The speaker Dr. Wendi Momen JP FRSA is a promoter of social justice and empowerment of women, an author and publisher. She is the founder of EBBF (Ethical Business Building the Future”), a Board Member at the IEF (International Environment Forum), a former Trustee of NAWO (National Alliance of Women’s Organisations), a Governor of LSE and she has a PhD in International Relations. She reported that at CSW 63 this year the outcome document “The Agreed Conclusions” was, mercifully, signed, in spite of a big push back which weakened the document. From Beijing in 1995 progress has been made in attaining gender equality and empowering women due to support of men and many NGOS. The US was opposed to many progressive ideas it used to promote, and had gone through the document replacing “dignity” (which can be used in a disempowering way), for “empowered”. The words used in the document mattered greatly: were the past statements affirmed, pointed out, reiterated, recalled, or “reaffirming it”? The contentious topics were rights for women and girls, the 2030 Agenda, sexual health and reproductive rights, the word “family”, for example. NGOs want to use the word “families” to be inclusive of the various kinds of family. Women across their life course”, or cycle? Thinking of women as a non-person “reproductive unit “ – diminishes the humanity of women. Translations into other languages are difficult as they do not always have comparable words and the meaning can be distorted. Governments are reluctant to include lists of different groupings (such as women with disabilities, older women, indigenous women, widows) in the outcome document as inevitably some grouping would be left out. So it was good that last year the widows were included in the outcome document. Securing the rights of victims of sexual violence requires more work, and the UK GEO civil servants worked hard to get the right language into the document. An example was given of the difficulties a white American woman had in getting help after she was raped, showed how much harder it is for marginalized women to get justice. Having been left for dead, naked and bleeding, her hurdles were finding a clinic, its demand for money, its searching questions blaming her – “had she smiled?”. When she put together enough evidence herself, with help of Harvard lawyers, she sent the evidence to the country in which the rape had taken place. The government official wrote back telling her that as the dossier included evidence that she had been drugged by illegal drugs, she would be prosecuted if she returned to that country. The alleged rapist had already returned home and so no charges were brought against him. She is not now able to travel to that country for fear of being prosecuted. Even in the Uk, many rape crisis centres are closed for lack of funding. So the infrastructures that should support women are inadequate. Climate change is forcing all people to realise they are on one planet and must work to benefit all. Questions from those present pointed to the complexity of situations – should one fund-raise for a charitable project? Should children be saved from making carpets (adults’ hands are too large) when money is needed for the family? If there is no work for girls they may be made prostitutes elsewhere. If our good clothes are recycled and sent abroad, traditional clothing industries may suffer. It is important to capture the passions of youths in the conversations exploring these issues and spread the messages.
Sally Spear, UNA Women's Advisory Council