Faith Actors at the Generation Equality Forum

Good Shepherd were pleased to joined with 30 global and regional faith actors to create a joint communique that shows our collective commitment to achieving gender equality. You can read the full communique here As you read you can listen to the reading by various representatives. The communique is entitled ‘People of Faith are Allies to Generation Equality.’ The Action Coalitions are a new impetus to address pre-existing and structural issues and know how forms of repression are interrelated and rcognise gender injustice as an intersectional issue. We are called to work in partnership for the protection and promotion of human dignity and to achieve gender justice. Good Shepherds are no strangers to this agenda addressing – Gender Based Violence and Economic Justice and Rights – two of the 6 Action Coalitions. The communique contains ten points for UN partnership with faith-based actors ranging from recognizing the unique role of religious actors, co-developing gender just policies, partnering with us to promote feminist theologies that promote equality, and increasing funding and resources to enable strategic partnerships at all levels with religious actors.

On Monday June 28th, prior to the commencement of Generation Equality Forum, A group of faith actors hosted an event entitled ‘Looking Back to Look Forward: The Role of Religious Actors in Gender Equality since the Beijing Declaration’.  The panelist included a feminist theologan Dr. Nontando Hadebe from South Africa, International Coordinator a for gender justice organization Side by Side. The event was the occasion of the launch of a report entitled “Religious Actors: Ally or Threat for achieving Gender Equality.’

Access the Report which reveals how religious actors have advanced and hindered gender equality since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. The report provides a critical and contextualized understanding of how religion and gender politics are intertwined in all countries, high and low-income alike. The report addresses how patriarchal gender norms continue to be packaged in the language of religion because it legitimizes them. Anti-rights actors are mobilizing religious language to block or even reverse progress on gender equality. Religious language can make patriarchal practices appear divinely ordained and unchangeable. Read more

Each presenter was superb in her articulation of different perspectives. Dr. Nontando Hadebe, a feminist catholic theologian from South Africa, the last panelist, spoke of her excitment at what she was hearing from Zainah Ahwar. Gender, religion and feminist theology need to generate an alternative narrative and change the ways women appropriate patriarchical religion. Patriarchy is powerful and uses its power to normalize and naturalize gender inequality. Women in turn internalize it and see it as God’s word and how things are suppose to be. Do listen to the inspiring insights of Zainah on the need to re-claim and reframe the narrative of religion and rights and uphold equality and justice. To do this is essential. It requires capacity building with knowledge, and religious literacy which critiques gender equality and rights showing how inequality and discriminatory laws and norms are socially constructed and not divine law. So, desconstruction and resonstruction are required according to the lived realities of the 21st century.

Our position papers referency patriarchy in 3 of the papers – the girl child, trafficking and prostitution. The phrase is usually couched within other phrases – systemic injustice, structural gender inequality, targeted gender violence, and dominant systems of patriarchal power. Do we consider the church to be a patriarchal system exercising power over girls and women? We even have a recommendation “Include awareness in educational programs of the cross-sectional issues that influence prostitution: migration realities, gender discrimination, unrestrained consumerism,
militarism, economic and patriarchal systems, and feminization of poverty.” Do we have the knowledge and capacity to carry out this recommendation? Another few sentences “the root causes of prostitution are tied to poverty, patriarchy, male privilege, extreme wealth, racist attitudes, militarization, ecological degradation, inadequate family support, and the demand by men for women to be available for sexual purchase. The rapid global expansion of human trafficking as a criminal industry has increased the demand for girls and women to be objects of prostitution. Likewise, lack of people-centered and rights-based migration policies increase the incidence of human trafficking and prostitution.” Without doubt we are addressing the consequences of gender inequality but are we doing this from a position of knowledge and conviction based on an updated theology of feminism that is fit for the 21st century? The term ‘human rights’ is referenced 19 times and the term ‘gender’ 17 times in the position papers? Gender is qualified with such words as inequality, violence, sensitive, discrimination, equality, outcomes, exploitation, inclusion, analysis and justice – yes gender justice!

An event I attended on the last day of Generation Equality Forum entitled ‘Advancing Gender Equality by countering the Extremist Manifesto’ was very informative. The politics of ‘anti-gender’ are rooted in extreme positions adopted by the various world religions and others who promote fear around gender and tout feminist ideologies. They are actors who are rooted in patriarchy, masculinity, and are homophobic. They put forward strategies aimed at reclaiming the gender gains that have been achieved throughout history. They seek to influence political strategy and policymakers with the ultimate goals of obstructing, criminalizing, illegalizing or limiting gender rights, sexual rights and the human rights of citizens. They are part of a larger movement that brings together groups opposed to feminism, LGBTQI rights, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and compreshensive sex education. The panelsists came from Afrcia, Europe and Latin America. It was noted that these are not merely local groups but international movements, well connected and with funding.

A very telling report that was referred to is “The Tip of the Iceberg” with a sub-title Religious Extremist Funders against Human Rights for Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Europe 2009 – 2018. It provides narratives and reports of the origin of funding. More. All of this brings me back to where I started – the necessity for us to have strong theological underpining for a 21 century world where girls and women’s rights are upheld to the benefit of the whole of humanity and the planet. This is urgent in our work with girls and indeed part of the transformative journey we are all on.

The Generation Equality Forum Paris has begun

Today, June 30 the long awaited Generation Equality Fourm with the launch of the 6 Action Coalitions, and the Compact on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action has come. While it is 9.30 am in New York it is 3.30 pm in Paris. The Opening Ceremony was very moving, and amid all the glamour, I was hearing of real issues as experienced by real girls and women in very difficult situation in different parts of the world. Girls and girls issues were well covered in the opening ceremony. We also heard of some of the commitment made towards achieving the Action Coalitions.

“Girls should be considered political beings. Girls shouldn’t be invited only for the picture, or the inspirational speech.” Julieta Martinez answerd the question posed by Hilary Clinton and continued “I am Julieta!” “We feel alone!” Julieta, a 17 year old from Chile highlighted the call for girls’ engagment and speaks for girls around the world, who just like her, feel abandoned. Girls know the problems, can and want to be part of the change. Julieta is as passionate and insightful as Hilary Clinton was 26 years ago in Beijing when she uttered that “Human Rights are Women’s Rights and Women’s Rights are Human Rights” but a lot younger! Julieta is a testimony to girl’s agency and recognizes her privilege while indicating that most girls are invisible and don’t have the tools. She recalled Malala, championing eduction for girls – a book and a pen – and I remember Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villaseñor, both girl climate activists in Sweden and New York! The Girls Open Letter to World Leaders English French Spanish is echoing the very same sentiments and Good Shepherd Girls in India and the Philippines were part of the group who penned the letter.

An actress and activist from Burkina Faso, Roukiata Ouedraogo, talked about her own experience of FGM and the regret her mother felt afterwards.  Her mother later became an advocate, setting up mico credit activities with women while establishing an association to eliminate FGM in her village.  Roukiata emphasized that FGM is a patriarchal legacy and an abomination! The eradication of harmful practices, like excision and child marriage requires the education of all!

 Roukiata Ouedraogo addressing Generation Equality Forum in Paris

The strongest call for girls’ education came from a passionate 16 year old, Yande Banda, co-chair of the Transform Education Coalition hosted by the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI). She called for girls’ meaningful representation in key decision-making spaces and ended with a call to World Leaders to stand up! “Stand up for girls’ future, girls’ funding, girls’ education, and ensure that girls are at the table.

Yande Banda calling Member States to Stand Up for Girls’ Education

The recording of the opening of the Forum is livestreamed on UN TV It is in English only and to begin to watch you must move the marker to 01:04:00. What I have referenced above followed the welcome by President Macron of France, and official remarks by the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UN Women who announced a grand total of $40 Billion in new investments towards Gender Equality. $23 billion from the public sector, $4 billion from philanthropic organizations and $13 billion from the private sector. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada said “our government is investing $100 million to support paid and unpaid care work globally. This is a feminist generation and it needs feminist governments to stand with it.”

The President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker, announces a commitment of $420 million to 5 of the Action Coalitions – GBV, Economic Justice, Technology and Innovation, Bodily Autonomy and SRHR, Feminist Movements and Leadership. Ford Foundatin is also investing in the @BlackFemFund.

The Prime Minister from Finland, Marin Sanna announced a contribution of €150 million in support of Generation Equality in developing countries. Over the five years, Finalnd will work to advance gender equality in Technology and Innovation and SRHR. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany announced that “Germany is actively involved in the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights and will invest additionally €140 million, making a total of around €240 million in the International Action Coalition”

“The Government of Argentina decided to join and co-lead the Global Care Alliance, together with the Mexican Government, to promote comprehensive care systems and develop more inclusive and equal societies.”

The Malala Fund pledged to award $20m in funding to education activisits and to co-create a quality education agenda with girls. The Rockefeller Foundation is investing $30 million in women-owned organizations throughout the Global South and the Open Society Foundation is investing more than $100 million over the next five years. The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) announced a commitment of $500 million over five years to two Action Coalitions: Bodily Autonomy and SRHR and Economic Justice and Rights. PayPal committed more that $100 million to advance financial inclusion and economic empowernment of women and girls. The Gates Foundation committed $2.1 billion to help deliver change.

There appears to be no shortage of resources – my question will any of these resources or the impact of them bring any change to the girls and women who are the furthest behind, in fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda pledge to leave no one behind and of reaching the furthest behind first? I did not hear much if anything of the need for systemic change. Are these ‘feel good funds’ in the face of the terrible attrocities I was reminded of towards the end of the program when Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist, and Dr Mukwege, a Congolese renowned gynaecologist, surgeon, and founder and director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, came to the the platform. (See marker 3.41) Both shared the Noble Peace Prize in 2018 and each shared on the impacts of sexual violence on girls and women. Habiba Sarabi the woman Afghani negotiator for peace with the Taliban spoke of 10 month of negotiations – the Taliban are bent on re-establishing the old Afghanistan. In areas that the Taliban have captured they issue orders that women cannot leave their home for education or medical care. All the achievements gained for women’s rights are being lost. You can’t negotiate with extremism, she aaid and her final words “Today we are fighting terrorism in our country, but tomorrow it will knock at every door”.

Habiba Sarabi from Afghanistan.

The session began with this quote from Simone de Beauvoir and I will recall it to end this post – “Never forget that a political, economic or religious crisis would suffice to call women’s rights into question.” During the session there were references to the fact that democracy is threatened, people are afraid, there is a backlash against women’s human rights with the rise of Autocracy but this ceremony and event were filled with hope and determination to resist the backlash and fulfill the promise of Gender Equality.

Coalition for Adolescent Girls

“Adolescent girls must be front and center in the global movement for gender equality. As organizations committed to ensuring adolescent girls around the world are able to grow up healthy, educated, employable, and protected from all forms of violence, we write to urge you to publicly demonstrate your commitment to adolescent girls by placing them front and center in the Generation Equality Process, particularly in the five-year period following the Generation Equality Forum in Paris (June 30 – July 2, 2021).

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd is an organizational supporter of this letter addressed to the Action Coalition Leaders and in turn endorses the Girls’ Open Letter to World Leaders. They make a strong call for the allocation of much needed resources towards girls active participation and engagement at all levels. In line with the last sentence of the letter “we stand with adolescent girls and their need to be consulted and recognized as their own thought leaders with a critical stake in addressing inequality, inequity and exclusion on their journey to a brighter future.”

Mary Ward Young Women on Generation Equality have prepared a video of Asia Pacific girls’ asks

Girls Open Letter to World Leaders ahead of Generation Equality Forum – Paris

Girls have penned and published an open letter to World Leaders on the eve of the launch of the Generation Equality Fourm in Paris on Wednesday June 30. The GSIJP Office under the leadership of Alexis Schutz has facilitated girls from our organization in India and the Philippines to be part of the drafting group together with girls from Global G.L.O.W., Girl Scouts USA, Save the Children, IBVM Loretto, the The Grail, Mozambique and UN Women Girls’ Advisory Group. The letter has been translated into French and Spanish with an accompanying Tool Kit so that girls can use the letter to inform other girls and start advocacy work with their respective governments. The results of conversation circles that girls facilitated with other girls during CSW 65 is also provided and translated. The 9 page document focuses on each of the 6 Action Coalition with girls’ comments and recommendations. Our girls from the Philippines and India will be joined by girls from Madagascar and Kenya at the Forum.

The letter makes the connection between Generation Equality Forum, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and the Action Coalitions. Read the letter! Highlight for yourself what girls are saying! Tap into some amazing energy, vision, creativity and leadership for girls’ rights, gender equality and the future of our planet with girls.

Letter: English, French, Spanish

Toolkit: English, French, Spanish

Report from the Conversation Circles: English, French, Spanish

If you have not yet registered for the Forum you can still do so as registration has been extended until July 2nd. Click on the link. If you don’t register you will be unable to particiapte. See the program

If you are using soical media use these Hashtags ENGLISH: #GenerationEquality FRENCH: #GénérationÉgalité SPANISH: #GeneraciónIgualdad

ActForEqual ENGLISH: #ActForEqual FRENCH: #ÉgalitéOnAgit SPANISH: #ActuemosPorLaIgualdad

Girls want a better future. Girls are the future of this world. In these videos hear girls’ voices from India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines and Malaysia raising their voices. Will World Leaders heed what girls are saying in Paris?

Follow us on Twitter: @gsijp @winifreddoherty ; on Facebook: Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and Winifred Doherty

Agenda for Generation Equality Forum in Paris just published June 30 – July 2, 2021

Generation Equlaity Forum will have its launch of the Action Colations in Paris between June 30 and July 2, 2021 Registration is open until Sunday June 27 (midnight Paris time) Register Here For those who register the site will open on June 29th with opportunities to explore the virtual site. It is helpful if you have the agenda at hand to navigate your way to the venues for the different meetings.

The Agenda is in PDF format in English Spanish French. Together with the 6 Action Coalitions there is the Women, Peace and Security, and Humanitarian Action Compact. These will launch in 7 different session during July 1 and 2. The programme is structured around 7 themes. On June 30th and July 2nd there are 14 different events at the intersection of Gender Equality and other types of activism. Room Belleville hosts the Young Feminists on July 1 and 2 with 15 events scheduled. Theme four ‘Everyone Acts for Equal has 15 events over June 30, July 1 and 2. Theme 5 ‘Drivers for Change’ has 21 events over the 3 days. My pick from this schedule (i) Where is the Money for Girls? Resourcing Girls Organization (July 2, 10.00 – 10.45 CET); (ii) Activating Faith, Feminism and Freedom to Choose (July 1, 11.20 – 12.05 CET); (iii) Two events on Girls Education July 1, 10.00 – 11.00 and July 2, 4.00 – 500 (CET) and (iv) Ratification of ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harrassment in the World of Work July 2 5.30 – 6.30 (CET). Theme 6 take up a Feminist response to COVID 19 organizing eleven events over the three days and Theme 7 “Intra Regional conversations around Gender Equality” hosts ten events over the three days. The Opening and Closing events are ceremonial.

Follow events on the Website Twitter Facebook Instragram Linkedin

Learn more about #ActforEqual CLICK HERE

The six Action Coaliton leads are comprised of representatives from Government, UN Entities, Civil Society, Youth Led Organizations and Private Companies and Philantrophy. SEE There are between 15 and 18 Leads in each coaliton. The Action Coalitons propose a road map for Gender Equality to deliver concrete results in six thematic areas. The plan is poised to acelerate concrete progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Mobilization for Committment Makers in each area had been issued and is now closed. It may reopen after the Fourm. The following 5 criteria are considered as being essential for any committment: (i) Potential for Impact; (ii) Funding; (iii) Level of Endorsement; (iv) Collective in nature and (v) SMART. Committments can either be Financial, Advocacy, Policy, or Programatic See more

A set of Powerpoints has been prepared to give a broad overview of each coalition, outlining four actions with associated targets

2021 – International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour – GSIJP Office Made a 2021 Action Pledge

In July 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, and has asked the International Labour Organization (ILO) to take the lead in its implementation. The resolution highlights the commitments of the Member States “to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”… This is the exact wording of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 8, Target 7 which gives rise to Alliance 8.7, an inclusive global partnership committeed to achieving SDG 8.7 with the objectives of (i) accelerating action, (ii) conducting research and knowledge sharings,(iii) driving innovaton and (iv) leveraging resources. There are 4 years remaining to 2025 so how are we doing? ILO reports ‘child labour has decreased by 38 per cent in the last decade … the COVID-19 pandemic has considerably worsened the situation, but joint and decisive action can reverse this trend.’ Will we see zero child labour in 2025?   For the World Day to End Child Labour, (June 12) the ILO and UNICEF will release new global estimates and trends on child labour (2016-2020), under the aegis of Alliance 8.7. I wonder what the number will be like compared to the 2016 estimates?

Well, to start only 22 of 192 countries have signed up to be ‘pathfinder countries in ending child labour – Albania, Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uganda, Vietnam Good Shepherd has a presence in 10 of these countries – 6 are in Latin America and the Carribean, 3 in Asia Pacific and I in Africa. Only 6 (Chile, Mexico, Peru, Madagascar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam) of the of the 10 countries where we are present have posted materials under the following headings – Challenges, Milestones, Priorities, Progress and Updates.

Read More español  français  italiano  português  Русский 

In the above statistics there is no mention of human trafficking or prostitution, yet it is referenced either directly or indirectly in three counties. In Chile “70.6% of children in child labour aged 5 to 17 are engaged in hazardous child labour. Children are also involved in other worst forms of child labour, including commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Indigenous children and adolescents from Ecuador are especially vulnerable to human trafficking for labour exploitation in Chile. Commonly, children are forced to steal, produce, sell, and transport drugs near the border with Peru and Bolivia.”

For Madagascar we read ‘the worst forms of child labour include commercial exploitation and trafficking. In 2007 4.5% of Malagasy children were trafficked, often for domestic work. Trafficking, both transnational and internal, is not uncommon in Madagascar. Though data is scant, evidence indicates that victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, forces labour, domestic work, and forced begging.”

For Nepal “More than 31,000 people were estimated to be in forced labour in 2017, out of which 17% were children. Practices of forced labour and trafficking have been documented both in the country (for example, in the adult entertainment sector) and across borders.”

The ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour  achieved universal ratification in August 2020 when the last of the 187 member States of the ILO formally deposited their ratification insturments. The Convention was adopted in 1999 and has taken 21 years to achieve universal ratification. That is one measure of success, but has the Convention been domesticated and is it being implemented?

Reading ILO Convention 182 in the light of our Position Paper on the Girl Child sheds more light on the girls’ vulnerability to ‘the worst form of child labour.’ Our paper references sexual abuse, use as objects in protstitution and child labor. Article 2 of the Convention defines the term ‘the worst forms of child labour:’

  • (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
  • (b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
  • (c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;
  • (d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Snippets from the Pathfinder Countries in the Alliance 8.7 contain only three referrence to commercial sexual exploitation of children. Why is this? Will the updated global estimates that will be released on June 12th highlight the new criminal phonomenon of ‘Online Sexual Exploitation of Children’ (OSEC)? The International Justice Mission published a study in 2020 Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines: Analysis and Recommendations for Governments, Industry, and Civil Society in which they noted that OSEC is a complex, hidden crime that is particularly challenging for the global community to measure and address. The lack of global OSEC data, inconsistencies in collecting, sharing and analysing data, across countries and agencies is one thing. This difficulty is further complicated by the complexity of internet-facilitated crimes which has made it almost impossible to accurately track, study and understand this crime. The estimated number/prevalence rate of IP addresses used for Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) each year more than tripled from 23,333 in 2014 to 81, 723 in 2017. This corresponds to a growth in the prevalence rate from about 43 out of every 10,000 IP addresses being used for CSE in 2014 to 149 out of every 10,000 IP addresses being used for CSE in 2017. Due to limitations in the data, it is not clear if this increase was reflective of an actual rise in the occurrence of the crime, a rise in the reporting of the crime, or both.

Another study conducted by Associate Professors Michael Salter and Tim Wong, and funded by the Australian eSafety Commissioner (2021) highlights the way COVID-19 has placed children at risk of online sexual exploitation and abuse – and how across the world, those put in place to protect children from such violence are facing unprecedented challenges.

The Internet Watch Foundation published in May 2018 ‘Trends in Online Child Sexual Exploitation: Examining the Distribution of Captures of Live-streamed Child Sexual Abuse. 2,082 images and videos were assessed as meeting the research criteria. I picked out these key findings:


• 96% depicted children on their own, typically in a home setting such as their own bedroom.
• 98% of imagery depicted children assessed as 13 years or younger.
• 96% of the imagery featured girls.

These statistics shows which how easy it is to contact children within their own homes in this age of technology, the age of the children and how girls are disproportionalely targeted and exploited. Will this aspect of the exploitation of children be mentioned? Our position papers on Human Trafficking, Prostitution and the Girl Child reflect and focus these issues very clearly for us. There is a week of Action June 10 – 17 2021 with various events. During the 109th International Labour Conference, a high level panel on June 10th will mark the World Day against Child Labour. The first part of the event will focus on a conversation on the new ILO-UNICEF global estimates and trends on child labour 2016 – 2021. Please ask question or put comments in the comments box.

Reviewing CSW 65 Virtual Platform and Engagment

The annual Commission on the Status of Women 65th session started with the NGO Forum on Sunday March 14th – setting the scene. Last year because of the outbreak of COVID 19 the session was cancelled but this year all took place virtually.  Planning took place throughout the year.   The most exciting part of this was the development of a virtual platform by the NGOCSW Committee members in New York.  This platform was enabled by ‘Pathable Virtual Event Platform.”   The platform permits for multiple live zoom connection to be happening simultaneously and a feature of it is the Virtual Tradeshow Booth.  The Good Shepherd International Justice Peace Office, my colleague Alexis Schutz and I, explored the possibilities of having a Virtual Booth and then invited GSIF, MDO – Asia Pacific, Latin America and the NGO Regional Designates to a planning meeting at the end of January to discuss possibilities.  The members of the planning committee undertook responsibility for their regions.   A very rich comprehensive program was designed and multiple issued were addressed from North to South and East to West. Many were livestreamed on Facebook and others on YouTube.  Many recordings have been uploaded to https://winifredd.wordpress.com and can be viewed on blog postings of March 14, 16, 23 and 27. Issues addressed were varied and included the following – Understanding the Impacts of COVID 19 on Vulnerable Australian Women; Women’s Economic Empowerment, Ending Violence against Girls and Women, including 4 session on Obstetrics Fistula, Migration issues from Latin America and Europe.  My favorite was the 5-hour girls’ program from Asia Pacific – hosted by girls, moderated by girls, concerning girls’ issues and participation at all levels.  How insightful and informed these girls are –truly leaders for the future coming from all countries of Asia Pacific.  At the conclusion of my night vigil in New York at 6.30 am on Saturday morning (began at 1.30 am) I closed my intervention with “now dismiss your servant in peace as my eyes have seen ….”  This was followed at 11.00 am with a session from Madagascar again focusing on girls and with a recording of girls giving their viewpoints and opinions.

The Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd – New York/Toronto and Ecuador prepared the Women’s Sanctuary Space for Monday March 15th with specially pre-recorded prayer reflections. 

I hosted a “Let’s Talk Series” for one hour each day covering various topics from Social Protection Floors, CSW Agreed Conclusion, Ending Violence Against Women, Generation Equality Forum, Migration, Sustainable Development Goals, St Patrick’s Day.  Alexis hosted Let’s Talk Girls with Patricia and Maddie who are Good Shepherd Volunteers in the New York/Toronto Province.

Live on FaceBook
Alexis Schutz – Good Shepherd International Justice Peace Office – Working for Girls Around the World
Mattie Thompson – Good Shepherd Volunteer, Collier Services, New Jersey
Patricia Kelly – Good Shepherd Volunteer at the National Advocacy Center in Washington DC – Live on Facebook

An entry point for Good Shepherd, Europe was on the topic of Migration when my guests were Ivanna Youtchak, Coordinator of the Euro Project, and Gabriele Spina from Catania Italy, and Director of Migration in Il Nodo, Catania and Acireale.  What great work around ‘integration’ of migrants into local communities and fascinating insight into how programs adjusted and provided for the needs of migrants all during these pandemic times. A video ‘Whatever it Takes’ was specially prepared by Good Shepherd, Italy for this occasion.

It can ve viewed via Dropbox Please note – it may be stressful to watch.

Sr Mirjam Bekie, our NGO Representative in Geneva contributed a repeat session on Obsteric Fistuala, creating awareness of the problem and sharing on advocacy work in colaitions in Geneva. She also presented in the RENATE Sessions on Human Trafficking.

Live on Facebook

The issue of Human Trafficking with its multiple stakeholders and strategies was very well covered on the platform.   APT/AMRI engaged in 2 sessions facilitated by Noreen O’Shea, Ireland, available on their YouTube Channel. RENATE – the European network of religious committed to work together against human trafficking and exploitation – of which Sr. Marie Helene Halligon (France) is a staunch member, facilitated 9 X 2-hour sessions over the two weeks.  All Session can be viewed on their YouTube Channel

On Friday 26th the final meeting of the Commission was postponed until 5.00 p.m. and some wonder if there will be any agreed conclusion!  Yes, just after 6.00 p.m the Commission resumed and there are Agreed Conclusion! Agreed Conclusions are one barometer indicating support for women’s human rights. While very welcome, they do not reflect an adequate response to the urgent call of the UN Secretary General on the opening day of CSW 65, to realize women’s rights fully, ensure equal representation, advance women’s economic inclusion, asking for funding, policies and political will to end all gender-based violence and give space to girls and young women to transition into future leadership. What could the member states be the negotiating about you might ask? 

The terms gender, gender identity, women in all their diversity, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, sexual identity, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and human rights defenders give rise to various interpretation – ranging from a human rights perspective to religious, cultural, and moral principles and objections. Concept on motherhood, maternity, paternity, family, role of family in society, gender as defined as male or female, marriage only between a man and a women are pitted against human right to self expression and ability to make choices are amoung the contentious issues. Other political issues surface – e.g invoking national sovernighty, whereby national laws, and religious laws are to be respected and upheld. Considerations that the agreed conclusion attempt to address a broad ranges of issues which were not the subject matter of the theme eg. climate change, women’s health, human trafficking, and unilateral financial trade agreement was also raised. There was reference to the Security Council Resolution 1325 being deleated from the document amid concerns about the impacts of conflict on girls and women and that there were attempt to unpick long standing commitments. See Global Sisters Report

But women and the women’s movement are undaunted and now have the opportunity to forge ahead towards the launching of the ‘Generation Equality Forum’ which will start in Mexico on Monday March 29th for three day.  The action now is towards full equality, and full peace, in prosperity for all, challenging all to stand as citizens, in a shared solidarity for the future we want. To end, NGO CSW65 passed the torch to Generation Equality at a ‘Joyful Disruption Rally’ with girls and women from around the world determined to realize a new future despite the paralysis in the agreed conclusion negotiations. Read the Advanced Unedited Verson of the Agreed Conclusion

Good Shepherd Asia Pacific Website have access to all their events during NGOCSW 65 Virtual Plaform HERE They also provide links for Latin America on their Facebook Page and RIMOA are on the GSIF YouTube Channel. This is a wonderful testimony to the many and varied ministries of the Congregation.

YouTube

In total live programs were facilitated on the platform for 66 hours over the two weeks. 114 identified Good Shepherd Sisters and partners were registered on the NGOCSW65 Virtual Booth and made a total of 1,696 visits to the platform. RENATE had 8 identified representatives who made a total of 150 visits. APT had 7 identified representatives who make a total of 86 visitis. There were 320 visitors to the booth of whom 114 are identified as partners, 85 unidentified and 121 familiar NGO Colleagues and other unknow NGOs. The number of visits ranged from 1 visit to 264 visits. 99 guests were one time visitors only, 30 guests vistied a second time, and 22 guests made a third visit. Administrators tended to have higher numbers of visits 92, 90, 87, 70, 60, 63, 46, 45, 42, 41, 38, 34, 33, 31, 28, 26, 22, although a few within this range were visitors to the virtual booth.

Thank you NGOCSW 65 Virtual Platform!
Thank you all who participated in CSW65!

CSW 65 ends with Agreed Conculsion on March 26 – Consensus just after 6.00 p.m.

Agreed Conclusion on “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimintation of violence, for achievieng gender equality and emowernment of all women and girls” were adopted by consensus. It was quite evident from the insights gleaned from statments issued after the adoption that these were tense and difficulty negotiation. While all the negotiations were done virtually, the ususal dynamics that accompany the annual negotiations prevailed – working until 11.00 p.m. during the two weeks, and through the night on the last few days of negotiation. I am grateful that Member States stayed the course and came to consensus on the need for full and effective participation of women in decision making in public life and on eliminating violence for achieving gender equlaity.

The Executive Director of UN Women Phumzille Mlambo made a statment at the end of the session saying the the outcome document was a robust blueprint on strengthening women’s leadership and participation in public life. Read more. Having followed the session as it unflolded I found that the various country positions indiciated the red lines that are encountered in address gender equality and the ending of all violence against girls and women. While there was consensus with reservations it is quiet clear that the struggle is far from finished.

Ambassador Sautter, Germany on behalf of the EU presented its statement which was published immediately on it Website: See

Other statements generally in support came from Santiago Group, led by Chile. New Zealand spoke on behalf of the following group – Australia, Canada, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Iceland. UK, USA, Nigeria, Mexico, Namibia, each had statements. Other countries, each speaking individually presented reservations – Saudia Arabia, Brazil, Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Lybia, Yemin, Tunisia, Nicurguia, Iraq, Holy See, Maurentinia, and Qutar. China and Russia also made statment. See Commission on the Status of Women March 27th

What are the redlines? What are the contentious issues? Well, terms, the use of terms and the understaning of terms is the trigger for discussion, controversy, and persuasion. The terms gender, gender identity, women in all their diversity, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, sexual identity, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and human rights defenders give rise to various interpretation – ranging from a human rights perspective to religous, cultural, and moral principles and objections. Concept on motherhood, maternity, paternity, family, role of family in society, gender as defined as male or famale, marriage only between a man and a women are pitted against human right to self expression and ability to make choices.

Other political issues surface – e.g invoking national sovernighty, whereby national laws, and religious laws are to be respected and upheld. Considerations that the agreed conclusion attempt to address a broad ranges of issues which were not the subject matter of the theme eg. climate change, women’s health, human trafficking, and unilateral financial trade agreement. There was referece to the Security Council Resolution 1325 being deleated from the document amid concerns about the impacts of conflict on girls and women and that there were attempt to unpick long standing commitments. Many times is was noted that terms used in the discussion are ambigious especially around gender identity, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and sexual and reproductive health and reprocuctive rights. LGBTQI+ issues are not named and in some cases event the existence of these people has been denied. I was surprised to hear that girls and women with disabilities was a contentionus issue. Further, with regard to ‘human rights defenders’ the question was asked as to why they are a special category needing attention?

I am happy that the discussion was had yet again, and that there are agreed conclusion from CSW 65. One delegate stands out for me – the delegate from Morocco who spake about the ardous hours of virtual imprisonment experinced durng the negotiation. She invited those present to imagine the imprisionment of girls and women within violent sistuation in the real world saying we hear your voice. Then she asks two quesitons, are the agreed conclusions responsive enough, are they translformative enough? She answers with a resounding NO! It is in the spirit that the women of the world unite and set out for Mexico and the launch of part 1 of the Generation Equlaity Forum on Monday March 29 – 31st.

CSW65 Continues

This all virtual CSW 65 experience is challenging – the inability to meet in person, exchange ideas, meet official delegates, and chat informally with women traditionally gatherered in NY is a certainly different. No exchanging of hugs and embraces, no coffee appointment, no walking and talking, moving from one venue to another, and no personal interaction is certainly a great loss and yet women as always are making the best of the virtual world with over 25,000 registered and participating on the NGOCSW 65 Virtual Platform which I think is a great success thanks to the dedication of the NGOCSW Committee on the Status of Women and all who work behind the scenes to make it a reality. The only signs that CSW 65 is taking place are captured in the banners on the railing outside the UN. Asking which one comes first is asking the wrong question because transformation demands that they are all realized simultaneouly!

The Secretary General of the United Nations held a Town Hall with women and girls on March 16th. A few quotes from his address ‘But we should not talk of getting “back to normal”. It has become clearer than ever that what was considered normal was often discriminatory, unjust and unsustainable.’ … ‘Around the world, we advocated with Member States to ensure that women entrepreneurs are targeted in stimulus packages; that women working in the informal economy can access social protection; that recovery packages include greater investment in the care economy.’ You can read the full text HERE

US Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the Commission on the Status of Women 65 on behalf of the USA saying that  “the status of women is the status of democracy,” mentioning Eleanor Roosevelt’s who shaped the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. “When women face obstacles to obtaining quality healthcare; when women face food insecurity, when women are more likely to live in poverty, and therefore disproportionately impacted by climate change, more vulnerable to gender-based violence, and therefore disproportionately impacted by conflict, well it’s harder for women to fully participate in decision-making, which of course in turn makes it that much harder for democracies to thrive.”  Olivia Dalton, a spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN noted that the Vice President Harris is the first Biden administration White House official to address the U.N.; she is the highest-ranking U.S. government official to ever address CSW; and she’s the first female U.S. vice president to ever address the U.N.

During the first week there were 4 ministerial roundatbables and 4 interactive dialougues. Background notes, biographies of speakers and the recordinding can be accessed HERE. The General Discussion resumed on Friday 19th and continues in the second week. Member States address the Commission Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here A list of speakers can be accessed at the top on the page on UN Women’s CSW 65 Page

While the formal program continues virtually within the United Nations the NGO community are hosting multiple parallel events on the NGOCSW 65 Virtual Forum Platform Good Shepherd around the world are presenting a very comprehensive program of the various activities from east to west and north to south. The program schedule can reviewed and many of the events have been recorded either on Facebook or Youtube. I was so happy to have the Contemplative Sisters engaged in designing the Women’s Sanctuary Space on Monday March 15th. It has been recorded on Facebook The videos ‘Glow Within Us All’ and ‘The Call to Belong.’

Some of the Asia Pacific Presentation

Presentation from Africa – Anglola

Fundación Internacional del Buen Pastor América LatinaCongregación de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Buen Pastor – Región América Latina. Bolivia-Chile,…

Recording on Facebook
Live on Facebook
Live on Facebook
Live on Facebook

Official Launch of CSW 65 – An in-person meeting at the United Nations HQ in NY

The official opening of the Commission on the Status of Women took place yesterday morning at United Nations Head Quarters in New York at 10.00 a.m. EDT. We heard from UN Leaders, including the Chair of CEDAW and civil society members speaking up for their communities, and other stakeholders who are committed to making gender equality a reality.

The Secretary General made a powerful statement – fully recognizing the intense suffering of women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic and calling ‘on all leaders to put in place five key building blocks.  First, realize women’s equal rights fully, including by repealing discriminatory laws and enacting positive measures.  Second, ensure equal representation — from company boards to parliaments, from higher education to public institutions — through special measures including quotas.  Third, advance women’s economic inclusion through equal pay, targeted credit, job protection and significant investments in the care economy and social protection. Fourth, to enact an emergency response plan in each country to address violence against women and girls, and follow through with funding, policies and political will.  Fifth, to give space to the intergenerational transition that is under way.  From the front lines to online, young women are advocating for a more just and equal world — and merit greater support.’ Extract from the UN Meeting Coverage and Releases. The full recording of the session can be had at UN Web TV

The UN Secretary General: ‘The fallout from COVID 19 has shown how deeply gender inequality remains embedded in the world’s political, social & economic systems.’ Ambassador Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations and President of Economic and Social Council delivered a statement calling for a New Global Compact for Women’s Empowernment Video based on an action plan to mainstream women’s participation in public life and proposing concrete measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The agreed conclusion of the 65th session could provide a concrete recommendation for framing such a global contract. Ambassador ended hoping that the international community will rise to the challenge and ensure that half of the world’s population is never again left behind.

The Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in her statment said this is a defining moment for gender equality, change is possible, political will is critical. The full statement of her address has been posted. Towards the end a surprise for me – maybe others too – Executive Director indicated that she will be leaving UN Women at the end of this year.

Youth and NGO’s had strong voices within the opening session Listen to Renata Koch Alvarenga a Political Analyst in Brazil, Founder of EmpoderaClima Brazil, Delegate of the @girls20 Summit, and Gender Youth Activist of @unwomen #GenerationEquality

Virisila Buadromo – representing Fiji feminist NGO committed to removing discrimination against women through institutional reforms & attitudinal changes stated that “it’s time we all collectively work towards shifting the power dynamic to allow more Pacific women working at the grassroots levels to be seen and heard.”

I am following the parallel event of Mercy Global Action entitled: ‘Domestic Violence: Gender-based Violence & Degradation of our Common Home.’ From Papua New Guinea, to Peru, Argentina and Australia. The presentations are a powerful demonstation of the harm caused to communities and earth by Mega Mining and Agri Business. A globalized market system impacts the earth and women – violating them, making them invisible. Destruction of the earth and femicide are motivated by the same system. Corporate responsibiblity, gender equality and such terms are empty terms and mere words devoid of committment. Extractive industry degrades the social environment – with increases in prostitution, trafficking, the destruction of traditional culture, and agriculture. And in COVID 19 the Government of Argentina bets on the coroprate sector to pay the foreigh debt and provide for the needs of the people while devestating and polluting the enrironmental and eroding and destroying the social fabric. In the face of extractivism the solidarity of the people becomes stonger but the response is criminalization of the people and even death. Unemployment is now 40% with COVID 19. How care for the family? COVID 19 is not a democratic virus. As it is attached to the market system it has promoted inequality of access to health care, water, and food, and during the pandemic gender based violence has increased greatly. Femicide – a woman is killed every 29 hours in Argentia – is not just an Argentian problem. It is indemic througout the region. There are 11 femicide a day in Mexico and it was recalled that in September 2020 two 11 year old Argentian girls were killed by Paraguayan police.was

A strong recommendation was issued to decrease extractive mining and to develop an alternative system of production that respects people and the earth. We need to develop an alternative economy, one of care. A strong call to end institutional violence which is so frequent in the health system, especialy against indigenous women, and the injustice in judical rulings that favour the corporate sector. The event has been live-stremed on Facbook if you want to learn more.