On International Women’s Day, United Methodist Women Assesses Setbacks for Women’s Rights, Affirms Commitments
March 8, 2010
Statement on the occasion of the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, March 1-12, 2010 in New York City, andassessment of progress made in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action and its linkages to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2010, United Methodist Women joins with thousands of women gathered in New York and around the world to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and to affirm our commitment to gender equality for women in all their diversity. As a U.S. faith-based women’s organization working with partners globally, we affirm the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document that was adopted five year’s later (Beijing+5), and we work actively to advance the Millennium Development Goals.
Because of our commitment to peace and to establishing just relationships among the community of nations, United Methodist Women has had a presence at the United Nations since its founding. United Methodist Women was active in Nairobi and Beijing to advance the global agenda for women’s rights and has been present in monitoring implementation through the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
United Methodist Women applauds the recognition by governments in the Beijing+5 Outcomes Document that, “Women face barriers to full equality because of diversity of status due to race, ethnicity, class, national origin, sexual orientation, age, religion and many other factors.” We believe that the implementation of the Beijing Platform and the Millennium Development Goals has failed to recognize this full diversity of women’s situations and conditions and the particular ways that different women are disadvantaged. Efforts to achieve equality must address the specificities of women’s diverse experience and the institutionalized structures that block their full rights.
In addition, in 2010 we are keenly aware that the advancement of women’s human rights and the goals of equality, development and peace are set back by multiple global crises and new forms of persistent problems identified in the Beijing Platform’s 12 critical areas of concern. Gains towards implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals have been reversed due to these crises in all regions of the world.
United Methodist Women, present at the United Nations Beijing +15 review, identifies several key areas for special attention:
In every conversation at the Commission on the Status of Women, women from around the world are sharing their stories of the global economic crisis -- from foreclosed houses of U.S. women, to food shortages in Asia and Africa, to job losses around the world. Women who were already at the economic margins have seen any economic security further eroded and inequality increased. As United Methodists we believe that, “All economic systems are under the judgment of God,” that governments have responsibility to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies, and that private companies are responsible for the social costs of their activities (Social Principles, Paragraph 163). Therefore we believe that the welfare of women and children around the world depend on long term structural economic reform. Assessment of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action must examine the impact of the current crisis on women; and nations must take gender-sensitive policy responses through stimulus plans, social protection, fair wages for women workers and consumer protection in the credit industry. One significant step would be implementation of the commitment of the worlds’ richest nations to Goal 8 of the Millennium Development Goals -- a partnership for development that would share global resources more equitably. Such a step would mean fair trade rules and shared global financial decision-making that would help to create the enabling environment called for in the Beijing +5 document. We urge the Commission on the Status of Women to call on nations to regulate the banking system, which bears substantial blame for the current financial crisis, as part of their responsibility to protect the economic and social human rights of women.
Women are impacted in unique ways by climate change -- from hurricanes to floods and drought, to rising waters, and also higher food prices and loss of food security. As the primary care providers and family food producers, women’s work has intensified and their livelihoods are threatened. Many have been displaced with their families as a result of storms -- with subsequent concerns about health, housing, education, jobs and violence. The Beijing Platform recognized the impact on women of environmental crises and the Beijing + 5 Outcome Document recognized that environmental disasters create an additional barrier to women’s equality and advancement. We hope that nations that have committed to the Beijing Platform for Action will highlight the important connections between climate justice and economic justice for women’s equality. United Methodist Women affirms that the needs of women, low-income and vulnerable communities must be central to the international agreement on climate change to be negotiated at the Conference of Parties [COP-16] -- the site of global climate negotiations -- in December 2010 in Mexico. This will require strong emissions controls and adequate gender-sensitive international financing for adaptation to climate changes already impacting nations around the world. Women must be part of decision-making processes in local and national climate change agendas. As a U.S. women’s organization, we note that the United States must work within the legal framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and support its democratic processes. The United States must pass national energy legislation that dramatically reduces carbon emissions, establishes substantive resources for global adaptation, and creates “green” jobs for energy saving and alternative energy.
Women in Disaster Situations
Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile focus our attention on the gendered nature of relief efforts in disaster situations. The earthquake that struck Haiti aggravated the vulnerability of a nation already immersed in deep crisis -- an economy where half the population earned less than a dollar a day. The way women and girls are affected points to intersections between the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty reduction cannot happen without women’s leadership and participation in building a just economy. This entails environmental sustainability, education and leadership development for women and girls. United Methodist Women is committed to partnering with grassroots Haitian women to ensure their effective participation in emergency relief, recovery and reconstruction. Such relief must contribute to a Haiti with greater self-determination, gender equality and democratic accountability. United Methodist Women joins other women’s NGOs in calling on U.N. member states and international humanitarian aid agencies to recognize the leadership of grassroots Haitian women within the framework of women’s human rights and gender equality.
Migrant women face particular barriers and challenges to the fulfillment of their human rights and gender equality. Women’s efforts to strengthen legal statutes and social protection for women in their nations will not improve the rights of migrant women unless specific efforts are made to recognize migrant women’s full human rights. By and large women migrate out of necessity caused by economic need, climate change and war. Current policies create the necessity for migration and take advantage of migrants’ labor, then penalize or criminalize migrants for their presence. Racism and xenophobia intensifies in times of economic crisis when jobs are scarce. Many women must leave their children behind in order to find work to support their families. Others migrate with their families and bear the burdens of intense work plus care-giving at home. Women tend to find work in traditional women’s roles, where they work long hours for low pay and intense exploitation. Migration issues must be addressed through global economic policies that enhance sustainable development and job creation, especially in the global South, and make migration a choice rather than a necessity. United Methodist Women reaffirms the specific needs of migrant women in assessing progress toward the Beijing Platform for Action, as noted in the Beijing+5 review. United Methodist Women urges universal ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and calls for creation of a new Convention on Domestic Workers in the International Labor Conference.
Culture of Impunity and Violence Against Women
Women are facing violence -- including sexual violence and rape -- as a dimension of all the major crises facing the world, be it economic, climate migration, natural disasters or war. Perpetrators include partners, local law enforcement, national governments and the military, corporations and businesses. Culture and religion may devalue women and place blame on them. The result is that perpetrators are not held accountable -- a culture of impunity. As women of faith, we affirm “the sacredness of all persons and their right to safety, nurture and care.” Perpetrators of violence must be held accountable. Women survivors of violence should be supported in their strategies to defend their rights. United Methodist Women calls on the Commission on the Status of Women to affirm international measures to end impunity through the International Criminal Court, and U.N. Security Council resolutions Nos. 1822 and 1888, which recognize sexual violence as a tactic of war and call for its immediate cessation by all parties. We call for U.S. ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and we support local efforts such as Truth and Reconciliation commissions that deal with both personal and the systemic roots of violence against women and the culture of impunity.
Young Women’s Leadership
Gender justice affects young women from all regions of the world. At the 2010 U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, young women, ranging in age from high school to 30, served in a variety of capacities. They affirmed that this generation of women will continue to work passionately and tirelessly for women’s human rights. These delegates attended and led workshops, worked together in a Young Women’s caucus, and gathered insights into the inner-workings of non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. They alerted the commission that because the work for gender justice is not complete, young women face challenges in the areas of poverty, migration, racial and gender stereotypes and sex trafficking.
As women of faith, we bring unique perspectives to these concerns. We are motivated by our faith to seek God’s vision of justice in the world. As children of God, we are sisters with people of all regions, nationalities and religions, and seek to find common cause for achieving each person’s full potential and fulfillment of human rights. As Christian women, we are called to be in mission with women, youth and children in all their diversity and to challenge unjust structures that deny them and us fullness of life. Our spirituality and our supportive community strengthen us for this daunting challenge. We are committed to working with partners around the world to strengthen women’s power and leadership for the realization of gender justice, economic justice, climate justice and racial justice.
United Methodist Women is the U.S.-based women’s organization of the United Methodist Church, with 800,000 members engaged in mission and advocacy around the world. United Methodist Women owns the Church Center for the United Nations, which it makes available to the U.N.-NGO community to support the work toward peace and justice for all.