IDG Support Team Sep 19 The 2023 Girls Speak Out will draw upon the IDG theme of “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership & Wellbeing” focusing on action for girls’ rights. This begins with fulfilling, protecting, and respecting girls’ rights. It demands trusting girls’ leadership as equal partners, ensuring there is space for girls to be heard, to participate and co-lead, and respecting their voices, perspectives, and lived realities as decision-makers and as the leaders of today. This also requires investing in and supporting girls’ health and well-being as well as their education and including girls in determining what their needs are while working in an intergenerational effort to meet those specific needs. In listening to Girl Advocates’ perspectives and Girl Activists who are already making change, the overarching questions at this year’s Girls’ Speak Out will be: How are you taking action for girls’ rights? How are you investing in, supporting, and working towards the realization of girls’ rights? Register Here In-person Registration:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/717402930477?aff=oddtdtcreator Virtual Registration:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/717421947357?aff=oddtdtcreator
In collaboration with the Working Group on Girls, the GSIJP Office is cosponsoring with Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice (IIMA) Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco an IDG Sponsorship Day on October 7 ‘Investing in Girls’ Leadership and Power.’ This is an X/Twitter Storm starting at 11.00 a.m. EST. Follow social media for more details.
Join girls from Asia Pacific on October 7 from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Malaysian time in their celebration. LINK TO REGISTER
The 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 67) officially ended at 6.00 am approx on March 18th, 2023 with a successfully negotiated CSW67 Agreed Conclusion. (Advanced Unedited Version) When edited int will also be in French and Spanish. These agreed conclusions are a lengthy document (32 pages) but a significant document with regard to the theme of the session: ‘Innovation and Technological Change and Education in the Digital Era for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.’
Negotiations were long, tedious, and challenging but the outcome hails a new moment of hope to harness the possibilities held in technological advancement to usher in gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the digital era. You can gain some insight into the dynamics of the Commission in the UN TV Webcast of the 17th Session on the Commission. Engaging within the multilateral system is indeed challenging and demands endless listening and patience with the process. This CSW 67 demonstrated multilateralism at its best. It necessitates a constructive spirit throughout and always demands cooperation and collaboration in the interest of the common good. Some groups had to let go of issues important to them in furthering women’s human rights in the interest of the whole. As I watched through a glass window for a few hours I could not help but identify a spirit of patience and commitment to the process without knowing what the issue or the exchange of views under negotiations. But there appeared to be decorum and respect toward each other and the body in the process.
Reflections on the agreed consultations are slow to appear. UN Women published a press release on March 18th hailing the document as a game changer. UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, said: “This year’s Agreed Conclusions are game-changing and bring forward our vision of a more equal and connected world for women and girls in all their diversity. It is our job, as we leave here today, to translate them into reality. The ultimate success of these Agreed Conclusions lies beyond their finalization today, in how we will collectively take them forward. They bring us a vision of a more equal world. Let us translate them into reality for all women and girls.”
APNews had a publication on March 18th also highlighting that ‘the “agreed conclusions” document adopted Saturday by the 45-member commission calling for equal quality education for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, information and communications technology, and digital literacy so they can thrive in the rapidly changing world.’ This strongly supports the girls’ agenda.
The agreed conclusion ‘reaffirms the 1995 Beijing platform adopted by 189 countries which said for the first time in a U.N. document, that women’s human rights include the right to control and decide “on matters relating to their sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of discrimination, coercion, and violence.” ‘ Despite the existence of and commitment to the 1995 Beijing Platform – the struggle to uphold women’s rights continues today such that the Secretary-General speaks of ‘pushing back the pushback.’ See Secretary-General’s remarks to the Women’s Civil Society Town Hall [as delivered] on March 13. Some lines that impacted me. Secretary-General said ‘many of the challenges we face today – from conflicts to climate chaos and the cost-of-living crisis – are the result of what is a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture, taking the key decisions that guide our world. … Gender-based violence online has increased exponentially. Organized campaigns target women politicians, journalists, and activists – a direct attack on women’s representation and on democracy itself.’ the Secretary-General also said ‘In the face of this patriarchal pushback, we must push forward – not just for women and girls, but for all communities and societies.’
I was alarmed and sad hearing one woman leader after another, from president to member of parliament alike witnessing to the harassment that they personally experienced while engaging in political leadership. Ireland and The Irish Consortium on Gender-Based Violence (ICGBV) hosted an event entitled GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: RISKS, OPPORTUNITIES, CHALLENGES on 06 Mar, 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM. Here is a clip of one woman parliamentarian speaking of the violence she experienced.
Global Sisters Report published their article on Friday, March 24. This is from the perspective of Catholic Sisters and their experience of CSW 67 including Winifred Doherty. The reporter Chris Herlinger quoted from the Good Shepherd Statement to the Commission “Technology has opened the door to perpetrators through a screen that exposes women, girls, and children to all types of harm, even within the home. Technology has facilitated the rapid global expansion of human trafficking as a criminal industry, which has increased the demand for women and girls as objects of exploitation, prostitution, and violence.”
Public Services International headed their piece ‘Mission Accomplished! The Struggle Continues.’ Rosa Pavanelli, Public Services International, General Secretary stated, “The Agreed Conclusions this year reflect tensions around the multilateral system. ‘We witnessed rhetoric based on the respect for universal human rights and international human rights’ law that was difficult to translate into concrete dimensions of the role the State as its fundamental actor and guarantor, while the preponderance of the private sector and the multi-stakeholder approach gained traction as dominant actors in a world at the hands of market and capital forces. There is no doubt that the digital era and the advances of science and technology challenge us to continue fighting for the commons and public goods as the only backers of equality for humanity as opposed to their for-profit use and corporate capture.’ This captures the already some of the content in our written statement to CSW 67. French and Spanish
Another interesting take on CSW 67 is from Pat Black, a member of Soroptimist International from Scotland whom I had to pleasure to meet again this year at CSW 67 in the long hours of waiting for the Agreed Conclusions. I was not as dedicated at Pat – I went home at 11.30 p.m. Read
This CSW 67 was characterized by over two hundred side events and seven hundred parallel events. We at the GSIJP Office were very proud of our parallel event entitled ‘Girls and Women Impact the Digital Revolution’ where girls from Latin America, Africa, and Asia Pacific addressed the issue with knowledge and determination. We heard of diverse experiences in accessing digital platforms both for educational and social use. We also heard about experiences of online abuse and the efforts to become empowered and create safe spaces for all girls users. Girls were strong in advocating for access, saying it is a human rights issue. Congratulations to all panelists – ‘Girls’ Rights are Human Rights.’
Happy International Day of the Girl! We at the Good Shepherd International Justice Peace Office are privileged to present here a round up of activities taking place this week-end in the lead up to the day. The celebrations start in Asia Pacific on Saturday afternoon live on zoom at 2.00 p.m Malaysian ( 2.00 am EST). You can view live or watch later at GSIF Asia Pacific YouTube Channel. It promises to be an exciting fun packed afternoon with engaging conversations on girls rights, featuring girls from countries all around Asia inspiring change for a better world of all.
This is followed by a live zoom from Madagascar networking Africa girls celebrating International Day of the Girl. The session commences at 1.00 p.m. Rome Time (7.00 am EST) and has french interpretation. CLICK HERE TO JOIN See meeting ID etc in the poster
On Sunday 9th October at 11.00 am EST, the GSIJP Office sponsorship event with the Working Group on Girls will be live streamed to Facebook and later uploaded to YouTube. This is a 30 min programme features girl activists Isabel, (Moderator, Philippines), Athabile (South Africa), Gayathri, (Malaysia) Susan, (India) and Christle (Sri Lanka). The theme for the day is ‘policy decision-making in order to produce girl-specific solutions.’ To view our live panel please visit https://www.facebook.com/DayoftheGirlSummit
Athabile had her poem published on Day of the Girl Summit on October 1st together with two other submission that were made from South Africa, one from Uyathandwa and the second from Kiara. You can access by visiting Day of the Girl Summit webpage. Then click on South Africa and the girls names will appear. Then click on the name and their submission will appear. Well done girls in South Africa!
There were other submission uploaded including Shreya (India); Jasmine (India) As other become available I will upload them. Some may be used for the UN Session in the video compilation that will be shown on Tuesday October 11. This bring me to the big day itself. A hybrid event with some girls present in the United Nations and other on line. Good Shepherd have one girl from Latin America who will be presenting by video. Her name is Vivian. The event will be live from the United Nations at 3.00 p.m. EST on UN Web TV and the recording will be available following the event. Misean Cara Ireland wrote to me today to inform me that “Vivian, a young women from Ecuador will participate, through her involvement with your good selves in the RGS “Girls Rights for an Equal Future: Girls-for-girls clubs in Ecuador and Brazil, promoting safe and inclusive education” under our Innovation Funding scheme.”
We in the GSIJP office are very proud our our many girl activists around the world participating in local, regional, and global events on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the International Day of the Girl and their many mentors and Unit Leaders who make every provision for such participation.
Following the July 4th Independence Day celebrations in America the United Nations is poised to commence the High Level Political Forum which reviews the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. For background see my blog of June 14. Registration for JCoR SDG Lab where Congregations are sharing ministries and reporting on their implementation of SDG’s is now open here: https://bit.ly/3OfUqWN
As you will see on that registration page, the schedule of Lab sessions will be as follows:
5 July @ 12:00-13:45 Universal Coordinated Time: Lab Session on SDG 4-Quality Education (part 1 of 2)
6 July @ 12:00-13:45 Universal Coordinated Time: Lab Session on SDG 5-Gender Equality
7 July @ 16:00:17:45 Universal Coordinated Time: Lab Session on SDG 4-Quality Education (part 2 of 2)
11 July @ 12:00-13:45 Universal Coordinated Time: Lab Session on SDG 14-Healthy Aquatic Ecosystems
12 July @ 12:00-13:45 Universal Coordinated Time: Lab Session on SDG `15-Healthy Terrestrial Ecosystems
13 July @ 12:00-13:45 Universal Coordinated Time: Lab Session on SDG 17-Partnerships for the Goals
Good Shepherd are participating on July 5, SDG 4 with a global girls’ panel (India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Ecuador and Madagascar) speaking to their experiences of education, and reviewing the Voluntary National Reviews (VNT’s) of Sri Lanka and the Philippines. On July 6 Patricia Mosquera (Ecuador) is presenting on SDG 5. On July 7th Genny Dumay from the Philippines is presenting on SDG 4. On July 12th Catharina Indirastuti from Indonesia is presenting on SDG 15 and lastly on July 13th Mary Virgo Espineda from the Philippines is presenting on SDG 17. It is exciting to see such interest and engagement by the Philippines and Sri Lanka in the VNR reports from their countries.
The official website of the HLPF and official program can be easily accessed from the links provided or HERE. All the official programs are live on UN WEB TV and recording will be archived if you wish to review later. A fourth revision of the Ministerial Declaration (the outcome document of the session) has been posed – further consultations took place on June 30. You can check HERE to see the 4th revision and also you will have access to the next version of the document.
Monday June 20 is World Refugee Day. The critical nature today of people journeying from their country of birth to life in another nation has prompted a global effort, led by the UN, to develop comprehensive, people-centered agreements: including a Global Compact on Refugees
June 20 celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. World Refugee Day is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. This year, the focus will be on the right to seek safety. “Every person on this planet has a right to seek safety – whoever they are, wherever they come from and whenever they are forced to flee.” Read more on the UNHCR Website. You have the opportunity from the Website to post your photograph I stand #withrefuges
The Good Shepherd Position Paper on Migration includes references to refugees. Paragraph 3 states “The movement of peoples today includes migrants, temporary workers, refugees, asylum seekers, internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and stateless persons, each defined under separate legal frameworks in national and international law; all are entitled to move in safety and dignity.” This links directly with this years’ theme. Paragraph 5 outlines our response “We embrace our Judeo-Christian spiritual foundation that rests on a commitment to “welcome the stranger.” Our first response to migrants and refugees is to welcome them as one would welcome the Divine among us. We honor the culture and heritage each brings and we celebrate the positive contributions newcomers make to the lives and development of host communities. The service needs of persons in resettlement or status regularization are extensive, including language skills, health care, social integration, trauma healing, employment skills, legal help, etc. We listen to their experiences, accompany them, develop programs and work in partnerships to serve complex needs and to facilitate self-empowered social participation.” Paragraph 6 (d) urges us to ensure gender analysis in service planning give attention to women and children, sustaining family relationships, including communication with family in country of origin and 6 (h) to know the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to Status of Refugees and its protocols including the Global Compact on Refugees.
The NGO Committee on Migration has issued the following Statement in honor of World Refugee Day: The Right to Seek Safety. It was presented by Eva Sandis.
The recently concluded International Migration Review Forum summary report identified ‘the need to coordinate between the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees was stressed, as was the need to bring together the work under the Global Compact for Migration, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.’ You can access the NGO Committee on Migration weekly updates on their website.
Justice Coalition of Religious (JCor) have published the following Bulletin It contains some interesting information – for the United Nations, Global and Regional updates in relevant languages according to region. Some of you already join the JCoR Global Community Hour – It is on 11 March 2022, 8:00am (EST). English-Spanish interpretation is provided – Register Here
There is some very useful information on the Commission on the Status of Women in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. This is followed by a sections on Latin America and the Caribbean;East and Southern Africa and India.
JCoR have prepared a very comprehensive overview of The Commission on the Status of Women which I encourage you to review. It is currently in English and will appear in Spanish soon.
Good Shepherd have various activities happening in the Virtual Booth hosted on the NGOCSW Forum Platform. Register for the Forum and see all that is happening. There are over 700 events hosted on the Forum. JCoR and UNANIMA have virtual booths as does Coalition Against Prostitution (CAP)
The Calendar for Good Shepherd Events is posted in the Booth but can can access it HERE to join in regional activities directly
Good Shepherd CSW 66 Parallel Event will take place on Wednesday March 16 at 8.00 am EST. Registration for the event is a must if you wish to attend. You can register directly from HERE The event will be on a zoom platform and English, French Spanish and Portuguese interpretation will be provided. We will have an engaging discussion on ‘Empowering Women at the Grassroots through Sustainable Agriculture‘ with panelist from the Good Shepherd International Foundation, India, Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines and Brazil. REGISTER HERE. We are honoured to have the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Republic of Korea co-sponsoring this event with us. We are thrilled to have a girl climate activist from India. Well done Jasmine!
Jasmine, the girl activist from India will also feature on another panel on March 17 at 4.00 p.m. EST. The panel is an all girls’ panel – not to be missed – and the title is “My Voice Our Equal Future” Girls speak to Climate Change. Interpretation will be provided in French and Spanish and registration is essential – REGISTER HERE
All the usual processes for CSW 66 are taking place as the horrors of the war in Ukraine are unfolding before our eyes – the invasion of a country, the total disregard for life – for any life and every life accompanied with the destruction and devastation of Ukraine’s infrastructure generating millions of refugees. The response to this humanitarian crisis with its emotional, traumatic, economic and devastating toll on the peoples of Ukraine witnesses to the power of sharing, concern and humanity. It was indeed inspiring to hear the Ambassador of Poland speak of themselves as a ‘superpower of solidarity.’ In the face of such catastrophe the United Nations is held captive and the spirit that created the United Nations is being challenged by the same power that has invaded Ukraine. Quoting the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations
“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS.”
Over the last few years I have witnessed the demise of a spirit of multilateralism at the United Nations and the stubborn persistence of patriarchal structures and systems that reinforce power and privilege over peoples, nations, women and the exigences of climate change. The Secretary General of the United Nations has referred to a recent report from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” showing nearly half of humanity “living in the danger zone” and many ecosystems at the point of no return—right now. “With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.” Read More. The world community continues to struggle to access vaccines to counter COVID 19. There are multiple other conflicts throughout the world oppressing people’s voices and freedom condemning people to poverty, creating an never ending line of refugees. Girls and women are often targeted in conflict situations – sexual assault, rape and vulnerability to human traffickers offering opportunities for better life and a job snaring these same girls and women into a system and structure of gender based violence within prostitution.
Today, International’s Women’s Day with the theme of ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorow‘ is at the heart of CSW 66 ‘Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes.’ We have our Position Paper on Ecological Justice. On page 14, Paragraph 5 “We admit our complicity in perpetuating dualistic and domineering attitudes about the earth. We understand that reconciliation with our earth calls for a new consciousness, a new identity, and new behaviors centered on the kinship of all creation and the implementation of human rights for all. Interdependence demands inclusion of all – non-living and living, non-human and human – without discrimination.” Our Congregational Chapter 2021 Direction Statement references our commitment to the ‘Laudato Si Goals’ Response to the Cry of the Earth, Response to the Cry of the Poor, Ecological Economics, Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles, Ecological Education, Ecological Spirituality, Community Resilience and Empowerment. Read more and in multiple languages The Laudato Si Goals parallel very closely the United Nations Framework for Sustainable Development – the 17 Sustainable Development Goals with SDG 5 one Gender Equality at the heart of transformation and sustainability.
Happy International Women’s Day and Welcome to CSW 66.
A new publication entitled ‘A Good Shepherd Practitioners Understanding of Girls Rights’ Attainment – A Review of Rights Realization by Girls in Asia Pacific‘ is now available in French and Spanish. We acknowledge the work of the various provinces in Good Shepherd Asia Pacific who contributed to this report and to Australia New Zealand for facilitating the research. We are ever grateful to the translators at the GSIJP Office who ensured that we now have it in French and Spanish.
The English publication was launched on July 31, 2021. The Launch was recorded on YouTube How fascinating to have girls presenting the research and interviewing the researcher! Truly, girls are our partners-in-mission advocating for their rights at all levels. On the International Day of the Girl – October 11, Fatema the hostess of July 31st, also facilitated the ‘Girls Speak Out’ on UN Web TV modeling girls rights’ attainment.
On July 31, 2021 Good Shepherd Asia Pacific launched a research entitled ‘“A Good Shepherd Practitioner Understanding of Girls Rights’ Attainment – A Review of Rights Realisation by Girls in Asia Pacific.” The launch was livestreamed on YouTube and gives an excellent insight into the contents of the document. The session was hosted and moderated by girls from India and Philippines and how skillfully they interviewed the authors of the research – Theresa Symons and Lily Gardener. Girls from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and India also shared their hopes and dreams for their future via video recordings. This research document should be considered a foundational document along side the position papers to be read in conjunction with the paper on the Girl Child. Do check out the recommendation on page 30. Another very helpful piece of information is on page 12, 3.4 The Global COVID-19 Pandemic and the girl child which notes the resurgance of extreme poverty. The gains made over the past decades to ensure that all girls have access to quality education, health care and justices systems are under threat. It further noted that globally 222 million girls in total, have been unable to access remote learning due to the schools shutting down. This is the reason that the International Day of the Girl is taking up that specific theme in October ‘Digital Generation. Our Generation’.
Access the Full Report. Enjoy the YouTube recording of the launch. The Asia Pacific Theme Songs for IDG 2020 opened the session and snippets from the Musical Euphrasia were incorporated as it was the birthday of St Mary Euphrasia. Towards the end all participants enjoyed some funtime and games. Well done Girls of Asia Pacific! We are proud of you!
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.
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 EnglishFrenchSpanish 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!
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.
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”.
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 Autocracybut this ceremony and event were filled with hope and determination to resist the backlash and fulfill the promise of Gender Equality.