Taboos, Sanitation, and Women’s Rights

The meeting convened on the impact of sanitation and water supply to the empowerment of women. Sanitation, in toilets or menstrual hygiene management, has been defined by the General Assembly as an essential human right. Evidenced through the creation of SDG 6, achieving gender equality through WASH has become a priority.

H.E. Ms. Lamilla stated that 2.5 billion people still lack suitable spaces to take care of their personal hygiene. According to the WSSCC, one billion people still resort to open defecation. H.E. contended that adequate sanitation is the minimum standard for a life of dignity. Access to water supply is also paramount.  According to WHO recommendations, an individual should intake a minimum of 5 liters of water/day, accessible to them within 1 km from home. In developing countries, women are oftentimes responsible for collecting water. When water access is far from home, women need to walk long distances to collect it. Consequently, this takes time away from their education and renders them prone to exhaustion and sexual abuse.  It is the obligation of the state to ensure public access to water; otherwise it is the poor who will suffer the most.

Panelists further discussed the importance of breaking social taboos around menstrual hygiene. As Ms. Agrawal noted, “The thing that we cannot speak of, is the thing that creates all human life.” Ms. Shrestha stressed that it is crucial to determine the root cause of such taboos. In western Nepal, menstruating girls practice “chaupadi” and remain secluded in sheds for fear of spreading illness and offending the gods. Taboos are often rooted in traditional beliefs.

Ms. Fry recommended forming partnerships with men, and educating girls on menstrual hygiene management before the onset of their periods which will help them avoid early pregnancies and marriages and keep them in school.

Meeting: “Achieving Gender Equality through WASH.”

Date/Location: Friday, March 18, 2016; 10:00 AM-1:00 PM; Conference Room E

Speakers: H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative, Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN; H.E. Ms. Anne Lammila, Ambassador for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland; Ms. Inga Winkler, Independent Expert on Human Rights, WSSCC; Ms. Liesl Gerntholtz, Human Rights Watch; Ms. Miki Agrawal, THINX; Ms. Cecile Shrestha, WaterAid America; Ms. Mbarou Gassama, UN Women and South Asia: “Leave No One Behind” WSSCC/FANSA; Ms. Ramatoulaye Dieng, Senegal Ministry of the Environment; Ms. Absa Wade, Ministry of Gender, Senegal; Ms. Sarah Fry, FHI360/USAID WASH Plus

Written By: WIT Representative Emilie Broek

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Nordic Gender Equality: Showing Reproductive Rights are Lucrative

New service lets you protest anti-women legislation for only $3.50

Today, there was a meeting held by the Nordic Council of Ministers about four fundamental goals for prosperity in gender equality, seen as essential in achieving the sustainable developmental goals. The six ministers discussed the challenges and successes in creating advances towards striving to achieve the sustainable development goals, specifically expanding on the role of gender equality and their individual Nordic experiences.

Ms. Regnér began, “We see gender equality not only as an issue of human rights, but also as a vehicle to develop the whole society.” Sweden received 106,000 refugees last year, and upon finding that some of the girls were married, the Swedish society reacted with outrage. Had a more global effort been made, less girls would have been forced to marry.

Next, Ms. Harðardóttir focused on the target achieving universal health coverage. She stated the cost-benefit for aiding reproductive rights is the one of the highest in the agenda: $120 returned for every dollar spent. She stressed that women should not go 150 years without gender equality, the projected time if progress is made at its current rate.

Ms. Horne and Ms. Nørby pushed for the implementation for education as a prerequisite for many of the other goals. Only 49% of all children attend secondary education; 65 million adolescents are out of school — they are being deprived of a future. Education is the most important investment towards empowering girls.

Mr. Rehula acknowledged the advances made by the Nordic countries in the workforce, but also stated that the gender pay gap and the lack of women in top corporate positions needs to be improved on. Good quality and productivity will result from this evolving workforce. Finally, Ms. Samuelsen, being from a small island, shared her perspective on promoting equality, specifically on out-migration and future sustainability.

Meeting: Gender Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals – Nordic Ministerial Panel

Date/Location: March 16th, 2016, 11:30-12:45; Conference Room 11

Speakers: Eygló Harðardóttir, Minister of Social Affairs and Housing, Iceland; Solveig Horne, Minister of Children and Equality, Norway; Åsa Regnér, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality, Sweden; Juha Rehula, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Finland; Eyðgunn Samuelsen, Minister of Social Affairs, Faroe Islands; Ellen Trane Nørby, Minister for Children, Education and Gender Equality, Denmark

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Send Congress Your Uterus

Achieving Sustainable Development Through Employment Creation and Decent Work for All

SustainableDevelopment112614This meeting focused on the idea that education systems, both in developing countries as well as developed ones, are not equipping their youth with the skills needed for all of the jobs in today’s work. As such, many speakers addressed the need to provide professional opportunities through entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, and skills development.

Mr. Prado stressed the need to invest in women as a form of economic growth, and Ms. Vazquez discussed her company, WEConnect International, which works to help educate women and businesses about market demands. When women have equal capacity to compete, they are able grow businesses and create jobs.

The U.S. Representative asked the panel how to address people with low entrepreneurial spirit, and whether technology does not benefit some people. To this, Vasquez answered that beyond some social safety nets, an individual must educate themselves in order to be valued in today’s labor force. Furthermore, she stated that poor, uneducated people do contribute to innovation through technology, as seen with self-taught solar technology engineers in rural India. An EU representative then asked how governments could promote apprenticeships and dual learning systems. Sims answered that the problem with apprenticeship programs lies in incentivizing employers.

On the topic of integration, a Representative of Trinidad and Tobago called for the creation of industries that would allow women to work at home with flexible hours and green enterprise policies. The Russian Federation’s Representative discussed how government assistance to graduates, in the form of apprenticeships and employment search aid, helped integrate them into the workforce.

Meeting: Economic and Social Council, 2015 Integration Segment, 19th meeting “Achieving sustainable development through employment creation and decent work for all”
Date & Location: April 1st, 2015, Economic and Social Council Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers: Mr. Antonio Prado, Deputy Executive Secretary, ECLAC (moderator); H.E. Ms. Omobola Johnson, Minister, Federal Ministry of Communication Technology, Nigeria and Chairperson of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD); Zachary Sims, Co-Founder and CEO of Codecademy; Elizabeth Vazquez, President, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International; Ron Bruder, Founder of Education for Employment;
Written by WIT Representatives: Paige Stokols and Alis Yoo

Making the World of Books Accessible to People who are Print Disabled

 

innovtech-pwdsMs. Bas began by presenting the Treaty of Marrakesh, which addresses the current relative lack of availability of print material to print disabled individuals, as the next step in the Post-2015 Development Agenda’s efforts of leaving no one behind. All of the efforts thus far tell us that mainstreaming disabilities is a successful but slow process. It is thus imperative that we encourage promotion and awareness of this new treaty.

Ambassador Webson approved the treaty because the world is now in a position in which it can address the problem of the “book famine”–just 1.7% of print material is available to people that are blind or otherwise print disabled. Thanks to Marrakesh, however, barriers to information are being removed and a new world is being opened up to the print disabled. This is especially significant when considering that access to information is key to getting an education, and education in turn is an proven path out poverty.

Mr. LaBarre discussed the Accessible Book Consortium (ABC), saying that it achieved three objectives:  (1) getting permission from rights holders so entities can exchange book copies across borders; (2) capacity building to enable countries to put books into accessible formats; and (3) accessible publishing, meaning all books are initially created digitally. Mr. Power added that the technology is in place to secure the achievement of such goals, but we must now enable this technology to be available internationally. Cost is also an issue for braille and audio reader technologies, but lower cost solutions are on the way.

Mr. Mitra asserted that addressing the print disabled is a central mission for UNICEF. The education system fails millions of children around the world, yet the technology exists to create book in formats that are accessible to all people. Of course, costs and resources are issues, but to create accessible books requires a one-time production cost at the beginning of the process. If we wish to meet goal number 4, he concluded, there is no other way than to ensure that all textbooks are available to all children.

 

Meeting: Innovative Technologies: Making the world of books accessible to people who are print disabled
Date & Location: 25 March 2015, Conference Room 9, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers: Ms. Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social policy and Development, united Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).   H.E. Dr. W. Aubrey Webson, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, New York.   Mr. Scott LaBarre, Board Member, Accessible Books Consortium and Representative, World Blind Union. Mr. Dave Power, President and Chief Executive Officer, Perkins, Watertown. Mr. Gopal Mitra, Programme Specialist, Children with Disabilities, Gender Rights and Civic Engagement, UNICEF, New York. Moderator: Ms. Lucinda Longcroft, Head, WIPO New York Office.
Written By WIT Representative: James Victory
Edited by WIT Representative: Philip Bracey

Power of Collaboration – Women, Technology, and Social Innovation

Women-working-international-resizeThe purpose of this meeting was to talk about women’s equality in the private and business sectors and in collaboration with civil society. Mr. Molinari focused on moving capital around businesses run by women, stating that “women are not looking for handouts; they are looking for access to capital.” Gate Global Impact has partnered with organizations like Microsoft and OPEC to invest in technologies and ways to disrupt the means by which capital is formed. Ms. Scott discussed the various “thermostats of inequality,” using data from 2013 in European countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary. The female-to-male ratio for tertiary education and professional jobs in these countries was favorable from a gender equality standpoint, but that same ratio for labor participation, similar pay for similar work, and roles and wages was not equal.  Ms. Scott also discussed the Russian Doll Effect, which is the idea that if girls are not nourished as children, poor states of health will remain in the family for generations. Professor Ritschelova continued by discussing reasons why women do not represent a larger percentage of the labor force. She cited a lack in education–499 million women worldwide have no education–and access to information as the two most significant reasons.  Ms. Macdougall talked about providing incentives so that banks will invest more capital into women. Ms. Chowdry also spoke about the importance of financial inclusion of women and integrating them into the economy more fully.

Meeting: Event on “Power of Collaboration: Women, Technology, and Social Innovation- Creating the Future of Inclusive, Sustainable Economies” (co-organized by the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic and the Impact Leadership 21)
Date & Location: 25 March 2015, Conference Room 2, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers: Ambassador Edita Hrda, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations; Ms. Janet C. Salazar, CEO and Founder of IMPACT Leadership 21; Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, Former Under-Secretary General and High Representative of the United Nations; Mr. Constance J. Peak, CFO, Chief Strategist, and Co-Founder of Impact Leadership 21; Mr. Amir Dossal, Global Partnership Forum Chairman; Mr. Vincent Molinari, CEO of Gate Global Impact; Professor Linda Scott, DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Professor at the University of Oxford, Founder of Double X Economy;  Professor Iva Ritschelova, President of the Czech Statistical Office; Ms. Lisa Macdougal, Representative of Goldman Sachs; Ms. Nalia Chowdhury, TeleConsult Group Chairman, formerly Grameen lead on Village Phone Project; Ms. Elizabeth Isele, Founder and President of Senior Entrepreneurship Works
Written by WIT Representatives: Paige Stokols and Brian Lee
Edited by WIT Representative: Philip Bracey

Child Labor & Slavery – DPI/NGO Special Briefing with 2014 Nobel Laureate

96300941Susan Bissell began this briefing by reminding the audience of the 168 million children toiling in child labor or slavery. These crimes deprive children of their right to a protected and healthy childhood and to an education. A great majority of countries have ratified legal frameworks for responsibilities and commitments to children and there is no lack of political commitment to tackle child labor and slavery. There is, however, still a need to challenge cultural norms at national and subnational levels that allow for its continued presence. There is demand by many actors to have stakeholders do more. Bissell recommends that greater data on child slavery be used in order to encourage more effective action.

Mr. Satyarthi added that for every statistic on child labor, there is a cry, and for every figure, a face. This cry is one for freedom; to simply be a child. He believes that we cannot achieve development goals without a strong commitment against child labor. We must dream that every child will achieve primary education instead of being forced into marriage or given guns instead of toys.

There is also a vicious cycle between poverty and child labor–children are preferred as workers because of their low cost. As a result, there must be clear language in the Sustainable Development Goals to combat child labor and slavery. In Mr. Satyarthi’s words, “The number of child laborers has been decreased and it is good news, but we have to work harder. The number of child slaves did not decrease at all. We did not make progress in the most heinous crime against humanity.” To combat child slavery, Satyarthi says we must (1) strengthen the UN system and build belief in multilateralism; (2) address the need for deeper and broader interagency cooperation; and (3) ensure that the UN be proactive rather than reactive.

 

Meeting: DPI/NGO Special Briefing with 2014 Nobel Laureate
Date & Location: 17 March 2015, ECOSOC Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers: Maher Nasser, Moderator, Director, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information; Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection, Programme Division, UNICEF; Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Chairperson, Global March Against Child Labor.
Written By WIT Representative: James Victory
Edited by WIT Representative: Philip Bracey

Men and Boys Against Gender Stereotypes and Violence Against Women

genderequalityThe Commission on the Status of Women held a panel discussion on the active involvement of males in achieving gender equality. Kristin Hetle delivered an opening speech framing the difficulties in attaining equality. Often, gender-based violence (GBV) is considered the only hurdle left. Hetle asserted that, though violence is a serious matter, gender equality requires a more nuanced solution. It is crucial to target harmful underlying mentalities. In her home country of Norway, a university conducted a study in which participants were asked to choose between equally qualified male and female job candidates. Participants of both genders considered the male candidate as more qualified. Based on this, Hetle argued that our society is still subconsciously subject to gender inequality. She asked for men to not be silent bystanders to gender inequality.

Professor Hashimoto spoke briefly on the state of GBV in Japan, a country with notable levels of domestic violence. Luckily, there is significant progress0–more and more women report to domestic violence centers and do not suffer the blame for their abuse. However, Japan suffers from insufficient legal measures to rein in the sex industry, an area in which underage females may be at risk.

A representative from DIRE, a network of Italian equality organizations, asked whether gender-balanced panels were discriminatory for prioritizing gender over knowledge. She also asked about education practices used to instill values of gender equality. To answer, Sasdamoiden stated that, at least in the EU, there are consistent structural issues present in choosing panels, and skill is overshadowed by biases that see men as being more qualified than women. Gender-balanced panels thus adjust for this.

Meeting: #thingsmendo: Men and Boys against Gender Stereotypes and Violence against Women
Sponsor: Commission on the Status of Women (NGO CSW)
Date & Location: 11 March 2015, Conference Room 11, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers: Kristin Hetle, UN Director of Strategic Partnerships for Women; Giovanna Martelli, Gender Equality Advisor to the Prime Minister of Italy; Hiroko Hashimoto, Professor of Women’s Studies at Jumonji University; Polish Plenipotentiary on the Equal Status of Women; Sala Sasdamoiden, Representative of European Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy
Written By WIT Representative: Alis Yoo
Edited by WIT Representative: Philip Bracey

Advancing Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls for a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda

gender equality 3 _640This meeting featured distinguished panelists, member states, and civil society organizations that discussed the critical importance of incorporating benchmarks and policies dedicated to promoting gender equality and female empowerment within the transformative post-2015 development agenda. In particular, representatives stressed the necessity for prioritizing the economic and political empowerment of women through offering women greater opportunities within both the public and private sectors.

Ms. Kabeer focused on the wide variety of gender stereotypes that serve as barriers towards enabling women to effectively participate in politics and urged the adoption of infrastructure and public services that will enable women to thrive in society. Ms. Kabeer looked favorably upon establishing a standalone goal in the SDGs dedicated to promoting gender equality in political life. Ms. Clark described a robust vision for improving the lives of women around the world, as empowering women is essential to the success of both the international community and the sustainable development goals. The representative from Montenegro proclaimed a commitment toward facilitating the inclusion of women in the economy and developing a cooperative approach for all stakeholders. The economic empowerment of women not only assists them, but also contributes to global poverty reduction. Additionally, the delegate from Brazil affirmed that gender equality can only be achieved through the collaboration of civil society and governments.

Furthermore, representatives emphasized the significance of strengthening both accessibility and quality of education, seeing as how education is integral in instilling foundational and transferable skills that will benefit women that are becoming active global citizens. Mr. Osothimehin spoke about analyzing education holistically and improving standards of innovation, which would allow adolescent girls the ability to develop a comprehension of technical and vocational skills. Next, Ms. Hayshi alluded to alarming gender inequities like discrimination, lack of equal pay, and violence, which serve as impediments toward female empowerment. Finally, the President of the General Assembly concluded the debate by pointing out that sustainable development cannot be attained without valuable contributions from women.

Meeting: High-level Thematic Debate on Advancing Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls for a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda
Date & Location:
Friday, 6 March 2015, UN Trusteeship Chamber, UN Headquarters, New York
Speakers:
Naila Kabeer, Professor of Gender and Development at the Gender Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science; Helen Clark, Administrator of United Nations Development Programme; Irina Bokova, Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund; Yoko Hayashi Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director for Programs United Nations Children Fund; Representative from International Labor Organization; Representative of Montenegro, Representative of Latvia, Representative of Ecuador, Representative of Zimbabwe, Representative of Finland, Representative of Ukraine, Representative of Brazil, Representative of Canada.
Written By WIT Representative:
Parth Shingala
Edited By WIT Representative: Philip Bracey

Seminar on Peaceful and Inclusive Societies and Democratic Governance

International_Peace_Day_logoThis meeting elaborated on a report written by Dr. Timothy Sisk, whose presentation formed the majority of the afternoon’s discussion. Given that 2015 is the designated time for the 10-year review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture, this talk about the foundational elements of a peaceful and inclusive society had particular relevance.

Dr. Sisk began his presentation by noting that, contrary to the typical level of discord among scholars, there is a broad consensus within the research community regarding the idea of peace as a prerequisite for development. Many elements of the UN’s post-2015 agenda are therefore tied to peaceful relations among and within countries around the world.

The principle finding of Dr. Sisk’s report is that poverty is increasingly concentrated in fragile and conflict-affected countries. For many the roughly 60-80 countries classified as fragile, violence, poverty, and poor governance have become mutually reinforcing elements of a vicious cycle that prevents the success of development initiatives. As violence is reduced, however, and post-conflict development is begun, virtuous cycles can be created.

Dr. Sisk’s report found that peace, development, and governance are all interrelated. The level of inclusivity and democratic participation within a society contributes both to peace and development—the presence of robust civil and political society and the establishment of norms of equality and inclusion have historically led to a rapid growth in democracy. Social cohesion is extremely important, especially in fragile states. When a state is on the path to development, no real results will be achieved without an underlying base of social cohesion.

Dr. Sisk concluded by urging a continued, dedicated effort at reducing conflict, including social and interpersonal violence. Further, in developing states, access to justice is vital in creating positive perceptions of a government for its citizens, and state accountability in general will encourage individual citizens to make personal investments in the country’s advancement.

Meeting: Seminar on “Peaceful and Inclusive Societies and Democratic Governance.”
Date & Location: 6 February 2015, Conference Room 8, United Nations Headquarters, New York.
Speakers: Ms. Yvonne Lodico, Head of the UNITAR New York Office; Mr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the United Nations; Mr. Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velásquez, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations; Dr. Timothy Sisk, Professor, Associate Dean for Research, University of Denver; Thomas Gass, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Written By WIT Representative: Philip Bracey

2015 Winter Youth Assembly: Bridging the Gap Between Youth Employment and Global Development

YABanner1The 2015 Winter Youth Assembly empowers the youth to become active members of their communities and participants in the shift from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ms. Bokova stated that each person is unique and that individual voices matter for shaping a better future. Representative MacDonald focused on the necessity of introducing gender equality to younger ages to create a stimulating social environment and workforce, saying that men need to understand that discrimination against women is not just a woman’s issue, but humanity’s issue. Governments should focus on planning their own conferences instead of waiting for regional ones.

Representatives from the UN Youth Delegate Program discussed their experiences and promoted the involvement of younger people in delegations. Being a part of the global decision forum enables youths to be active at the UN as opposed to just being observers. Mr. Alhendawi emphasized that current business communications must change and be directed towards the younger audience. The commitment of the UN is not to work for the people, but with the people. Twenty years ago, delegates made an agreement to help young people succeed. The Secretary General is requesting that each delegation take on at least one young member by September. Youth movements and representatives are essential for creating frameworks that support the young people of the future. Representative MacDonald explained that one must know and understand what their rights are before they can advocate for them.

Ms. Thomas introduced three members of the Microsoft YouthSpark Team. Microsoft works to ensure that as many young people as possible have the skills they need to get employment and advance finding opportunities. As the world is becoming more technology enabled, an education with computer science is becoming increasingly important.

Meeting: 2015 Winter Youth Assembly: Bridging the Gap Between Youth Employment and Global Development
Date & Location: Wednesday, February 11th, 2015. Conference Room 2, UNHQ, New York.
Speakers: H.E. Ambassador Simona Miculescu, Permannet Representative of Romania to the United Nations; Patrick Sciarratta, Executive Director of FAF; Irina Bokova, Director-General United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO; Henry MacDonald, Permanent Representative of Suriname to the United Nations; Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; Yvonne Thomas, Microsoft
Written By WIT Representative: Paige Stokols
Edited by WIT Representative: Philip Bracey