Follow-up on the 60th Commission on the Status of Women

CSW60 logoThe 60th Commission on the Status of Women was held at the UN in New York in March 2016.  An Introduction to the Commission and the Agreed Conclusions can be found in the entry four below this one. The following is an analysis of the Commission’s work by the UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

Driving the Gender-Responsive Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – Analysis report by Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

Ms. Puri’s analysis includes praise for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s efforts to advance the cause of women during his time in office, citing the priority he has given to women’s equality and empowerment agendas, appointed the highest number of women leaders ever to UN positions, and oversaw the creation of UN Women. Ms. Puri quoted Mr. Ban’s saying, “Our new global force has made its mark” and credited him with coining “a new meaning of the term FGM – Finally Girls Matter!”

Ms. Puri hailed the Agreed Conclusions adopted at the end of the Commission as a “landmark set” of agreements, which “established detailed, progressive, value added and positive commitments and trajectory to effectively implement and monitor the progress of the historic gender equality compact contained in the entire 2030 Agenda in conjunction with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPfA).”

All discussions at the Commission, she notes, consistently drew connection between its priority theme of Women’s Empowerment and the Link to Sustainable Development and the 2030 Agenda, which includes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, Ms. Puri asserts, the work of the Commission clarified and strengthened the “full gender equality compact” at the heart of SDG 5, all six of its targets and three Means of Implements, without mentioning the Goal. She goes on to point out the correlations between the work for women’s equality with other Goals, notably SDG 1, Eradication of Poverty.

Some of the Concerns and Challenges Ms. Puri notes are the continued efforts of “fortunately a very small number of states” to raise objections to including “child, early and forced marriages, unpaid care work, feminists and women’s human rights defenders, youth, women’s human rights and forms of the family among others.”

She also points out the refusal by some Member States to “even entertain let alone negotiate on the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer) and SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender identity) issues that some member states had put forward.” Some of these objectors cited Sharia as the guide for these issues. Another concern is disagreement by some Members, including developed nations, about how implementation will be determined and measured; some states want all authority at the national level, with no prescriptions from the Commission. Only “deft negotiations” produced an outcome document that all Member States would approve.

Finally, Ms. Puri announced that the sixty-first session of CSW in 2017 “will focus on Women’s economic empowerment and the changing world of work.” In preparation for that, work on “mitigation strategies on the reservations and political/cultural/religious aspects of some of the issues surrounding women’s human rights” will need the collaboration of many individuals, groups and Member States.



CSW60 Engaging Faith Communities to Implement the SDGs

CSW60 logoThe 60th Commission on the Status of Women was held at the UN in New York in March 2016. An Introduction to the Commission and the Agreed Conclusions can be found in the entry three below this one. The following is a report on one of the events during the Commission.


Engaging Faith Communities to Implement the Sustainable Development Goals: Achieving Gender Justice and Eliminating Violence against Women and Girls       CSW60 Side Event March 16, 2016

Organized by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the US Federation for Middle East Peace, Islamic Relief Worldwide, and The Lutheran World Foundation, this panel presented views I am not ordinarily exposed to.

Moderator Salwa Kader, president of the US Federation for Middle East Peace, explained that the OIC was founded right after 9/11 to foster dialogue among peoples. The group works against human trafficking and for the empowerment of women in 17 countries.

Jesca Mnari, a young Tanzanian leader at World YWCA, spoke of challenging gender inequality by using her faith. As a child, she saw that the Bible says all are equal in eyes of God and wondered why women had to submit to men. As she grew up, she wondered further why faith communities are not committed to protecting the human rights of girls and women, which she sees as a “faith call.” In her work, she encourages women to have their own opinions, even when society demands that they submit to their husbands, and works to promote education to achieve true equality between men and women.

Pastor Cibele Kuss, a Brazilian with the Lutheran World Foundation, spoke of the human rights crises in Brazil. Of the 207 million residents, 15 women are killed each day, homosexual people are murdered each day, and there is a rape every few minutes. She sees much of this violence coming from the shift to messianic evangelical religions, with faith-based violence increasing by 460%, according to the official registry. Policy is not helpful, as rape has been a crime in Brazil only since the 1990s, and in 2014 a Supreme Court suit took action against an official for saying that she did not deserve to be raped.

She cited an increasing evangelical movement to degrade women’s rights, reduce financial support, and give little legal support for those who speak out against abuse. She called on religious organizations to speak for gender justice and to make interfaith efforts to change policies and practices. Particular efforts are needed to protect indigenous people, who are being targeted, as was a little girl who was stones as she returned from worship.

An Interfaith coalition is beginning to gather to press for human rights policy, to commit public acts of solidarity, and to publicize the violations by fundamentalist groups

Ms. Sharifa Abdulaziz, a Gender Advisor for Islamic Relief Worldwide, from London, spoke of the need for capacity-building in communities, to ensure they have the power, knowledge, confidence, and skills to participate in decision making, directions and development.

Faith-based organizations, she said, can be very influential in making changes because they are at the grassroots and embody the values of the community, and especially because they incorporate the spiritual into health, education, politics and other phases of human development.

This first-hand knowledge can be invaluable in making advances. For instance, one challenge in the Ebola crisis was convincing local people to hand over the bodies of infected relatives for safe burial. Faith-based groups worked with the health organizations to develop safe and religiously acceptable burial rites.

Dr. Azza Karam, a UN Senior Advisor to the UN Population Fund, spoke of the need to learn from the differing traditions in Africa, the Middle East and the West, for instance in developing relations between military and religious groups, ways of forming policy, and identifying the needs of young people. The UN Population Fund is concerned with much more than reproductive health; a current focus is on migrating peoples and where they will live. People from third world countries, she said, cannot understand that some pregnancies might not be wanted.

She spoke of the need for the UN to pay more attention to religious groups in achieving its goals,  citing the fact that 30-40% of all basic services are provided by religious organizations. The UN is only beginning to understand the importance of involving religious leaders in their work. A great need is to expand the conversations about terrorism to include other kinds of violence, such as gangs and violence against women. Religious and secular women’s groups are beginning to take action on this. She advised us all to start the dialogue with our neighbors.

The Question and Answer period ranged from early contributions of women in Islamic countries, such as Sultanas founding educational institutions and women contributing to developing Egypt’s university even before they could attend, to misconceptions about religion as an excuse for violence against women. Dr. Karam suggested that women need to emulate the “old boys networks” to develop faith-based resistance to violence. She cited as inspiration a line from the Koran in which Allah speaks of creating differences among people so that we would get to know each other more deeply.

A person from Somalia explained that this country just developed some sexual laws because religious leaders were involved in the process from the start. This mirrors the SDG principle that all sectors of society should be involved in any changes that will affect them.