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Greater Advocacy for Human Rights is Needed

In an editorial in Open Democracy by Liam Mahony, author of Proactive Presence: Field Strategies for Civilian Protection, he writes that not only should the United Nations High Commssioner for Human Rights be an advocate for human rights in the field, but that all UN humanitarian and political agencies should be advocates for human rights as well. Mahony writes, “The whole UN is supposed to stand up for human rights – and it has not been doing a very good job of it.”

More than 1.5 billion people now live in countries affected by repeated violence. They are faced with a wide variety of abuses and human rights violeaiton, including killings, torture, sexual abuse and forced displacement. Currently, there are more civilian refugees than at any time since WWII. Recognizing this, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has underlined that “human protection is a defining purpose of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.”

Read the editorial here.

The NGO, Human Rights First, provides action for human rights information here.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),UN News,UN Women,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

Europeans Advance Critical Measure to Stop Gender Violence

Just three years after its opening for signature in Istanbul, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is entering into force on 1 August 2014. To date, 13 member states of the Council of Europe have ratified this new human rights treaty and another 23 states have signed it. The convention is open for accession by states which are not Council of Europe members.

On the occasion of the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe stated: “All need to act now to improve the lives of the many women and girls who are subjected to violence simply because of their gender”.

The framework this convention creates is a blueprint for a co-ordinated, victim-centred approach to combating all forms of violence against women and domestic violence. Its focus on violence against women as gender-based violence and its links with gender inequality are testament to the fact that the Council of Europe is leading international efforts in the protection of women’s human rights. For this reason, the convention addresses domestic violence as a form of gender-based violence while not losing sight of male, child and elderly victims of domestic violence, to whom the convention may be applied if states parties wish.

With the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention, a glaring gap in the protection of women’s rights in Europe is being closed. Legally-binding standards to improve the prevention of violence, the protection of victims, and the prosecution of perpetrators through an integrated set of policies are now available. The effective implementation of the convention’s provisions will be ensured by a monitoring mechanism which will be set up by early 2015.

The Istanbul Convention is designed to become the most important protection tool for women around the world. Its swift entry into force would not have been possible without the commitment of experts and activists like you.

The Council of Europe team promoting the Istanbul Convention would like to thank you for your support and commitment to making this important convention a reality. Let’s make sure all states the world over adhere to it – one way or another!

Go to the Council of Europe website to follow this issue that sets the model for combating gender violence for the rest of the world.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),UN Women,Women and Violence

Family Planning Denied to Millions of Women

This is yet another form of violence against women…Hear the words of Ban Ki-Moon “In women, the world has the most significant but untapped potential for development and peace.” And the leader of 34 Million Friends of UNFPA adds, “then that is our task, to unleash the power of women for development (which means cutting poverty and all of the scourges which poverty entails) and for peace, which means doing what is necessary for women to be equal in all realms of civil society and particularly in the political process of making wise decisions for minimizing conflict and enhancing human potential for the long term.”

See article here.

Filed under: Development and Peace,Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,UN News,Women and Violence

2014 Report on Progress of the MDGs are Released

The Millennium Development Goals have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history, so states the agency charged with documenting the progress.

The report reaffirms that the MDGs have made a profound difference in people’s lives. Global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the 2015 timeframe. Ninety per cent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education, and disparities between boys and girls in enrolment have narrowed. Remarkable gains have also been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, along with improvements in all health indicators. The likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half over the last two decades. That means that about 17,000 children are saved every day. The target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water has been successful.

Read the report here.

Much work is still to be done in the next 14 – 15 months before it is the end of the decade for achieving the goals. As relatively successful the outcome of this decade demonstrates, some areas of development have not been addressed but preparations have been underway for several years, and by many entities, for addressing the Post-2015 goals, to be called Sustainable Development Goals.(SDGs)

Two areas that need more emphasis relate to gender violence and victims of armed violence in war zones. Both categories are under consideration as specific goals of the SDG, with the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), and because of their affiliation, Women Graduates-USA (WG-USA), are on record for supporting a stand-alone goal related to gender issues.

Filed under: CEDAW Action,Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Global Women's Issues,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),UN Women,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

IFUW Issues Policy on Post-2015 SDGs

IFUW has created a policy paper on the Post-2015 Sustainable Goals (SDGs) that defines education and women’s empowerment as two vehicles for attaining the economic, social and environmental goals that are being proposed.

Read the IFUW Policy Paper here.

Filed under: CEDAW Action,CSW,Girls and Education/UNGEI,Global Women's Issues,IFUW Affiliates,IFUW News,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),UN Women,Women and Education,Women and Leadership,Women and Violence

Pennsylvania Passes Anti-Human Trafficking Bill

Women Graduate-USA coalition partner, the Bucks County (PA) Coalition Against Trafficking, lobbied for this bill to pass. The press release on July 1, 2014 stated, “Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only two states in the country, the other being Colorado, that lacks a comprehensive legal definition of human trafficking. Senate Bill 75 will address this critical need, strengthen protections for victims of human trafficking, and will help to bring the perpetrators of this horrific crime to justice.”

The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Girls Issues,Global Women's Issues,Trafficking,Women and Violence

Minnesota Opens Shelter for Children Rescued from Trafficking

According to an article in MINN Post, the Safe and Sound Shelter is slated to open in St. Paul in August as one of several developments timed for late this summer and early fall to prepare for the implementation of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Laws.

One of the leading advocates for rescuing and safe-guarding children caught up in sex trafficking is
Richard Gardell who has been dealing with child sex trafficking in the state in some form or another for more than a decade, first as assistant chief in the St. Paul Police Department and now as the CEO of 180 Degrees, a youth and adult services nonprofit. He’s watched trafficking victims, who average age 13 when they are first abused, fall back into the hands of their perpetrators when there’s nowhere for them to go.

Read the whole article here.

An earlier article at Minn Post describes the Safe Harbor Law.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Girls Issues,Trafficking,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),Women and Violence

CEDAW Issues New Fact Sheet Tools for Use in Advocating Ratification

Women Graduate-USA member, Alice Dahle, is our representative on the CEDAW Task Force. We receive very timely information to aid us in our work to ratify CEDAW.

See the CEDAW FAct Sheet here.

See the “CEDAW as a Tool to End Violence Against Women” here.

The CEDAW Task Force also asks us to send letters of thanks:

One important next step for all of us to take is to send thank you notes to Sen. Boxer for her leadership on CEDAW, and in particular for her role in convening the hearing. We also want to send thank you acknowledgements to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Menendez, and to Subcommittee members for attending the hearing. Finally, any acknowledgements that can be sent to the seven women senators who attended and presented real life stories of women who experienced violence and abuse would also be a great next step.

Filed under: CEDAW Action,Equality & Human Rights,Global Women's Issues,UN Women,US Congress,Women and Violence

Child Marriage is a Human Rights and Health Issue; Challenge It

Being against child marriage is one of the issues for which Women Graduates-USA has taken a stand. Ending child marriage would not only help protect girls’ rights but would go a long way towards reducing the prevalence of adolescent pregnancy.

In a story focused on such marriages in Africa, InterPress Service describes the situation in many African countries. See the article here.

Filed under: Beijing Platform for Action,Equality & Human Rights,Gender Status,Girls Issues,Global Women's Issues,UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG),Women and Violence

First Person Account of the Struggle for Peace in South Sudan

The newest country, South Sudan, suddenly errupted into armed violence on December 15, 2013. Since that time, many thousands of people have been killed, one million families have been displaced – some to the United Nations camps but most into the bush – and 30,000 pregnant women will soon give birth in unbelieveable conditions.

Tiffany Easthom, the South Sudan Country Director for Nonviolent Peaceforce, looks back over the past four months in anguish.

This is a recent example of what it is like to be a peacekeeper today in South Sudan.

Nonviolent Peaceforce has fielded unarmed peacekeepers in South Sudan since the year before the vote for independence took place in 2011. Most of the teams had been made up of equal numbers of trained men and women, but during current crisis, women’s peacekeeping teams have gained momentum and even formed new teams within internally displaced person camps. They have been able to reduce sexually-based violence that has been occurring by both sides of the conflict. There are now 11 Women’s Peacekeeping Teams in place throughout the country.

The UN issued this report on May 19, Conflict in South Sudan: A Human Rights Report

All parties to the conflict have committed acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women of different ethnic groups. Credible information suggests that sexual violence took place in connection with the occurrence of human rights and humanitarian law violations before, during, and after heavy fighting, shelling, looting, and house searches.

Women of nationalities of neighbouring countries were also targeted. The forms of sexual violence used during the conflict include rape, sometimes with an object (guns or bullets), gang-rape, abduction and sexual slavery, and forced abortion. In some instances, women’s bodies were mutilated and, in at least one instance, women were forced to go outside of their homes naked.
Source: UNMISS

See more of the situation in South Sudan here.

Filed under: Equality & Human Rights,Global Women's Issues,UN News,Women and Leadership,Women and Violence,Women, Peace & Security

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