The London branch of the UK National Committee for UN Women was delighted to hold a joint event with international policing organisations which was hosted by the Metropolitan Police on 9th May. We welcomed three senior officers to talk about their different experiences: Collette Paul, Deputy Chief Constable for South Wales Police, Julia Jaeger, European Coordinator of the International Association of Women Police and Chief Inspector Jane Townsley, President of the International Association of Women Police.
Colette Paul sets the UK policy for overseas deployment as lead officer on international policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers. The aim of the UK policy is to promote peace and help to stabilise countries where there has been conflict. Officers are given the opportunity to work with the UN to share their knowledge and experience with police forces across the world, particularly focusing on the importance of increasing the number of women in the police. One of the crucial factors in recruiting and retaining women police officers is to provide sufficient support and UK officers are working with the UN to ensure this is in place.
In Kosovo, the police force was losing women at twice the rate of men and wanted support to rectify the situation. Julia Jaeger worked with the UN Women Programme Office in Kosovo to assess the needs of policewomen across the country and the reasons behind their decision to leave. It became clear that forming an association would be of great benefit, giving the women the opportunity to network and receive mentoring, and providing a forum to raise issues particularly important to them such as maternity leave and flexible working hours. UN Women is now providing funding to help launch and embed the association in its first year.
One of the phenomenal success stories from Kosovo is Atifete Jahjaga. She was supported in her role as a woman police officer and mentored by Chief Inspector Jane Townsley through the International Association of Women Police, eventually reaching the role of Deputy Commandant in the Kosovo Police. Most recently Atifete has been elected as President of Kosovo and is now making decisions at the highest level on behalf of her country.
It was clear from all of our speakers that the involvement of men is crucial to the improvement of opportunities for women in police forces. For example, in South Africa there is now a programme called Men for Change, a network of men within the police force who work alongside the women’s network and help to promote change in attitudes amongst male police officers.
While there is still much work to do, we celebrate the roles of the 49 UK women police officers who are currently working overseas to promote peace and stability, and gaining vital skills which they will bring back to the UK to enhance policing here.
At the event we raised £170 in donations for the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women which is managed by UN Women. The Fund awards grants to support innovative local and national programmes across the world. These often involve work with local police forces to improve the way they respond to and investigate violence against women.]]>
The UKNC-UN Women London branch AGM took place on 16th April at the Houses of Parliament. There was a full house on the night with standing room only for Branch Committee members! It was very good to welcome many members who have joined in the past year, and their guests, as well as to see more familiar faces.
Barbara Cleary was re-elected as Chair at the meeting and she reported on a busy and successful year. Activities included a regular programme of Saturday ‘brunch’ meetings with a range of speakers who had been able to share their knowledge and experience with us in informal settings. Feedback from members had been very positive. In 2012 the London Branch raised over £7000 for projects supported by UN Women, half of which will go to the UN Women Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.
After the business of the AGM our guest speaker was Marai Larasi, Executive Director of Imkaan, a UK organisation dedicated to challenging violence against black minority ethnic and refugee women and girls, and Co-Chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition. We heard about her experience of attending the recent Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) session in New York where the priority theme was ending violence against women and girls. She spoke about the sense of achievement when the set of Agreed Conclusions was reached at the end of two weeks of lobbying and negotiations, with concrete recommendations for governments and other institutions to implement.
Alice Fookes, a London Committee member and coordinator of our education programme, also attended CSW this year and you can read her personal account here.
Our thanks go to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association who very kindly made a room available to us again.]]>
Ban Ki-moon and Michelle Bachelet at CSW57th : 5.3.2013 UN Heads of Agencies Forum
This year I had the chance to attend the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. I was one of the NGO representative delegates from the UK. A key reason for going was because I give a lot of talks about the work of UN Women and felt it was important that I get to grips with the inner workings of CSW, UN Women and the UN. I was also interested to find out how exactly all the words are turned into action or transformative change as it’s known in the business.
The 57th meeting of CSW had as its theme this year the relentless epidemic of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Just to give you the background: in 1995 the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action identified VAW as one of the 12 critical areas of concern. The Convention on the Elimination of all kinds of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) defines the legal obligations of State parties to prevent VAW. I quickly had to up-skill and learn some of the UN terminology: Instruments, Caucuses, Agreed Conclusions and Priority Themes to name but a few. The overriding objective is to get the Conclusions Agreed by the end of CSW. It’s not until you actually see the document that you realise how painstaking, diplomatic and precise the whole operation is and how expert those working at the UK UN Delegation are in the business of constant drafting and redrafting. Certain countries expressed reservations on aspects of the wording this year keeping the UN drafters very busy!
So what are the Agreed Conclusions? They contain an analysis of the main theme (VAWG) and a set of concrete recommendations for Governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions, civil society organisations and other stakeholders, to be implemented at international, national, regional and local levels. So will they agree and even if they do, will words turn into action? There is funding and other advantages attached to actual implementation of the Agreed Conclusions. These pertinent motivators very often, but not always, provide the push and drive needed to see action at grassroots level.
Most of the meetings I attended really focussed on the impediments that hinder progress on gender equality, together with prevention services either desired or already in place. For example, I Africa’s Community Mobilisation gives people living on the street opportunities and settings to voice their desire for change in the way women are treated. CSW is full of good practice, I am glad to say. I went to a Conversation Circle (more UN speak!) on the subject of ageism and women and how we are perceived by society and the media. The Grey Panthers gave a rousing exposition on how to maintain your identity and autonomy as the years rush by!
I also noticed the particular emphasis placed on working in partnership with men and boys. There are many examples where this is already successfully taking place especially highlighted by the World Scout Movement and a growing variety of faith groups.
For me the main highlight was attending the UN Heads of Agencies Forum on VAW. I was expecting Michelle Bachelet to speak and Ban Ki-moon suddenly turned up and there I was only two rows away! A great surprise and reassurance to know that our voices are heard at the highest levels of the UN.
Because of the failure last year to reach Agreed Conclusions, I had the feeling there was a real push from our government and the EU delegations to ensure success this year. Six thousand women turned up to CSW – 2,000 more than last year. There were 128 side events. I found it at times overwhelming but incredibly uplifting and my brief experience will act as a particularly useful tool when giving a UN Women training session or presentation.
Michelle Bachelet stated that it was one of the highest levels ever of participation at CSW from Member States, intergovernmental agencies, civil society and across the UN. Sadly it is to be Michelle Bachelet’s last CSW. She has led UN Women outstandingly, will be greatly missed and I only hope they can find someone of her calibre to fill this absolutely key role.
“There can be no peace, no progress as long as there is discrimination and violence against women and girls”. Michelle Bachelet , 16 March 2013 CSW57]]>
The 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women closed on Friday with an historic agreement on eliminating violence against women and girls. I was in New York with five other trustees of the UK National Committee for UN Women (UK NC) and members to take part in the unique experience which is CSW. My role at the session was to be a communication conduit and co-chair between the UK NGOs group – a group of over 85 UK based organisations working for gender equality – and the UK Government’s delegation.
This year there was an added urgency to the work of the UK NGOs attending – the theme of ending violence against women and girls. The target of reaching agreed conclusions was seen as crucial not only from a human rights perspective but also for the future of a safe equitable world embarking on a development programme which would benefit the whole of society.
While week one is busy with side events high level panels and ministerial meetings, week two sees the government delegations taking part in long, hard hours of lobbying, diplomacy and negotiation. A small number of UK NGOs remaining in week two formed a text group of which the UK NC was part. Their role was to monitor, analyse and propose text changes, lobby and advocate with other delegations and country NGOs, and to provide positive support for the UK delegation.
It was an intriguing, frustrating process but the great reward was to hear that agreed conclusions had been achieved. The strong outcome document was welcomed by UN Women and includes emphasis on the need for states to:
Despite some states expressing reservations, the conclusions reaffirm previous agreements and it is the first time that emergency contraception has been agreed as a necessary service to preserve women’s health.
UN Women staff led by Michelle Bachelet worked tirelessly during the two weeks (and the year beforehand) to bring the right result to fruition. At the closing session Michelle Bachelet could be satisfied that this was her team’s greatest achievement, before she announced her resignation from her role as Executive Director for personal reasons. Now the hard work of implementation begins.]]>
London walking tour
London branch member Jessica Flynn got together with other members to organise a Saturday morning walk with a difference. This was a tour to look at the statues of seven remarkable women and to learn a bit about their lives – from Louisa Blake and Virginia Woolf (commemorated in Tavistock Square) to Emmeline Pankhurst, whose memorial statue is near the Houses of Parliament. It was cold, windy and very, very wet but 30 people joined in and had a great time. £75 was raised on the day.
A Pop-Up supper
London member Vicky Cosstick invited some friends round for what she calls a Pop-Up supper. They all made a contribution to the Trust Fund, raising a total of £120, and she provided a splendid vegetarian buffet. Her guests also got a chance to hear more about UN Women’s work. “It was great fun and I will definitely do it again next year for IWD”, says Vicky.
A concert in West Wales
When Fay Cori saw that a concert to mark International Women’s Day had been organised at the Rhosygilwen arts and music centre in Pembrokeshire, she approached the owners to ask if the event could also be used to raise money for the Trust Fund. They very kindly agreed. Fay gave a short talk about UN Women’s work and audience members donated £85 for the Trust Fund. It is hoped that the IWD concert will become an annual event. Our thanks go to Glen Peters and Brenda Squires at Rhosygilwen Mansion for their generous support.
Challenges then and now
Friends of Lincoln’s Inn Association in London enjoyed a talk called “A Bustle Abroad: 19th Century Women Travellers” to mark IWD. It was given by UK NC London member Alice Fookes. She described the travel opportunities for women then and gave a detailed portrait of her own great aunt, Alice Barker, who travelled at length over ten years, finally losing her life dramatically descending the Cacciabella Pass in Switizerland (11,000ft). Alice focussed on the clothing worn by women at that time, particularly the corset – damaging muscles around the lungs so that breathing was curtailed and ultimately health endangered. Women did not let this deter them. Alice drew attention to the continuing challenges faced by women and girls today and the work of UN Women. She was delighted when the Lincoln’s Inn Friends presented her with a cheque for £200 for the Trust Fund.
Abhorrent recent cases of violence against women and girls across the world, including the Delhi gang rape case, and the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women have a shone a light on the need for an urgent up-scaling of efforts to tackle it. Women’s political empowerment is crucial to this effort and to achieving gender equality.
At a recent meeting of the London branch of the UK National Committee for UN Women, Manju Nair, a branch committee member shared her experience of working with UN Women in Delhi for four weeks on their programmes that have supported opportunities for women and girls to exercise their rights as equal citizens through political participation. Malika Bouazzaoui attended the talk and reports:
UN Women has a regional office in Delhi and Manju spent time with the staff of the Governance Unit which aims to empower women to be as influential as men in politics. Manju told us about their work on two projects, one at the village level and one at the national level.
The 73rd amendment of the Indian constitution established local self-government (the Panchayati Raj system or PRIs) with 33% reservation of seats for women. A number of states now have a 50% reservation. The head of a PRI – the Sarpanch – is a focal point of contact in the local village community and many women have been elected to this position. Manju noted that there is a tendency for these women to hand power over to their husband, father or brother, because the latter are often more respected by the villagers and by government officials, but also because the women have to attend to domestic tasks. Sometimes this is done voluntarily by the women.
UN Women has funded a 3-year programme facilitating women’s participation in local politics and is providing training to enable women to gain both confidence and competence. The programme has been implemented with a number of partners, including the Indian Government, and has given women the skills and knowledge they need to influence justice and public services.
Manju expressed her admiration for the great responsibility the Sarpanch has, dealing with any issues their village faces, from water and sanitation to education and land rights issues. She also underlined the innovative approach that UN Women takes in training women in the villages, often tackling illiteracy of the women and their families.
Support from the government has been positive and the Minister for PRIs has said: “Few projects have put such emphasis on bringing about change at this basic level. It has positioned the issue at the right level. We need to ensure women can play an effective role as leaders without facing discrimination or violence.”
At the national level as well, improvements are being made. Towards the end of my stay in India, I talked to women involved in a 3-month Institute for Women in Leadership training course for women who want to run for elections at the national level. Manju met some inspirational women. She said, “One thing is for sure – when Indian women break the chains of patriarchy, then there is no going back.”
Women at all levels become involved in politics because they believe that change needs to happen. They act because they feel it is their duty to do so. UN Women provides them with additional skills to be able to succeed in politics.]]>
Today, UN Women launches ‘One Woman: A song for UN Women’, a musical celebration of women worldwide, featuring more than 20 artists from across the globe.
‘One Woman’ calls for change and celebrates acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who daily make extraordinary contributions to their countries and communities.
The song is available for purchase on the song website http://song.unwomen.org and all common channels like iTunes and Amazon for $0.99. All proceeds go directly to UN Women in support of its programmes to empower women on the ground.]]>
International Women’s Day began in 1911 and has continued annually ever since. The Welsh Assembly Government has funded organisations to celebrate this day for several years. This year is no exception and grants are being administered by Women’s Equality Network Wales (WEN Wales). The theme is: “Visible Women: empowering girls and women in Wales”. For events near you check the website here.
In addition, organisations not funded through this scheme will be joining in activities. Two of these are the UK Committee for UN Women and Women in Rotary. Together they are organising breakfast events across Great Britain and Ireland. See all the event details here.
Rotary is a world-wide service organisation of men and women working tirelessly both locally and internationally to bring help and support to those less advantaged than ourselves. It works alongside many organisations and individuals supporting gender equality and diversity through a multitude of initiatives, causes and actions. Rotarians use their skills and the gifts they have gained through business, education and personal commitment for the benefit of others – Service above Self.
The UK Committee for UN Women is the national committee which advocates for and supports UN Women in the UK. The President, Jan Grasty, and WEN Wales will be attending the Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York, on 4 –15 March and organisaed by UN Women, focusing on the subject of the ‘elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls’. Check back here and at http://wenwales.org/ for updates throughout the Commission period.
Money raised at the breakfast events will be donated to UN Women projects. Please come and join us.]]>