Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)

Today’s morning gathering of the Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment (UN Women) marked the commencement of the 2019 annual session to discuss the organization’s operations, administration, and progress over the last year.

The opening statement for the conference was delivered by the Under-Secretary General and Executive Director for UN Women, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka. Following the welcome of new senior staff members and Staff Council appointments, the major achievements of the organization were described in a review of the Annual Report. Moreover, Ms. Ngucka highlighted adjustments engendered by the UN reform, difficulty in guaranteeing stable funding, and the dissemination of resources as prominent challenges.

The agenda for the remainder of the Annual Session was then presented to delegates, who were subsequently invited to provide input through participation in a General Discussion. While comments reflected uniform support for the work of UN Women, representatives from member nations put forth recommendations for strengthened commitment to specific gender-related issues such as income security, disproportionate effects of climate change on women, and the possibility of heightened cooperation with men and boys. Further, the decentralization of operations through partnerships at the country level and continued collaboration with other UN organizations were urged to improve UN Women’s efficiency and effectiveness.

 

Meeting: Executive Board of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Date/Location:Tuesday, 18 June, 2019; 10:00-13:00; Conference Room 3, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers:

H.E. Ms. Penelope Althea Beckles, President of UN Women;

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Women;

Mr. Jean-Luc Bories, Secretary of the Executive Board, UN Women;

H.E. Mrs. Katalin Annamária Bogyay, Vice President, UN Women;

Ms. Natalie Cohen, Vice President, UN Women;

H.E. Ms. Koki Muli Grignon, Vice President, UN Women;

Ms. Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director for Normative Support, UN System Coordination and Programme Results, Assistant Secretary-General, UN Women;

Interventions from Representatives

Written by: WIT Representative, Izabela Zawartka

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Japan’s Implementation of the SDGs

The 2019 Forum for the implementation of the SDGs was organized by the Friends of the UN Asia Pacific and the World Federalist Movement Youth Forum. The purpose of the forum was to highlight Japanese initiatives that have, and continue to, promote the Sustainable Development Goals.

The discussion was divided into three sections: the promotion of SDGs at the municipal level, the promotion of women’s equality and empowerment in society at the workplace, and business and technology leadership. Speakers from two Japanese cities, Shizuoka and Sabae City, highlighted how their cities have integrated the SDGs into the daily lives of their citizens, with events such as a SDG week, a SDG middle school student summit, and a SDG high school summit in which they plan to hear the ideas of high school girls.

Moderator, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, consistently drew speakers’ speeches back to the importance of gender equality, without which, he emphasized, none of the other SDGs would be able to be accomplished. Multiple speakers stressed the presence of impostor syndrome, or the underestimation of one’s self and paying too much attention to what others think, as an impediment to accomplishing greater gender equality in Japan.

Speakers in the business and technology section of the forum focused primarily on how both present great potential for advancing SDG goals. This possibility was discussed in terms of the food industry, and the possibility to use new technology to freeze food in its most fresh state, thus working towards goal two of zero hunger, and goal 12 of responsible consumption and production.

Meeting: An Interactive Forum Highlighting Japanese Initiatives Promoting The Sustainable Development Goals

Date/Location: Thursday, June 06, 2019; 15:00-18:15; Conference Room 11. United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers:

  • Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative (Moderator);
  • Mr. Sukehiro Hasegawa, Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN, President of Global Peacebuilding Association of Japan;
  • H.E. Dr. Toshiya Hoshino, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations;
  • Mr. Robert Skinner, Executive Director, United Nations Office for Partnerships;
  • Mr. Fuminobu Akahori, Senior Policy Administrator of Shizuoka City;
  • Ms. Mayumi Takashima, on behalf of Mayor of Sabae City;
  • Ms. Marina Ponti, Director, SDG Action Campaign;
  • Ms. Mayuko Saeki, CEO of KIREIMO/ Vielis Inc;
  • Ms. Yukiko Ikeda, Chief Producer of TGC;
  • Mr Junji Torigoe, Representative Director of SAGAMIYA FOODS Inc.;
  • Ms.Fatima Khan, External Relations Officer, World Health Organization;
  • Mr. Takuji Otsu, Executive Director of FOUNAP SDGs Promoting Committee;
  • Mr. Yoshio Yamada, President of Technician Co. Ltd.;
  • Mr. Tomokiyo Tanaka, Shinto priest, Iwashimizu Hachimangu

Written by: WIT Representative Jenifer Miller

2019 World Oceans Day: Gender and the Ocean

During the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, the Ocean Institute of Canada and the Canadian International Centre for Ocean Development promoted the idea of establishing an internationally recognized World Oceans Day. Since the 1992 summit, this day has been observed annually on June 8th. Throughout the conference, it was noted that among all of the earth’s sectors, the oceans were the most neglected. Thus, the initial purpose of World Oceans Day was to shift the world’s oceans to the center of the discussion for NGOs and government organizations.

Today, the health of the world’s marine ecology is deteriorating at an unprecedented rate, with some 7 million tons of litter discharged into the oceans annually, 50% of which is composed of non-degradable, long-lasting plastic. Thousands of underwater animals, such as sea turtles and blue whales, encounter painful deaths from ingesting, or being tangled up in plastic. For instance, fish in the North Pacific region engulf an average of 12 to 24 thousand tons of plastic every year, thus resulting in severe intestinal injury, deaths, and the eventual transference of the plastic up the food chain. Due to this dire pollution, 200 “dead zones” are completely deprived of oxygen and marine life. The number of these zones has doubled every 10 years since the 1960s. Other detrimental effects include eutrophication, coral bleaching and toxic algal blooms.

Though a significant percentage of women are engaged in the maritime, fishing, and other ocean-related industries, administrative and decision-making bodies notably lack female representation. Thus, the theme of this year’s celebration was not only to highlight and raise awareness regarding this critically important absence, but to prioritize action towards its resolution. The integration of women, as has been empirically proven, is overwhelmingly beneficial for effective change. With insight into how oceanic degradation impacts local societies, women are well-equipped to produce creative and community-oriented responses such as providing necessary environmental education of future generations. Further, empowering women’s voices and granting them access to resources for large-scale projects opens the opportunity for increased overall support for the oceans’ cause and the consequent fortification of global efforts to battle climate change and related environmental issues.

During this year’s celebration of World Oceans Day, the United Nations hosted a series of events to spread awareness about the multidimensional issues associated with the world’s oceans and to applaud past successes in addressing these issues. On June 7th, 2019, the UN hosted the World Oceans Day Conference in which speakers were invited to present on the theme of “Gender and Ocean” and to tell inspiring stories about their relationships with the ocean. Furthermore, the President of the General Assembly launched the “Play It Out” campaign with the goal of combating plastic pollution on a global scale. To conclude the celebration, the World Oceans Day Photo Competition fully unleashed the story-telling power of photos and effectively shared the message of ocean preservation.

One of the stories elaborated upon during the June 7th conference highlighted the acute problem of slavery at sea. As fish stocks have diminished due to over fishing along with an increased global demand for seafood, some fishing operations have resorted to the trafficking of fishermen, threatening them to work for the operations under inhumane conditions. At the conference, Mr Tun Lin, a fisherman from Myanmar, detailed how he was enslaved on an Indonesian fishing boat for 11 years, thus exposing the appalling truth of some international fisheries – that the seafood exported to other countries and eventually brought to our plates is often a result of blood, sweat and lives. “For years,” Mr. Tun Lin expressed, “I was enslaved and my rights were violated.” He urged the UN and the world’s governments to promote the rights of fishermen by regulating policy and implementing laws to combat against slavery so as to protect fishermen from severe forms of human rights abuses.

Ms. Angelique Pouponneau, native of the Seychelles, followed Mr. Tun Lin’s story with an uplifting narrative about her many successes as a woman, and her meaningful relationship with the ocean. Pouponneau, having grown up in the matriarchal society of the Seychelles, was surprised upon traveling abroad to be trained as a lawyer as she found that she was expected to take on male attributes in order to be considered a serious professional. Following her training, she began a career grounded on the ideals of sustainable development. Her many accomplishments include the founding of an NGO dubbed SIDS Youth focused on implementing sustainable development goals in small island developing nations, setting up training workshops for female negotiators, and becoming the first female CEO of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaption Trust.

There are many ways through which the world’s oceans can be protected, including academic research and the private sector. Researchers and corporate investments have the potential to catalyze technological advancements that could aid in the improvement of pollution tracing, cleaning waste and discovering sustainable product life cycles. Multi-sector collaboration is also an essential element of the formula to save the world’s oceans. This vital aspect was exemplified by the corporate synergy from Adidas and Parley as this collaboration showcased how plastic products could be reused and incorporated into the production of new sneakers.

Written by: WIT Summer Interns 2019

Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Conference 63: Overview

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Throughout the 63rd conference of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), all meetings revolved around improving and developing social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality, and the empowerment of all females. Meetings ranged from being entitled “Steer Any Diplomatic Conversation by Asking the Right Questions” hosted by UNITAR and Columbia Law to typical plenary GA meetings to plan and discuss logistics of new ideas and vote on final statements.

Floating around from meeting to meeting, a point that was frequently brought up and emphasized was the importance of maintaining culture while developing female personal character. Instead of changing culture and straying further away from these roots, we should be working with and integrating new aspects into it. This is just a baby step in removing the gender gap and equalizing the gender lifestyle. Specifically with Afghan women, the role of the female is heavily depended on to take care of the household as well as the children while the males are unavailable to do so. Even young females are expected to help their mother, as only around 26% of females are in school. Discussion on closing the gender gap was productive, not through increasing attendance in school buildings, but increasing the accessibility of these educational means. Providing a simple laptop will allow for a greater entry into the world of computer science coding, which is something these females can do at home while taking care of their duties.

Meeting: Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Conference 63

Date/Location: 13 March 2019, UN Headquarters

Written By: WIT Representative Jessica Shi

Women, peace, and security

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Women with the Afghan National Army Air Force & International Force during an International Women’s Day celebration in Kabul. Photo: Sgt. Dustin Payne.

The meeting began with acknowledging the fact the first woman president had won the election in Ethiopia. This gave way into the discussion of the political and economic empowerment of women. Women need to be apart of peace and security agendas. Many already are, but they need to be further supported in reducing any challenges. There has been progression, especially within women’s groups who focus on this large issue. Although there has been progress, there is still a long way to go.

Women peace workers help. Women can be quickly drawn into the conflict and be severely affected by it, so more women need to be able to speak on their behalf. Women are better aware of their community needs. Gender equality programming is needed to address the devastating effects by building sustainable peace. There has been a systematic failure to bring women in peacekeeping. Women are constantly excluded. It was brought up that there is a significant gap with what it is said in UN chamber and what is actually going on in the world. Superficial efforts need to come to an end and they need to become concrete.

Women are active and resilient. They have negotiated ceasefires, safe zones, drawn up protection plans. This includes women from various countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, among others. They need to be enabled to do even more. One main way to give women this chance is education. During the conflict, girls are more likely to be out of primary schools. Child marriage is high in these conflict areas. Not only is a girl likely to not be attending school, but she is likely to get pregnant. Maternal mortality is almost twice the global ratio in conflict and post-conflict areas. Education is a catalyst for equal participation.

The way the world views the role of women needs to be changed. Women are perceived to not have the skills or knowledge to handle these important roles. Greater participation of women in political life causes a stronger path for peace. Global peace and security are enhanced when helping women. It was said that no woman needs to be given a voice, there just needs to be more listening.

Meeting:  Women and peace and security

Location/time/date: Security Council Chamber, UN HQ-NYC; 10:00 PM – 12:45 PM, October 25, 2018

Speakers:

  • Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)
  • Ms. Randa Siniora Atallah, General Director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling
  • Her Excellency Mara Marinaki, Principal Adviser for Gender and the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women
  • Ms. Narjess Saidane, Permanent Observer of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie
  • Ms. Amarsanaa Darisuren, Senior Advisor on Gender Issues of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
  • Ms. Clare Hutchinson, Special Representative of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General for Women, Peace and Security
  • Secretary-General, His Excellency António Guterres
  • Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden
  • Yoka Brandt, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
  • Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State in the Federal Foreign Office of Germany
  • Simona Leskovar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia
  • Iryna Herashchenko, First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

Written by: WIT Representative Yasmeen Razack

Gender-responsive Disarmament

 

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All over the world, people have access to weapons. However, in some areas, it is much easier to gain access to a weapon than others. The increase of these weapons leads to an unnecessary increase in violence. This puts those who are in these communities at a disadvantage because they are much more vulnerable to victimization. Disarmament refers to reducing military efforts as well as weapons. There is actually a UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.

It is important to note that this armed violence can be in both con conflict and non-conflict areas. One speaker mentioned how young boys in South Sudan were reported to have guns. In fact, thousands of children have been recruited and armed for fighting a conflict in areas like South Sudan and Somalia. In the meeting, it was noted that the non-conflict areas also need great attention because of the severe and large quantity of injuries that are occurring. Guns can be easily accessed in both legal and illegal contexts by citizens and there has been an increased spread of small arms.   

The main point of this meeting was discussing how gender, just like in other issues, plays a vital role in this violence. While men are reported to be the majority of small arms users, women are noted to be at a disadvantage- economically, socially and psychologically.  A systematic approach, which would require the help of many members states, would be needed to combat this widespread issue. Gender plays a role in the issue, so therefore, it is crucial in implementing the solution. Although women are the primary victims, they should be empowered leaders in fixing the problem. It was brought up that women are underrepresented at government talks and negotiations. It was noted that usually, only 1 in 4 delegates are women and that this number must increase if we hope to make progress.

Meeting: International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group Securing our common future: Promoting gender-responsive disarmament and security

Location/time/date:Conference Room 4, UN HQ-NYC; 1:15 PM – 2:30 PM, October 15, 2018

Speakers:

  • H.E. Michael Gaffey, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva
  • Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
  • Päivi Kannisto, Chief of Peace and Security at UN Women
  • H.E. Neville Gertze, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations in New York
  • H.E. Pennelope Beckles, Permanent Representative of Trinidad & Tobago to the United Nations in New York
  • Victoria “Mavic” Cabrera Balleza, founder/CEO Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.
  • Renata Dwan, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, UNIDIR
  • H.E. Michael Gaffey, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva

Written by: WIT Representative Yasmeen Razack

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 71st Session

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Led by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), this conference engaged in a number of topics surrounding gender inequality in South-East Asia, specifically in Laos. First addressing the imbalanced gender ratios in education, a lack of data in Laos’ unsystematic education system was evinced, rendering some conclusions drawn in a recent CEDAW report dubious. Remaining in the education sector, the conversation shifted to whether educational capacity investment is being matched by the necessary supporting infrastructure. Developing countries often suffer from virtuous investment being deployed in silos – in Laos’ case, girls seeking education are frequently burdened by inordinate transportation costs or distances. Dual-gender class resistance was another complication barring women from entering education, particularly when educational capacity is limited. Furthermore, there was a floor-wide call to gather more data regarding which educational paths girls are pursuing. If women are being driven into traditionally female fields such as cooking or needlecraft, presenting uncategorised educational data could belie its message. Laos’ 25% female inclusion targets was criticized as too low and as sending the wrong public message about social ideals.

Keeping education in focus, more data was requested regarding the impact that premature pregnancy has on educational drop-out rates amongst women. Collecting such data would provide more precise insights into targeting responsible sexual behaviour and sexual education. However, high birth, maternal death and female STD rates point to ineffective sexual education efforts in Laos. Building on this, it was posited that women are too often seen just as procreators and mothers. This makes efforts to assuage high maternal death rates too parochial. Specifically, are there lifestyle choices or societal pressures that increase a woman’s risk of retracting fatal diseases that are independent of gender? Is this an unaddressed dimension when discussing high maternal death rates? The floor also enquired into how Laos’ illegal abortion rates, unsafe abortion rates and its current prohibitive abortion policies contribute to its substandard maternal death rates.

Moving onto gender violence, four forms of women-directed violence were outlined: physical, phycological, sexual and economic property violence. This delineates four avenues to approach female discrimination by with to approach Laos’ current state of affairs, although they were not elaborated upon in the conference. In closing, the panel was questioned whether current Laos gender equality programs are financially designed to withstand funding cuts, or are they more comparable to ‘window shop’ programs.

Date and Time: Friday, 2 November 2018

Location: Salle XVI, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Speakers: Hilary Gbedemah (UNHCR), Mr. Gunnar Bergby (OHCHR), Magalys Arocha Dominguez (OHCHR)

Countries represented: Laos People’s Democratic Republic

 Bodies represented: Author: WIT Representative, Farri Gaba

The right to say no: 72nd session Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

1506685855_eeb204dc36061d725f5db3e393c34229-1.jpgBad mothers. Loose Morals. Lack of femininity. That is how world leaders such as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and President Donald Trump refer to women’s rights activists. Both men have continuously made women the butt of the joke of their presidencies with Donald Trump’s famous “Grab her by the pussy” and President Duterte’s continuous rape jokes and command to shoot women rebels in the genitals. According to the Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, this is the continued norm of how the world treats women.

The conference held on July 26th, 2018 shed light on the deeply rooted patriarchy engrained into our international system that has resulted in the championing of white males in human rights movements and the vilification of the women actually affected.

Lolita Chavez has been the target of 5 assassination attempts, two massive hate attacks, lynching attempts, accused of illegal entry, and has had more than 25 petitions filed against her in court resulting in a forced exile from Guatemala. What could cause this type of horrific backlash on a 5-foot-tall mother of 2? Her advocacy for indigenous people and the environment. In Uganda, Brenda Kuganza has been punched in the gut by a policeman, slaughtered on social media for defending victims of sexual violence and has had to witness her friends be brutally attacked, arrested, and/or killed for wanting the right to say no.

People trying to defend their territories and rights are sidelined – jailed, tortured, raped. Now more than ever, there is a need for concrete action from the international community but also a needed refrain by states in legislation and policy of repression action against human rights defenders. The governments in places such as Guatemala, Uganda, Nicaragua need to make the role of human rights defenders facilitative not restrictive.

There needs to be an understanding that human rights defenders are not performing a job. There is a deep commitment to protecting life, livelihood, and the dignity of communities. That is what empowers these women to endure layers of oppression and brutality.

Meeting: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; 72nd Session

Location/time/date: Conference Room 2, UNHQ-NYC; July 26th, 2018

Speakers: Michéle Forest, Special Rapporteur; Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights; Marusia Lopez Cruz, Senior Associate, Power & Protection of Women’s Activist; Lolita Chavez; Brenda Kuganza; Asha Kowtal; Miriam Miranda

Written by: WIT Representative Ariel Granat