CSW57 and the Status of Women Worldwide

csw57_imageIn 1946, the United Nations Economic and Social Counsel established the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and in February of 1947, an all female delegation of 15 government representatives met to discuss the issue of gender inequality and how to promote women’s rights worldwide. Since then, the CSW has continued to meet every year to further this discussion, and the 57th Session recently concluded in New York City on March 15th.

Every year the CSW names a priority theme, and this year it was the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. Given the daily newsfeed of violence, rape, and brutality committed against women worldwide, it is about time this issue was named a priority, and the Session concluded with a 17 page Agreed Conclusions document that “condemns in the strongest terms the pervasive violence against women and girls”. This document is the culmination of months of lobbying and two weeks of intense negotiations, and its very existence is a victory in of itself given that last year’s Session failed to come to any agreement. However, amidst the cheers and celebrations of a hard fought battle by women’s rights activists the world over, CSW’s 57th Session serves as a glaring reminder that while the battle may have been won, the war is far from over.

The language of the Agreed Conclusions document was hotly contested by representatives from Russia, Iran, Egypt, and the Holy See, as many of the more conservative countries balked at the suggestion that women are deserving of sexual and reproductive rights, equality in marriage, and that a husband does not have the right to rape his wife. The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt even released a statement during the negotiations decrying the document, claiming that such language, “if ratified, would lead to the complete disintegration of society.” While these countries hid their objections behind claims of cultural and religious tradition, it is clear that they are simply trying to maintain the status quo at the expense of their women.

Despite the objections and negotiations, a document was agreed to that clearly outlines that violence against women will no longer be tolerated at the international level. The conclusions and agreements of this Session can now be used by governments, activists, and lobbyists as a blueprint for policy changes, educational campaigns, and to spread awareness that women and girls have the fundamental right to live without fear of violence. The document is a momentous victory in the advancement of women and girls worldwide, but the fight for equality continues so long as these sobering statistics remain.

*7 out of 10 women will experience violence in their lifetime, often at the hand of a partner or relative

*In a lifetime, 1 out of 3 women will be victims of sexual or physical abuse

*603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime

*Women between the ages of 15 and 44 are more likely to be killed by violence than by HIV, cancer, malaria, accidents, and war combined

*60 million girls are married off as child brides every year

We should be proud of the agreements reached this year in New York, and I congratulate the government representatives who fought for the rights of their women. However, more importantly, we must make sure that the agreements in this year’s document are used and enforced to enact real and lasting change for women worldwide. As United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage”. For the first time in history, the members of CSW are in agreement on this issue, and the time to act is NOW.

Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore

Ms. Magazine and Wonder Woman 40 Years Later

In July of 1972, Ms. Magazine published its first regular issue from New York City. While many predicted that the magazine would shutter within the year, Ms. Magazine is still published to this day, and in honour of its 40 year anniversary, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Member Gale A. Brewer will be issuing a Proclamation to Ms. Magazine’s founders and staff at City Hall today in New York City. Co-founded by Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Ms. Magazine was the first national feminist publication, and more importantly, it was written, controlled, and run by women, a first in the male dominated world of news media. Used to discuss and shed light on issues critical to women’s lives, such as domestic violence, abortion, and date rape, as well as to advocate for women’s causes and hold presidential candidates accountable on women’s rights, Ms. Magazine has spent the past 40 years furthering the feminist cause both nationally and around the world.

Published since 2001 by the Feminist Majority Foundation, which is led by prominent women’s rights activist Eleanor Smeal, Ms. Magazine continues to deliver comprehensive coverage of the issues most important to women and girls. Today in New York City, Ms. Magazine’s founders, staff past and present, and supporters will gather to celebrate this milestone and recognize the extraordinary achievements of the past 40 years. Hopefully, this celebration will also galvanize those involved with Ms. Magazine to continue their work, as for all that has been achieved, there is still plenty of work to be done.

On its first cover in 1972, Wonder Woman was front and centre with Ms. Magazine proudly proclaiming “Wonder Woman for President”. With Wonder Woman’s ideals of peace, truth, equality, and justice, it is hard to argue with this notion. In the years following Ms. Magazine’s debut, Wonder Woman became one of pop culture’s most iconic figures, enjoying a surge of popularity thanks to the primetime television show Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter, and the Saturday morning animated series Super Friends that ran for over a decade. However, since the mid-80s Wonder Woman has faded from the mainstream media, despite the continuous publication of her comic book series.

In contrast, Wonder Woman’s male counterparts have not faded, and today superheroes own the box office, with several films released each year, each with staggeringly high budgets and extensive marketing campaigns. This summer alone The Avengers has climbed to the third highest box office gross of all time, and The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most hotly anticipated movies in recent memory. Throughout all this, Wonder Woman remains without a film of her own, despite it being listed as in production since 2001, and an attempt to bring Wonder Woman back to television failed last year. At a time when superheroes have never been more popular or profitable, it is a disgrace that the most famous female heroine of the past 70 years can not find her way to the big screen.

It is no coincidence that Ms. Magazine decided to put Wonder Woman on their cover 40 years ago. Wonder Woman stands for love, peace, and equality, ideals that should not only define feminism, but humanity as a whole. One can only hope that with advocates like Ms. Magazine, Wonder Woman will someday soon be given the chance to bring her message to a global audience. After all, if the big screen is ready for a THIRD incarnation of Superman, it is more than ready for Wonder Woman.

Guest Post by Laura Moore; Jacki is in New York this week for Women Moving Millions and some family time.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Women’s Economic Empowerment

After previously serving in the House of Representatives since 2006, Kirsten Gillibrand was sworn in as Hillary Clinton’s replacement as New York State Senator in January 2009, and was later re-elected in November 2010 with 63% of the vote. Since her days as a lawyer taking on pro bono cases defending battered women, to working with Hillary Clinton to encourage women to enter politics and leadership, Gillibrand has always taken a strong stance towards the advancement of women and girls.

Gillibrand was formerly the leader of the Women’s Leadership Forum, and now as Senator, she has launched www.offthesidelines.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women realize the potential impact they can have on our country. Whether it is through political office, advocacy, or by simply taking a more active role in their community, Off the Sidelines provides women with the resources needed to make their voices heard.

Yesterday, Gillibrand’s office released Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit, a research paper highlighting the economic plight of women in America, and how women can be utilized to help improve our nation’s economy. The full paper can be downloaded at http://gillibrand.senate.gov/ and it is full of some very sobering statistics, reminding us all that there is still so much work to be done to level the economic playing field between women and men.

You can also find this research paper in the resources section of this website. We’ve recently expanded and updated this section to include literally hundreds of research papers, articles, books and websites, as well as fact sheets for various women’s issues. Check back to this section often, as we are continuously updating as new information becomes available.

written by Laura Moore (the incredible cousin of Jacki Zehner)