Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 64th Session March 9 – 20, 2020.

The March 2020 Commission on the Status of Women in New York, will mark the 25th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. The Commission will review and appraise the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action over the past 25 years. It will further address current challenges experienced by women worldwide and link the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. A very interesting paper that situates the Commission is Democratic backsliding and backlash against women’s rights: Understanding the current challenges for feminist politics The paper is written by Conny Roggeband, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Andrea Krizsan. Center for Policy Studies, Central European University, Hungary and presented at the UN Women Expert Group Meeting in preparation for CSW. While the examples are from Western Europe I am sure that parallels can be found in your own particular region. Hard won gains for women over the 25 years are under attach from many areas such as political participation, labor market, care or violence against women. There is also an interesting perspective on the influence of Churches and some attempt to highlight differences between terms. Is the women’s movement the same or different to feminism? What is ‘gender ideology’? What role does ‘gender ideology’ play in the backlash against women’s rights?

An article in the New York Times dated December 4th reads ‘Across the Globe, a “Serious Backlash Against Women’s Rights” The rise of authoritarianism has catalyzed a rollback of gender violence protections and support systems. The article cited the reaction of Spain’s far right Vox party to the commemoration of the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women demanding the repeal of a law protecting women from violence claiming it is unfair to men. Other examples are highlighted from Turkey, Russia, Hungary and China.

The 16 days Campaign is highlighting the extent to which gender based violence continues. A headline ‘Many Europeans consider rape acceptable’ is shocking to read in an European Union report on perceptions of gender based violence

Link to report and map

On December 5 there were reports of an Indian woman who had been raped in March, on her way to court for a hearing of her rape case when she was set upon by 5 men, beaten and set on fire. She is now experiencing 90% burns over her body. The news today, December 7th has just reported that this young woman has died. Such is the backlash to her reporting the crime of rape.

December 6, of the 16 days was dedicated to feticide awareness. The 16 days Campaign is focusing on the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre when 14 women were shot in Canada in 1989. Women’s Aid (Ireland) released updated figures on femicide in Ireland in November 2019. “5 women have died violently so far in 2019. 4 women were killed in their own home.” See Irish Times December 7, 2019.

16 Days Campaign to Eliminate Violence Against Women

Good Shepherd in the Philippines are experiencing the backlash that comes from political engagement on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized people with Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. Sr. Elenita Belardo has dedicated her life to upholding the human rights of the rural poor. No doubt that girls, women and children are among these rural poor.

Sr. Elenita Belardo, National Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. COURTESY OF RMP Read more

The subject matter for the Commission on the Status of Women will focus on these issues among others as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action provided a holistic approach to the issues experienced by girls and women. The GSIJP Office at the United Nations will be focusing on the trafficking of women and girls into prostitution. This too is a contentious issue. While UN Women recently declared ‘neutrality’ on the issue, read more Good Shepherd stance is far from neutral. Our position states that prostitution is violence against women.

The GSIJP Office has prepared a written statement to the Commission which has not been published yet. We have also engaged with other groups to support issues that are relevant and pertinent to our position papers. Among the groups are Working Group on Girls focusing on the Girl Child; Maryknoll on Women and Climate Change; and with Act Alliance in a statement entitled ‘Faith in Beijing+25, a collective of faith actors pushing back against the push back.’

The Feminist and Women’s Action group have collated the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform into 6 cross cutting themes (i)  Environmental conservation, protection and rehabilitation (ii)  Freedom from violence, stigma and stereotypes (iii)  Poverty eradication, social protection and social services (iv) Inclusive development, share prosperity and decent work (v)  Peaceful and inclusive societies (vi)  Participation, accountability and gender-responsive institutions. There will be a series of on-line dialogues on the various themes in the run up to CSW 64 and during the commission. The GSIJP Office is engaging with the third and fourth themes: Poverty eradication, social protection and social services together with Inclusive development, share prosperity and decent work. These issues take account of may of the issues in our position paper on Economic Justice

The New York Times Articles ends with this “The rollback of women’s protections doesn’t impact just women but goes hand-in-hand with an overarching decline in human rights. Or, as the U.N. Human Rights Council put it: “The corrosion of women’s human rights is a litmus test for the human rights standards of the whole society.”

What is Generation Equality?

If you have been following social media over the few week you may have seen graphics and references to Generation Equality.

Generation Equality is the name of a process that will strive to give new impetus and a final push towards full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This was a ground-breaking vision and framework for Gender Equality, that came from the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. It is quoted many times in our postion papers. The subtitle for Generation Equality is ‘Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future.’ Generation Equality Forum will be a global public conversation demanding urgent action and accountability for gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women. Generation Equality will celebrate the power of women’s rights activism, feminist solidarity and youth leadership to achieve transformative change. It is a global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-chaired by France and Mexico, with the leadership and partnership of civil society. The Forum will kick-off in Mexico City, Mexico, on 7-8 May 2020 and culminate in Paris, France, on 7-10 July 2020. A website for Generation Equality Forum is coming soon!

Here are two Powerpoints that will help explain the the process – Civil Society Deck and UN Women’s Gender Equality Deck They are easy to follow and may help you to understand the process. It is partly within the United Nations with the Commission on the Status of Women and partly outside the United Nations with the meetings in Mexico and Paris

The Commission on the Status of Women, 64th Session (CSW64) will take place from March 9 – 20, 2020 in New York at the United Nations Headquarters. The CSW will review how the 12 Critical areas have been implemented. These findings will flow into the Forum in Mexico and Paris, culminating in a High Level Event on the opening of the General Assembly, 75th Session in September 2020.

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

Already two of the United Nations Regional Commissions have had their meetings, one in the Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva, October 29th and 30th which was preceded by a Civil Society Day on Monday October 28th. Mirjam Beike, our representative in Geneva attended the three days. The UN ECE website has posted an article covering the meetings on the 29th and 30th.

Donatus Lili attended the UN Regional meeting for Africa, October 28 – 31st, 2019 which was hosted in the African Union Center in Addis Ababa. Donatus was a panelist at a side event on ‘Faith Based engagement in Africa.’ Here is a press release “Governments must deliver on the promises made to women in Beijing 25 years ago

Donatus Lili on left hand side of picture in white
Donatus sharing on Faith Based Engagement in Africa. She focused on Poverty Eradication, Social Protection and Social Services.

Gertrude Mongella , from Tanzania, a leading advocate for women’s empowerment and rights was Secretary General of the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995. Gertrude attended the session in Addis Ababa where Donatus had the privilege of meeting her and having her photograph. Donatus’s participation in the conference was made possible by FEMNET – The African Women’s Development and Communication Network.

Donatus Lili with Gertrude Mongella

The global conversation on girls and women is centered around 6 themes which seek to bring together the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform. It is hoped that this will stimulate new intersectional thinking on how all issues are interrelated and connected one to another. The 6 cross cutting themes are: (i) Inclusive development, shared prosperity and decent work; (ii) Poverty Eradication, social protection and social services; (iii) Freedom from violence, stigma and stereotypes; (iv) Participation, accountability and gender-responsive institutions; (v) Peaceful and inclusive societies and (vi) Environmental conservation, protection and rehabilitation. Discussion on these themes has started at the regional level and will be part of the CSW 64 discussion. It is hoped to generate an Action Coalitions on some agreed topics which will be decided in Mexico and celebrated in Paris. You can get a overview of how the discussion went in this document It is divided into the 6 themes and covers the 12 critical areas from the African perspective.

A moment of voting!

The planned regional conference in Latin America and the Caribbean had to be cancelled due to political unrest in Chile. It has been rescheduled for the end of January 2020. Erika Sanchez had done an amount of preparation towards attending and 6 sisters and mission partners were registered. Unfortunately, Erika will not be able to attend in January due to other commitments. The conference for UN ESCWA in Beirut has been re-located to Amman, Jordan, again, because of political tensions in the region. It will take place on November 28th. See the Agenda On the same weekend, November 27 – 29 the regional conference for Asia Pacific will take place in Bangkok. See Website for information.

2020 is a year of anniversaries for the United Nations. The Beijing Conference is only one of them celebrating 25 years. The United Nations is celebrating its 75th birthday amid a lot of tension including some fractures of multilaterialism. On November 20, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is celebrating 30 years. Only a few weeks ago the historic Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security celebrated 20 years. It was first adopted on October 2020. The Resolution addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women; recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and peace-building. It also stressed the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.

2020, is also the 75th anniversary of the Commission for Social Development  and the 25th anniversary of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. 2020 is a crucial year for the accelerated realization of inclusive societies and reducing inequalities everywhere for people of all ages. UN Women celebrates its 10th anniversary and the Sustainable Development Goals are 5 years into being realized. All the various agenda overlap and yet inching our way towards realization continues to be a felt struggle especially for girls and women on all levels. Gender Equality, Women’s Human Rights, Women’s participation remain unrealized. The catch phrase of UNICEF for the 30 years anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is ‘For Every Child Every Right’. If this happened maybe we would be on the way to say ‘For Every Girl Every Right’ and that ‘For Every Woman Every Right’ would be a reality.

Last Horray for Day of the Girl!

Rima Salah, PhD, Chair of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium, Former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and myself with today’s’ Girl Activists.

           A 15 years old girl activist from Myanmar share her story. I am a Grade 9 student and studying very hard because I want to be an educated person to support my family.  In my life, the woman whom I admire most is my mother. She is a good mother to us. Although my family is poor, my mother is working very hard. Therefore, we all can study because of her endless hard-work. Sometimes, we don’t have enough food to eat in our home. In that situation, my mother always sacrifices for us. She gives all and said she’s not hungry at all. I felt very sad. I want to help my mother but she always said that it would be great help to her if I study hard. Because of this, I am studying very hard now and hoping one day, I can support my family effectively as well as my country. My mother is really a hero to me. I am gifted in drawing beautiful pictures. Thus, today, I drew a picture of my mother, sitting on the chair and guiding us.

The meaning of orange color is brightness and victorious.
The meaning of chair is to stand always and not to fall down.
The meaning of a hand is showing the right way for me.

Another girl shares: ‘When I was younger, I did not want to be a girl. But, when I came and stayed in the boarding house at (Good Shepherd Convent), the sisters teach us many courses about girls and women.  Since then, I have come to know more about the attributes of girls and women and I appreciate myself more and feel proud to be a girl. Women have strength and power not only to support others with compassion and kindness but also strength to take up leadership roles like Daw Aung Sun Su Kyi of Myanmar.   I am 16 years old and I want to be a woman who can stand on her own two feet and have the ability to help others. Don’t feel sad to be a girl because girls also have strength. Even when you face challenges, do not feel sad. Get up and stand up again!’   Happy International Day of the Girl.

We also had submissions from Malaysia. Linking a video

PLAY

This November 20th we will celebrate 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the light of that celebration the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty October 17th is focusing on poverty in the lives of children. The theme is: “Acting together to empower children, their families and communities to end poverty” The concept note explains what the day is about. It is in English and French ” Avant tout, il est impératif de reconnaître et de traiter les discriminations spécifiques vécues par les filles.”

Another experience that children endure has been outline in a UN Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty. This report was presented in the Third Committee in New York on October 8, 2019. It is in French, Spanish and Arabic. I attended an event at UNICEF that same evening to celebrate the launch and to call for action. There are a few interesting paragraphs on ‘Gender Dimensions’. See Paragraphs 35 – 38. Para 35 ‘On analysis the data show significant gender disparities in the situation of children deprived of liberty. Far more boys are deprived of liberty worldwide than girls. In the administration of justice and in the contexts of armed conflicts and national security, 94 per cent of all detained children are boys; in migration detention the figure is 67 per cent and in institutions it is 56 per cent. The number of boys and girls who live with their primary caregiver (almost exclusively mothers) in prison is similar.

In paragraph 36 the study shows a tendency of the child justice system to be more inclined to apply diversion measures to girls than boys. While approximately one third of all criminal offences worldwide committed by children are attributed to girls, only 6 per cent receive a prison sentence. There may be various reasons for this phenomenon. Most importantly, girls usually commit less violent offences and are more often accused of status offences. Girls are generally first-time offenders and more receptive to the deterrent effect of incarceration. Another explanation is the “chivalrous and paternalistic” attitude of many male judges and prosecutors in the child justice systems, who assume, according to traditional gender stereotypes, that girls are more in need of protection than boys.

Paragraph 37 highlights and interesting fact. Although most States allow convicted mothers to co-reside with their young children in prison, only eight States explicitly permit fathers to do so. Even in places where fathers as primary caregivers are allowed to co-reside with their children, there are (almost) no appropriate “father and child units” in the prisons, which means that there are practically no children co-residing in prison with their fathers.

Paragraph 38 continues… While boys are over represented in detention, girls often suffer gender-based discrimination. Research conducted for the study shows that girls are more likely to be arrested for status offences, for behaviour rather than actual criminal activity, including sexual activity, truancy and running away from home. Girls living on the streets are particularly vulnerable, as they are often arrested for prostitution. If States criminalize abortion, girls risk incarceration, even where the pregnancy is a result of rape. Girls from poor families run a higher risk of institutionalization and incarceration, as they lack access to supportive systems. In detention, girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence.

39. Almost half the world population lives in the 70 States in which existing laws criminalize conducts on the basis of sexual orientation. Children belonging to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community are more likely to be arrested and detained for status offences, in particular for sexual activity and expressions of sexual orientations and gender identities. LGBTI children are over represented in child justice facilities and health-related institutions. They are usually placed in gender-inappropriate detention facilities and are particularly vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence.

Key findings from the study are listed in a publication on Human Rights Watch also in French. Some background information to the report can he accessed here

Performance by the Children’s Choir of Musicians for Human Rights

UN Webcast of Day of the Girl Celebration

On the Way to the Girls Speak Out!

It’s posted – the UN Webcast of the Day of the Girl Celebration October 11, 2019. Congratulations to Working Group on Girls, Girl Advocates and Girl Activists and their mentors. Hope you will enjoy it – 8th Annual Speak Out At marker 33 – 34:17 there is reference to ‘Good Shepherd Center’ in Singapore. Telling the story of a girl being too old at 17 years to be admitted to a children’s service and too young to be admitted to an adult shelter. What is she to do! Thank you Good Shepherd Singapore!

Riya, a WGG Girl Advocate reads the text.

There were really some solidarity moments on Facebook with regard to the celebration coming from Philippines, Myanmar, Honduras, Malaysia, Australia

Today, on International Day of the Girl Child, freelance writer Catherine Shepherd and Sarah Squire (@SquireSarah) of Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand (@GoodAdvocacy) examine the state of play for girls in Australia, drawing on research and parenting experiences. Reflecting on some key challenges for girls’ wellbeing, they outline policy levers and practical tips for raising ‘unscripted and unstoppable’ girls. Read the full article

Listen to the Girls from Honduras in Spanish
The Philippines had many supper graphic on Facebook reminding us that girls are unscripted and unstoppable!

Finally do have a look at the Plan International latest publication ‘Rewrite her Story’ The State of the World’s Girls in 2019. It is available in English, Spanish and French Scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Day of the Girl – October 11 preceded by 11 Days of Action

Thank you Religious of the Good Shepherd Philippines-Japan for whom everyday is Day of the Girl
Read the story below!

“Kasi nasabi niya sa mga kapatid at mother niya na siya ay inabuso ng tatay nila.”

***
This story is part of the series we are featuring this month for the International Day of the Girl. Girls play an important part in changing our families, communities, nation, and the world. Making sure that girls enjoy their rights and are protected from harm is one of the priorities of the Religious of the Shepherd in the Philippines.

***
Ate B has been a Good Shepherd lay mission partner for 20 years. As a social worker, she handles abuse cases, mostly of teenagers. When asked about the bravest girl she has journeyed with, she thinks of Lisa* and her journey towards healing.

*Name has been changed for confidentiality

Ate B met Lisa 5 years ago. She was referred to one of Good Shepherd’s residences because she was manifesting destructive behavior. She lived a financially comfortable life and her needs were well-provided. However, she chose to hang out with her group of friends who were into vices like smoking and drinking.

With RGS, Lisa bravely journeyed through her abusive past. Her biological father sexually abused her, and she decided to keep it from her mother and siblings because she was afraid that it would cause conflict within her family. This was the reason why she didn’t like going home and preferred to stay with her friends. During her stay in the RGS, she eventually mustered the courage to tell the truth to her family.

Why did Ate B consider Lisa to be the bravest? “Sa akin siya iyong bravest kasi nasabi niya sa mga kapatid at mother niya na siya ay inabuso ng tatay nila (For me she’s the bravest because she was able to tell her siblings and mother that their father sexually abused her).”

The journey to healing didn’t come instantly for Lisa and her family. Stains from Lisa’s past abuse still surrounds their family. Trust towards her father is still an issue that they are slowly dealing with. In this case, healing has so far been a difficult journey, as Lisa was harmed by one of people who should have been protecting her.

Despite all the challenges she has faced, Liza is now a young woman, pursuing her dreams.
Ate B stressed the importance of being present as parent. In the many cases she has handled, parents are either absent, or they may be physically present but are not receptive to the needs of their children, especially teenagers.

#DayOfTheGirl
#GirlForceUnscriptedUnstoppable

“Kahit hindi ko naiintindihan si Mama, pero love ko pa rin siya, eh.”

***
This story is part of the series we are featuring this month for the International Day of the Girl. Girls play an important part in changing our families, communities, nation, and the world. Making sure that girls enjoy their rights and achieve their full potential is one of the priorities of the Religious of the Shepherd in the Philippines.

***
This is Michelle, one of Good Shepherd’s lay mission partners. She works at the Center for Overseas Workers (COW) and has been with RGS for 14 years. The COW office responds to one our priority issues: forced migration. This is the story of Tanya*, a 15 year-old girl, whom Michelle considers as one of the bravest girls she has ever met.

*Name has been changed for confidentiality

It was 2006 when Michelle met Tanya. Being a child of an overseas Filipino worker, it was never easy for Tanya. This resulted to her manifesting destructive behavior, to show that she’s not okay with her mother’s absence. She hated her mother. And, to make matters worse, she did not trust her. This damaged their relationship, to the point that Tanya even felt that her mother never loved her.

When Michelle was asked why she thought of Tanya to be brave, she attributed this to her journey of acceptance and hope. In the midst of uncertainties, Tanya often mentioned that, “Kahit hindi ko naiintindihan si Mama, pero love ko pa rin siya (Even though I don’t understand my mother, I still love her).” Tanya also believed that she could surpass all the challenges that she was facing during that time.

Healing was not an easy process for Tanya, but she eventually reconciled with her mother. Honesty through open communication helped their relationship get better.

Tanya now has her own family, and has also taken her mother in, to live with them.

***
Michelle pointed out during the interview that good communication is very important. Working with OFWs for the past 14 years has made her realize that communication is a double-edged sword. It can make or break family relationships. Thus, during the pre-departure orientation seminars that they conduct at COW, the value of effective communication with the family that the OFW will be leaving behind in the Philippines is highlighted. Open and honest communication helps families better understand the situation of their loved ones abroad.

#DayOfTheGirl
#GirlForceUnscriptedUnstoppable

READ the full story in Global Sisters Report
This is an example of Day of the Girl every day in Good Shepherd around the world

Short Video – Web of Life

Earlier this year a report was released in which it was shown that around 1 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction. Read more here “The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” Sir Robert Watson, Chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES),said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.” See the animated video showing the 5 direct drivers of change in Nature with the largest relevant social impacts so far.

The Season of Creation has begun.

The Season of Creation has begun. What are you doing? See blog entry Climate Emergency. The Global Catholic Climate Movement has some good material in many languages Yesterday, Pope Francis urges the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and all people of good will to take urgent action against the injustice of climate change and the ecological crisis, to protect the poor and future generations. There is the opportunity to take a pledge in line with the vision of Laudato Si as an individual, family, community or organization. In taking the pledge you commit to i) Pray for and with creation, ii) Live more simply, iii) Advocate to protect our common home. If you, your family, community or organizations are interested visit the website ‘Live Laudato Si.

Was the Canadian Artist Mr. Claude Lafortune prophetic when he portrayed Saint Mary Euphrasia leaning over a trampled flower to bring it back to life? ” A person and creation are inalienable, one is not of more value than the other.”