Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Patriarchy is a multi-headed shape-shifting beast

Gender equality is about the relationships between women and men. Take a second to really absorb this apparently simple statement. Though the overall majority of the people walking around the CSW56 premises are women (with the exception of government delegates where the balance is about 50/50), we – as the network called “Women Equals Men” - are happy to share that men’s organizations working on gender equality are present here as well.

Male gender champions Gary Barker from Instituto Promundo (Brazil), and Tim Shand and Aviwe Mtibe from the Sonke Gender Justice Network (South Africa) shared stories of change when working with men at the grassroots. Representatives from UNFPA and UNICEF also reaffirmed that without men, there can be no gender justice. These organizations therefore havetargeted programmes with men, as well as mainstreamed work with men in projects related to a.o. violence against women and family planning.

Gary Barker explained about the recently lounged MenCare campaign, a cooperation between Promundo, Sonke and MenEngage. It takes men’s care giving roles as departure point for gender equality, for the benefit of all. In father’s groups men share their experiences as fathers, sons and men. It helps them to see alternatives, to change thoughts on what these roles are like.

What are challenges?
: “This is the power to transform the community. Men who step outside the box, get better lives as well. The women’s rights revolution affects men, they are part of it: some experience it screaming and kicking, but others are really getting it. We use the carrot and the stick when we tell men: ‘Your lives get better when you are in contact with your child(ren).’ We have done extensive studies on men’s experiences. These show that when men have deeper relationships with the people around, this can lead to better mental health, less depression, less violence. And relationships with women get better. For example, when men do more work around the house, both women and men report better relationships and better sex-lives. We have not been talking much to men about fatherhood. But from our survey we know 4 in 5 men around the world will be fathers in their life.”

Gary: “If its just a handful of men, it will not lead to the structural change that we want to see. Besides change in men, we need to have sectors attuned. For example the health-sector; work-regulations and time-off for men; poverty alleviation and empowerment: when we see women’s work-time going up, where is the care-work time of men? We do not want to counterbalance maternity leave with paternity leave. What we want is family leave. We work on how to put dialogues up. We always want to do this together with women.”

Joni van de Sand on behalf of WO=MEN contributed to the discussion. At CSW we tend to talk about practical issues such as women’s empowerment, access to health and financial services, political participation, etc. These are all essential. We however also have to address the underlying causes of gender inequalities, such as traditional values, cultural barriers, gender stereotypes, etc. Yes, it is indeed patriarchy stupid! If we do not address the question of why gender norms favor the masculine over the feminine all around the world, we are not going to achieve structural change.

The panel replied in agreed, indeed we often fail to address the rights issue. This also includes sexual rights and reproductive rights, added UNFPA. In the words of Lulu Xingwana, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, South Africa (in public) “Patriarchy is a multi-headed shape-shifting beast.” Nurper Ulkuer from UNICEF: “If we just push women in the same structures that are in place now, we will replace the patriarch with the matriarch. But it is about social justice. We have to change social norms, by working with young boys and girls to change how they are socialized.”

Last but not least, GBC Health from the private sector explained why they are involved in the MenCare campaign. The rhetoric gives them access to male workers. To change the new generation of men. And to bring male engagement angle in on maternal health, childhood care, etc. They thanked organizations like Promundo and Sonke to pave the way and provide the materials to work on these issues.

On March 7, at the eve of International Women’s Day, Gary Barker will speak at de Globaliseringsezing in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform co-organizes this event.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Regional caucus Africa: meeting of regional civil society at the CSW

This afternoon was the moment for several regional caucuses. That means: civil society organizations from a specific region meet up and exchange thoughts. Unlike the negotiations between the government delegations, these meetings are open to anyone who wishes to join. We were very interested to hear how women from around the African continent strategize during the CSW. As you may recall, during last year’s session the representative of the African Group did not flourish in pro-gender statements…

An African Women Statement was presented on behalf of regional African women’s organizations. The organizations recall CEDAW and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (‘Maputo Protocol’ 2003). They underscore acceleration of the implementation of commitments made to women’s human rights. Hinders to women’s freedom of choice and mobility in the socio-economic context are mentioned. Even the persistence of patriarchal norms and rural women’s violation of their human rights, are included.

Regional organization FEMNET voiced worries about the nature of the negotiations between delegations. “In the past two years we have noticed that the conversation leans towards the conservative. For example on issues surrounding gender equality. Last year even the notion of gender equality itself was up for discussion by some governments. As African women it is important we are involved in the negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions outcome document. We must lobby for the points that we want to put and keep in.”

The African caucus fiercely moved forward, by selecting in democratic fashion a volunteers-panel to review the oral statement by the African Group (Tunisia); a lobby-group with government and non-government delegation members; and a panel to draft the amendments to the Agreed Conclusions. Furthermore, one of the feminist activists in the panel called on her colleagues to add reproductive health services, including family planning, to the Agreed Conclusions.

So, let no-one state that progressive statements can not be African (as happened last year). The African caucus represents African women (and some men), living life in Africa or as African diaspora, voicing the perspectives of African people. We look forward to align with African and other regional organizations to get the best out of the CSW56 outcome documents for gender equality and women’s rights.

Van Bijsterveldt riep CSW op 'to move forward'

Voor het eerst sinds 7 jaar maakt de minister van emancipatie deel uit van de regeringsdelegatie naar de CSW. Minister van Bijsterveldt heeft vol overtuiging daarvoor gekozen, zo vertelde ze de NGO-vertegenwoordigers vanmiddag tijdens de lunch op de PV, waarvoor ze hen had uitgenodigd. Hoewel in de Nederlandse context de politieke discussie over emancipatie tegenwoordig vaak ten onrechte verengd wordt tot emancipatie van homo’s, lesbo’s, biseksuele en transgender personen (LHBT), gaat het Nederlandse emancipatiebeleid ook en nog steeds over verbetering van de positie van vrouwen. De titel van het persbericht - Minister maakt zich bij VN sterk voor vrouwenrechten - moet dan ook zeker niet worden opgevat als wel bij de VN, maar niet in Nederland, merkt uw columnist op.

De toespraak van de minister vond op dinsdagmiddag plaats, toen het al avond was in Nederland, zodat we niet meteen een link naar de tekst konden plaatsen - inmiddels, het is nu hier een uur of zeven, vonden we de link op (bij PV New York is nog niets te vinden).
Van Bijsterveld riep op niet alleen onverkort vast te houden aan de afspraken en het committent dat in 1995 met de Beijing verklaring en actieplatform is aangegaan. Met meer energie, middelen en vasthoudendheid moet gender gelijkheid en women’s empowerment gerealiseerd worden. Ze hield de VN-lidstaten voor dat het ook tijd is stappen vooruit te zetten: gender equality impliceert ook gelijke rechten ongeacht gender identity en daarmee een einde aan discriminatie van homo’s, lesbo’s en transgenders.

In de Nederlandse benadering betreft gelijkwaardigheid tussen vrouwen en mannen, ongeacht hun seksuele oriëntatie of gender identiteit, in essentie mensenrechten. Vandaar de strategie om via gendergelijkheid ook LHBT-rechten te agenderen, een strategie waarop Nederlandse NGO's al enige jaren aandrongen.

De toespraak van de minister werd met een gepast applausje ontvangen. Omdat ik via de computer luisterde (geen toegangskaart tot de tijdelijke VN-gebouwen) kon ik niet zien of dat applaus uit de regeringsbankjes kwam of van de kant van de toehorende NGO’s. Een van de adjudanten had de NGO’s opgeroepen niet alleen aanwezig te zijn, maar ook instemming kenbaar te maken. Dat we als Nederlanders meestal kritisch zijn op NGO’s die als applausmachine voor hun regering optreden had hij zich vast niet gerealiseerd.

Hoe dan ook: naast minister van Bijsterveldt lieten verschillende ministers uit andere EU-landen een strijdbaar geluid horen: het gaat om het bereiken van gender gelijkheid en afstand nemen van de ambitie én de formuleringen uit Beijing is niet aan de orde. Daar kunnen we tenminste mee uit de voeten.

Ik denk dat we wel langer dan 7 jaar terug moeten zoeken naar een toespraak van de Nederlandse delegatie met zo’n (VN) politiek activistisch gehalte. Houden zo, en zeker niet weer zo lang wachten!

Leontine Bijleveld

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trend watching @ Opening Ceremony

This morning the opening ceremony of the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place in the General Assembly of the United Nations. Several organization- and country-representatives delivered speeches, which provide us with some useful insights in the overall trends and specific agenda’s during the session to come.

All spokespersons confirmed the importance of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). This agenda captures the centrality of gender and gender equality. It is not entirely surprising that progressive, moderate and conservative states alike underline the BPfA. After all “one of the key roles of the CSW is to monitor progress and address remaining gaps in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.” (Ms. Marjon V. Kamara from Liberia, chair of CSW56). Ms. Kamara further stated that “For good reasons, the annual sessions of the CSW are a ‘must-attend’ on the calendars of the global gender equality community. It is the time when we gather to take stock, rejoice progress made, rally around key issues and commit to move forward to bring real change to the lives of women and girls around the globe.” See her full statement here.

Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, emphasized the importance of linkages for gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, and protection of all their human rights throughout the UN system. She made a strong case for SRHR when she followed this statement up by saying: “The right to sexual and reproductive health is fundamental to women’s empowerment and gender equality.”

Ms. Silvia Pimentel, Chair of CEDAW, also made the case for linking gender equality, women’s rights and human rights, by referring to interaction with the human rights machinery.

Ms. Tutwiler, Deputy Director-General for Knowledge at FAO, made extensive use of statistics from the very recent report State of Food and Agriculture. Women and agriculture: closing the gender gap for development (FAO 2011). If women would have equal access to production resources, agricultural production could increase from 20-30% and BNP from 2,5-4%. See the full report here. She also announced FAO’s new gender policy to be released next week!

Several countries made statements on behalf of regional groups:

Algeria on behalf of Group 77 and China emphasized the importance of women’s economic empowerment, and therefore the full implementation of the BPfA, and especially in light of impact on the MDGs.

Denmark chairs the EU delegation, and found some inventive ways to frame progressive language. See the full statement here: “The EU will pay special attention to gender equality and the rights of women and men to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health. To this end, we will work actively to ensure that health systems provide information and health services addressing the sexual and reproductive needs of women and family planning, as this is crucial for women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment and subsequently benefits society as a whole.”

“Measures such as comprehensive sexuality education, outlawing early and forced marriage and preventing teenage pregnancies or combating harmful traditional practices reduce maternal mortality and have huge development dividends in terms of family health, educational levels, people's ability to lift themselves out of poverty, and positive effects on economic growth at family, community and national levels.”

Also interesting was the statement by Samoa on behalf of Pacific Islands Forum Group, who was progressive enough to mention stopping violence against extra-vulnerable women, such as women with disabilities, women affected by HIV, and lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

France was fierce and stated something along the lines of: It does not make much difference to women anno 2012, whether they came to the world during a good or a bad political cycle of the defense of their rights: these rights are universal and timeless. They must be always be adhered to. This is why France will not resign that agreed language is contested, and that women become dependent again on diplomatic maneuvers.

The opening statements from the various CSW56 member states will continue tomorrow afternoon. Dutch Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt will then address the CSW with a much awaited statement including the relevance of gender equality itself.

Joni van de Sand / WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform

Rustige CSW?

Rustige CSW?

Het was uitermate prettig om maar een stuk of vijf vrouwen vóór ons te hebben in de rij bij de registratie op zondag. Terwijl we toch pas na half tien aansloten. Al waren het er wel iets meer geworden voor we uiteindelijk aan de beurt waren, ruimschoots voor elven liepen we alweer door een zonnig, maar erg fris Manhattan – erg fijn voor mijn griephoofd.
Nu we de eerste CSW-dag achter de rug hebben beginnen meer eerste impressies in te dalen. Het lijkt er op dat het, in ieder geval qua NGO-aanwezigheid, erg rustig is. Veel rustiger dan in 2010 en 2008 – mijn voorgaande CSW-gangen.
Of het ook qua inhoud rustig zal zijn valt te bezien. Er schijnt al weer informeel verder onderhandeld te zijn over de door het Bureau van de CSW opgestelde draft Agreed Conclusions (zie voor de Bureauversie de link een blog of wat geleden).

Hopelijk horen we daar meer over op de lunch bij de Permanente Vertegenwoordiging waarvoor we morgen door minister van Bijsterveldt zijn uitgenodigd. Of anders woensdag bij de eerste (ook laatste?) EU-briefing voor NGO’s.

Rustig was in ieder geval het eerste LBTI-event vanmiddag in de kapel (!) van het UN Church Centre, georganiseerd door de Zweedse Federatie voor Lesbische, Homoseksuele, Biseksuele en Transgender Rights in samenwerking met ILGA. De grote ruimte was afgeladen vol, maar iedereen luisterde me belangstelling en respect naar de verhalen van de spreeksters uit Kenia, Indonesië, Namibië en New Hampshire (VS). Het was zelfs doodstil tijdens het verhaal van de Amerikaanse plattelands transgender schoolverpleegster, die (ook) een griepkeel had. Gezien het thema van deze CSW stond ‘storytelling’ over ervaringen op het platteland centraal. Heel belangrijk, maar even werd de suggestie gewekt dat er nog geen onderzoek is gedaan en geen meer omvattende boeken zijn gepubliceerd.

Toen kon ik het niet laten te wijzen op het prachtige boek Urgency Required. Gay and Lesbian Rights are Human Rights (redactie André Hielkema en Ireen Dubel) dat Hivos in 2009 publiceerde. En laat dit nu in zijn geheel (en gratis) in PDF op de Hivos-website staan! Er was alvast veel belangstelling voor de link. In de discussie was verder veel aandacht voor de wijze waarop LBT’s spiritualiteit een plek in hun leven geven en over hoe vanuit kerken en religieuze gemeenschappen de mensenrechten van LBT’s bevorderd kunnen worden.
Dat de bijeenkomst zo rustig verliep schept goede hoop voor de volgende LBT-side events: morgen die van het COC en partners en woensdag die van de Nederlandse regering. Die zaten ‘m namelijk toch wel even te knijpen. We zullen het minister van Bijsterveldt morgen vertellen, want tot onze grote verbazing was er geen spoor van haar adjudanten te bekennen.

Leontine Bijleveld

die zich voor deze gelegenheid ' out' als een lesbo van het Friese platteland

Victory for domestic workers

The National Domestic Workers Alliance (VS) celebrated the Oscar for The Help in numerous ‘Be the Help’ viewing parties. Trade Union Women from all over the world, in New York for CSW 56, joined in last saturday night. They felt like having received the honour of the prestigious award for themselves.

Marieke Koning (International Trade Union Confederation) explained about the international campaign the global unions have embarked on. The international Domestic Workers Network is of course on of the partners in the campaign.The ‘12 by 12’ Campaign aims at 12 ratifications of C189, the new ILO Convention Decent Work for Domestic Workers, by 2012. The Campaign runs now in 56 countries. Dozens of unions /coalitions organised events in December 2011 to officially launch the Campaign.

Though the Netherlands has ratified the majority of the ILO-Conventions minister Kamp has decided not the ratify the new convention. Consequence of ratification would be that domestic workers ought to enjoy a better sociale protection and Kamp is not prepared to do that. See for more information in Dutch.

The global unions representatives aim to include recomendations targetted at improving the position of rural domestic workers in the Agreed Conclusions. We will report about the drafting process over the next few days.

Leontine Bijleveld

WO=MEN / Dutch CEDAWNetwork

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CSW56 is about to start!

The 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW56) will start on Monday 27 February, at the United Nations in New York.

The Dutch delegation will be strongly represented this year, and we look forward to cooperate with our colleagues and friends of last years session, and the ones we have been in close contact with in the last months during the preparations. We are prepared!

The Dutch government delegation will consist of Minister van Bijsterveldt of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) -we are delighted to have her on board! - and representatives from the Departments of Emancipation and Gender Equality of both the Ministry of OCW as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MinBuZa).

Many representatives of Dutch civil society will travel to New York one of these days. To make our voices heard for gender equality, women's rights, diversity and freedom of choice!
Through this blog we will keep you updated on interesting side events and, very important and what the CSW is all about, the INFORMALS: the negotiations between UN member states on this year's priority theme:

The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges

The Dutch civil society delegation has formulated recommendations for the Agreed Conclusions (the outcome document of the Informals):

Pre-ambule: Points of Departure

i New analysis shows how power imbalances and gender inequalities at the national level are linked to reduced access to clean water and improved sanitation, land degradation and deaths due to indoor and outdoor air pollution, amplifying the effects associated with income disparities. Gender inequalities also interact with environmental outcomes and make them worse. (ref: Human Development Report 2011, Sustainability and Equity: A better Future for All, page iv).

Furthermore, power imbalances and gender inequalities within the family are linked to maternal deaths and violence against women, because of social and cultural traditions which obstruct women’s access to health care and to financial independence.

ii Rural women are agents of change who contribute to local and national economies, agriculture, rural development, household livelihoods, food and nutrition security and social well-being. (ref: EGM/RW/2011/Report, Accra Ghana 20-23 September 2011). The role of men as agents of change alongside women is important to combat gender-based discrimination and to promote gender equality.

Furthermore, engagement of women is not only a way to provide women with means to enhance their participation and use of their potential, but also smart economics. (ref: World Development Report 2012; World Bank WDR 2012, Gender Equality and Development)

iii The international community and civil society should work together to eliminate discrimination under the law, to promote equal access to resources and opportunities, to ensure that agricultural policies and programmes are gender-aware, and to make women’s voices heard as equal partners for sustainable development. Achieving gender equality and empowering women in agriculture is not only the right thing to do. It is also crucial for agricultural development and food security (ref: The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011: Women in agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 2011)

iv Because of the diversity of rural women by age, religion, ethnicity, their social, economic, political and ecological status, and other factors, an intersectional approach is necessary. Development and implementation of this approach will contribute to the full enjoyment of their individual and collective human rights. (Several mechanisms have addressed intersectionality or multiple forms of discrimination: for example Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, general recommendation No. 28 (CEDAW/C/GC/28), paras 18 and 31)

General recommendations on gender equality

1. The UN system should comply with gender equality and diversity commitments within its own organizations in order to serve as role models for Governments and other organizations and to legitimize policy guidance on gender equality issues in their operations (ref: EGM/RW/2011/Report, Accra Ghana 20-23 September 2011)

2. Enhance efforts, by legislation, policy, programs, and financial resources, for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly on Gender Equality (3) in combination with Poverty and Hunger (1), Maternal Health (5) and Sanitation (7).

Recommendations on rural women

3. Incorporate gender-sensitive perspectives when designing and implementing rural development strategies, policies and programs, and include the objective of “gender equality” as an overarching goal of such strategies, policies and programs, and adopt and implement temporary special measures in favour of rural women (ref: General Statement of CEDAW on Rural Women (recommendations), CEDAW 50th session, 2011)

4. Implement policies to promote access of rural women to healthcare services and programs, including reproductive health and sexual health services. Pregnancy leads in many societies to poverty, and is the prime cause of death among women. Involve young women’s groups and networks in the development and implementation of reproductive health education and services, in particular on the local level.

5. Promote closing the gender gap between rural women and men by employing gender budget analyses on national and international agricultural policies concerning land ownership, funding, agricultural education, inheritance and agricultural co-operatives, in order to increase women’s access to land, livestock, financial services, co-operatives, education, technology, rural employment and decent work.

6. The under-representation of women from rural areas in political and public life remains high in most societies. Implement institutional arrangements, particularly at the local government level, to support participation of rural women in policy design, implementation and evaluation as part of decision making processes. Involve rural women’s organizations and networks in the process of development and implementation of such institutional arrangements.

7. Improve rural women's access to resources through alternative policy instruments that ensure more equitable gender-based distribution of land, labour, capital, technology, social services and infrastructure.

Mechanisms should also be in place to reduce women's vulnerability to loss of land in cases of divorce, separation and widowhood. (ref: Geneva Declaration for Rural Women, 1992, 12iii, 13vi)

8. Ensure that national legislative and administrative reform processes, including those linked to land reform, decentralization and reorientation of the economy, promote women’s rights, particularly those of rural women and women living in poverty, and take measures to promote and implement those rights through women’s equal access to and control over economic resources, including land, property rights, right to inheritance, credit and traditional saving schemes(…). (ref: Women2000 (Beijing+5) A/RES/S-23/3, GA 23th, 68h) 2012 is the UN year of Cooperatives. Ensure that women have access to and control over farmers cooperatives, and stimulate women’s cooperatives. Raise awareness on socio-cultural norms and regulations that exclude women .

9. Improve gender statistics and data disaggregated by sex, age and other variables where appropriate, and analyse data on rural-urban disparities, in order to support empowerment of rural women and gender equality policy processes.

10. Promote rural women’s education, employment and participation in decision-making by enhancing their access to communication technology training and devices. (ref: Agreed Conclusions CSW55, in particular para 22n)

Besides the priority theme with a focus on rural women, the CSW 56 will deal with:

Review theme: Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women (agreed conclusions from the fifty-second session)

Emerging issue: Engaging young women and men, girls and boys, to advance gender equality

We look forward to sharing our experiences and thoughts with you! And do not hesitate to contact us or send us your input for this blog:

WO=MEN Dutch gender Platform