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Monday, October 29, 2012

Canada and Security Council Resolution 1325

The Security Council passed an historic resolution 12 years ago, which saw women playing a key role in peace building - certainly women are affected by war and the violence it brings, so am reprinting the article, thanks to the Women, Peace and Security Network - Canada.

Women, Peace and Security: Remembering the UN Security Council Resolution 1325

This article has been contributed by WPSN – Canada members Prajeena Karmacharya, Kristine St. Pierre and Tamar Palandjian-Toufayan.

Twelve years ago in October 2000, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Twelve years later, Canada has contributed significantly in this realm on the international stage. For the first time at the international level, there was recognition that war and violence affected men and women differently. Gender-based violence against women was considered to be a threat to security at a global level and actions needed to be taken to prevent it from continuing. UNSCR 1325 is also important because it recognizes women play a vital role in conflict resolution processes and should therefore have increased representation in peace negotiations.

The landmark resolution laid out a framework for nation-states to adapt into their policies and actions to ensure increased women’s participation in peace processes. Subsequently, there were several other resolutions that followed, notably 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960 were passed in the years to follow in order to enhance components of the original resolution, 1325.

Canada’s commitment to supporting women’s role in peace and security was most recently affirmed by the Foreign Minister John Baird when he stated: “One of the key premises of our values-based foreign policy is [that] we must actively support and promote not just the equality of men and women, but the full participation of women in all parts of civil society. … When women play an active role in society, so many other problems are resolved and the things we hope to achieve become possible: global security, access to education, and improved child and maternal health.”

The implementation of SCR 1325 in Canada is officially the responsibility of Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Department of National Defence (DND) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

According to 2011 civil society monitoring report on 1325 National Action Plan, Canada can list among its achievements a contribution to the United Nations Peace Operations by providing police and Canadian Forces personnel and maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan as a part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). At the national level, Canada has set up a governmental Interdepartmental Working Group on gender and peacebuilding. Canada is also currently coordinating Friends of 1325, officially known as the Friends of Women, Peace and Security, which is a coalition of countries committed to discuss priorities and advocating for the implementation of Resolution 1325. Canadian civil society has a long standing involvement in issues relating to women, peace and security.
Gaps do remain and the civil society monitoring report offers recommendations. These include having the government dedicate resources (both human resources and programming resources) by all relevant departments to ensure effective implementation of the NAP, having the government report not only on achievements to date but identifying targets, project achievements and an analysis of challenges in addition having a plan in place to engage with Canadian civil society on its implementation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

UN Women | Three Huairou Women Leaders Attend Inaugural Civil Society Advisory Board Meeting; Represent Global Grassroots Women's Priorities

The following article is from the Huariou Commission. The International Council of Women (ICW) belongs to the Huariou Commission, and there is interest in the work of UN Women, so the article is reprinted here. Note Mr. Todd Minerson from the White Ribbon Campaign, Canada,  is a member of the Global Civil Society Advisory Board.for UN Women.

By Andrea Garcia

New York, NY - Violet Shivutse of GROOTS Kenya, Jhocas Castillo of DAMPA in the the Philippines, and Haydee Rodriguez of the Union de Cooperativas Las Brumas in Nicaragua arrived in New York last week to attend the first UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Board Meeting, which convened on Wednesday, October 10 at UN Headquarters in New York. The advisory group,  according to UN Women's Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, will "play an important consulting role, and provide strategic perspectives on advocacy on gender equality and women's empowerment and on UN Women's thematic priorities."

The three grassroots women leaders were recognized and appointed for their commitment to empowering  women in their communities with skill building and network strengthening. They have also successfully built partnerships with local public officials, as part of their strategy to sustain the inclusion of community women in agenda setting, decision-making, planning and implementation for the long term. Because one of UN Women's goals is to gain insights from civil society about strengthening partnerships and building new strategic alliances, the experiences of Ms. Shivutse, Ms. Castillo, and Ms. Rodriguez in this realm in their countries are key contributions for the success of the advisory group.

Another main focus of  the meeting was setting women's priorities for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, particularly for inclusion in thematic and country level consultations. In addition to bringing in their personal experiences, Ms. Shivutse, Ms. Castillo, and Ms. Rodriguez distributed a call for suggestions prior to attending the meeting, to consolidate the priorities of other grassroots women in the Huairou Commission networks and represent a clear grassroots women's agenda at the meeting. This was the beginning of a continual conversation the women will maintain with the Huairou Commission and other grassroots women's networks during their 2-year appointment to this advisory board to share their experiences and bring their recommendations to the table.

Overall, all three women were very pleased with the commitment they observed on behalf of UN Women to listen to and seriously consider their recommendations. Specifically, they commented that Executive Director and meeting moderator Bachelet, was very attentive to their inputs, and affirmed the value of their contributions to the discussion. 

With the importance of the experiences of women in mind, it is necessary to focus on not only sustaining the achieved inclusion of grassroots women as consultants into global governance frameworks such as the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Board, but also to expand opportunities for entry of grassroots women into other spaces, specifically as decision-makers, planners, designers, and proprietors. In line with this vision for inclusion, during their stay in New York, Ms. Shivutse, Ms. Castillo, and Ms. Rodriguez also attended a Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Coordinating Group Meeting. GEAR seeks to formalize the involvement of civil society as monitors and implementers of the work of UN Women.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Emerging Issue - suggestion "Widowhood"

as the next “emerging issue” for the 57th UN CSW

Each year, at the CSW, an "emerging issue" is identified, selected in response to the trends, developments, and new approaches to issues affecting the situation of women, or equality between women and men, that urgently require a focused consideration from which can emerge recommendations thereon.

One of the most neglected of all gender and human rights issues is widowhood.  In recent decades, the numbers of widows of all ages have risen unprecedentedly due to armed conflict, HIV and AIDS, harmful traditional practices (child marriages to older men), and the increase in elderly population worldwide where the majority of older people are women/widows. In developing countries and conflict afflicted zones especially widows experience extreme stigma, discrimination, abuse and violence but often are unable to access justice systems for their protection or support. Widows are the poorest of the poor and their poverty and marginalization deprives their children of their human rights to shelter, food, education, and future employment and life quality.  The global economic crisis is also affecting widows dependent on pensions and state support in developed countries. The Beijing Platform of Action makes no reference to widowhood and this ever-increasing sub-sect of women, who have crucial roles as sole parents and heads of household, have not had the attention of governments they deserve. Neglecting this gender and human rights issue affects the whole of society and its future, frustrating other initiatives to reduce poverty, eliminate GBV, and promote justice and democracy without which there can be no stability or peace.

UK Women’s NGOs, meeting in Bristol on July 10th, 2012, agreed unanimously to request HMG to propose WIDOWHOOD as the next emerging issue for the 57th CSW, through its membership of the European Block. Other women’s and widows’ NGOs are also lobbying their governments to take up this proposal. UNWomenUK has forwarded this proposal to the UNWOMEN office in New York. The UK’s support for it would greatly strengthen this campaign.
To support this initiative and for further information:
Contact: Margaret Owen WPD or

Saturday, October 20, 2012

NCWC and CFUW submit Brief to the Human Rights Council

The National Council of Women of Canada and the Canadian Federation of University Women have submitted a Brief to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the occasion of the Universal Periodic Review  of Canada. You can see the whole report here. 

A significant part of the 20 page submission talks about the issue of Violence Against Women - the theme of this year's CSW.

From the introduction: 
Since Canada’s last Universal Periodic Review in 2009, little action has been taken to improve the rights of women in Canada. Notably there has been a lack of effective measures to prevent violence against women, particularly Aboriginal women, and extreme forms of violence such as torture in the private sphere. Housing insecurity, poverty, access to justice and programs and services, and pay equity also remain issues for many women, in particular, those who are Aboriginal, racialized, living with disabilities, or single mothers. Gender equality in Canada has been further eroded in recent years due to several measures initiated by the Government of Canada, such as the cuts to women’s organizations, programs and services (see Annex I), changes to the licensing and registration of long guns, weakening the measures to enforce pay equity, and the cancellation of key data-collection tools to support the development of policies, programs and services for women.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Violence Against Women Persists in Bangladesh By Naimul Haq

DHAKA, Oct 17 2012 (IPS) - Bangladesh, often cited as a model of progress in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), appears to be sliding backwards when it comes to dealing with violence against women (VAW).

Police statistics and assessments by non-government organisations (NGOs) working to establish women’s rights show that there is in an increasing trend in VAW.

According to police records, while there were 2,981 cases of dowry-related violence in 2004, the figure has already hit 4,563 in the first nine months of 2012. Also, where there were 2,901 rape cases recorded in 2004, the figure for the current year, up to August, stands at 2,868.

Farida Akhtar, an internationally known rights activist, told IPS that the disturbing aspect of this rising trend in VAW is that it is “taking on different deceptive forms that go beyond the statistics.”

“When women are better aware of their rights through education, and want to assert them, they suffer violence,” said Akhtar, a founder of the NGO, ‘UBINIG’, acronym for ‘Policy Research for Development Alternatives’ in the Bangla language.
With school enrolment at 95 percent, Bangladesh is well on track to achieving the MDGs that deal with gender parity in education by 2015. But gender equity and women’s empowerment are another matter.

Akhtar said there is evidence that Bangladeshi women are now facing more mental torture than before. “Unfortunately, mental torture cannot be quantified and often goes unreported. But, the fact that suicide is the biggest cause of female deaths in this country is telling.”
Women’s rights leaders say that atrocities go unreported because of fear of harassment by religious or political leaders and, of the cases that are registered, a large number end up being dismissed as false allegations. Police data show that 109,621 complaints of various forms of VAW were lodged during the 2010-2012 (up to August) period.  Of these, 18,484 complaints were taken into cognizance, but only 6,875 cases were deemed ‘genuine’ and fit for further proceedings.

Mohammad Munirul Islam, additional inspector-general of police responsible for dealing with crimes related to VAW at the police headquarters, told IPS, “On many occasions our investigations showed that the law was used to harass the accused. It does seem that not all complaints are genuine.”

Afroza Parvin, executive director of Nari Unnayan Shakti, a women’s rights NGO, told IPS, “Due to better awareness female victims have learnt to raise their voices, but stop short of seeking police help. During our 20 years of experience on VAW we have found that police often do not cooperate with victims and favour the accused.”

Leading women’s movement activist Shireen Huq says that the main difficulty is that of “establishing a prima facie case for lack of eye witnesses, evidence, etc., with the result that the accused are easily acquitted and cases are recorded as false.”

Huq, who is also a founder member of Naripokkho, a local NGO, told IPS that “no matter what the offence or what the form of violence, police and lawyers find it convenient to file the complaint under ‘torture for dowry’, and since this is a non-bailable offence we often hear of the elderly parents of the accused being arrested.”

Failure to fulfill dowry demands is a major cause for VAW in Bangladesh. On average 5,000 complaints of dowry are recorded annually. In 2010, police reported 5,331 cases of dowry, which jumped to 7,079 in 2011.

Despites the debates, official statistics show that VAW continues unabated and many complaints are dismissed without justice. Data from Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) show that of the 420 recorded rape cases in 2011, only 286 reached the prosecution stage.

Salma Ali, executive director of BNWLA, told IPS that one of the difficulties in establishing the rights of women is the fact that Bangladeshi society is strongly patriarchal. “This means that women suffer discrimination in respect of matrimonial rights, guardianship of children and  inheritance – often through religious injunctions or directives,” the prominent lawyer said.

Hameeda Hossain, chairperson of Ain-o-Shalish Kendra, a leading women’s rights  organisation, told IPS that if  “women are still suffering socially, culturally and politically” it is due to “social acceptance of women’s subordination, discriminatory laws and poor law enforcement.”

“Crimes against women within the family are often ignored, and the women  silenced,” Hossain said. “There is social tolerance of domestic violence and limited intervention.”
To its credit the Bangladesh government has taken a number of legal steps to  improve the situation of women, starting with the Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act in 2000. In 2009 the National Human Rights Act was passed followed by the Domestic Violence Act in 2010.

Bangladesh is also signatory to international conventions designed to protect women and their rights. Yet, very little is being done on the ground to ensure a secure and safe environment for them, rights activists say.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The World We Want!

We've all heard about the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs, but the end date for that effort is 2015 - what happens after?

Well the UN has a project going on RIGHT NOW - The World We Want, and you can participate in one of the threads of the conversation on Gender Equality. It is the first of a series of e-discussions taking place as part of the Global Thematic Consultation on Addressing Inequalities in the Post-2015 Development Agenda at The discussion on gender equality will run until 24 October 2012.

There are background papers too.

So join the conversation - and note Kate McInturff from Canada is one of the moderators.

The discussion is guest moderated by Ginette Azcona, UN Women.� Throughout the discussion she will be joined by guest moderators who will assist in responding to your questions and contributions, and guiding and summarizing the discussion. We are delighted to introduce the first of these guest moderators: Nicole Bidegain from Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN); Rosa G. Lizarde from the Feminist Task Force of the Global Call to Action against Poverty; Kate McInturff from Amnesty International (Canadian Section), and Ranja Sengupta from the Third World Network (TWN).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 11th is the International Day of the Girl Child!

Today at the UN -
“The Girl Child: Protection from Harmful Practices, Violence, Exploitation and Abuse” 

The International Day of the Girl Child is one of the latest UN observances having just been approved by General Assembly resolution 66/170 on 14 November 2011. Beginning this year, October 11 will be the day set aside for advocacy and action by and for girls, as the United Nations signals its global commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls across the globe.  Even though the international community has made measurable progress in recent years with regard to gender equality, there is still a long way to go to create gender justice. Girls still lag behind in education and access to health, and many are exposed to domestic violence, commercial sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices, including early marriage, premature pregnancy, female genital mutilation and infanticide.
As a result for the inaugural day, UN agencies have come together to focus on child marriage, which is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl’s life.  As is now well known, girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to virtually end a girl’s education. Girls with secondary schooling however, are up to six times less likely to marry as children, therefore making education one of the best strategies for protecting girls.
It is therefore imperative that Governments in partnership with civil society and NGOs take urgent action to end the harmful practice of early child marriage by raising awareness of the problem, and most importantly, ensuring that girls have access to good quality primary and secondary education in order to eliminate gender gaps in schools

Monday, October 8, 2012

Deadline announced for written statements, oral statements and interactive panels

Are you preparing for the Commission on the Status of Women meeting (CSW 57) from 4 to 15 March, 2013? 
Information related to the three opportunities for NGOs to make their voices heard during CSW 57 is now available. These are:
  • Written Statements
  • Oral Statements
  • Interactive Panels
Begin preparing now to make the first deadline of 15 November 2012.