Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Women's Work

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 3 2014 (IPS) - As the debate about a future global development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 gathers pace, there is broad agreement that gender equality and women’s empowerment are crucial components.
A growing body of robust evidence shows that countries that have achieved greater gender equality in employment and education also report higher rates of human development and economic growth, while women’s empowerment is increasingly seen as central to reducing poverty and better public health outcomes.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water, equivalent to a year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce in France. 
Many proponents of gender equality seek to pursue this goal by promoting women’s access to work and entrepreneurship opportunities, and increasing women’s political participation. All too often, however, these initiatives overlook a fundamental structural cause of gender inequality: women’s overwhelming responsibility for unpaid care work in homes and communities all over the world.
Unpaid care work is the cooking, cleaning and direct care of persons that keeps our societies and workforces running; in many developing countries it includes fetching water and fuel for domestic consumption. The time demands are enormous.
In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water, equivalent to a year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce in France.
Women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work, and the persistent and powerful gender stereotypes that underpin this unequal distribution, represent a significant obstacle to achieving gender equality and women’s rights, such as the right to decent suchwork, the right to education, the right to health and the right to participate in public life.
Unpaid care work is a major obstacle to women taking on paid employment or starting an income-generating activity outside the home.
Indigenous women in rural Peru have to walk longer and longer distances to find firewood. Credit: Elena Villanueva/IPS
Indigenous women in rural Peru have to walk longer and longer distances to find firewood. Credit: Elena Villanueva/IPS
For example, a study in Latin America and the Caribbean showed that over half of women aged 20-24 do not seek work outside the home because they are performing unpaid care work.
Moreover, women’s participation in paid work is not in and of itself empowering if women are still bearing primary responsibility for work in the home, in effect working a ‘second shift’ after their paid workday ends.
Further, unpaid care work restricts women’s opportunities for professional advancement, limits their pay level and increases the likelihood of women ending up in informal and insecure work.
At the same time, the gender stereotypes that put the burden of care on women also negatively impact men, who experience social pressure to be ‘the breadwinner’, providing for their family financially rather than by caring for them more directly.
Girls’ right to education is also at stake. In the most extreme cases, girls are pulled out of school to help with housework and to care for younger children and other family members. More often, girls’ chances to achieve equally in education are constrained because their domestic responsibilities leave them less time than boys for studying, networking or extra-curricular activities.
Without equal educational opportunities, women and girls are even less able to access well-paid, decent jobs that could enable them to escape poverty.
Ultimately, the unequal distribution of unpaid care work undermines poverty eradication efforts. Poor women cannot afford outside help or time-saving technologies such as grain-grinders and fuel-efficient stoves, and they often cannot rely on decent infrastructure such as piped water or electricity. Their unpaid care work is therefore particularly intense and difficult.
Time poverty also affects women’s political and social empowerment – how can women be expected to attend community meetings or leadership training if there is no one else to care for their children or for sick and frail family members at home?
Care is a positive and irreplaceable social good, the backbone of all societies. Giving care can bring great rewards, fulfillment and satisfaction. Yet for millions of women around the world, poverty is their only reward for a lifetime of caregiving.
Unpaid care is the missing piece in debates about empowerment, women’s rights and equality. Without concerted action to recognize, support and share unpaid care work, women living in poverty will be unable to enjoy their human rights and benefit equally from development. We must acknowledge that the costs of providing care are unequally borne, and that this distribution is far from benign, natural or inevitable.
Progress in this area requires long-term cultural change. However, development policy can make a major contribution by recognizing care as a social and collective responsibility and as an important human rights issue that is crucial for poverty reduction globally.
States and development partners can take concrete action to reduce and redistribute women’s care work by improving public services and infrastructure in disadvantaged areas, investing in affordable domestic technologies, and providing child benefits and childcare as well as incentives for men to provide more care.
It is time we stopped looking away from the women in the kitchen, by the bedside, and at the water well, and instead make the recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work central to our efforts to achieve equitable, sustainable development. The formulation of the new post-2015 development agenda is a good place to start.
Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona is Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and John Hendra is Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Agreed Conclusions


CSW 57 Draft Agreed Conclusions - Advance Unedited Version:
Rowan Harvey - 20 March 2013

 It may not sound like much, but the attempted insertion of the word "recalls" in place of "reaffirms" about previous women's rights agreements by the Holy See in the first line of the proposed draft document set the tone for much of the negotiations at this year's UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Coming in a reference to the ground-breaking 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, it hinted that not all countries represented at the CSW viewed progress made in the past few decades on women's rights as positive. Some had come to the negotiating table with the intention of trying to turn back the clock. The efforts of Iran, Russia, Syria and the Holy See were particularly passionate.
That we have an agreed outcome document from the negotiations at all is cause for celebration. And there were gains that suggest progress in the right direction.
One of the most significant was new text on protection for female human rights defenders – women working and campaigning for women's rights who face violence both because of their work and because of their gender. Unsurprisingly, given the records of rights abuses in many of the countries present, there was push-back on this and its inclusion caused genuine celebration among the activists present, many of whom face backlash and hostility every day.

One of the hardest fought areas in the document was sexual and reproductive rights. This was one of the key rallying points for conservative forces, including anti-choice organisations that piled enormous resources into influencing the process. Hundreds of collective hours were put into combating their efforts by women's organisations, and some progress was made.
Most notable was new language recommending that emergency contraception is provided for women who have been raped, an absolutely vital and humane basic service.
Another striking victory was a call for the development of comprehensive sex education. Often portrayed by opponents as teaching kids to have sex, it is important that countries were able to see past the misinformation and recognise that this is about ensuring young people have the information they need to make informed decisions and protect their health.

If we've learned anything from the process it's that in UN negotiations, semantics matter; language against "child, early and forced" marriage rather than just "child" marriage was an important gain, recognising that in some contexts girls are no longer considered children after their first period, and extending the document to cover tens of thousands of adolescent girls married every year.
There were some losses that tempered the celebrations. We always knew that sexual orientation and gender identity would be hotly contested issues. Unfortunately, this was one of the areas where agreement couldn't be reached and all references were dropped from the text. Equally worrying, all references to protection for sex workers were dropped. Lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and sex workers are targeted for attack and, however conservative our views, we should at least be able to agree that such violence is serious and unacceptable.

In many ways the CSW was like stepping back in time. Much of the discussion might have been familiar to women campaigning in the 1970s, or even the 1920s. For example, language on "intimate partner violence", which recognises that not all women are married or in relationships formally recognised by the state was struck from the final text.

There was a push towards strengthening "the family" – in this context a traditional concept of family based on marriage between a man and a woman – as the most important unit in society for combating violence, rather than providing support for women as individuals. While families are important, one of the places that women are most likely to face violence is the home and it is vital that they are able to access services tailored to their needs. Fortunately, arguments based on ideology lost out to arguments based on evidence in the final text.

Perhaps the biggest victory came right at the end. Recognising that negotiations were unlikely to finish on time, the CSW chair, Marjon V Kamara, proposed a new draft based on the negotiations to that point – a take it or leave it option. One of her changes was the deletion of a hotly debated paragraph reaffirming the sovereign right of each country to implement CSW recommendations "consistent with national laws and development priorities, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people". This paragraph sent a dangerous signal that women's rights are optional and provided a get-out clause for unsupportive governments. It was a huge relief to many to see it removed.
The outcome could have been much worse. As delegates return home, thoughts are already turning to the battle ahead. Next year's topic – the agenda for development when the millennium goals expire in 2015 – proved contentious this year, with attempts to introduce progressive language struck down as quickly as they were proposed. This is essentially new territory for the CSW and, if this year was anything to go by, we're going to have to fight every step of the way. With the future of half the world at stake, we can't afford not to.
Rowan Harvey is women's rights advocacy adviser for ActionAid UK.

Link to the CSW Draft Agreed Coclusions

CSW 57 Draft Agreed Conclusions - Advance Unedited Version:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Statement by US representative to ECOSOC

Explanation of Position by Terri Robl , U.S. Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, on the Agreed Conclusions of the 57thSession of the Commission on the Status of Women, March 15, 2013

Madame Chair,

The United States welcomes today’s adoption of the Agreed Conclusions on the theme of the elimination of violence against women and girls.  This agreement is a testament to both the gravity of the issue and the seriousness with which it was treated by the members of the Commission.

We applaud your tremendous leadershipAmbassador Kamara, in chairing this session, and the tireless work of the Philippine facilitators to bring us together in this effort.  We would also like to express our gratitude to Executive Director Bachelet and her team for their invaluable contributions throughout this session.

These Agreed Conclusions represent an important step toward ensuring that all women and girls around the world live productive and safe lives, free from the scourge of violence and abuse. It provides a foothold to continue the unfinished work of empowering women and girls in all fora:  it reaffirms the critical role of women human rights defenders and it reinforces that States have a duty, regardless of their political, economic, and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls.

We are particularly pleased that the Agreed Conclusions clearly acknowledge the importance of investing in and protecting sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights by reaffirming ICPD Program of Action, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the outcomes of their review processes.  Reproductive rights and the full implementation of these international agreements are essential to the prevention, mitigation and elimination of violence against women and girls. The United States reaffirms our continuing commitment to protect and promote reproductive rights. We are also pleased that the Agreed Conclusions address trafficking in persons, the prevention of which is a significant priority for the United States.

While delegates have shown flexibility in reaching an outcome we can all be proud of, we lament that some important aspects were left out.  Most notably, we believe that the Agreed Conclusions should and must apply to all women, regardless of their sexual orientation or/and gender identity.  We regret that some delegations prevented this recognition explicitly, but are confident that a day will come soon when we are able to do so.  We also hold that the term intimate partner violence more accurately captures the range of relationships where abuse can take hold, and will continue to press for that important distinction.

Today’s agreement is only a beginning.  We must all now continue the vital work – here at the United Nations, in our capitals, and in our schools, hospitals, courts and homes – to ensure that women and girls around the world have the safety and dignity they deserve.

Thank you.


Peggy Kerry
NGO Liaison
United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of Press and Public Diplomacy

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Congratulations !

During the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, governments from 45 countries met, and reached consensus on important matters addressing violence against women and girls.  Violence in all its forms affects all women and girls, either directly or indirectly.  It is commendable that all governments agreed that violence was a critical factor affecting the status of women, and that they were able to reach agreement in ways to address it.

This document can lead to strong, active implementation in all countries.  The diversity of the world, and the diversity of language, culture, religion and economics, worked to divide their attention, but in the end the world was united.  They overcame these differences to move forward on this scourge afflicting all segments of society.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

CSW Agreed Conclusions signed

CSW Agreed Conclusions signed tonight.  Annette Lawson March 15 2013
There is joy, relief and an outpouring of applause as Governments gathered in New York at the UN to work on a text aiming to prevent violence in all its manifestations against women and girls, reached agreement with their backs to the wire at this vital 57th session of CSW focusing on the prevention of violence against women and girls.  Their negotiators  certainly needed dinner and sleep since they had been working until the small hours overnight and had been at it again all day today (Friday 15 March 2013). Evidently Michelle Bachelet, the CEO of UN Women called in and inspired them to greater efforts to reach a good outcome because they were there not just for themselves or even for their governments but for the women and girls of the world. She has led this CSW to success. Later she announced she would be returning to Chile.  Perhaps we will see her President again. And UN Women must find another world leader.
The result is due not only to marvellous work of the negotiators but also to the persistence and advice of the more than 600 NGOs gathered too, and the real partnerships forged between them and some governments – certainly between ourselves and our UK government.
The text has much to welcome in it that should really make a difference,  enabling change and underpinning  prevention with strong paragraphs on resourcing and the range of services that are required. Education is stressed and the need for boys and men to take responsibility for their actions is important as are the paragraphs that give powerful support to the NGOs, particularly to women’s organisations which have the expertise to work from grass roots through to the advisory levels of government in a collective mode.  Recognition of women’s sexual and reproductive rights  and to have their rights embedded in law and in practice is a great win. The ending of impunity from punishment of the perpetrators is stressed and there are strong paragraphs on international cooperation and on trafficking especially in relation to sexual exploitation. There is a good paragraph on the harmful effects of the exponential rise of porn on the web and of cyber bullying and cyber stalking as well as the positive uses of social media and of the internet for change in attitudes and behaviours.
it was made clear that religion, culture and tradition cannot be used to excuse violations of the human rights of women and girls and the wording that suggested States should have sovereignty over their actions, thus making a mockery of the global nature of the UN, was fortunately withdrawn at the last. However, the trading required to remove this immensely damaging clause has meant there are some disturbing gaps.
Alas, women who love other women are not included, the words, ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender orientation’ did not make it and nor did ‘intimate partner’ or ‘intimate relationships’, which would have given some recognition to violence occurring outside of marriage but within partner relations.  Alas, too, the word, ‘prostitution’, is also absent.  Given it forms part of the Beijing Platform for Action which is reaffirmed in the preamble, I am sure we can find ways to work around it and this sentence is in:
‘Accelerate public awareness, education and training to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation.’

Statement by UN Women

March 15, 2013 - At the conclusion of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, UN Women welcomes the outcome of the meeting. The Agreed Conclusions are a testimony to the commitment of Member States to do the right thing, to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls. In the last two weeks during the meeting in New York, and in the lead-up to this session, we witnessed global engagement and mobilization, high-profile advocacy by civil society, and determined leadership by many Member States. Expectations of the world’s women and girls were extremely high for this session of the Commission.

Violence against women is a universal problem that requires, and has now received, a universal response. Violence occurs in multiple forms in all countries and settings; it harms women and their families and communities, impedes development, and costs countries billions of dollars annually in healthcare costs and lost productivity. In 2003, when the Commission took up violence against women and human rights, Member States were unable to reach agreement. Thus I am particularly heartened that agreement was reached this year to end violence against women and girls. This agreement comes in unison with rising voices worldwide saying enough is enough.

The document adopted by the Commission condemns in the strongest terms the pervasive violence against women and girls, and calls for increased attention and accelerated action for prevention and response. UN Women welcomes the important focus on prevention, including through education and awareness-raising, and addressing gender inequalities in the political, economic and social spheres. The best way to end violence against women is to stop it from happening in the first place.
The document highlights the importance of putting in place multi-sectoral services for survivors of violence, including for health, psychological support and counseling, social support in the short and long term. It draws attention to the need for services to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health. Punishment of perpetrators is also highlighted as a critical measure to end impunity, as is the need to improve the evidence base and availability of data to inform an effective response.
By adopting this document, governments have made clear that discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century. They have reaffirmed their commitment and responsibility to undertake concrete action to end violence against women and girls and promote and protect women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The agreement is one step more for realizing the rights and dignity of women and girls. But we cannot stop here. We need to do so much more. Words now need to be matched with deeds, with action. Now is the time for implementation and accountability. We must continue moving forward with courage, conviction and commitment.

UN Women, together with our partners in the UN system, will continue to advance the rights of women and girls through strong and coordinated support. We will work with Member States to turn the Agreed Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women into concrete results for women and girls.

We will move forward and build on the basis of the international agreements on women’s rights reached over many years, as articulated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, and other agreements and treaties.

There is no turning back. We will keep moving forward to the day when women and girls can live free of fear, violence and discrimination. The 21st century is the century of inclusion and women’s full and equal rights and participation.