Gender Links Roundtable on Governance Calls for Resource-building

On the second morning of the 54th Commission on the Status of Women, Gender Links and the African Woman and Child Feature Service —through the Gender and Media Diversity Centre— hosted a roundtable dialogue involving Marren Akatsa-Bukachi of the Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), Francisco Cos-Montiel of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Revai Makanje of Hivos, Norah Matovu-Winyi of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, and Jennifer Lewis of Gender Links as facilitator, with Mwendabai Yeta Mkhize and myself providing event support and reporting.

The discussion opened with comments on statistical analysis of proress toward the goal of achieving 50/50 parity. With a 7% improvement since Beijing, the discussion moved quickly toward the question of how to accelerate the rise of women in decision-making and leadership roles.

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CSW54: New Media, Social Action & Women’s Economic Security

Motivating social action through social media was the subject of one of the morning sessions on Day 1 of the 12-day 54th annual Commission on the Status of Women, at the UN headquarters in New York. A panel of pioneering and accomplished women, from diverse fields of research, activism, and enterprise, offered a far-reaching exploration of the ways in which new media can help to effect change and improve the situation of women, around the world. Outreach, social networking, and informational access, were integral to the morning session’s discussion.

As social networking technologies have evolved, they have become not just user-friendly in the extreme, but have created a global forum through which individuals and communities, organizations and governments, can work to build connectivity among people, and share information in a way that promotes opportunity, liberty and stability for women in even remote corners of the world. Social networking tools decentralize the flow of information, allowing for a more flexible, dynamic application of global communications platforms, handing the control of access and information to the people who seek or require it.

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Sexual Violence Against Darfuri Women Out of Control

Life for women in Darfuri refugee camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad is extremely hard. Many have no access to any public authority that will investigate violence against women, and medical facilities are scarce to non-existent. While rape is rampant, and has allegedly been used as a “weapon of war” by the Khartoum backed militia engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, women are seldom able to find safety in seeking help from local authorities.

Uprooted from their homes, often relegated to ad-hoc communities where male elders are dispersed or involved in conflict, women victimized by corrupt camp guards or Sudanese police or militia risk serious physical attack or punishment for reporting rape. The Darfur refugee crisis has exacerbated the crisis levels of violence against women, and ongoing conflict and an apparent government cover-up campaign help to conceal the crimes.

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Explaining Away Violence Against Women in Darfur, Sudan Gov’t at UN

The Sudanese government attempted an artful campaign of misinformation by way of its presentation at the 53rd Commission on the Status of Women last week in New York. The event, hosted by the Sudanese Women Parliamentary Caucus (SWPC), focused on a government-backed study that was designed to show Khartoum to be concerned about violence against women, willing to take great pains to combat it, yet unable to find evidence of many cases in war-torn Darfur.

Despite hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, and reports of rapes per year exceeding 10,000, eve of the government supporting the use of rape as a “tool of war”, the study counted only those cases where the government’s narrow legal definition of rape (”proven” and documented prior to any investigation) permitted actual charges and an eventual conviction. Despite the session’s being advertised as focusing on “women in conflict”, not one aspect of conflict, in the abstract or the particular, was mentioned, save the sparing now-and-then references to “the camps”.

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UN Commission on the Status of Women Reviews ‘Pacific Realities’

The Pacific Islands region is comprised of 22 nations, with a combined population of roughly 9 million, more than half of which live in Papua New Guinea. The island nations present a range of complex and unique issues for development and gender-equality efforts, including entrenched social attitudes that limit women’s ability to pursue education and career performance equal to those available to men, benefitting women’s autonomy and society broadly.

A panel of presenters from several of the island nations spoke of the need to conceive “gender-responsive programs” that are able to grasp women’s real immediate interests and implement relevant strategies for improving conditions for them across Pacific island society.

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