Defending Global Women’s Health and Rights in Challenging Times

I want to show you a few images, not many, of
the the women’s movement at work around the world. As you know women have made a lot of
progress in the last 50 years right and and women try to really advance across
the globe in our cities and if you think about it 50 years is very short time
in human history and that’s half of the half of humanity that has really
transformed its conditions and the discourse about its conditions. Women are
on the move everywhere they’re fighting for the right to control their bodies, and
their lives to be free of violence, they’re fighting for livelihoods, equality,
a voice at the table, power, respect, you know and that is universal. They’re really
fighting in fact to be considered full subjects of human rights and thats of
course of concern to the Handa Center. And here what you see is the women’s
movement and its allies in Uruguay in South America in 2002 as they were
fighting for the liberalisation of the abortion law in Urugauy, and they were
successful. You can see what it took but it worked. So let me tell you about
progress on a few issues and i’ll choose the issues that we’ve been working on
but there others you know but those are the ones i know most about. One of
the key issues and one of the most contentious one is the right to abortion.
And between 19– it’s important we go step back given the attacks in this country
on abortion rights to look at the complex, and to realize that from
between 1950 and 1985 nearly all industrialized countries liberalized
their abortion laws. There was huge movement amongst rich
nations between 1950 1985 there were a few exceptions to that Ireland being one
of them but by and large it was a huge movement to liberalize abortion laws including in
this country. And then after that we had the International Conference on
population and development in Cairo in 1994 which was a crucial moment in
reproductive rights where all 179 countries present agreed that they should
do something about abortion amongst other things, reproductive health more
generally but abortion particularly. And since then 30 countries in the global
South have also liberalized there laws. And during that time of course there’s
been a conservative backlash. A small relatively small religious right-wing
movement that has gained political power has captured political parties in some places
and has used abortion to sustain a populist movement. That’s what
we’ve seen in this country with the capture of the Republican Party, it’s
happened in other countries. But still so far only a handful of countries have
actually gone backwards and restricted their laws amongst them Poland and
Hungary and in Latin America Nicaragua and El Salvador
where abortion has become completely illegal in all circumstances. And of course we’ve
seen this movement in the United States at the state level with all kinds of
attempts to restrict abortion rights. But you know if you look at the bigger
picture still there’s massive progress. Of course there are plenty of countries
that still have not liberalized their laws and in those countries women still die
or end up in the emergency room or suffer grave injuries as a result of
abortion, and we still have as a result 47–an estimated forty seven thousand
women–who die every year of unsafe abortion worldwide. These are all
absolutely hundred percent preventable deaths because abortion when performed
by someone who knows what they’re doing is an extremely safe procedure, vastly
safer than childbirth, and so that is something that the women’s movement
continues to fight for for that reason because these are unnecessary deaths and
we should care about. And I can say more about the consequences of you know
strict laws during question period and here but the women’s movement is not
taking it lying down so here are the women of Poland fighting back. So the law
had already been restricted in early early 1990s. A weeks ago there was an
attempt by Parliament to preserve an even more restrictive laws that would
thought that would ban all abortions except to save the life of the woman and
the women of Poland just snapped. I just thought that’s it we’ve had it we’ve had
enough and they went on strike, national strike for all day. Didn’t show up to
work and then they march in all cities of Poland. It was something incredible
and awesome and the government which is not a nice
government, backed down. So that’s a lesson for us. If we mobilize massively we can stand our ground. The other area where there has been significant improvement is in maternal
mortality which rates of death in pregnancy and childbirth have been cut in
half since 1990. So we went from an estimated five hundred thirty two
thousand deaths a year in pregnancy and childbirth in 1992 now an estimated
three hundred and three thousand estimates because a lot of women that
are actually not registered in many countries but based on the birth rates
and mortality rates we can tell what the number is. And this is of course related
to the liberalization of abortion laws because unsafe abortion is a cause of
death in pregnancy but also it’s due to improvement in delivery care, the
training of midwives, the provision of the emergency obstetric care you know
for complications at delivery and of course with the rising contraceptives
there’s also fewer unintended pregnancies. Therefore if fewer people are
pregnant then fewer people die in pregnancy so that’s also a huge and
important movements. And here’s the improvement in access to contraception.
As I just noted women everywhere have much greater access to contraception in 2015.
Worldwide sixty-four percent of all women in formalized Union, a marriage or a
union, were using contraception, and of these 64% 90%
using modern methods which are effective right. And if you compare that to 1970 in
this it’s double doubled over because in 1970 it was only thirty-six
percent of all women worldwide using contraception and at the time most of
them were in North America and in Europe. And so there’s been a lot of progress in
the rest of the world and in particular in South and Central America and in East
Asia: Japan South Korea and China; massive gains in their incomes, but there’s
still a lot of regional variations and we still have a lot to do to provide
women with access to contraceptives because for example in Africa we still
only have thirty three percent of women using modern contraception and in some
countries is much lower for example in Nigeria where we work at a good we find
women’s groups of Nigeria only sixty percent of women there have access to contraception, so big regional disparities but overall great progress and of course
the change when it happens can be very rapid. East- eastern Asia for example
flipped very quickly, like within 20 years it went from very low rates to very high
rates of use. Then there’s violence against women. If you think about 40 years ago, violence against women was not a subject that was even discussed by academics or by the UN
or by human rights defenders and human rights lawyers. It is now understood
as a major violation of women’s rights but at that time it was not, it was
considered a private matter, and not another subject for human rights
investigation. So that’s been a tremendous change. Again the women’s movement has
really driven this you know by really insisting that violence against women be recognized
as a violation and be called out what it is and also the women’s movement is
really pushed investigators to collect data on the prevalence of violence against women, domestic
violence and thats how we now know that one third of women globally have
experienced physical sexual violence by an intimate partner because we
conducted studies, academics, and the UN system have conducted studies that have
gathered this data from hundreds of sites and you know, over 129 countries now report on this, so now we have the data so we actually know how big a problem it
is and we’re also increasing our understanding of when interventions work
to prevent violence against women there’s more needed there, more research is needed, where we’re starting to understand some of the key factors to prevent it
notably stopping violence in childhood and developing the parenting skills of
young parents so that the cycle of violence is stopped at childhood because if
you’ve been exposed to violence in childhood yourself been violated or
attacked or beaten, or have witnessed violence in your home, you’re more likely to
perpetrate or be a victim of violence as an adult. And also we need to change
gender norms because violence against women and [indiscernible] go together right they are
part of the same system and therefore you need to do sexuality
education and gender education. So those things we know which we didn’t know
before. And then there’s participation of women it’s slowly increasing its really
slow but it’s increasing. Women made up eleven percent of national
parliaments in 1995 now they make twenty-three percent of national
parliaments worldwide and Rwanda here they are is the champion with
sixty-three percent of parliamentarians women and the US has a lot of work to do
because we’re still like barely at twenty percent in Congress so we have a way to go
as we could tell from the last election. So that’s some of the progress in country
but there’s also been tremendous progress at the global level and we at
the coalition do a lot of work advocating for women’s rights including
sexual reproductive health and rights at the global level we’re based in New York
so we engage with the United Nations and we lobby government there so we spend
a lot of time in the House in the basement of the UN and we do this with
coalitions of women’s groups from all over the world because obviously I’m not
the right person to go and lobby the Government of Pakistan but we have
colleagues from Pakistan who will come to specific negotiations and can
pressure their own government and know them often from the country level
and so we come with large coalition’s and pressure them and there’s been a lot
of progress in the recognition of women’s rights at the global level since
the Beijing conference on women and ever since. We’ve been there the whole time of
the women’s movement and it continued to move the agenda forward not always easy and was very hard during the Bush administration. But progress is
continued and we’re very proud of what all governments agreed to last year in
September which is the new global development agenda and I epitomized in
the sustainable development goals. These are a set of 17 goals that were approved
by 193 governments to tackle poverty to tackle climate change and
environmental justice as well as social and economic justice so as you see if
covers topics like health, education, sanitation, hunger, poverty, but also
sustainable cities, consumption and production, decent work, oceans, forest,
climate change, peace and security, and so on. Very comprehensive agenda it took three
years to negotiate. The women’s movement organized and was there for three years
it was an incredible labor but it was worth it because this applies to all
governments including the US government. All governments agreed that they will
take measures to implement the sustainable development goals. It’s a
15-year agenda, so it will take us 2030 and it will direct a lot of
investment, you know the world bank, the major donors, national policy makers,
national budgets, that is the hope anyway, and that’s why we got involved with it
and we’re very proud in particular of Goal 5, which you see here: gender equality
which states explicitly that one of the key drivers of all this will be to make
sure that women’s rights and gender equality are achieved and that wasn’t a
given at the start you know the start they wanted to have a much narrower
focus on energy and transportation and so on, the serious stuff right. And we
said no women’s rights has to be part of that we prevailed. And it’s
also a much better agenda than we’ve ever had in that kind of negotiation
because it’s a comprehensive agenda and it’s much improved in that respect from
the Millennium Development Goals which previous set of global goals, which had a gender goal, but which was much more limited to primary
school education and violence against women in a very limited way. So this if
you look at it now these are only some of the targets under goal 5, this is
not even the whole thing, but there is a target on eliminating all forms
of violence against women and girls in public and in private, including trafficking in sexual
other types of exploitation. There’s a target on harmful
practices such as child early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
There’s a target on recognizing the value of women’s unpaid care and domestic
work– imagine how hard that was get in there– through the provision of public
services infrastructure and social protection policies, you know like child
care support, maternity leave and all that. And of course the promotion of
shared responsibility in the household and the family. Then ensuring women’s full
and effective participation, equal opportunities for leadership at all
levels in political economic and public life again a very robust agenda there
and finally the one was the hardest spot you can imagine sexual reproductive health
and reproductive rights, so we got that in there which is, if you think about it,
pretty astonishing. So that’s the progress we’ve been able to make at the
global level and of course none of that would have been possible without the
women’s movement here we are in one of the many negotiations after we got some
of what we wanted. And you see the diplomats in front, and I was in the back.
But we were in he room and we were there day and night. Now the context for where we
are now and where we’re going in the US. Let me say a few words about the United
States at the global level under President Obama. The US administration under Obama
was supportive of reproductive rights of course domestically, but also globally.
They played a leadership role in a negotiation of the sustainable
development goals and that was extremely important the US plays a crucial role in
multilateral diplomacy, you know, we can do without that we have to, but its a lot
easier when the u.s. is really driving the human rights agenda. It’s not always
been easy they’ve been cautious you know there are times when we wanted them to
be bolder and take more leadership for example on sexual rights, it took them seven
years, and you have to drag them kicking and screaming through that threshold but
they eventually started using the free sexual rights negotiations which was a
huge step forward given, you know that we had same-sex marriage now a
constitutional rights in this country but they eventually got
there. They also, the Obama administration, did allow to create what we call a
gender architecture embedding institutions in the state department and
in the white house that looks specifically at women and girls there’s
the office of global women’s issues at the State Department now hopefully it
will survive, we’ll see. And the White House Council on women and girls
obviously in the White House and in the State Department is also an
ambassador-at-large for women and girls Cathy Russell who’s been incredibly
dynamic and very helpful. We also have had a lot of leadership from the State
Department on agreeing to a world government strategy on empowering
adolescent girls that’s now part of the US foreign policy a strategy to acquire
at some girls which is incredible because
usually you know foreign policy is, you know it’s the hard stuff, nuclear disarmament,
and adolescent girls you know it took a lot of work on these diplomats
in these foreign policy offices to get them to see that this was actually
crucial to the well-being of the world and really underpin the sustainable
development goal on gender equality but they did it and they brought together
all the agencies USAID, PEPFAR, the agency here on HIV, the State Department, the
Peace Corps, Millennium Challenge corporation, so everyone got on the
same page and agreed to this common strategy. In terms of Overseas Development
Assistance the US during that time while it’s never been even close to 0.7
percent of GDP which is the globally agreed target the US is not even close
to that it’s still in absolute terms because of the size of our economy the
biggest donor to lose its causes and it’s in the US it’s been especially important
when it comes to reproductive rights, family planning, and HIV. So they have not
always been bold but they’ve been solid, they could have done
more, I’m sure there are regrets over what they didn’t do now, but they were
nevertheless you know an administration we can work with deeply and we did
work with deeply. Now. Sorry. I should have trigger warning.
What can we expect from a Trump administration. Well Trump himself has no
policy record of any kind. But on women he is on the record as admitting that
he’s committed sexual assault for starters. He’s also [indesernible] many women publicly and has said women should be punished for abortion it
should go to another state if abortion is no longer available in the state
where they reside. So that’s all things he said. On the global front he has no
foreign policy experience and is not a fan of the UN or of multilateralism and
he’s not particularly interested in other countries except to build hotels and
golf courses, and make deals and he actually brags that he spent only three
hours in Slovenia the country of origin of his wife. So he has not much– as
we’ve seen lately with his phone calls to heads of state he doesn’t have
much respect for diplomacy, and so he doesn’t seem too much interest for
protocol and previous agreements. So that’s a lot of uncertainty in a
president but the person we’re more worried about is this man Mike Pence the VP
elect, who has a dismal policy record on women’s rights and and women’s health, and we
expected it to play a critical role he is already at work and he is himself
a very conservative Catholic. He has a policy record because he served in the
House of Representatives between 2001 and 2013
and then after that as governor of Indiana until now. And
during that time he’s been a vocal proponent of anti-women legislation and
anti-women executive action. In Congress he attempted to have the House
Republicans reinstate the global Gag Rule, which prevents foreign agencies that
receive our USAID funding for family planning to speak about abortion, thats why its called a global gag rule. They tried to reinstate it legislatively in 2011 of
course they couldn’t do it because President Obama vetoed that, but he led the
charge on that, he also led the charge to defund Planned Parenthood that’s been
one of his signature moves in Indiana. And he’s the man who brought us forcible
rape, remember forcible rape. He co-sponsored legislation that would have
restricted abortion only in cases of forcible rape meaning it should be
someone you don’t know you know stranger who grabs over the street because
anybody else we are consenting right? Your husband, your boyfriend, or
your partner, or the person you’re dating. He also encouraged the Attorney General
of Indiana to prosecute Pervi Patel in Indiana she’s a woman who stated that
she had miscarried when she showed up in the emergency room she was instead
accused of having self induced an abortion and was sentenced 20 years in prison.
Yup, this is in Indiana the court of appeals however of Indiana overturned,
another district overturned the verdict but it took a huge legal battle to free Pervi
Patel. In Indiana he cut funding for Planned Parenthood and forced the
closure of half the clinics there in the state of Indiana he also signed into law
a bill that would force women to vary fetal tissue
miscarriage or an abortion he refused to allow needle exchange when there was a
spike in HIV infection in Indiana as a result of an increase in heroin use and
this led largest outbreak of HIV recorded in the US for 20 years. It forced the
Centers for Disease Control to intervene and insist that he provide clean needles.
He’s a proponent of abstinence on the education as part of HIV funding here and abroad. And he has also signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
which would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay patrons. He finally
supports conversion therapy for LGBTQ being electro shock therapy. He’s also anti
immigration etc. Thats Mike Pence. He’s on the the record on all these issues so we’re
taking it seriously. We are taking it very very seriously. We are not giving him the benefit of the doubt. And we’re not waiting to see what he’s gonna
do. We know what he’s going to end he’s already at work. Then at the UN we have
Nikki Haley, she’s the governor of South Carolina she’s been the governor since
2011 she has no foreign policy experience her entire careers spent in
South Carolina but apart from the fact that she gained some notoriety for
removing the Confederate flag that was flying in front of the Capitol in
South Carolina she’s very conservative. She’s conservative on women’s rights, she’s
very anti abortion, she says she’s antiabortion because her husband was
adopted so thats why she’s against it. She’s anti-gay marriage
she’s also anti-immigration even though she is the daughter of immigrants she
would require immigrants to carry identification at all time, she would
require employers to demonstrate their employees are actually legal residents, she’s asked the
federal government to stop resettling Syrians in South Carolina etc. She’s also
opposed a federal directive allowing students to use the bathroom of their
chosen gender identity and she has not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare
leaving 13 billion dollars on the table that could have been used to serve the
poor in South Carolina. Schools in South Carolina’s teach abstinence-only until
marriage and not surprisingly they’re very high rates of teenage pregnancy in South Carolina. So I’m looking forward to seeing her face to face with the
Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin who is very experienced, you know he is an old Fox who’s been the UN ambassador since 2006 who speaks fluent
Russian English French and Mongolian, Or I would like to see her with You Ji Yi the
Chinese ambassador who has 21 years of experience in the global arena I think
she’s going to be eaten alive, but we’ll see.
And at the global level we expect of course a complete change in posture on
reproductive rights, and sexual rights, women’s rights violence against women, in HIV we
saw this before in the Bush era, I was around for that, the Bush
administration brought delegations representing the US government to the UN
that were full of conservative right-wingers who sought to overturn
international agreements or reproductive rights. These were people who would stand up
and say that the u.s. was supportive of natural family planning methods that the US
policy was that life begins at conception, heard this numerous times, of
course who did not let me mention a sexual orientation gender identity
promoted abstinence only the traditional family heterosexual family and of course
mother motherhood as the main objective for women’s lives. So we can expect a
return to that and I expect it to be worse actually given that much much more
extreme individuals in the cabinet as you saw and also that they’ll go faster
and harder because they’ve done it once before in the Bush era so they know what to do now and I think they’re gonna know go for it. So it is going to brutal. In development assistance we expect I mean we’ve talked to our
colleagues who are contracting agencies of USAID on reproductive health and
women’s rights and they expect serious cuts in foreign assistance to family
planning HIV. The president, president Trump’s
budget could be a zero budget on that you know you submit a budget that says
we want no money for USAID on these issues then of course it’s up to
Congress to rebuild the budget but given that Congress is in the hands of
Republicans not sure what’s gonna come out of that. And we could see a return to
the use of faith-based organizations as the main vehicle for delivery foreign
assistant. So what are we going to do? Sorry to have– that’s why I [indiscernible]
we’re going to mobilize that we’re gonna fight and
we are going organize, because we have to right? So what we’re going to do, we’re
going to turn to Congress since the administration is not going to be very
helpful we’re going to fight by turning to our allies, existing allies and new allies in Congress. We have already, we at the coalition, we have two people in
Washington DC, they work extensively on the [indiscernible] the administration. When you
can’t work with the administration you pivot to the hill and we have deep
relationships with several congressional offices and we’re going to continue to
build them and develop them and also cultivate new ones. So we hope to forge
new alliances with the new offices we have Maggie Hassan, of New Hampshire in the Senate. We have Pamela Harris Thank You California. Tammy
Duckworth from Illinois and of course we have existing offices such as Kirsten
Gillibrand of New York. As you know Republicans don’t have the 60 votes in
the Senate that they need to run everything through, at least for now they
have to use you know there’s still the rule that you need 60 votes, this
will be important for certain you know high level judicial confirmation
for changing certain laws so we’re gonna work hard with the Senate. It is one of
our cue ball works but we’re also going to work with the house because the house
is still useful for investigations and hearings it’s useful for bill review of
bills and committees for budgetary decisions in the procreation so it won’t
know the Republicans of the majority but we can make a lot of trouble for them
and we will so there we have you know allies like Betty McCollum from
Minnesota, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Louise slaughter of New York, Diana DeGette who is a new face from Colorado, and Jamie Raskin a new face from Maryland. So
and a lot of them have indicated already they want to meet they
wanna fight they want to know what we’re thinking they need a briefing so we’re
already at work. At the global level we have deep connections with
other governments you know as I told you we Lobby government’s directly with the
women’s movement and so we have connections to other governments which
are still progressive, (I mean theres some of who aren’t) and are still very supportive of
women’s rights so we need to use them to to block the US and also we’re
going to use the platforms that UN gives us to name and shame the
United States. Of course it’s a more difficult context right now than it was in two
thousand when Bush became in power, but it’s not impossible so we’re
going to do it and of course the US may help us the Trump administration may
help us. They could well offend a lot of people in the UN if they become
overbearing and throw their weight around which is already starting, and when the u.s.
does that it’s not well received generally
at the UN so hopefully, with Trump we should have additional emotional capital to work
with. And then we’re going to work with the rest of the women’s movement across
borders here with some of our colleagues from Jamaica and there’s me and this is
one of [indiscernible] and one from Pakistan and we had the coalition fund
these organizations and country we have been a grant maker for 32 years so we
support them to do that work at the country level but also to come to UN negotiations to to lobby as I indicated. In this global solidarity
across the women’s movement across the human rights movement across the
environmental movement it’s going to be essential it’s going to be essential in
the next four years, hopefully not longer, it’s going to be certainly essential to
name and shame and block the worst initiatives of the administration but
also to move forward on implementation of the sustainable development
goals and other agreements on human rights women’s rights climate change
peace and security whatever you need it and so we’re going to work close to you
with the rest of the women’s movement and you know and that’s why I’ve been
telling donors really need to support the women’s movement right now and other
progressive movements because we’re going to be fighting and we need right
now flexible long-term support in order to beat it, to do this. This is gonna be
key so you’re counting on that asset then we have the global
solidarity which is [indiscernible]. So i’ll leave it enough for now open it up to
questions from Jessie and from you. Thank you. I just want to start with a couple
questions the first being– I’m going to go back to the negative for a second, i’ll try to end with a positive question.
What kind of chilling effect can we potentially anticipate on the global
scene in terms of women’s representation in government you mentioned there has been
great momentum on this issue in Rwanda its you know always cited is this
great exemplar, but in part I think Rwanda has done that to sort of appease the international community sort of, you know as Paul Kagame sort of
cements his place and looks for economic investment I think part of
his motivation that’s been to say hey look what a great job we are doing– that’s
not to diminish what they have done– but obviously you know we all, not we all,
but a lot of us anticipated a female UN secretary-general and as it turns out
and not only did it not happened but the likelihood that it was going to happen I think was
a lot less than maybe we anticipated now that sort of details of
the negotiations have come out and then obviously the result of the elections
here in the US having broad international effects so I was wondering if you could speak a little
bit about how you see that playing out. Yeah, whether or not it will discourage
women in particular, from stepping forward and running for office that’s a good question I
don’t have a crystal ball. I have to say that on the the UN secretary general
question we we did some advocacy on having a woman secretary-general and
especially a feminist because we didn’t want just any kind of woman, we wanted a feminist, someone who held the whole agenda of women’s rights and
wasn’t going to shy away from from supporting women’s rights and often what
you get is a powerful woman who’s risen there and doesn’t want to be associated
with gender equality so. And the candidates that were coming forward were
actually really good and you’re right we heard then that in fact there
was active negotiation not to have a woman and and in the straw polls
that took place in the General Assembly as a result of women candidates who were
extremely qualified never made it to the top three in any of the struggles so we
have a long way to go yeah and it could be seen as discouraging by some you know
the next time around, but the one good thing I would say about
that is that we saw the breadth of qualified women, depth and the breath, you
know we had seven highly qualified candidates you know the head of UNESCO,
the head of UNDP, former foreign ministers, former Prime Minister’s of
their country running for Secretary General so I think
it’s put to rest at least the notion that there are no qualified women, we just can’t
find anywhere. The other
thing that it did though is I think as a result they elected a much better male
candidate than we would normally have because that process tends to lead to
mediocrity sorry to say, or the least offensive to and because they had
the seven qualified women they couldn’t just put in anybody so Gutiérrez is
actually very good I mean he’s actually a solid incoming secretary-general and
but what we’ve done now is put him on on notice that we wanted to be a feminist
and he’s got a mixed record right when he was Prime Minister Portugal he
actually blocked the legalization of abortion it happened after he left
office it was his own party the Socialist Party that actually pushed it
through but he blocked it while he was prime minister he has since come around on
other issues that he was against when he was Prime Minister like same-sex
marriage and he’s something not a doctrinaire because he did preside over
the liberalisation of drug laws in Portugal when he was Prime Minister, so
he’s an interesting character i’m i’m meeting with him we can have a
one-on-one with him so I’m gonna ask him about his position on abortion and you know
that we need him to be a feminist the entire time that he discusses sustainable reproductive goals which includes reproductive right so we’ll see what he says, but
yeah I mean you know and it’s the same with the election, the attacks and you
know it’s so difficult for women to to make it through and not be judged by their
gender but at the same time ya know I think
I think the movement for women’s political participation is
not going to stop yeah and that to your point about Rwanda, true that
Kagame maybe gender washing you know using gender to sort of hide some of his
killing of his opponents and oppression, definitely a concern but at the same
time the women’s movement in Rwanda is pretty amazing. And the widow’s movement in Rwanda after the genocide is a formidable force. and a real force you know it’s
not manipulated by you know when you say Kagame controls that so, you know, ya. [Jessie] Just one more question then ill open it up. Quick question about sort of changing narratives. Obviously a lot of your work is
about supporting civil society organizations in the many countries
where you work obviously providing them advocacy tools and as well as very
practical tools for how to operate [Françoise] and funding [Jessie] and funding of course but I’m
wondering if you could talk a little bit maybe give us a great success story to
bring hope back about how you work to actually sort of change perceptions and
narratives because I think for a lot of that work to really be impactful in
terms of sort of international development work they need to be working
in the environment where those rights are going to be respected right like you
know we were chatting before this we were talking about Egypt and one of
your client– one of the partners there and sort of how they’re really facing
repression at the government level and so it’s hard not to feel like you’re
just like ramming your head against the wall giving people tools but then
you know the government’s going to keep wearing them down so I’m wondering if
you can give may be a success story of a case where you’ve really worked with
with government to sort of change perceptions around women’s rights or
women’s empowerment to really enable that simple society movement to take hold
[Françoise] Right. Many examples i’m trying to think it’s the one that would be most I think the whole movement to end child
marriage is I think an interesting one that we came out at the women’s movement
and we at the coalition were one of the early organizations working on that
issue in the mid-2000s, before any who everybody came on board you
know now it’s a big issue and girls not brides and everybody’s on board right
but when we started working on that mid-2000 it was not understood as a
problem again as a human rights violation as a form of violence against girls
and what we did we started working at the country level with groups that were
identifying his problem in their own community women’s groups and in northern
Cameroon you know the part of Cameroon that butts into Chad and the
part of Nigeria where Boko Haram is operating that part of Cameroon is a very
conservative and poor part of the country there were women’s groups that
we knew and they were working on this issue because they saw it as the
main impediment to limit equality because if a girl is married off at 13 and
start having children so it is pulled out of school the rest of her life is
or course not going to turn out the way could, it should. And so if based on that on
the ground discussion and the understanding where they were
identifying as a problem we took this to Washington DC
to the UN and started speaking about it and saying okay we have some–and in fact
there’s some agreements you know the international human rights agreements
and said for a long time that you shouldn’t enter marriage through force
right that’s a long-standing norm but it was never really applied in practice,
what does this mean in the life of women and girls? And how we’re going to fight it so
we start mobilizing at the global level in Washington DC and then start supporting
the women’s groups who are doing that work and they showed us the way you know that
community conversations identifying the root cause of these marriages and how
we’re going to persuade decision-makers which are the fathers and the male
leaders in the community to change their behavior to not send their girls off to
marriage and you know anyways that’s where also we learned from them early on
before we on the evidence that they didn’t see this as a problem of poverty
because often the narrative is you know child marriage is just because the family is poor,
they said to us no because we see wealthy families marrying off their girls and often more than poor families because actually they have more
money to you know it’s more than five pages to the two families to make a deal
with the girl is sort of the product right what we see is that it’s a
question of the status of girls the low status of girls in our community. Okay so
that’s even you know the receive wisdom at the global
level and that the development community help. And from there you know some
research was conducted by other organizations it confirmed that it is
gender inequality that is at the root of child marriage and then you know the
campaign’s began so and now we are in a much later in a space where there is you
know an african union movement to end child marriage with government signing
on now to you know adopt the laws and then implement the measures and you know
send the message that girls need to be kept in school provide the financial
support of the company so they can keep girls in school etc provide programs for
girls that teach that literacy so so it’s starting to happen in the way that
you couldn’t have imagined when we start but it took a long time I mean that’s a
15-year timeline right so yeah it’s so we’re hopeful it’s possible to do it, you just
have to work with people closely listen to them, really work in partnership, and stay the course. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *