amartya Sen’s intriguing example on the implications of discrimination against the girl child. He comes up with the concept of “missing women” and argues that due to unequal access to healthcare and nutrition in a number of countries, mortality rate for young girls and women is considerably higher than for boys and men. As a result, an estimated number of 100 million women are ‘missing’ in South Asia, West Asia and North Africa. Particularly in countries struck by poverty, the girl child suffers disproportionally. This year, the CSW will look at to what extent the conclusions that were drawn on this topic in 2007 have been followed up.

Working Women
The priority theme of this year’s session will be the ‘access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work’. It is a mouth-full making it rather difficult to grasp. Therefore, I rather summarize it as the economic opportunities for women and their ability to participate in the economy in a ‘decent’ manner. I particularly find women’s participation in the labor market a key area to take action in. During my studies, I learned that women generally take the lower paid jobs requiring the least skills and responsibility. Moreover, their jobs often have the least security with little or no social benefits when they fall sick or retire. Such trends are not only found in the Global South (Africa, Asia and Latin America). Wage gaps and discrepancies in access to ‘better’ jobs continue to exist in Europe and the US as well. Considering the feminization of poverty, it is crucial that the gendered access to economic opportunities is put on the agenda of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Motorbike delivery
Lastly, this year’s session will touch upon maternal mortality and morbidity. As an employee of AMREF Flying Doctors, I have seen how gender inequality and poverty contribute to unacceptably high mortality rates of pregnant women. During a visit to Busia, Kenya, a mother of twins told me how she almost died during delivery. The first child was born at home but the placenta would not come out, nor the second child. She had to be transported for 30 minutes over a rough road on the back of a motorbike to reach a health facility. Now she is the lucky mother of two lively boys and can tell the story, something not many other mothers can replicate.

Women in New York
From the 22nd of February until the 4th of March, Joni van de Sand and I will be attending the CSW in New York to discuss all these issues. Through this blog, we will keep you updated with the most relevant developments, interesting events and ‘juicy’ details. Do not hesitate to give comments, ask questions and even to post your own blog by sending your input to!

See you in New York!


Monday, February 7, 2011

WO=MEN in New York 2011

It is time for a new session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

During the 55th session, the main theme will be:
- Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women's equal access to full employment and decent work.
The theme under review will be:
- The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.

We, Joni van de Sand and Rineke van Dam, will be present in New York on behalf of WO=MEN. Through this blog, we will keep you updated on the most relevant developments, interesting events and 'juicy' details.

We happily invite you to respond to our posts on this blog or write your own post by sending your contribution to

Yes, we FEM!

Joni and Rineke