I applaud UN Women Executive Director for this decision

A public celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women,  ‘Planet 5050 – Step it up for Gender Equality’ was hosted at the  Manhattan Center on March 10, 2015.   It was a star studded Public Event  providing the opportunity
to rally public giving, private sector pledging as well as governments and civil society re-commitment. It was also issue a Call to Action to accelerate progress and achieve gender equality, women’s empowerment and rights by 2030.   During this event ‘UBER’ announced a partnership with UN Women promising 1 million jobs for women.  Now you may be asking what is UBER?  UBER is an App that provides ‘safe, reliable, and affordable ride within minutes. Use Uber on your phone to connect to a driver. Uber is international and there are concerns that they are under-cutting the regular taxi service and are unregulated.  Here is the link to the announcement. Click here

A statement made by the Unions present at CSW 59 challenged this agreement. “The global trade unions and civil society supporters of labour rights present at UNCSW59 are deeply concerned by the partnership announced between UN Women and Uber, an American International company that develops, markets and operates a mobile app-based transportation network. This concern is due to the fact that it is far from certain that Uber’s promise to create 1 million jobs will actually promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Women’s economic empowerment is dependent on women’s access to decent work – this means fair wages, job security, safety at work, social protection for families, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.” Read the statement

I applaud the Executive Director of UN Women for having withdrawn from this partnership.  Read more Click here!  A short video clip is inserted in the article.  I think this decision displays ethical and moral leadership.


Review of Good Shepherd Panel at CSW 59 Beijing+20

Flyer for panel event CSW 59 Version 3

On March 10, 2015 ‘Good Shepherd’ hosted a parallel event during CSW 59 – Beijing+20 entitled  “Advocacy and Networking Strategies for Legislative Reform: Ending Prostitution and Human Trafficking.”  The event shared a holistic approach to ending prostitution and human trafficking and shared successful strategies developed and engaged in by Ruhama, a Dublin (Ireland) based NGO which works on a national level with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation.  Sarah Benson, CEO of Ruhama was the main panel presenter leading the discussion. The Minister of State with special responsibility for New Communities, Culture and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin attended the event and spoke in a very sensitive way of his conviction of the need for gender equality and the human rights of girls and women. The Minister said  ‘the girls I taught in Lawrence O’Toole primary school in Sherrif Street, Dublin made me a feminist, and taught me gender equality’  When I heard this I tweeted the following “Minister par excellence for gender equality. Great sensitivity to girls.’ Diane Matte, founder of CLES (Coalition against sexual exploitation) endorsed all that was shared from the Canadian perspective. Ruhama and Minister                                                           Diane, Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Sarah.

Sarah referenced Executive Director of UN Women, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Kguka who at the NGOCSW Consultation day on March 8th said ‘while there had been some progress in the past 20 years, much of it was still WITHIN the patriarchal system. Rather than pushing for change within this system, we need to change the WHOLE PARADIGM.’  Sarah continued the commercial sex trade has to be one of the most perfect expressions of the patriarchal system – predicated as it is on the principle of male entitlement to the female body. Instead of accepting its inevitability and making efforts to simply effect change within the existing system we need to change the paradigm.  Otherwise, the ROOT CAUSES Dr Mlambo-Nguka mentioned in her speech, will never be addressed.

Change demands not just change to laws but also of change of attitudes, policies and services.  Focus needs to shift to the buyer and responses to those in prostitution need to be compassionate, supportive and resourced to support not only harm reduction work but also incorporate exiting and recovery.  What is needed is a broad holistic approach.

Taine Bien-Aime, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women noted the following points2015-03-10 10.15.30

  • ‘sex work’ is not work.
  • the need to invest in girls and women who exit prostitution and human trafficking
  • work with the United Nations –  reviewing language and enforcing a human rights framework
  • challenge masculinity

Diane noted that prostitution is something done to woman and is violence against women.  Prostitution is connected with racism and extreme poverty.  She called for exiting strategies and the putting of resources into organizations and services.

2015-03-10 09.31.24Winifred, Taina Bien-Aime, Sarah (at the back), Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin with participants.

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2015-03-10 11.07.00


The panel was skillfully moderated by our mission partner in New York, Nancy Fritsche Egan.  Their was some quality time for interaction of panelists and participants.

Speakers Bios are available here.


The Good Shepherd position paper on Prostitution of Women and Girls was distributed at the event. CLICK HERE to view.

More photographs

This event was one of several organized numerous organizations e.g. Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution International, (CAP);  European Women’s Lobby;  Apne Aap International; Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Space International, National Alliance of Women’s Organizations UK;  Women’s Front of Norway; and Foundation SCELLES; Swedish Women’s Lobby  to name a few. The message was strong and clear – prostitution is violence against women.

Speakers included Melissa Farley Ph.D. (USA);  Ingesborg Kraus PH.D (Germany); Rachel Moran, (Ireland) author, activist, and founding member of Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse calling for Enlightenment (SPACE International); Vednita Carter founder and Executive Director of Breaking Free (USA); Jean Enriquez, Executive Director, CATW-Asia Pacific; Esohe Aghatise, Consultant Trafficking Programmes Manager, Equality Now.

Women’s Spirituality – Pioneering and Transforming


???????????????????????????????Yesterday March 18th I had the privilege to moderate a panel entitled ‘Women’s Spirituality – Pioneering and Transforming’  This was a well attended event demonstrating clear interest in spirituality. It was hosted by the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries,  aka, Medical Mission Sisters. Celine Paramundayil is their representative to the United Nations.  The event was co-sponsored by 11 other organizations.

The panelists were Miriam Therese Winter, Medical Mission Sister and Sr. Cristine Schenk, Congregations of St Joseph. Click here for the flyer for the event and bios of the speakers

???????????????????????????????Christine gave a historical context  – women in patriarchal households within the socio-political-spiritual-religious-prophetic tradition of the times of Jesus who was himself betrayed by his own political-religious institutions.  Christina then focused on the development of women’s leadership in the Graeco-Roman world, free woman, slave woman, freed woman, widows,  the house church and small business networks.

Miriam Therese in her presentation reviewed some concepts – ???????????????????????????????religion, spirituality, theology … calling for a paradigm of unity. Faith is something deeper than belief.  Faith is in the gut, in the imagination.  ‘I believe’ is patriarchal – tells us who God is. Reflections rooted in the real world, the world of now and the world of science demonstrates chaos, an evolution of consciousness and connection.  We are part of all that exists – not over and above but from within and of.  The chaos of the beginnings had an inherent capacity to organize itself.  We have the power to effect change by intentionality.  We don’t wipe out difference or impose a new order but in chaos there is a hint of the quantum reality.

The presentations were followed by lively discussion including a passionate call from a young woman for young women to engage and culminating with the following question ‘How have this same conversation with Member States present – Spirit transforming leadership into the future?’


Catherine Prendergast 2Catherine Prendergast, Daughters of Charity thanked the Medical Mission Sisters, Co-sponsors, panelists and participants, and brought the event to closure.

VIVAT are blessed to have a ‘camera person.’  I say a special word of thanks to Zelia Cordeiro. Great photographs!   You can enjoy them HERE

Ruchira Gupta – Keynote address delivered at the Apollo Theater on March 8th

Ruchira 3

Youtube of Ruchira’s  keynote address:

If you would prefer to read Click here

Four dreams of the women: First – Education for their children; Second – A job in the office – meaning fixed hours 9.00 – 5.00 and social security; Thirdly – A room of their own and Fourthly –  Justice meaning protection and accountability.

“We cannot create a culture of masculinity in which men get away with sexual exploitation if they pay for it.  ….If we normalize the exploitation of some women just because they are poor, or low-caste, or women of colour – we will normalize the exploitation of all.” Ruchira Gulpa

Congratulations Ruchira!


Political Declaration of March 9th at CSW59 a disappointment!

The political declaration adopted on March 9th at the Commission on the Status of Women is a disappointment at this historic time of recalling the great achievements of the Beijing Conference and reviewing progress 20 years later.  To access the 3 page declaration Click here 

The declaration was negotiated prior to the beginning of the Commission.  It is disappointing to see that there are no recommendations for going forward.  What should have been the highest point of the commission is in fact the lowest point.  The declaration is a ‘bland reaffirmation of existing commitments that fails to match the level of ambition in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and in fact threatens a major step backward.’

The Women’s Major Group had worked on their version of a declaration and I attach it here in three languages.  We, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd – New York/Global, Ethiopia, Colombia and Latin America and Caribbean endorsed the statement.

We joined with hundreds of groups demanding …

  • Unequivocal commitments towards fully realizing gender equality, the human right and empowerment of women and girls.
  • Accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
  • Universal ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women
  • Recognition the critical and unequivocal role women’s organizations, feminist organizations and women human rights defenders have played in pushing for gender equality, the human rights and empowerment of women and girls.
  • An enabling environment and resources
  • Recognition and commitment to address the emerging challenges that are setting back the forward movement towards equality
  • Accountability for governments – addressing the structural causes of gender inequality, ensuring an enabling economic environment for woman’s rights and gender equality
  • Affirming the strong linkages between Beijing, Post 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Reaffirmation of the links between the human rights of women and girls and development.

Anything less that the above would be political failure, at a time when significantly more effort is needed to achieve the goals of fully realizing gender equality, the human rights and empowerment of all women and girls everywhere.

Full Statement  English  French  Spanish


Monday – Update March 9 at CSW59 – Beijing20

The official opening of CSW 59 took place on Monday at the United Nations. The proceedings are all webcast beginning with Opening Session  The Chair of the Commission this year is from Thailand – Her Excellency Kanda Vajrabhaya. The statement of the Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon was strong in favor of gender equality. I quote  “As women thrive, so will we all. If girls are held back, the whole world feels the pain.

Women continue to suffer disproportionately from the economic crisis, from the impacts of climate change, from the displacement caused by conflict, persecution and so much else.

Extremist groups continue to viciously and systematically attack girls and women. The international community needs to translate its outrage into aid, services, support and justice.

Attacking a woman or girl means attacking a possible peacekeeper, police officer, professional or prime minister. My UNiTE to end violence against women campaign will continue to work to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including attacks in the home.

Women bear the burden. Women pay the price. But women are not just victims; they are agents of progress and change.

Empowered women and girls are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence.”  Read the full statement here  You will notice that there is reference to extremists groups calling on the international community to translate its outrage into aid, services support and justice.  Have you joined our global campaign challenging Member States to negotiate the liberation of girls and women at the hand of ISIS  Sign here

This link provides an excellent record of all that has been happening at the Commission from the UN perspective.

Links to all NGO statements to the Commission are found in the UN Journal daily. This is the link to our statement.  http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=E/CN.6/2015/NGO/25

A parallel event that I attended was  ‘Doula Designs’ hosted by an interesting group of women including Nancy Fritche Egan.  Read moreDoula Designs

Doula means ‘Birthing’ – birthing the alternative future as individual, institutions and systems.  An interesting challenge for me!  The UN is a mature organization.  It provides a cover for all of us to gather, talk and share. But the UN is a patriarchal organization.   How shepherd out the patriarchy and be hospice workers for the new?   In the small group in which I worked  my colleague and I both came up with a creative hash tag in relation to the Secretary General’s statement to the Commission when he declined to name the 5 member states who have no women members in parliament and 8 member states who have no women in the cabinet.                                                             Hashtag  #SGprotectsboys.

NancyFrom this session I met with Maureen McGowan who was setting up her table for the Artisans Fair a tradition at NGOCSW where women have an opportunity to sell their produce.  Nancy too is there to lend a hand!

Handcrafting Justice Maureen 3 Handcrafting Justice Maureen







Nancy and I worked in preparation for ‘Good Shepherd’ parallel session scheduled for Tuesday March 10 at 10.30 a.m.  Nancy is the facilitator.

There were two more events to attend before the day ended – Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation

Prostitution and sexual exploitation: A violation of human rights of women and girls.  There were three panels: Prostitution and its exploitation violate human rights of women and girls: country cases

Prostitution and Human rights Law: time for respect of international obligations.

Responsibility to protect: best practices of States of Legislators

This panel was organized by Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution CAP International (See Website) and moderated by Sarah Benson CEO of Ruhama, Ireland and Chairperson of CAP International.

Sarah CSW 59

It was impressive to hear Grégoire Théry of CAP and Gavin Shuker MP, Chair of the All Party Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade, UK address the issue of prostitution. CAP have a campaign ‘Call of Parliamentarians for the Abolition of Prostitution.’   This requires advocacy at the local and national level.

The last event for me was attendance at the NGOCSW reception where Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap was honored.

Ruchira 4 Ruchira 5


NGOCSW Reception

CSW 59 – Proceeded by NGOCSW Consultation Day and Women’s Day March


CSW 59, Beijing+20 is now in its third day.  It was preceded with the NGOCSW Consultation Day at the Apollo Theater, NY on Sunday March 8th which was International Women’s Day.  Maureen McGowan, Andrew Boyle, (Handcrafting Justice) Sarah Benson (Ruhama) Nancy Fritche Egan  and myself attended the day and march.

2015-03-08 07.40.07

2015-03-08 07.50.072015-03-08 07.50.22  The opening event included songs from Mexico (1975), Denmark (1980), Kenya (1985), and China (1995) – the venues of the 4 World Conference on Women.  The songs gave way to readings from the UN Conferences by Mahnaz Afkhami, former Minister of Women’s Affairs of Iran and President/CEO of Women’s Learning Partnership, H. E. Ambassador Ib Peterson from Denmark, Sheila Katzman, Chair of the Cities for CEDAW/New York City, and Tanya Selvaratnam, Producer/Artist and author of “The Big Lie”.

Each world conference contributed significantly to the ongoing struggle for gender equality and women’s and girls’ human rights.  A slogan I hear repeated often is ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.’  Personally, I immediately include ‘GIRLS’.  The girls of today are the women of tomorrow. The focus in 1975 (Mexico) was on Gender Equality and an International year of Women, 1980 (Copenhagen) Women Peace and Security, 1990 (Nairobi)  Sexual and reproductive rights and 1995 delivered the Beijing Declaration and platform for Action, a framework that is as relevant today as when drafted with new realities presenting new challenges.

The keynote address was delivered by Ruchira Gupta, Women of Distinction Awardee and founder of Apne Aap. She issued a very strong call to have a world where the dignity of the last girl is upheld and envisioning a world where girls and women cannot be bought and sold.  A quote ‘If we normalize the exploitation of some women we normalize the exploitation of all.’



Ruchira 3






Dr. Gertrude Mongella – “educator, politician, diplomat activist”, former Under-Secretary General, UN Fourth World Conference on Women address the gathering on what Beijing Plus 20 must achieve.


The afternoon panel presented the perspectives of young activists. This was a superb panel – Emilia Reyes –Equidad de Genero: Esther Kimani – Young Women’s Leadership Institute Nairobi Diana Mao – NOMI Network;  Geraldo Porteny Backal – Young Men for Gender Equality; – Faith Nenkai Metiaki – Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Forum des educatrices africaines.  The Discussant was Thayvie Sinn – Save Cambodia. The panel was excellently moderated by Fabio Palacio – International Movement ATD 4th World.

The day ended with joining the women’s march for International Women’s Day.  Thanks to my Loretto friends for the photographs.

March 8 March Loretto 7 March 8 March Loretto 6 March 8 March 8 Loretto 3 March 8 March Loretto 2

March 8th March for women







Links to other pictures Gender Equality March  and NY Times

2015 – Celebrating 20 years after the 4th World Conference on Women – Beijing 1995

CSW 59 X 3

The Good Shepherd Statement to the Commission on the Status of Women (with the main focus on Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action), has been published in the 6 languages of the United Nations.  The following NGO’s at the UN supported the statement –  Dominican Leadership Conference, International Federation of Women in Legal Careers, International Federation of Women Lawyers, International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Passionists International, Religious of the Sacred Heart Mary, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries,  Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and UNANIMA International.

“Today, the various Good Shepherd grass-roots services work with women and girls in 72 countries who are constrained by situations that are the same, or often worse, than those that existed in 1995. Under the current model of economic globalization, women and girls who are living in extreme poverty and denied access to basic services are highly susceptible to forces of irregular migration, prostitution, and trafficking for sexual and /or labour exploitation.

“Prostitution is a violence of human rights and constitutes violence against the person prostituted.”

To read the Statement go to the link: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=E/CN.6/2015/NGO/25

Good Shepherd organizes a parallel event during CSW 59 with the theme: “Advocacy and Networking Strategies for Legislative Reform: Ending Prostitution and Human Trafficking”

We are particularly happy that the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations supports the event and that Ireland’s Minister of State for Justice and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin will be present.  He may not be able to stay for the whole event but we look forward to welcoming and hearing from him. See the flyer for information.

Flyer for panel event CSW 59 Version 3

Quote from our Statement to CSW 59: 

​”We applaud the Member States that have ratified and begun to adopt these international laws at the national level.

We acknowledge and appreciate the many regional mechanisms and agreements that are in place.  But only when each country has integrated the international laws into national laws and collaborates across borders to ensure the human rights of every person will change be seen.

We acknowledge and appreciate the work and achievements of Sweden, Norway, and more recently France, Canada and Northern Ireland in addressing the human rights violations caused by prostitution.  Using a legislative basis, they have criminalized not only traffickers, but also the purchasers of sex and sexual services, insightfully defining the multiple layers of human rights violations in prostitution. We encourage all member states to do the same.  The debates engaged in during the legislative process bring complex gender consciousness to the public forum.”

Support our campaign: Challenging UN Member States to Address the Situation of Women and Girls at the Hands of ISIS

Since preparing this letter in November 2014 we have decided to use change.org to gather signatures in support of this letter.  We invite you to sign the petition by Clicking here.  Thanks for your support.

We, Sisters and Lay Mission Partners of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, 82 delegates from 28 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East are shocked and outraged by what we have witnessed in Northern Iraq. We are gathered in Angers, France, for an Inter Continental Assembly and have decided to bring to your notice and ask for your action on this subject.

Our main concern is that ISIS is selling girls and women on the open market.  This is a flagrant violation of human rights and all international conventions.  We see this exploitation of girls and women as a perpetuation of violence against humanity.

It is an outrage that ISIS is dealing in the commodification of girls and women. These girls and women are marketed by age and we are scandalized to see the girl child being sold in contradiction to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Could not the same international coalition that developed a strategy to defend and free up the oil wells in the Middle East, now focus an even stronger concerted voice to negotiate the liberation of these girls and women?   Could not the governments of all nations denounce this human rights violation?   As human beings, have we lost our sense of solidarity to save life and to combat violence against the weakest and the most vulnerable members of society?

We denounce in the strongest terms what is happening to girls and women and we appeal to the international community to use its political influence to have a total cessation of the use of human beings as weapons of war.

Yours faithfully,

You can access the letter in Spanish and French

CSW 59 advert

March 8th is International Women’s Day! What are you planning?

In New York, I will join in the March for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights.  It is  being organized by UN Women in collaboration with the City of New York, NGO-CSW, the Working Group on Girls, the Man Up Campaign and the UN Women for Peace Association.

The march will take place on International Women’s Day (March 8) and commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This event will celebrate the achievements women and girls have made around the world since 1995. It will also be an opportunity to underscore the need for political commitment to accelerate action to achieve gender equality by 2030.

The 12 section of the outcome document will be displayed – I will be with ‘The Girl-Child.”  The march will start at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (47th street and 2nd avenue) at 2:30 pm and end at Times Square (42nd street and 7th avenue) at 5:00 p.m.

Extensive outreach and mobilization is underway with an intention to bring between 10,000 and 20,000 people to march for gender equality. The last march of this magnitude for gender equality in New York City took place in the 1970s.

We invite you to join the march and to spread the word far and wide using the hashtags #Beijing20 and #genderequalitymarch. You can also go to @UN_Women for coverage of the march. Please disseminate the attached flyer widely through your networks and social media.    Flyer for the march. Click here!

The 12 critical areas of concern are as follows:

1. Women and the environment

2. Women in power and decision-making

3. The girl child

4. Women and the economy

5. Women and poverty

6. Violence against women

7. Human rights of women

8. Education and training of women

9. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women

10. Women and health

11. Women and the media

12. Women and armed conflict