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

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

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

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

Link to report and map

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

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

16 Days Campaign to Eliminate Violence Against Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Generation Equality?

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

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

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

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

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

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

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

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

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

Donatus Lili with Gertrude Mongella

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

A moment of voting!

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

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

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

Faces and Experiences of today’s Feminism Leaders – Beijing+25 Youth Task Force

Photo UN Women

The Beijing + 25 Youth Task Force comprises 30 young leaders. The are representative of the global community and come from differing background and experiences. 7 come from Africa – Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe; 5 from Latin America -Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru; 7 from Asia Pacific – Australia, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka; 4 from Europe – Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, UK; 3 from the Middle East – Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia; 3 from North America – US, Canada, and Newfoundland.

On the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, UN Women’s “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future” campaign demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and violence against women and girls, health care services that respond to their needs, and their equal participation in political life and in decision-making in all areas of life.

Intersectionality is a characteristic of the group. In their persons and in their experiences they bring enriched perspectives to the vision that is required towards Beijing + 25 and onward to Beijing +50. Together they highlight many salient issues of concern ranging from – Human Rights and Gender Equality, LGBTIQ Rights and sexual diversity, Sexual and Reproduction Health and Rights, Rights of Adolescents, Indigenous Peoples and Migrants, and Climate Justice, while taking up specific issues including economic empowerment, cooperatives, female entrepreneurs, gender based discrimination, FGM, menstruation issues, situations in rural areas, political empowerment, addressing conflict situations and peace building, human trafficking, HIV AIDS, new masculinities, and a consciousness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). One issue that is not mentioned is ‘Early, Forced and Child Marriages’. Read more and meet the members of this Beijing+25 Youth Task Force Team.

The Working Group on Girls is thrilled to have Aasha Shaik represent Girls on the Beijing +25 Task Force (see top of page 2). If you are wondering what intersectionality means read Aasha’s short bio. Aasha will specifically elevate the voices and needs of girls globally bringing forward the marvelous achievements of the women who ensured that the ‘The Girl Child’ was part of the Beijing Platform for Action – the L Platform. Aasha will continue to elevate the voices and girls globally re-invigorating the L Platform for our times while upholding girls’ rights within the campaign ‘Generation Equality.’ 

Photo of Mary Purcell taken form Obituary

Mary Purcell was one of those women. She passed on July 28th, 2019 at the age of 92.  Mary was one of the founding co-chairs of the Working Group on Girls when it was established under UNICEF in 1994. She represented the group during the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, serving as an ardent and essential advocate for the rights of the girl-child. Her voice and work were crucial in the establishment of the L Platform of the Beijing Platform for Action, marking the first time girls’ rights were highlighted specifically at the United Nations.  Mary’s legacy as a tireless leader for girls’ rights continues today in the leadership that Aasha will bring to Beijing +25 Youth Task Force and all WGG members to Generation Equality.

The Good Shepherd Network was honored to have two youth mission partners – one from Sabah, Malaysia and one from Bogota, Colombia make application for the Beijing +25 Youth Task Force. While not selected we know that both young women are engaged in stellar ministries in their home countries – human rights education, anti- human trafficking programs, and economic empowerment. See Malaysia and Colombia