Monday, April 6, 2015

Prostitution is the Oldest Oppression

Prostitution, Sex-Trafficking, and the Human Rights Abuse Inherent to the Sex Trade panel was the most emotional of the CSW 2015. The panel was arranged by SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment) and Women’s Front of Norway. In her introduction, the chair provided examples of Norway and Sweden where prostitution is illegal. In Sweden, purchasing sexual services, pimping, procuring, and running a brothel are prohibited. In addition, Norway legally banned advertisements of sexual services. The panel called other countries to follow Scandinavian example.

Some statements from the panel: “Prostitution is a fundamental violence of human rights. Prostitution is a torture. Prostitution denies women rights. Prostitution is a slavery.”

Among panelists I saw wonderful, active, and cheerful ladies. The chair introduced some of them as survivors of the sex exploitation. Each of them shared their own personal story. They faced the other side of the society where everyone turned away from them.

After years of torture, violence, and abuse, she decided to start a new page of her life and get a higher education degree. She applied and was refused twice because of her past. “I was not seen as a human being with a heart and soul,” she concluded. Now, she has a degree in social work and got a job where she is not beaten and hurt.

A girl from Canadian First Nations did not choose it, she was forced to this at the age of 12. She got a trauma, it was a hell, her dignity was taken away. She become pregnant. “The birth of a little girl stopped me from prostitution. I decided that my girl will not go through this.” Society has failed to protect her. It labelled her as a parasite, a dangerous offender. She was beaten and tortured. He broke her jaw and arm. “I want to be reborn.” Her pimp is still free and continues to kill young girls’ future. In Canada, she says, indigenous girls are sold at the age of 8 and 9. They are called "blueberries because they are wild". Comparing to other girls, they are paid less. Human trafficking, prostitution, and pimping should be criminalized in every country. It can be stopped. Think of slavery or a death penalty.

Panelists ended saying: “Prostitution is not the oldest profession, it is the oldest oppression.”   

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ООН за права женщин

8 марта, в Международный женский день, в Нью-Йорке состоялся марш за половое равноправие и права женщин. Марш был организован структурой Организации Объединённых Наций “ООН-Женщины” и призывал покончить с насилием в отношении женщин, производить равную оплату труда, обеспечить половое равноправие и расширить права и возможности женщин.   

В этом году марш был посвящен двадцатилетию принятия Пекинской декларации на четвертой Всемирной конференции по положению женщин (4-15 сентября 1995 г.). Марш начался с митинга на площади имени Дага Хаммаршёльда с участием Генерального секретаря ООН господина Пан Ги Муна и его супруги госпожи Ю Сун Дэк, первой леди города Нью-Йорка Билла де Блазио и других деятелей культуры и искусства. Генеральный секретарь призвал к 2030 году добиться полного равноправия женщин и мужчин.   

Среди участников марша за права женщин были студенты, преподаватели, представители различных неправительственных организаций, работники ООН, жители города Нью-Йорка и участники 58-й сессии Комиссии ООН по положению женщин. Марш прошел по второй авеню, 42-й улице и завершился на площади Таймс-сквер.

Марш, прошедший в Нью-Йорке 107 лет назад 8 марта с участием 15 000 женщин, призывавших за право участвовать в выборах, лучших условий оплаты труда и сокращения продолжительности рабочего дня, послужил к учреждению Международного женского дня. С 28 февраля 1909 согласно заявлению Социалистической партии Америки праздник начал отмечаться на всей территории США до 1913. 27 августа 1910 года в Копенгагене на Второй международной социалистической женской конференции представительница Социал-демократической партии Германии Клара Цеткин выступила об учреждении Международного женского дня. (Из,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Making of Non-Violent Societies for Women: Reflections on Post 2015 Agenda

In a panel sponsored by Centre for Social Research India, Dr. Ranjana Kumari and a few women's rights activists and gender experts from across Asia and Pacific discussed the progress towards building a safe space for women and its inclusion as one the most important agenda post 2015.

This session is called "Making of Non-Violent Societies for Women: Reflections on Post 2015 Agenda". This event underlined the critiques raised o the Political Declaration on the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. The Panel commented on the inclusion of women's rights in the declaration along with the usage of appropriate language in the draft.

Dr. Ranjana Kumari addressed that violence against women is still a huge issue considering it affects the lives of millions of women worldwide even today. Violence against women takes various forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. Dr. Ranjana and her team have tried to work on those issues through making practical and tangible change on a grassroots level in Indian context through political empowerment, economic empowerment, and social-legal empowerment of women in India.

To address issues of violence, "bring men in" is the key factor here. A male representative from ManUp shared an incredible insight about engaging men and boys to stop violence against women and girls. Through the universal platforms of sport, music, technology and the arts, ManUp Campaign is trying to build and develop new role models for young boys, which activates youth to stop violence against women and girls.

Feminist Sociological Perspectives: Gender-Based Violence and the Continued Struggle for Equality in a Post 2015 Agenda

In a penal sponsored by Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), active scholars gathered together to have conversations about gender-based violence and the continued struggles for equality in a post-2015 agenda from feminist sociological perspectives.

Dr. Manisha Desai from the University of Connecticut examines the relationship between feminisms and globalization when it comes to gendered-based violence. She suggests that feminism is an important force to shape globalization, which requires us to see changes in the shifting contexts to analyze gender-related issues. She reminds us to pay attention to the shifting context from a transnational feminist perspective. She argues that transnational feminism has shaped spaces of global politics by providing theoretical frameworks, organizational structures, and strategies. For example, the sex worker's movement since 1990s has created a space for sex workers to develop a union to negotiate their rights and to react to rescue discourses. They are new actors who are developing new strategies in the new contexts, rather than victims of sex trafficking who do not have any agency waiting to be rescued.

One scholar from this penal revisited the 1994 Rwanda Genocide to examine the relationships between genocide and gender. During 1994 Rwanda genocide, over 250,000 women were raped. Because of gendered dynamics, such as women are primarily care providers for their children, most women were killed with their children. After the genocide, there are still a lot of challenges for women survivors in Rwanda right now. A lot of them are poor and traumatized. Due to lack of awareness of assistance, they are disconnected. Besides, women who were raped are less likely to report and ask for help from large institutions.

Women Ending Racism

The penal started with a beautiful song. "Keep on moving forward, never turning back..." Representatives from this panel began to be emotional at the very beginning of this session.

The title of this penal is called "Women Ending Racism." This event is sponsored by No Limits For Women, which is an international organization of women (with men as allies) dedicated to eliminating sexism and racism throughout the world. Using the tools of Re-evaluation Counseling, No Limits For Women offers a system of ongoing mutual support in which women can help free each other from the emotional harm done by sexism and racism. It also provides distinctive perspectives on issues facing women worldwide, such as violence against women, young women and girls in leadership, women ending racism, and women in partnership with men. Representatives engaged a lot of interactions with attendees. 

This penal addressed that it was important for us to situate women's experience in a multilayers oppression system. Often, we fail to account for and explain how overlapping systems of advantage and disadvantage affect individuals' opportunity structure, lifestyles, and social hardships. The idea of intersectionality implies that we cannot understand the lives of poor White single mothers or gay Black men by examining only one dimension of their lives-class, gender, race, or sexuality, Indeed, we must explore their lives in their full complexity, examining how these various dimensions come together and structure their existence. We must keep in mind that racism and sexism always work hand in hand to produce and reproduce the subordination of women, especially women of color.

In the end, representatives mentioned that we should not ignore the power of emotion sharing and story telling. It is a healing process, which would free our mind, and let the whole world understand who we are and what we can be capable of. The true liberation lies in there.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Slavery in the Modern Age and the Role of Law Enforcement

The panel began with a story. A young African American girl on a train trying to talk to the police officers on board. The mom tried to control the young girl and explained not to talked to strangers. Something has changed in the way we view law enforcement, instead of being friendly faces within the community, they are enforcers of law that are separate from the community. This was an important point to make to frame the panels argument that law enforcement needs to change the way they interact with society, especially when it comes to victims of sexual violence. The goal of police and law enforcement its to serve and protect the integrity and value of human life. When it comes to sex trafficking, the police need to understand that the women are the victims and need to have the capacity to deal with the emotional and psychological trama the women have and will face. Here in the US, we have been desensitized to human trafficking, in that we have forgotten it happens here at home. 

There are many forms of trafficking, including sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor (bonded or debt bondage), involuntary domestic servitude and forced child labor and child soldiers. The panel handed out pamphlets that laid out how even though we are removed from direct forms of trafficking, the food we eat, the products we buy and the consumer items we used on a daily basis may have been victims of forced labor. To find out the impact your daily life has on modern slavery check out 

Overall, the panel discussed how slavery still exists in our modern world. About 17-20 million people are projected to live in this kind of situation but only 44,000 cases have been identified. Of those cases, its questionable how many are handled in the correct fashion. The panel suggested we must engage the police and community to understand how when one person is trafficked, the community suffers as a whole. Everyone needs to work together so that when a women reports violence, they do not get punished or ostracized by society. The problem is, many women do not report violence because they fear being ridiculed and believe law enforcement will not handle the situation in a productive manner. This creates problems when it comes to reporting data. In order to get funding, there has to be reportable and reliable data that demonstrates there is a need for new programs and research to understand best practices in dealing with sexual violence. The panel did not discuss solutions exactly, but they all focused on the necessity of community members and police to work together to understand trafficking could be occurring near you. To see how this is happening in the United States check out under the human trafficking and human smuggling page. 

Holding the Real Criminals Responsible; Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

The question was posed... what is prostitution?

  • "Commercialization of sexual deeds and the cornerstone of gender inequality"
  • "Paid rape, involuntary servitude. It is not about sex to the person being sold, it is an ask of desperation for her as a result of the lack of alternatives"
  • "Buying and selling of women and girls, sexual torture"

This is how the panel members defined and discussed prostitution. Despite these terrible descriptions, people often argue that prostitution and sex trafficking offer women in poverty a chance to make a living and a chance at a better life. It can be argued that they have more power and control than the men buying their services by taking advantage of their circumstances to make a living. This is the foundation for arguing that by legalizing prostitution, the women would be safer and have more control over the industry. It also allows them to take men and pimps to court that violate them. This panel argued, legal or not, these women are being violated which is demonstrated by their definitions. They do not have a choice and sex cannot be bought. It is only being bought by one person, the man, and the women is basically an object men can violate in whatever way they please.

The women on this panel felt very strongly that prostitution is not a choice, its not sex and it results in lifelong physical and psychological damage. Legalizing prostitution, as has been done in many countries, has not improved the situation at hand. In fact, violence in Germany increased and an illegal industry grew as a result. The panel agreed that the best way to go about legislation regarding sex trafficking and prostitution is the Nordic Model. The Nordic Model ensures that the women are not criminalized, focuses on punishing the sex buyers and provides exit services for the women. The police are trained not to detain these women in prisons for more then 48 hours because they are not the criminals. The sex buyers are sanctioned by more then just a slap on the wrist that equivalent to a violation for j walking. The exit services are extremely important so that women receive the psychological treatment they need, find out who she is and keep their records clean from criminal activity that allows them to move forward in life.

It is important the UN and the world recognize this model is the only model that makes sense and criminalizes the right individuals when it comes to sex trafficking and prostitution. A version of this model has been exemplified in Minnesota, through a non-profit called Breaking Free. The main goal is to provide a better way to deal with criminalizing sex buyers and taking care of the women upon exiting the industry. Additionally, the organization helps  educate society about the reality of violence against women and help young girls understand there is an alternative.

The panel moderator was from the Coalition Against Trafficking and in Women (CATW) and more information can be found here Vednita Carter's foundation, Breaking Free, can be found here

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Real men are allowed to cry

Amongst a conference bustling with thousands of women debating about female struggles amongst other women, it was more than refreshing to assume a different perspective in the session, “Real Men Do Not Hurt Others: Ending Sexual and Gender Based Violence by Working with Men and Boys on Positive/Transformative Masculinities”, where I was greeted by an enthusiastic all-male panel. It was both a comforting and morale boosting experience for all the women in the room to be reassured that they are not fighting the feminist fight alone, but rather backed by the strength and support of many influential men also devoted to their cause.

Panelists included a president of a Canadian-based NGO focused on youth empowerment and violence prevention, a South African minister raised by a single-father, and an English-Anglican priest working for Christian Aid International. Together, these men from colored backgrounds all agreed that a major underlying threat to women’s empowerment is the way in which the idea of ‘masculinity’ is socialized in society. Universally, men are expected to uphold a degree of masculinity that is characterized as being successful in their finances and careers, emotionally and physically strong, and exercising power and dominance in whatever they do. Images of these ideals are inescapable, persisting in traditional family dynamics, societal judgments, and media. Many times, as we are familiar, these pressures of socialization initiate a need that men experience to display, or prove their masculinity to others when they feel as though they are frustrated, vulnerable, or being challenged - which often results in aggression towards others, especially women and girls in their lives.

Therefore, the panelists argued, women will never be able to be fully empowered until this harmful, discriminatory concept of masculinity is broken down. With this understanding, it is men too that need to be targeted through education and empowerment in a movement towards an equal society. Specifically, we need to transform the definition of what it means to be a “real man” into a concept that acknowledges and accepts men’s ability to feel, empathize, lose, and cry, to ultimately delineate the idea of masculinity and domination. The strength associated with masculinity should be interpreted as a strength to love, care, help, and protect rather than hurt. We also need to recognize that while striving for positions of leadership and power, whether official (president of a company) or unofficial (patriarch of a household) is natural, that it no longer becomes a positive attribute when such power is used to injure, hurt, or undermine the rights of others – and be able to identify when such abuse of power is occurring. In this way, these panelists insist that gender issues are not solely about women, but also involve and affect everyone. Not only will achieving gender equality help women escape societal oppression and domestic violence, it will also save many male lives, such as the seven men for every one women who die a violent death in an attempt to defend their “alpha-male” qualities. 

Organizations such as NGOs have the power to bring together men, women, boys and girls from around the world and unite them under the universally beneficial goal of challenging dominant patriarchy. This can be done through empowerment of both sexes by raising the self-esteem of both men and women to be comfortable in challenging gender-norms and standing up to defend their individual feelings, opinions, and societal roles regardless of their biological sex. Camaraderie, rather than competition, should be the desired relationship amongst males and respect, rather than control, should be the desired relationship between males and females. While feminism roots itself in female empowerment, this socially transformative goal cannot be achieved without willing collaboration between both sexes - for if the socialization of masculinity continues to “project a fragile male ego, and women continue to submit themselves to protecting this ego”, this oppressive system will remain unbroken.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An attempt to challenge patriarchy

Development in Practice and Christian Aid Nigeria sponsored an event called “GEADOR: Breaking Down Gendered Barriers in a Patriarchal Society”, an inspiring panel focused on the organizations’ attempts to work together to challenge existing social structures and give voice to women in rural Nigeria, a society where they are traditionally excluded and oppressed.

This approach was called GEADOR (Gender Empowerment And Development Organizing Resource), and worked at local, village levels with both sexes in order to improve gender equity perspectives and empower women in a nation where women constitute merely 6.4-6.9% of the country’s government. These NGOs believed that the key to improving women’s degrading conditions under traditional patriarchy lay in promoting female statuses within Nigerian communities along with encouraging greater contributions of women and girls at all levels of development. 

Specifically, the approach tried to work together in unity with older men, older women, younger boys, and younger girls in order to tackle barriers upholding inequality of opportunity for female achievement such as the absence of women in decision-making positions, the poor accountability of the state to implement and support women’s rights, and underlying traditional customs such as the inability for women to inherit land or property of their own. Such obstacles were self-identified by focus groups separated by age and gender, since it was assumed that such controversial topics would be more easily discussed among peers. Later however, these groups were brought together for an open discussion as a cohesive group in order to analyze participants of all ages and genders in their ability to listen to and accept different perspectives on gender issues and challenge the accepted, yet oppressive, norms of their society. 

These organizations were thrilled to report that open dialogue among village men and women of all ages had positive consequences for the communities in which GEADOR was implemented. Since the approach was put into practice in 2013, more women have been invited by village members and chiefs to participate in community practices and public meetings than ever before. Additionally, threats facing women are increasingly brought up in discussion and are being addressed by the village community, such as the traumatic customary practice of exiling widows for three months following their husband’s passing being reduced to just one week.

 The organizations attribute this monumental success to their realistic approach, such as agreeing to avoid certain “no-go” topics as discussion of women becoming King, or the questioning of non-harmful traditions such as the women offering male guests sacred fruit. This is also helped along with the support offered by community leaders who back the GEADOR programs and volunteer specific male participants from their villages that they believe would best be open to gender equity ideas, and best be willing to share what they have learned with the rest of their community. In this way, GEADOR has allowed NGOs to defiantly create safe spaces for women and girls to capture their voices and build a strong sense of self-esteem in a region where females are often the least seen and the least heard.

“Let’s criminalize sex purchases!”

Perhaps the most powerful panel I attended at the 59th annual Commission on the Status of Women was entitled “Criminalizing Sex Purchase: A Method to Combat HIV/AIDS?”. This session was sponsored by National Organization for Women’s Shelters, Young Women’s Shelters in Sweden, and Unizon, and its impressive panel included women physicians/healthcare workers, activists (such as Rachira Gupta, recipient of Clinton Global Initiative Award and an Emmy Award), and retired sex workers themselves from around the globe.

Boldly, these women began their presentation challenging the stance of the United Nations/UN Women in their effort to legalize prostitution. This, they argue, does not at all help protect or empower sex worker women for many reasons, the most important of which being that most women do not want to be sex workers at all. It is impossible to delineate prostitution from human trafficking and as long as prostitution continues to take place, so too will women being forced, captured, or sold into sex work because the demand for their services remains no matter where, why, or what conditions the women workers come from. Therefore, decriminalization of prostitution more times than often ends up decriminalizing pimping and brothels, and giving sex purchasers impunity while leaving sex workers alone with no support of the law behind them.

Furthermore, legalizing prostitution is flawed, the panel insisted, because it assumes that women possess equal status and opportunity to exercise choice in the matter of involving themselves in sex work in the first place, which disregards whether they are trafficked, monitored by pimps, or left with no other options to support their family. Additionally, it also disregards these women’s ability to exercise choice in the critical decisions that are part of such work such as using condoms, untraditional/violent penetration, or knowing whether their partners are infected with sexually transmitted infections. Unfortunately, many sex workers perceive their status as subordinate to their pimps and their purchasers, or are in desperate financial situations that lead them to silence their opinions, no longer consider their own health, and accept more money for riskier clients/behaviors.

Optimistically, the “Nordic Model” approach to prostitution has shown promising results in Europe after widespread enforcement of laws decriminalizing sex workers themselves, but criminalizing sex buyers for their purchases. Here, legislation attacks the overwhelming demand for prostitution by assigning punishment and accountability to purchasers, scaring them away and leading to less instances of prostitution altogether – a step towards the ultimate goal of total abolishment of sex work. Specific data on Nordic societies with this legislation, such as Sweden, compared to similarly cultured societies that legalized the transaction of prostitution, such as Germany, is striking. There is a steep decline in instances of sex work in Sweden where buyers are targeted, but a blooming industry in Germany under open purchase laws, with about 4,000 women catering to about one million men each day, with an increasing amount of those 4,000 women being trafficked into the industry.

Ultimately, the panel acknowledged that the eradication of prostitution is a long, hard battle, but they emphasized the importance of absolutely terminating such work, and offered a few strategic steps towards achieving this lofty goal. Firstly, they asked that more data, and more recent data be gathered on prostitution and its effects. This is important because current decisions to legalize prostitution are being made based on outdated and overall minimally available information on the trends and consequences of the industry. Secondly, the panel begged for the true lack of agency women are able to express to be acknowledged, and that these fundamentally unequal grounds in which they stand against men do not allow them a fair opportunity to exercise choice in sexual matters. And further, they called for the recognition that it is this societal inequality that causes the legalization of prostitution to continue to cultivate a culture where men believe women are items that can be used and bought under their own demand. Lastly however, the panel underscored the fact that the fight against prostitution should most importantly be recognized as every person’s battle that is in every person’s best interest, since it not only the sex workers and the sex purchasers that are at risk for adverse consequences such as sexually transmitted infections, but also these people’s own spouses and other partners that remain oblivious and not considered in the decision-making of such risky behaviors.  

Is all we need a little more justice?

In a panel sponsored by Crossroads International and Women in Law and Development in Africa, a series of women representatives from Togo, Swaziland, and Ghana gathered together to discuss “Decreasing Violence against Women through Access to Justice” in their different contexts. Agreeing that all women’s organizations have a unifying goal of violence prevention and obtainment of equal rights, the women on this panel aimed at opening women’s access to justice in their countries, specifically by the passing of empowering legislation and the insurance of its implementation on the ground. And, in order to do so, these women shared how their organizations strive to strike a balance of working with both government and civil society through gendered perspectives in order to promote women’s empowerment from the grassroots level up.

In order to set the stage, panelists from Togo, Swaziland, and Ghana explained the social and legal climate surrounding women’s issues in their country. In Togo, 42% of married women are subjected to physical and/or psychological violence, and these victims are left unsupported without the backing of the law. While a ‘family code’ exists within the current legal framework of the nation, this code is against discriminatory treatment in general – but not specific to women and girls. Without this specificity, perpetrators abusing women and girls remain unpunished and unaccountable for their actions and their actions’ consequences. This lack of justice and accountability is exacerbated by a disorganized national police force that does not have precedents or protocols established for properly handling cases of violence against women, leaving many abusive situations inadequately addressed. 

In Swaziland, legislation against gender-based violence does in fact exist, however its writing is archaic, dating back between the years 1880 – 1920 and has not evolved to address the threats and dangers that women face in modern day. For instance, violation of a women through anal penetration or penetration with an object is not mentioned under the law, and is regularly considered a simple assault through the eyes of the court. Magnifying this problem is Swaziland’s monarchical system of government that allows the nation’s King to veto any bill that he does not see fit, such as he did with recent legislation designed to protect women in both public and domestic spheres in modern day.

Prior to the passing of any legislation in Ghana, one out of every three women in the country was physically abused and one out of every five women in the country was psychologically abused. Now however, Ghana can serve as a slightly more positive example, boasting quite progressive anti-violence laws for their region, the most recent passed in 2007. Nevertheless, Ghanaians are not immune to the aforementioned obstacles of their region, as demonstrated by the seven-year long struggle it took for such legislation to be passed. Additionally, it is important to note that the act of passing legislation does not automatically translate to the adoption of such practices on the ground, as many Ghanaians continue to struggle unaware of the law or unsure of how to properly use it.

Therefore, while these women interestingly represented three different organizations hailing from experiences in three different nations, the synchrony of their underlying fights and aspirations was striking. The whole panel agreed that the struggle to protect women against instances of violence and to open their access to the justice system is an ongoing, uphill battle against the region’s inflexible customs of patriarchy that are so deeply embedded in their legal and social systems. The panel also believed that “advocacy, advocacy, advocacy” was the solution to overcoming these barriers. Firstly, the panel wants to use advocacy to target the way that people think, challenging their mentality that domestic violence should be kept in the secrecy of the domestic sphere, and hope to raise awareness that such abuse is not a family issue to be dealt with privately, but a societal issue that should be fought against publically and without stigma. From this, the hope is that all those in the region will begin to take issues of domestic violence seriously, both personally as well as legally, with the ultimate goal that all forms of domestic violence should and will be criminalized and persecuted in the future.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Sequence of Success: Helping Women & Girls Achieve Their Aspirations – A Proven Formula

A pro-family panel met to discuss the Sequence of Success, a life plan that has statistically proven to all-but guarantee that those women who follow it will not experience a lifetime of poverty.  Other similar issues were addressed as well, including the mutual influence of fathers and daughters on each other and the inequality of the gender ratio of births due to sex-based abortions and resulting in a world community that is predominantly male.

Sponsored by United Families International and The Leadership Foundation, the session The Sequence of Success: Helping Women & Girls Achieve Their Aspirations – A Proven Formula, focused on the three progressive stages (education, marriage, children) through which women should plan their lives. 

The first two speakers, Laura Bunker, President of United Families International Marcia Barlow, Vice-President for International Programs for United Families International provided both statistical and anecdotal evidence to demonstrate that female youth should be taught to first get an education, then get married, and finally have a baby.  It was argued that teaching girls to follow this path would result in lower rates of teenage pregnancy than sex education, contraceptive use, and abortion.  Bunker introduced and outlined the Sequence of Success while Barlow supported it with statistical evidence from the past decades.

Candice Merrill a student from Brigham Young University spoke on the need to provide equal opportunities for all girls, including from the time of conception.  As a result of increased technological capacity through ultrasounds and abortions, female infanticide has increased from 5% to its current range of 35-45%, resulting in the abortion of 160 females, which is equivalent of getting rid of all the women in the United States.  Merrill also discussed the phenomenon of “bare branches,” which results of a gender imbalance between adult men than available women.  Men who have no opportunities to create a family suffer negative repercussions, including low socio-economic status, lack of connection to their community, more violent tendencies, and the creation of a bachelor subculture.  Merrill also highlighted the link between abortions and breast cancer.  Full term pregnancies and breast-feeding substantially lowers women’s risk for breast cancer.  Merrill closed her presentation by stating that feminism should also support the belief in unborn sisters having a chance at life.

Tim Rarick, a Brigham Young University professor in Marriage and Family Studies and Child Development, presented during the last portion of the panel.  Focusing on the impact of fathers on daughters, Rarick referenced researchers, his own experiences as a father, and pop culture icons from Emma Watson to Katy Perry to Barack Obama.  Using both anecdotal and empirical evidence, Rarick argued that children in homes with their biological father have greater success in virtually every aspect of their lives, from school to future relationships.  The inverse is also true, in that children who grow up without their biological father, or any positive male role model, have greater chances of experiencing poverty, violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or crime.  Rarick concluded his presentation by citing David Popenoe, who argues to re-establish marriage as a priority in the policies of employers, social work, education, and government.

Challenges of Women's Political Participation in Latin America

Women can’t do politics.  Women don’t know about politics.  Women don’t want to participate in politics.  These three statements were outlined as major prejudices facing women’s political participation by the moderator of the Challenges of Women’s Political Participation in Latin America session at the NGO CSW on Tuesday, March 17, 2015.  Representatives from a variety of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, met to share and discuss the progress and challenges facing Latin American women’s involvement in political processes. 
The speakers highlighted the progress women in politics have made in Latin American countries since the Beijing Platform for Action, noting specifically the three current female presidents in South America and an increase of female participation in politics.  Additionally, the contributions and potentials of the youth population were highlighted, with the speaker noting that the majority of the audience consisted of young people.  Further challenges were identified, including eliminating political violence, which consists of acts, omissions, or other manifestations of injustices, to women.  Political violence can take the form of actual physical violence or less latent forms, such as the denial of resources to women, the refusal of political parties accept or support female candidates, or media judgment based on female politicians’ appearances rather than political positions.

In order to combat the various social, political, and cultural forces working against women in politics, the panelists advocated that simply talking about politics with other women was an accessible way to participate.  Women can also increase their political involvement by learning about how the political system in one's context functions.  Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were cited as essential for continuing support for women’s political involvement and movement toward gender parity.  The NGOs sponsoring the panel (Red Mujeres, Desarrollo, Justicia y Paz, AC and the Women’s Democracy Network) spoke of the educational opportunities they offer to empower women politically, socially, and culturally so they can spread their knowledge to friends and family in their home communities.

\The panelists from Red Mujeres, Desarrollo, Justicia Y Paz (Red Women, Development, Justice and Peace) and the Women’s Democracy Network ended the session with a question and answer period, where additional challenges and successes were presented, including the prevalence of violence committed against women by other women.  The session ended with the reminders that although men and women must work together to achieve gender equity, it is essential for women to support other women.

On March 10, 2015, Former US Secretary of State Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a keynote address at the CSW Side Event “Women's Empowerment Principles” organized by Global Compact.
Ms. Clinton started by emphasizing that the gathering came at a pivotal moment in the cause of gender equality: time to build on the progress of the past and seize the promise of the future. She stressed that women and men who understand that gender equality was not just morally right but was “the smart thing to do” were growing in number. Therefore, it is crucial that we keep making the same case over and over again.

Former US Secretary of State referenced the Fourth World Conference on Women of 1995 held in Beijing where representatives of 189 nations pledged to work for an ambitious goal – the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of society. That was the time when the message became clear and unified: human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Institutions, slowly but surely, focused on the untapped potential of women to drive economic growth and social progress. Now, 20 years later, it is our job to keep the ambition of Beijing alive and to keep marching forward.

According to Ms. Clinton, despite all the obstacles, there has never been a better time in history to be born female. A lot of progress has been made and laws implemented. However, Ms. Hilary noted that all the laws do not count for much if they are not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. They have to be made real in people’s lives. It is important to realize that deep-seated cultural holes and structural biases continue to hold back the full participation of women and girls and expose them to discrimination and abuse.

Ms. Clinton called the full participation of women and girls “the great unfinished business of the 21st century.” She expressed her conviction that the only way to achieve broad-based growth and prosperity in a competitive and interdependent world was to build economies and societies that worked for everyone and included everyone. “We can’t afford to leave any talent on the sidelines,” noted the leader. Ms. Clinton called on all the relevant stakeholders to integrate gender equality throughout all of the goals of global sustainable development. If it is not there, there will be less of a force behind change.

Finally, the speaker underlined that we can be gratified that we have stuck together as a world and have continued to make the case. “The momentum for change is here but now we have to decide how we are going to respond. Bringing women and girls off the margins and into the mainstream has to be our mission now. The progress of the past 20 years was not an accident. It took commitment, accountability, and unity. So let’s keep working until we can finally say that the unfinished business of the 21st century is done,” concluded Ms. Clinton.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Photo Exhibit "Women in Conflict"

On March 9, 2015, the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations introduced a photo exhibition entitled “Women in Conflict.” The exhibit was delivered from Ukraine by the Ukrainian delegation in order to show the conflict in Ukraine through a different lens – the eyes of the state’s most vulnerable population.

However, the women featured on the photos do not look or behave as such. They stand up for the independence and integrity of their country as strongly as men do. This is the message that was the uniting theme of all the statements made at the opening by the Ukrainian officials:  Ambassador of Ukraine to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Serhij Kyslytsya, as well as members of the Ukrainian Parliament Iryna Herashchenko, Iryna Lustenko and Mariya Ionova.

The approach undertaken in the preparation of the exhibit is not so typical for the Ukrainian community. The customary path, namely the depiction of men participating in anti-terrorist operations, has been significantly expanded. It allows for the realistic depiction of the impact of the conflict on communities, namely its influence of all the population groups. The attendees were able to see women-heroes, fighters, brides, activists, as well as the ones who were deprived of everything by the war.

The members of the delegation emphasized that the war would be reflected on the society even after the military actions are over. All the individuals have been seriously touched by the military actions unfolding in front of them. The trauma will be transmitted among all until the psychological challenges are addressed. The latter will only be possible if specialized psychological assistance is provided by the experts in the field. Therefore, it is crucial that the impact of war is recognized and not suppressed. 

The well-being of future generations depends on the ways the population faces the above challenges. In this process, women are truly the moving force of recovery.  The exhibit is another strong proof of their potential to cause change.