Closing the Digital Gender Gap

The final side event of the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women hosted a panel discussion on closing the digital gender gap. Ms. Riazi began the presentations by sharing her personal story about pursuing a career in STEM. She highlighted the issue of girls’ hesitations to join the field of technology, despite being avid users of it. Later, she cited multiple statistics on the value of having women in the workforce, particularly in technology. According to her, achieving an end to digital divide between men and women could add up to $12 trillion in economic growth.

Next, Mr. Garcia emphasized that better steps have to be taken to obtain clear data on Internet users and digital literacy. Effective data can lead to stronger public policies. Following, Mr. Musharakh shared what his country, the United Arab Emirates, has done to close the digital gender gap. Fifty-seven percent of women in UAE universities pursue STEM. They are encouraged to not only be users of technology, but also become content creators, leaders, and entrepreneurs. Although UAE has been successful, Mr. Musharakh admitted that there is still much more to be done globally.

Ms. Lindsey introduced her Connected Women initiative, which will increase the proportion of women in the customer base by 2020. She also stated that women are willing to use up to 10% of their income on mobile ownership because it is a tool of empowerment. Finally, Ms. Ball wrapped up presentations by pointing out that mothers with access to technology would benefit their children and family.

Meeting: Technology Empowering Women: Closing the Digital Gender Gap to Achieve Agenda 2030

Date/Location: Thursday, 24 March 2016; Ex-Press Bar; UN Headquarters; NYC

Speakers: Gary Fowlie, Head of ITU Liaison Office to the UN (moderator); Atefeh Riazi, Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Information Technology Officer, UN Office of Information and Communications; Juan Carlos Mendoza Garcia, Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN; Jamal Al Musharakh, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the UN; Dominica Lindsey, Senior Manager of Research Strategy & Evaluations GSMA Connected Living; Andrea Ball, Executive Director of American Mothers

Written By: WIT Representative Julianne Jeon

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Centro de Investigacion Para La Accion Feminina

Valuing Women in Global Value Chains

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations held a side event on March 17th  during the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The side event focused on the role women play in global value chains, “the full range of activities that are required to bring a product from its conception, through its design, it’s sourced raw materials and intermediate inputs, its marketing, its distribution and its support to the final consumer.”

Ms. Simonetta Zarrilli moderated and opened the side event by expressing that global value chains offer women opportunities, yet present constraints. H.E. Anne Lammila listed priorities, such as stable democracies and the supporting of businesses in developing countries, when considering policy regarding the empowerment of women and global value chains. H.E. Lammila also expressed that although it is important to tackle issues concerning working conditions, international trade has increased employment for women, empowers women with better wages than traditional domestic work, and provides independence.

Following, Mr. Joakim Reiter shared UNCTAD’s gender sensitive lens. He reiterated that there are both pros and cons for women in global value chains, highlighting issues like the consolidation of farms, increased use of pesticides in commercial farming, and the lack of labor rights for women. Mr. Reiter detailed that in order to address these issues in global value chains, the “pandora’s box” of women’s issues must be opened. Next, Ms. Sheba Tejani shared her views about the impact of industrial upgrading, and its impact on gender inequality. She spoke of economic and social upgrading that must be done in global value chains. She used Kenya’s flower industry as an example of this.

Meeting: Trade and global value chains: how to address the gender dimension?

Date/Location: Thursday, March 17th, 2016; 11:30-12:45; Conference Room A, UN Headquarters, New York, New York

Speakers:  Simonetta Zarrilli, Chief, Trade, Gender and Development Section, and Gender Focal Point;  H.E. Anne Lammila, Ambassador-at-Large, Global Women’s Issues and Gender Equality of Finland; Joakim Reiter, Deputy Secretary-General, UNCTAD; Sheba Tejani, Assistant Professor, Political Economy, New School

Written By: WIT Representative Yume Murphy

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

The Female Antidote to Violent Extremism

The high-level event, co-hosted by the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in partnership with the United Nations, the United States, and Norway, sought to discuss women’s role in countering violent extremism (CVE). The event began with opening remarks, which lasted the greater portion of the event, chaired by Mr. Alistair Millar.

First, Ms. Mara Marinaki commended progress that has since been made surrounding the context and understanding in which women and violent extremism interact. Similarly, Dr. Sarah Sewall emphasized the need for advocacy and women’s empowerment. “Strong women are able to combat these neolithic visions,” Dr. Sewall explained. She also stressed the need to view women’s right, not as a tool or security policy, but as a goal in itself. Both Dr. Sewall and Ms. Tone Skogen, called for women’s involvement and voice in political processes. Mr. Weixiong Chen concluded the opening remarks with a well received statement reminding attendees that violent extremist groups do seek women, and to consider the motives that drive women to violent extremist groups.

A panel discussion followed which discussed strengthening women’s roles in countering violent extremism, protecting right from violent extremism, and a more cross cutting approach to reaching boys and men. Mr. Yannick Glemarec shared the Security Council’s Resolution 2242, which seeks to improve the implementation of its Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. Ms. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini stressed the need to frame CVE more positively. “All of our language is against something; what are we for? Extremists groups offer positive benefits and try to refraining social justice for their agenda, what is our side positive story?” she questioned. At the conclusion of the event, the Global Center and Hedayah announced a preview of their joint publication entitled, A Man’s World? Exploring the Role of Women in Countering Violent Extremism.

Racial Bias Among Women

Today, there was a meeting co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Brazil and the United States Mission to the United Nations in commemoration of the International Decade for Persons of African Descent: Recognition, Justice, and Development. The welcoming remarks were made by Ambassador Duarte, who mentioned both the US and Brazil’s shared past of slavery, present of social challenges, and aspiration of ending gender discriminations. With young black women accounting for 80% of female homicide rates in Brazil, there needs to be a change in Brazilian policy. Ms. Butts moderated the panel discussion.

Ms. Alexander shared an excerpt from her poem about Venus Hottentot, a South African woman who moved to London to become an entertainer but instead became caged and characterized as a circus freak. She believes that one of the challenges for women of color is that identities have been so misdefined, existing under the shadow of stereotype — this historical imperative has affected her creative outlet and poetry.

Ms. Ribeiro spoke of her personal experience as a woman in academia who confronted a world that was entirely black, white, and eurocentric. Black culture and contributions are denied and never reflected on TV or academia. She stated, however, that new technology has made it possible for black women to have a presence on the Internet: she herself runs an online column. Ms. Sterling and Ms. Nascimento spoke of the need for movements to conjoin and to take an intersectional approach. In the last 10 years, there was a 10% decrease in homicides in white women and a 64% increase in black women. This shows that the policy against women in Brazil are not reaching black women, and these panelists were the voices that brought light to the necessity to make a change.

Meeting: Women of African Descent: Shaping Racial Identity

Date/Location: Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016; 13:15-14:30; ECOSOC Chamber

Speakers: Ambassador Carlos Duarte, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil; The Honorable Cassandra Q Butts, United States Mission; Elizabeth Alexander, Ford Foundation Director; Valdecir do Nascimento, Brazilian activist, Executive Coordinator of Odara – Black Woman Institute; Djamila Ribeiro, Brazilian Political Philosopher; Chery Sterling, Director of Black Studies, The City College of NY

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Rhee SC, & Lee SH (2010)

 

A Baseline for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Today’s meeting focused on why sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential to achieve the SDGs and gender equality. The moderator introduced the panel speakers and stated that NGLS is working hard to build support between the UN and civil societies.

The first speaker was Ms. Namasivayam, and she explained that SRHR is often vaguely understood and an overlooked component in development, yet its role is fundamental to achieving sustainable well-being for all. SRHR has two key components already captured in the SDGs: health and gender equality. She noted how access to health services is critical especially for low-income communities, and acts as a social leveler to reduce inequalities. She also said that fundamental freedoms such as who and when to marry enable autonomy and decision-making for women.

The second speaker was Ms. Nessa, and she explained the statistics behind the sexual and reproductive rights for context. 64% of women aged 20-24 are married before the age of 19, 31% of adolescent girls aged 15-19 already have one child, and 30.8% of school dropouts start an early sexual and reproductive role. She explained that one of the key challenges of SRHR is a lack of political will of the policy makers and executives.

Another notable speaker was Ms. David, and she discussed the sexual and reproductive health programs in the Philippines. She stated that there is weak implementation of such programs, as the Philippines is one of 2 countries in the world with no progress in MMR reduction. Abortion is illegal in the country, but estimates put the number of induced abortions at 600,000/year, resulting in 100,000 hospitalizations for abortion complications. However, she said that there is a growing demand among civil societies and the media for policy changes. After the panelist speakers, the floor was open for questions.

Meeting: Universal Access to SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights)

Date/Location: Wednesday March 23, 2016, 13:15 – 14:30, Conference Room 7

Speakers: Susan Alzner, UN-NGLS and moderator; Ms. Managala Namasivayam, Senior Programme Officer of ARROW; Ms. Habbibum Nessa, Naripokkho; Rina Jiminez David, member of board of directors at Likhaan; Dr. P. Balasubramanian, Rural Women’s Social Education Centre

Written By: WIT Representative Kangho (Paul) Jung

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Jade Beall

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

Women Deserve Land Rights Too

This meeting was held to discuss women’s land rights, particularly in reference to the Agenda 2030 goals.

Mrs. Mucavi served as chair, asking “why do we need to care about women and land in the context of the Agenda goals?” She observed how men are often seen as the main source of food security and income, but this does not and should not hold true. Additionally, she noted that land is in fact an asset for individuals — one that can be rented or even sold when faced with economic hardship.

Mr. Stloukal pointed out the true indicators of the outcomes of process and legal changes should be seen as complementing one another, and they help us set priorities on women and access to land, as well as oblige countries to improve the land rights of women. He noted some difficulties, but in general national household and agricultural surveys have worked.

Ms. Pandolfelli pointed out the EDGE Objectives. EDGE stands for evidence and data for gender equality, and the objective of edge is to develop internationally comparable gender indications on factors such as health, entrepreneurship, and asset ownership. She also talked about how data on a core set of assets, such as land assets, can be extremely useful.

Finally, Ms. Nowacka spoke on the OECD’s SIGI-Social Institutions and Gender Index, which was last published in 2014. It has 5 sub-indexes and 21 variables, with 160 countries. She noted how important it is to look specifically for discrimination against women in the law. Finally, she pointed out how whenever women were finally educated on their land rights, they have stood to declare “no, I will not give up my land.”

Meeting: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, UN Women, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Monitoring Women’s Land Rights in the 2030 Agenda

Date/Location: Thursday, March 17, 2016; 13:15-14:30 Conference Room D-GA Building

Speakers: Mrs. Carla Mucavi, Director, FAO Liaison Office New York; Mr. Libor Stloukal, Senior Policy Officer, FAO Headquarters; Ms. Lauren Pandolfelli, UN Statistics Division, UN Women; Ms. Keiko Nowacka, Gender Coordinator, OECD Development Centre

Written By: WIT Representative Olivia Gong

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Betsy Davis Cosme / UN Women Asia & the Pacific / CC BY-NC-ND

Peace And Women Are Building Blocks

Today’s event offered a forum in which panelists shared their views on how to best incorporate women’s leadership in contexts of fragility and conflict and ensure that they are not left behind.

Unlike the MDGs, which included no separate provision for peace and security, the 2030 Agenda (with the introduction of the SDGs) has dedicated an entire goal for peace and security (SDG 16). As Ms. Cabrera-Balleza remarked, “Goal 16 is very important and has been long fought for. How can we talk about sustainable development in a country that is at war?”  She highlighted the importance of including women and civil society in the implementation of the new agenda. We must take the SDGs out of New York and the UN and bring them to the countries affected and in need of sustainable development. We must ensure that they are also owned by local people and communities. To do this, we must translate the SDGs from UN language to one that is broken down and fathomed at local levels. Partnering with local community media is crucial to dissipating the information. We should also give space to women so that they can take the lead in decisions. The “Add Woman or Stir Approach” can no longer be viable.

Ms. Gbowee noted that the 2030 Agenda is one that incorporates almost every thematic area that affects our world. The SDGs are all interconnected and must be achieved together. Further, we must not let the SDGs become trending issues that will later lose relevance. It is time to push and speak the hard truth. She pointed out that women-centered movements have lost their strength and become overly diplomatic. As she stated, “You can never leave footprints that last if you are always walking on tiptoe.”

Meeting: “Women’s Leadership in SDG Implementation in Situations of Conflict and Fragility: Lessons from Somalia and Liberia.”

Date/Location: Wednesday, March 16, 2016; 3:00-4:15 p.m.; Conference Room A

Speakers: Ms. Rosemary Kalapurakal, Moderator; Ms. Sarah Poole, Deputy Director, BPPS, UNDP; Hon. Sahra Mohamaed Ali Samatar, Minister of Women and Human Rights Development; Ms. Leymah Gbowee, Liberian Women’s Rights and Peace Activist, 2011 Nobel  Peace Prize Winner; Ms. Zahra Said Nur, Women’s Rights Activist, Founder of Talowadaag-Somali Women’s Movement; Ms. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, International Coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders

Written By: WIT Representative Emilie Broek

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Cracking Down on Gender-Related Violence

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Today there was a meeting held by the Mission of Qatar and UN Women about the importance of documenting conflict-related sexual and gender based violence as a first step toward accountability.

Recently, there have been mass displacements and increases in violence around the world. Rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery continue to occur in the ongoing battle against sexual and gender-based crimes. In order to efficiently investigate and document these crimes, the need for accountability is fulfilled by the Justice Rapid Response (JRR)-UN Women SGBV Justice Experts Roster.

The speakers discussed specific investigations that enabled the prosecution to raise awareness about these crimes, including those in North Korea, Iraq, and Syria. Ms. Davidian led the meeting and gave a background on how JRR was founded. On September 28th, 2009, there was a massive crackdown in Guinea against a protest for democracy that led to 150 deaths. The Secretary-General established a Commission of Inquiry, and UN Women found that 109 acts of sexual violence had occurred that day. Seeing the need to bring attention to these crimes, the JRR partnership and institute started. Qualified experts from all over the world are trained for 7-10 days, specifically on sexual, gender-based violence, and placed on a roster. Today, approximately 170 professionals are available to assist inquiry and investigations and document to ensure accountability. They ensure linguistic and cultural diversity on the roster to aid victims all around the world.

Ms. Ahmed ensured Arabic speaking professionals on the roster as Qatar’s contribution and stressed the necessity to work harder to prevent such crimes protecting women and girls in armed conflict. Mr. Wenaweser and Mr. Garcia presented Liechtenstein and Argentina’s firm support towards the JRR initiative respectively. Ms. Madenga led a discussion about finding patterns of Boko Haram violence against people.

Meeting: Securing Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender Based Crimes

Date/Location: Wednesday, March 16th, 2016; 10:00-13:00; Conference Room 9

Speakers: H.E. Ms. Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN; H.E. Mr. Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the UN; H.E. Mr. Martín Garcia Moritán, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Argentina to the UN; Mr. Tim Mawe, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN; Ms. Federica Tronchin, SGBV and MENA Region Programme Manager, Justice Rapid Response; Ms. Alison Davidian, Transitional Justice Policy Specialist, UN Women; Ms. Renifa Madenga, SGBV investigator deployed to the Boko Haram Fact Finding Mission

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Francois Guillot / AFP / Getty Images

Enacting Gender Equality Legislation

 

 

The event was hosted by the IPU and UN Women to highlight the important role of parliamentarians in ending discriminatory laws and implementing legislations that promote gender equality within countries. Recalling both the 1995 Beijing world conference and the ratification by 189 states of the CEDAW, importance was placed upon the urgency of finally realizing gender equality. As Ms. Mensah-Williams noted, it is time that parliaments ensure that women empowerment is both protected as well as promoted throughout their legislation. Parliaments must become gender-sensitive entities. “Let us complete the unfinished business of women empowerment. It can no longer be business as usual.”

Mr. Glemarec noted that only through the attainment of gender equality can a sustainable future be reached. Parliaments can ease this process through passing/reforming legislation, voicing concerns of their constituents, ensuring that gender laws are adequately financed, and holding their governments accountable.

Mr. Claros explained that the World Bank has surveyed through constitutions to examine how countries use their laws to discriminate against women. Of the 173 countries surveyed, only 18 of them had laws across all areas that did not discriminate in some way. Ms. Duncan, shared the launching of a new UN Women database that lists gender equality provisions in constitutions across 195 countries: constitutions.unwomen.org/en.

Ms. Emaase said that KEWOPA has managed to pass and repeal legislation in a male-dominant parliament through lobbying, advocacy, and collaboration. Through the creation of the 2010 Kenyan constitution, KEWOPA has also gained greater voice in parliament.

Mr. Chauvel further highlighted the importance of supervising the gathering of data and statistics at the national level. In achieving the SDGs, it must be ensured that no one is left behind in data reporting. He urged that the economic situation of women be considered holistically and not be compartmentalized.

Meeting: “The Power of Legislation for Women’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development.”

Date/Location: Tuesday, March 15, 2016; 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.; ECOSOC Chamber

Speakers: Ms. M. Mensah-Williams, President of the IPU Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians; Mr. Y. Glemarec, UN Assistant Secretary-General, Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programme, UN Women; Ms. Y. Hayashi, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; Mr. A. Lopez Claros, Director, Global Indicators Group, Development Economics, World Bank Group; Ms. Y. Hassan, Global Executive Director, Equality Now; Ms. B. Duncan, Justice and Constitutional Advisor, Leadership and Governance, UN Women; Ms. M.O. Emaase, Member of the National Assembly (Kenya); Mr. C. Chauvel, Team Leader, Inclusive Political Processes, Bureau for Policy and Programmes Support, UNDP

Written By: WIT Representative Emilie Broek

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick