Continuing CSW 58 Reflection – Side Events.

Towards the end of last week and into this week (March 17th) the focus has been at two levels:  presenting good practice during side events and secondly following the negotiations that are ongoing with regard to the outcome document through morning briefings and caucus meeting.  Apart from two specific side events, one focusing on Social Work and a second on Women and Girls’s Circles I followed and supported various side events addressing issues of prostitution and human trafficking.

The International Association of Schools of Social Work invited me to be a panel presenter at their side event entitled Social Work’s Response to Poverty as Violence Against Women. (March 12)  The panelists covered many areas highlighting the flexibility with which social work addresses the multidimensional aspect of poverty in many corners of the globe.   The social work interns Lindsay and Carlos presented on the pervasiveness of poverty and violence and the effect of migration policies on women and girls. I shared on ‘Good Shepherd’ work in Ethiopia.   Rebecca Davis, NGO Representative, International Association of Schools of Social Work, Director and Associate Professor, Center for International Social Work Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey presented on ‘Strengthening Child Welfare and Protection Systems to Address Poverty and Gender-Based Violence in Sub Saharan Africa’.  As Rebecca presented I was remembering the work prepared by Clare Nolan for capacity building sessions on Child Protection Policies in our ministries in the DRC.  Rebecca referred to the Child Protection Policy and Procedures Toolkit prepared by UNICEF.  Maybe this is a good opportunity to review child protection policy in your ministry.  Access the toolkit

 IASSW Panel - CSW 2014

From left to right Rebecca, Lindsay, Carlos, Winifred and Jean.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      JuliaThe second event was sponsored by a number of like minded organizations  –  Earth Policy InstituteInternational Public Policy InstituteWomen’s World Summit FoundationMillionth Circle,  Circle Connections, We Are EnoughGather The WomenWomen of Spirit and Faith – focusing on women, sustainability and circle leadership.  Julia, a girl advocate from the Working Group on Girls brought girls to the circle. The event was entitled  ‘Implementing Women and Girl’s Circles: A tool to vitalize progress with the Millennium Development Goals’  A snippet from Julia’s presentation can be accessed here.

Panelist; left to right: Dr. Pam Rajput, Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, and Julia. Moderator Ann Landaas Smith, Enough:The Rise of the Feminine and the Birth of the New Story Read more

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women had two excellent panels: ‘Survivors Speak:  Prostitution or Sex Work? When Terminology and Legalization Collide with Human Rights’ and the second  ‘Strategizing to Prevent AIDS and Gender Violence: Setting Goals to Advance Millennium Development. See flyer advertising the events.  Rachel Moran from Ireland presented on both panels. The sharing of experiences by women who were in prostitution was very compelling.  Some of the issues address can be read in the oral statement made to the Commission this morning (Thursday March 20th)  CATW oral statement to CSW.

The NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Person also had two side events Human Trafficking is Not Decent Work and From Objectification to Dignity – positive media representations of girls and women. The second was co-sponsored by the Mission of Ireland to the United Nations together with a with a number of other NGO’s  including Good Shepherd.  Panelists were

  • H.E. Tim Mawe – Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations.
  • Leif Coorlim – Executive Editor at CNN International and Editorial Director of CNN The Freedom Project
  • Youth Activists – Students from the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, New Jersey, who created Project Stay Gold

Andrew Tarantowicz, an intern at the GSIJP Office provided the following write up of this event.

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Pervasive societal issues need to be addressed before we can change how women are perceived.  Society holds women to a standard of attractiveness, with less focus on more important qualities such as intelligence.  Women are portrayed in advertisements as body parts.  This is partially the fault of the advertising industry and also society as a whole.  Advertisements attempt to entice and to change perceptions on a product, but the root of this enticement is in how society views that product.  Women are objectified as a result of the way society views them, in selling products that are related and unrelated to women and girls.   Men are also expected to keep to a certain standard.  There are advertisements that display how to be manly.  This affects men and women, as attributes are assigned to women and are shown to be negative to the male image.  This demonizes women and ensures that they stay objectified.

A great way to fight this perception is to contact MISS Representation.  It is a non-profit that aims to curb the growth of harmful advertising.  They are active on social media as well with #notbuyingit.  They were instrumental in changing the focus of the ads that portrayed women in an unnecessary, sexual light, just to sell their product which has nothing to do with women.  The outcry at this harmful portrayal was effective in making change, proof that our voices can be heard.

There is also an inherent problem in the media where in an effort to increase the amount of stories on the air, the integrity of some stories is sacrificed.  Focus is sometimes given to the quantity of stories, not their quality.  This prioritization can make it difficult to focus on important stories that are related to women’s rights or on human trafficking.  The fact that the many people still do not know about the human trafficking and prostitution that occurs during large sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, is an example of the media’s lack of focus.  If the media can begin to shift its focus to telling stories with more depth, such as with impact journalistic initiatives like The Freedom Project at CNN, then there can be a change in the perception of women.  This will make the problem of trafficking harder to hide.

The genesis of The Freedom Project was a story that Leif Coorlim and fellow CNN journalists were chasing in Cambodia.  They went undercover to a Karaoke bar that had a selection of women in prostitution in the back of the building.  There were girls with different colors representing whether they were Cambodian or Vietnamese.  The CNN crew chose the girl that they believed to be the youngest.  They brought her up to a room and interviewed her.  What they found was that she was 14 years old and had been trafficked.

The next step was to contact the Human Trafficking division of the police in Cambodia.  This led to a planned raid on a Friday.  When CNN showed up to this raid, the police told them that it was cancelled as the girl had paperwork that identified her as 19 years old.  The frustration over this injustice spawned The Freedom Project.  Eventually, it was discovered that the head of the Human Trafficking Division was involved in the trafficking and a light was shown on the corruption of the government.

Project Stay Gold is an initiative started by students and now facilitated by both students and teachers from New Jersey that want to stop human trafficking and commercial  sexual exploitation here at home.  They are active on social media and have the bonus of being peer educators to youth in America.  This can really affect students and begin the process of educating the new generation on the problems that face the world.  This will create young activists who can make it their mission to change the world.



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