Blanca Nubia (Good Shepherd Sister) welcomes Pope Francis to Cartagena

“And so, about four years ago, I began a new program for girls. We called it Talitha Kum, words from the Aramaic Gospel phrase Jesus used to bid a girl to rise up. It honors the dignity of each person. According to the mission of our congregation, I had made a decision to go to the tourist city of Cartagena de Indias, the colonial name when Cartagena was a port for export of silver to Spain and import of slaves from Africa. It is famous for being a walled city — and, indeed, many invisible walls hide lives of poverty, unemployment, gangs and early pregnancies in squalid neighborhoods. Good Shepherd has a center dedicated to the prevention of sex tourism, which is, sadly, the specific object of many tourists.

At Talitha Kum the children “rise up” every day. We welcome children (ages 9-17) to a program that includes school, human and spiritual accompaniment, and enrichment of family and civic environments. We are always proud when, as recently happened, a 17-year-old girl finished high school and now continues her study. ”    Read the full article   Global Sisters Report – Papal Encounter in Cartagena, Colombia

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It’s November – Get ready to add your voice and your action to end all violence against girls and women 2017!

The 16 days campaign to end violence against girls and women is at hand.  It begins on November 25th and ends on December 10th.

According to UNICEF’s latest report, “A Familiar Face,” 9 million girls were victims of forced sex last year. Only 1% reached out for help. Help us stop the sexual exploitation of girls who can’t speak out.  Read the report   Use your social media by  clicking HERE  #HerToo  #MeToo #NowYouKnow.

Orange the World

Taken from the website of UN Women the link to the full document is 16 Days 2017 Action Plan Final

Because it is thanksgiving weekend in the USA the following areKey Activities

The 16 days of activism against gender based violence is in multiple languages and maybe more helpful in creating awareness Choose your language  However the tool kit is only in English.

UN Women have a report Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces.  “A series of stories illustrate what authorities, grass-roots women, women’s organizations and other community partners can do as part of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls in public spaces. Many of their initiatives have successfully enhanced safety, including through a focus on the most impoverished urban areas.

English   Spanish   It is not available in French.

Integrating Spirituality and #CSW61

Here is a thematic summary of events held during #csw61 in relation to ending human trafficking and prostitution and all violence against girls and women so as to achieve women’s economic liberation.  At least 7 events saw the promotion of the Nordic Model,  through survivors of the sex trade, links between prostitution and other violation of women’s human rights, the work of frontline and advocacy groups, and the links with trafficking in women and girls. A link to full account of the event is HERE   11 events were organized by abolitionist NGO’s dealing specifically with the realities of prostitution and the sex trade.

Marie Helene Halligon has prepared a Way of the Cross /Chemin de Croix for this season of Lent and Holy Week linking with the Human Trafficking.  Chemin de Croix   Way of the Cross  (Sorry no  Spanish version)

The violence against women and girls is stark as presented in the various CSW61 side events and parallel events. But equally strong is the growing strength of the abolitionist movement, groups and NGO’s.

“There is really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberatly silenced, or the preferably unheard”,  Arundhati Roy

I am happy to see girls organizations taking up this issue including Wagggs and Rights4Girls.   Rebecca Hunt, from NAWO (National Alliance of Women’s Organizations, UK) Youth, spoke about  “Sexual exploitation is not a good job”. “For society to suggest that prostitution is a safe and decent job is a stain on us all. We need to question this notion, that in times of poverty and lack of opportunities, it is ok for someone to feel that they have no choice but to turn to prostitution. We have to stand up and say, society must have a red line that sexual exploitation is, without question, unacceptable and cannot be considered a decent job”.

Read more on the situation of girls

Another aspect raised was ‘trading on the female body’ addressing surrogacy. Surrogacy is an international problem that demands an international solution. Speakers highlighted the similar root causes with prostitution, in terms of demand, system, business-driven industry, exploitation of women and the most vulnerable ones.

Did #CSW 61 address any of these issues in the outcome document?  Well not really.  Human trafficking is referenced 5 times in the document see Advanced unedited edition CSW 61 Outcome Document  Paragraph 14, h, and  qq. ‘ Devise, strengthen and implement comprehensive anti-trafficking strategies that integrate a human rights and sustainable development perspective, and enforce, as appropriate, legal frameworks, in a gender and age-sensitive manner, to combat and eliminate all forms of trafficking in persons; raise public awareness of the issue of trafficking in persons, in particular women and girls;  take measures to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to modern slavery and sexual exploitation; and enhance international cooperation, inter alia, to counter with a view to eliminating the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation and forced labour;

Sexual harassment gets two mentions in Paragraph 14 and h – listed with Human Trafficking.  h. “Develop and apply gender-sensitive measures for the protection from, prevention and punishment of all forms of violence against women and girls in public and private spaces, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, trafficking in persons and femicide, among others, to promote the realization of women’s and girls’ economic rights and empowerment and facilitate women’s full and productive employment and contribution to the economy, including by facilitating changes in gender stereotypes and negative social norms, attitudes and behaviours, inter alia, through promoting community mobilization, women’s economic autonomy and the engagement of men and boys, particularly community leaders; and explore, where possible, measures to respond to the consequences of violence against women, such as employment protection, time off from work, awareness training, psychosocial services and social safety nets for women and girls who are victims and survivors of violence, and furthering their economic opportunities;”

Facilitating changes in gender stereotypes and negative social norms, attitudes and behaviors is the challenge.

Read the latest Newsletter Stop Trafficking Shaming Companies that turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation.

 

What was achieved at CSW 61?

CSW61_ClosingSession_Mar2017__RB_0460_675x450 (002)(Closing of the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.                   Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown)

UN Women sees the Agreed Conclusion as a Roadmap to women’s full and equal participation in the economy Press Release

The Commission on the Status of Women 61st session ended on Friday afternoon March 24th with Agreed Conclusion – a consensus document on ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.’ This in itself is an achievement.  The document is not yet published and was presented on Friday as an informal paper in English only. The negotiation of this document is an arduous work (the Australian delegated noted it was 107 hours of discussion) and its accomplishment is the result of long hours of discussion and negotiation, into the early hours of the morning each day of the second week.  A good overview of the situation can be had by listening to the UN TV  Webcast of the closing session.  It is about one and a half hours.  By listening to the webcast you will see how issues that affect  women and girls is highly political and fraught with all sorts of qualifications captured in the phrases such as according to ‘national laws’; ‘social norms’ does not enjoy global consensus   …. and the terms ‘sexuality’ is not acknowledged in national law or jurisdiction by a large number of member states nor in International law; express reservations on all principles that are not in accordance with the spirit of Islamic law. Another expression was that anything in the text of the agreed conclusion not in line with national laws is null and void and not applicable.  The Australian delegate noted that the discussion and link between SRHR and economic empowerment was profitable in coming to a process of understanding.  The Holy See interpreted the concept of ‘gender’ as being grounded in a person’s male or female biological sex, not in social constructions

The EU was largely disappointed with the outcome which it saw as an interpretation of the outcome rather than an negotiated outcome. Three issues were noted – limiting of the  space of CSO’s and NGO’s; the link between women’s economic empowerment and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) could be stronger by better references to the human rights component essential to gender equality; and emphasis on national policy space limited ambition and some language reflects the stereotypical role of women and girls and does not contribute to their empowerment and independence.  Despite this the EU will continue to work more to build consensus.

Here is the link to the US explanation of Position on Agreed Conclusions at the 2017 UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The person who chaired the negotiations is Ms. Fatma Al Zahraa Hassan (Egypt), Vice-Chair (African States Group)   In her address she mentioned the main pillars towards women’s economic empowerment – education, legal measures, socio-economic measures, giving voice to women, achieving financial independence.  The document is 20 pages long and will be published in all 6 languages of the United Nations.  Seven pages use the following words to introduce paragraphs: reaffirms (6 times), reiterates, (2) recognizes, (16) emphasizes, acknowledges, (3) takes note, strongly condemns, expresses it concern, (5) reiterates its concern, recalls, (2) welcomes, and urges.

Reaffirms – the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for action will make a crucial contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to women’s economic empowerment; commitments to gender equality and the empowernment of all  women and girls made at relevant UN summits and conferences; that the promotion and protection of, and respect for, the human rights and fundamental freedom of all women and girls,  including the right to development , which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and iterated, are crucial for women’s economic empowerment…; that the realization of the right to education, as well as to access to quality and inclusive education, contributes to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; the importance of significant increased investment to close resource gaps for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and and girls.

Strongly condemens – violence against women and girls in all its forms in public and private spaces, including harassment in the world of work, including sexual harassment, and sexual and gender based violence, domestic violence, trafficking in persons and femicide, among others, as well as harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and recognizes these are major impediments to the achievement of women’s economic empowerment, social and economic development…

Expresses it’s concern – about the continuing significant gender gaps on labour force participation and leadership, wages, income, pension and social protection and access to economic and productive resources; structural barriers  including discriminatory laws and policies, gender stereotypes and negative social norms, unequal working conditions as well as about the growing high incidence of informal and non-standard forms of employment in many regions; occupational segregation; that the feminization of poverty persists; over the persistently low wages earned by women workers;

Reiterates it’s concern – over the challenge climate change poses to the achievement of sustainable development and that women and girls are often disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.

The document is divided into the following sections:

  • Strengthening normative and legal frameworks
  • Strengthening education, training and skill development
  • Implementing economic and social policies for women’s economic empowerment
  • Addressing the growing informality of work and mobility of women workers
  • Managing technological and digital change for women’s economic empowerment
  • Strengthening women’s collective voice, leadership and decision making
  • Strengthening private sector role in women’s economic empowerment

The text was revised a number of time in the lead up to the opening of CSW 61 and during the formal negotiations of the two weeks.  In the initial text presented by the CSW61 Bureau there was a strong call for implementation of national floors of social protection – here is the reference:    (m) Establish universal social protection floors, in line with ILO Social Protection Floors recommendation, 2012 (No. 202), as part of national social protection systems to ensure access to social protection for all, including workers outside the formal economy, and progressively achieve higher levels of protection in line with ILO social security standards; (Based on E/CN.6/2017/3, para 49 (o))”  but this reference to ILO R 202 has not remained in the final version.

There are a number of references to social protection systems, social protection and pensions, social protection policies and in one instance including floors and ‘extending social protection and wages that allow for an adequate standard of living’… ‘without reductions in labour and social protections.’

w. Optimize fiscal expenditure for gender-responsive social protection and care infrastructure, such as equitable, quality, accessible and affordable early childhood education, child care, elder care, heath care, care and social services for persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV and AIDS, which meet the needs of both caregivers and those in need of care, hearing in mind that social protection policies play a critical role in reducing poverty and inequality, supporting inclusive growth and gender equality;

x.  Work towards establishing or strengthening inclusive and gender-responsive social protection systems, including floors, to ensure full access to social protection for all without discrimination of any kind, and take measures to progressively achieve higher levels of protections including facilitating the transition form informal to formal work;

Argentina speaking on behalf of Latin American countries did reference social protection as important to women’s economic empowerment.

See UN Meeting Coverage and Press Releases

Youth

Youth leaders address the opening meeting of the 61st Session of the                        Commission on the Status of Women

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16 Days Campaign to end Gender Based Violence November 25 – December 10

Today is day 3 of the campaign.  Mercy Global Action at the UN in partnership with Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd are engaging in the full 16 days of activism.  #16Days16Stories is part of the UN sponsored 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. Our campaign focuses on the experience of formerly trafficked women and girls who give testimony to gender discrimination and marginalization from childhood into early adulthood.  Their stories, told in their own words, highlight the many human rights violations and cumulative disadvantages in their life journeys. Through their stories, survivor advocates provide key insights into preventative measures to end human trafficking.

The launch video and 16 stories can be accessed by clicking on  #16days16stories  Each day a new video is uploaded.  On the 25th we heard from Aleta who said “from the time I was born I labelled myself as a disgrace because I was born as a result of my parent’s extramarital affair.” On the 26th Emerita who was born in 1992 in Mindanao said “I am the fourth of five children. My father worked in a fishing company owned by his friend but was later fired by the owner because my father had a mistress in the office,” and today November 27th  Katrina shared “when I was two, my mother and father left us in the care of our elder brother, who was 12 at that time. They went to Cebu for work, an island far away from where we lived…”  Having read to the testimony of each women the viewer is asked to reflect for a few moments;  presented with points to ponder and suggested actions to take.

A Guide to using the Videos was also prepared.

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The 16 days of activism against gender-based Violence Campaign has as its theme this year ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World’ and proposed that organizations around the world plan a twitter teach-in.   If interested in knowing more about a twitter teach-in  Click Here!    @gsijp  @mercyworldwide are the Twitter handles using #16days16stories and #GBVteachin   The Twitter Teach in @gsijp @mercyworldwide follows the points to ponder and take action of the 16 videos.

Read the book  ‘I Have A Voice – Trafficked Women in their own Words‘ by Angela Reed.  Tomorrow Leah tells her story.  (Please note the videos are available on Vimeo at HERE

Ms. Nadia Murad Basee Taha appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking

Nadia                 Ms Murad, a 23 year-old Yazidi woman and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who survived trafficking at the hands of ISIL, briefed the UN Security Council in the first-ever session on human trafficking, which was held during the presidency of the United States on December 16. 2016. She described being rounded up with fellow Yazidis in Iraq in 2014, and witnessing as ISIL fighters shot men and boys in cold blood. She was subject to grave abuses at the hands of ISIL fighters, and bought and sold various times.

A relentless advocate for victims, Ms. Murad was recently named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2016.” She has met with various heads of state and global leaders to raise the plight of Yazidi victims of trafficking. Her appointment as UN Goodwill Ambassador will mark the first time that a survivor of atrocities is given this distinction. During her Ambassadorship, Nadia will focus on advocacy initiatives and raising awareness around the plight of millions of victims of trafficking in persons, especially refugees, women, and girls.

The appointment ceremony will take place on September 16th, 3.00 – 4.00 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, United Nations Headquarters, New York.

‘Prostitution affects all of us, not just those in it.’

The title of this post comes from the last summary point of a well research and informative article by Melissa Farley entitled ‘Very inconvenient truths: sex buyers, sexual coercion, and prostitution-harm-denial.’  The article has a number of headings addressing the various issues that arise when we talk about decriminalizing prostitution and addressing DEMAND which drives prostitution.  Taking a holistic approach realizing that prostitution affects all of us and not just those in it is worth considering.

There is another summary point ‘at the root of prostitution, just like other coercive systems, are dehumanization, objectification, sexism, racism, misogyny, lack of empathy/pathological entitlement (pimps and johns), domination, exploitation, and a level of chronic exposure to violence and degradation that destroys the personality and the spirit.’  All of these systems are root causes of the persistence of violence against women.  Prostitution is one of these violences.

Another comment that you may wish to explore and determine how to answer is ‘Prostitution cannot be made safe by legalizing or decriminalizing it. Prostitution needs to be completely abolished.’    Read the full article here