The Right of the Child – The UN takes a stand

Image

This meeting focused on framing points of views of the right of children and adolescents. UN Representative Sajdik spoke about the atrocities being committed against children especially young girls in Nepal. In Nepal girls can be married as early as 72 months old to 12 years old. Such young marriage violates a young girl’s innocence and early pregnancy results in extreme physical pain, as their bodies have not had time to mature to a safe child bearing state.

The organization SOS Children’s Villages works with children who are orphaned, abandoned or neglected. They give these children the opportunity to build lasting relationships within a family. Their family approach is based on four principles: Each child needs a mother, and grows up most naturally with brothers and sisters, in his or her own house, within a supportive village environment.

Nadine Kalpar, the Youth delegate to Austria, spoke of her personal experiences and the abuse that she witnessed other Austrian children go through. According to the information and statistics she gave, all violence against children, including parents, is prohibited. However 30% of parents in Austria aren’t aware or are not threatened by this law, therefore the violence continues. Ms. Kalpar also discussed ageism in the job market. Adolescents and teenagers are viewed as “lazy” and “unreliable” when it comes time to land a job. This is an attitude that needs to be reversed for young people to receive their right to safe, secure work.

Ravi Bajrak, the Youth Delegate to Nepal, insisted that we cannot change the future if we don’t respond to the current violence and injustices against the youth population. Judith Diers, closing the meeting, stated that we can achieve anything with hard work, dedication, and most of all, trust within humanity to do the right

ImageMeeting Title: The Gov. of Austria, The Gov. of Nepal and the SOS Children’s Villages
Speakers: Judith Diers, UNICEF Representative; Mr. Sajdik, Representative of Nepal; Nadine Kalpar, Youth Delegate to Austria; Ravi Bajrak, Youth Delegate to Nepal
Location: United Nations HQ, Conference Room 7, North Lawn Building
Date: 3 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Leslie Anokye
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

 

Advancing progress in Africa beyond 2015: a youth perspective

Image

The third session of the Forum on Youth 2014 focused on the theme of creating an enabling environment for youth to thrive in post-2015 Africa. Moderating the panel, Ms. Ibrahim emphasized that the Youth Bulge in Africa makes a continent of talents, but these valuable human resources are often not translated into the desirable outcomes due to the lack of opportunities.

Mr. Bah stated that a more strenuous effort is required to give African youths the education they want. While African governments are firm in the conviction that education is important, such conviction is not matched by their budgetary commitment. The “business as usual” attitude is not good enough for post-2015 education, as Africa is the only continent where the secondary school completion rate has not increased in the past decade.

Ms. Agyemang commented that social inclusion of women is crucial for unleashing Africa’s potential. The paternalistic worldview of some communities curtails women from exercising their land rights, and thereby limiting Africa’s opportunities. She said that through further education, human rights and good governance can be infused into the communities as core values.

Mr. Hachonda spoke on the advancements needed in the area of reproductive health through comprehensive sexuality education. He believed the lack of such education is culpable for denying girls full reproductive rights.

Ms. Allam stated that African youth are enthusiastic advocates for climate change, and juxtaposed their enthusiasm with the lack of cooperation among African governments. She called for international cooperation in the transfer of know-how to combat climate change, for assistance should not only come in monetary form.

One recurring contribution from the floor was that African youths are ready to see to it the changes they want, and are not be content with being in the periphery of the decision-making process.

Image

Meeting Title: Advancing progress in Africa beyond 2015: a youth perspective
Speakers: Ms. Hadeel Ibrahim, Founding Executive Director, Mo Ibrahim Foundation (Moderator); Mr. Chernor Bah, Chairperson, Youth Advocacy Group for the Global Education First Initiative; Ms. Danielle Agyemang, Program Coordinator and Liaison to the World Youth Movement for Democracy–NED; Mr. Holo Hachonda, Member, High-Level Task Force for the ICPD, and Program Director, BroadReach Healthcare; Ms. Mariam Mohamed Abdullah Abdelhafiz Allam, National Coordinator of the Arab Youth Climate Movement.
Location: United Nations Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber
Date: 2 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Harrison Chung
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

 

#Youth2015: Realising the future they want

Opening of the Forum on Youth 2014 

“The future is yours so you have your own prerogatives to raise your voices. There is no plan B because there is no planet B. ”

– H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

As emphasised by H.E. Secretary General, today’s youth are leaders in all areas from technology to politics, the arts to science. Already young people are making their mark on history by altering traditional power structures. H.E. Ban Ki-moon asked that the youth continue to play their crucial role challenging and transforming the future.

H.E. Martin Sajdik, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), praised our youth as catalysts for change, as their imagination and energy innovates societies to grow and achieve a greater quality of life. H.E. Martin Sajdik asked the world to include the youth population, totaling 1.8 billion, to revolutionize our global system as providers, problem solvers and mentors.

 H.E. John Ashe, President of the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly, explained his desire for youth to get involved especially as nations are working together towards setting agendas post 2015. These ‘sustainable development goals’ aim to transform our world by 2030, a period that will be run by leaders who are the youth of today. Therefore youth participation is essential so that their vision is encapsulated in the UN’s mission.

Youth Advisor for CIVICUS Alliance, Ms. Brittany Trilford shared that 85% of the youth population lives in developing countries. These people are the next generation of workers, leaders and activists. Therefore they should be targeted in development schemes.

Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, explained the global connection amongst young people, through the same struggles to realise the same aspirations. Mr. Alhendawi believes an important element to the post 2015 agenda should be the role of young women as assets and drivers for development.

BpIc3LkCQAEbrZi

Meeting Title: United Nations ECOSOC Forum on Youth 2014: Opening Session
Performance by: Lisa Russell Spoken Word Artists
Speakers: President of the Economic and Social Council H.E. Martin Sajdik,  Secretary-General of the United Nations H.E. Ban Ki-moon, President of the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly H.E. John Ashe, Youth Advisor of CIVICUS Alliance Ms. Brittany Trilford, and United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi
Location: United Nations HQ, New York
Date: 2 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

Continued Instability Leading up to Elections

The Ukrainian Crisis continues: Ukrainian women stand up for their right to participate

Image

The international community has watched as conflict has risen throughout Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of Crimea has lead to the displacement of over 10,000 people, mostly of the ethnic population, the Tatars. As the search to find effective resolutions continue the situation remains unstable and it is impossible to predict the outcome of this weekend’s Presidential election on Sunday the 25th of May.

Miss Natalia Karbowska from the Ukrainian Women’s Fund shared three key personal observations from her participation in Ukraine situation since November of 2013. The first was the power of civil society, as millions of people gathered at Maidan Nezalezhnosti throughout December, January and February. This active civil society protests for changing policies, rule of law that respects diversity and improving the life of Ukrainians. Secondly, women that were expected to hold stereotypical roles instead participated in protests in Kiev, and hundreds of women that were doctors, lawyers and other professional became the protectors of their communities from government sponsored rebels. Thirdly, the division across Ukraine has been historically significant and yet in the past 22 years since its democratisation none of the Ukrainian presidents have enforced a cohesive initiative to unite the Ukrainian people and bridge the cultural gap.

Professor Grigore Pop-Eleches from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University presented data on the separatist movement throughout Ukraine. Across political, economic and ethnic perceptions the country is clearly divided geographically between the West and the East, particularly the Southeastern region. This significant divide creates a nervous and unstable civil society, which is a risky and unpredictable environment for the upcoming Presidential elections. Alongside the rift within Ukraine geographically there is also a detachment between the civil society and politicians particularly towards women who are often excluded from political proceedings.

Meeting Title: Invest in Women for Peace: Conflict Prevention and Women’s Participation in Ukraine
Speakers: H.E. Ambassador of Liechtenstein Christian Wenaweser, Grigore Pop-Eleches from Princeton University and Natalia Karbowska from Ukrainians Women’s Fund
Location: United Nations HQ, New York
Date: 21 May 2014
Written by WIT representatives: Sophia Griffiths-Mark, Modou Cham and Rachel Lauren

Break the Silence

“Break the silence.
When you witness violence against women and girls do not sit back.
Act.”
~ Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General

stop_violence_against_women 

Violence against women is one of the gravest infringements of human rights and affects women across every country in the world. Chairman H.E. Michel Spinellis opened the meeting by discussing the continued gap between an emotional commitment to ending violence against women and action that eliminates its occurrence.

The European Union formulated a union-wide survey with the FRA (European Union agency for fundamental rights). The Survey interviewed 1,500 women in each of the 28 member states to gather data that showed the areas in which intervention had been a success in the EU and exposed dimensions that lead to the continued attack against European women in their own homes everyday.

Mr Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, head of the Equality and Citizens’ Rights Department at FRA, explained that the interviews involved questions about physical, sexual and psychological violence and the results were distressing; 1:3 women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence (at least once since they were 15) and 1:5 women had been sexually abused by a current partner in the previous twelve months (2011-2012). The interview discussions revealed that new technologies had enabled contemporary forms of sexual and psychological violence through online sites and messaging. Mr Dimitrakopoulos insisted the European community needed to change the cultural perception of law enforcement and other services so that women felt more empowered reporting the attacks, rather than ashamed or fearful, and then perpetrators could be convicted.

Mr Ioannis Vrailas explained that all EU member states have formed aligned legislation for the protection of women and insisted on the continued need for active political dialogue to continue promoting the inherent rights of every woman and young girl.

Ms Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN-Women, expressed her admiration of the EU’s groundbreaking efforts to create an extensive survey with the ability to be replicated worldwide.

 

Meeting Title: Panel discussion on “Violence against women across the European Union: Presentation of a 2014, European Union-wide survey”
Speakers: H.E. Michel Spinellis, Mr Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, Mr Ioannis Vrailas, and Ms Lakshmi Puri
Location: United Nations HQ, New York
Date: 14 May 2014
Written by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

 

Invest in Women

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 4 March 2014

Women’s Empowerment and equality has been an initiative at the United Nations since the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in 1979. Since then, many efforts have been made, but women are still at a much greater disadvantage to education, work, independence, and positions of power, just to name a few. The meeting held at the start of the 3 weeks focused on women’s empowerment was about how to take steps in the private sector to invest in women as entrepreneurs. Many different speakers shared insight from their experience and industries, a call for responsibility and action on all fronts was echoed into the afternoon.

Carolyn Buck Luce, the days moderator, explained the shifts currently taking place, lending a hand to women’s empowerment, and gender balance. “Executives are realizing that it’s up to us, there is a tipping point emerging where companies will need to embrace a longer term view and embrace the possibility that they could be a unique engine for sustainability and equality in the world.” Ambassador Melanne Verveer followed with the understanding that women invest their earned money back into the family, only enhancing the family unit and the success those children experience. “Women may be victimized,” said the ambassador, “but are not victims.”

Image

In Africa, 43% less women than men have access to the internet. She Will Connect, launched by Intel in 2013, puts emphasis on targeted countries to make internet more accessible to women who are completely disconnected. It is initiatives like this in the private sector, among others that become game changers for women everywhere. Another example is The Coca-Cola Company, who started the 5by20 movement, to empower 5 million female entrepreneurs globally by 2020. The majority of women find themselves in the bottom line of companies pyramids. Entrepreneurs and industries have started businesses training and learning programs for women to gain skills and agency in the industry that has exploited them for so long. Erika Karp, the CEO of an investment firm focused on creating sustainable solutions for capitalism, had a compelling moment during the panel. She stated that we must have synergy with all of the issues: climate change, sustainable energy, women’s empowerment, access to water; all of these issues must come together to guide the world because the time for change is right now.

Meeting Title: International Women’s Day 2014: Turning Inspiration into Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally

Key Speakers: Carolyn Buck Luce (Managing Partner-Imaginal Labs), Robert Orr (Assistant Secretary General for Strategic Planning), John McKernan (President-U.S. Chamber of Commerce), Ambassador Melanne Verveer (Executive Director-Institute for Peace), Chelsea Clinton (Vice Chair-Clinton Foundation), Jane Nelson (Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative), Pierre Börjesson (Senior Sustainability Specialist- H&M), Dotti Hatcher (Executive Director- P.A.C.E. Global Initiatives), Diane Melley (V.P. Global Citizenship Initiatives- IBM), Charlotte Oades (Women’s Economic Empowerment- The Coca-Cola Company), Aman Singh (Editorial Director- CSRwire.com), Priya Agrawal (Executive Director- Merk for Mothers), Sharon D’Agostino (V.P. Corporate Citizenship-J&J), Leith Greenslade (Vice-Chair- Office of UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals), Rebecca Fries (Director- Value for Women), Dr. Jeff Lundy (Manager-Research- Corporate Citizenship Center- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation), Jeannette Ferran Astorga (V.P. Corporate Social Responsibility, ANN Inc.), Michelle Greene (Head of Corporate Responsibility-NYSE EuroNext), Mary Ellen Iskenderian (President and CEO-Women’s World Banking), Erika Karp (CEO-Cornerstone Capital Group), Kara Valikai (Director-corporate Citizenship Center- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation), Dr. Vishakha Desai (President Emerita), Sahba Sobhani (Acting Programme Manager), Marc DeCourcey (Executive Director- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation)

Written by WIT Representative: Stephanie Harris

“Be globally literate and globally sensitive, the time is truly now!” -Dr. Vishakha Desai

The Need for Women’s Empowerment in Policy and Intervention

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 5 February 2104

This discussion began with the executive director of UN-Women, who first asserted that women’s empowerment is key to sustainable development. She stated that one fifth of Africa has food insecurity. The solution for this problem, she stated, is to create a system in which all people who are affected by the area’s problems can help in decision-making, more specifically allowing women to become more involved in planning solutions that directly involve them. She stated that women in developing countries spent a staggering number of hours per year collecting water, about 40 billion hours to be exact, however they are not involved in the decision-making processes for cleaner water. “The women’s agenda is an agenda for half the population of all countries and needs to be integral in what we do to score high in any millennium development goals,” said Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. She felt that the progress in this area has been unacceptably slow and that there must be more action made by governments in order to align themselves with international investment organizations.

Image

The executive director of the UNFPA, then addressed one of the root causes of this problem: the inherent cultural ideas surrounding women. He stated that we must address the women’s place in society, providing the example that in some cultures, if a husband does not like his wife, he can pour acid on her face. These cultural norms and lack of respect for women are things that he believed contributed towards the lack of sustainable development, and stated that there is a direct correlation in the participation of women in parliament with the success of the nation, citing Rwanda’s growing economy and large number of women in parliament to support this claim. The main question that representatives of countries then posed is that if we already have all of these organizations to raise awareness about women’s empowerment in developing countries, then what is the world doing wrong and why is this issue still so prevalent. The representatives from UNWOMEN and the UNFPA responded by asserting that the solution is to ensure that women are given an education and are able to access that education. The committee seemed to agree that women needed to be given more rights, education, and power.

Meeting Title: The Role of Women’s Empowerment in Sustainable Development

Key Speakers: Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka- Executive Director of UN-Women, Executive director of UNFPA- Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Representatives from the permanent missions of Tanzania, Palau, Guatemala, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Bolivia (speaking on behalf of G77), and Ireland, representatives from the European Union and CARICOM

Written by WIT Intern: Rachel Lauren

Post 2015 Development Agenda Recommendations

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 20 January 2014

On Monday, January 20th, the Woman’s International Forum (WIF) held a presentation featuring Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, special advisor to the secretary general on the post-2015 development planning. She opened her presentation by recognizing the 715 days left to accomplish current Millennial Development Goals (MDGs). With little time before the post-2015 agenda is implemented, Ms. Mohammed suggested various changes to the MDG’s to better adapt the new agenda with current global affairs. The special advisor stated the most essential characteristic of the post-2015 agenda is the need for realistic goals with common denominators. She finds this quality imperative to the effectiveness and adherence to the post-2015 agenda.

Following her introduction, Ms. Amina Mohammed continued her presentation by arguing that the post-2015 agenda should distribute its goals between climate change, openness and responsibility of governments, inequality and discrimination, technology, and job security rather than focusing primarily on poverty. Although she acknowledges the gravity of poverty throughout the world, she stated that the current MDGs focus far too heavily on this issue and not enough on the areas previously mentioned. Moreover, Ms. Mohammed argued that gender inequality should be a priority in the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. With inequality and discrimination embedded in economic, social, and political domains, the advisor to the secretary general emphasized that societies will not be able to successfully evolve, making regional issues of the world generational issues. The post-2015 agenda gives member states an opportunity for a global paradigm shift, changing worldwide views that negatively effect the population.

The final part of her presentation addressed the significance of the post-2015 agenda’s global success. “Failure is not an option,” Ms. Mohammed stated, as she argued the progress for this agenda must not mirror the limited success of the current MDGs. In addition, Ms. Mohammed emphasized the use of pilot projects should be completely eliminated in the post-2015 agenda, explaining the wealth of knowledge in the world to know if a program will be effective and scalable. She supported this idea with her personal experiences in Nauru, the United Nation’s smallest member state with a population of less than 10,000. With poverty rates extremely high and a meek future for their young people, Ms. Mohammed argued that the post-2015 development agenda must reach small nations similar to Nauru, as it is essential this agenda does not, “leave any member state behind.”

Image

Meeting Title: Women’s International Forum: Meeting on “The Post-2015 Development Agenda – Enabling a life of dignity for all”

Key Speakers: Special Advisor of the Secretary General on Post-2015 Development Planning, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, H.E. Irmeli Viinanen, H.E. Malini Nambiar

Written by WIT Representative: Alexander Luong