I was privileged to attend the meeting of the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN recently, a wonderful insight into the operations, nuances and sensitivities of the international system. It considered a multitude of issues from a gender perspective, including: leadership, decision making, violence against women, the gender gap, economic participation and empowerment, education, technology, the role of men, discrimination, health and food security, peace and security, the effects of environmental and human tragedies, gender financing and evaluation. While Agreed Conclusions were reached, late into the final night of the meeting, the issue of implementation is never guaranteed- it is at the discretion of each state to apply the Conclusions as they see fit.
Of course, the fact that there has not been a feminist Secretary General was a point that was not lost on delegates. Nor was the fact that while these negotiations were occurring, the Brussels terrorist attack occurred, refugee crises were continuing and women activists were shot and murdered. The importance of place based, local programs that respond to the particular needs of their communities, as well as the intricate knowledge of the people on the ground were harnessed, placed into a broader context and entwined with the political agendas of states.
It was a shame that there was little representation from philanthropy or business as a partners, particularly in relation to implementation and impact evaluation. However, sometimes the silences speak louder than words, and these absences certainly reverberated in the halls and corridors of the UN over the course of the two weeks.
However, for me perhaps the most disturbing outcome was the adoption of a resolution condemning Israel as the only country that violates human rights, and as the sole cause of unemployment and poverty for Palestinian women. There is no mention of Hamas, and the treatment of Palestinian women by their own brethren, including honour killings, limited freedom of movement and speech.
Israel is an enthusiastic contributor to the CSW- while I was there I attended two phenomenal side sessions sponsored by the Israeli Government. I heard Minister of Social Equality, Gila Gamliel MK and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon discuss with pride, the achievements of Israel in gender equality, including the establishment of a portfolio of Gender Diversity. Women hold high level positions across the spectrum including the Head of Israel’s Reserve Bank, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In Israel, each government office must submit a gender budget to allocate funds for gender equality. This doesn’t even occur in Australia.
In fact, Minister Gamliel stated that women make up 25% of members of parliament, including two Arab members who argue that gender equality will lead to sustainable peace. An Arab women is currently the Chair of Equality Commission. “This will make a more secure Israel from within” she stated.
In relation to business and enterprise, it is clear that women in Israel are economically empowered. In the “start up nation” a woman is the CEO of Facebook and the Head of the Bank of Israel. “Intellectual capacity is our power and women hold much of that intellectual capital” the audience was told at another Israeli session on women in business. This includes ultra-orthodox and Arab women in the quest for economic parity.
Perhaps the most telling story of course, is that of Golda Meir, the world’s third female Prime Minister. “I am convinced”, she said in 1969 “that peace will come to Israel and its neighbours because the tens of millions of Arabs need peace just as much as we do. An Arab mother who loses a son in battle weeps as bitterly as any Israeli mother”.
If the leaders of the countries who were not mentioned in the report, who do not act and speak out against rape, violence, mutilation, discrimination against women and disregard their rights and needs, had the same philosophy as Israel in regard to the need for gender equality, the world wouldn’t even need the Committee on the Status of Women, with all its flaws.
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/209860#.VwevA_l95D8 day, the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded its month-long session in Geneva by condemning Israel five times more than any other of the 192 U.N. member states.