CELEBRATE MARCH 8: INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY!
CELEBRATE MARCH 8: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN�S DAY!
On March 8, citizens of the United Nations around the world celebrate United Nations Day for Women�s Rights and International Peace, or, for short, International Women�s Day. This UN Special Observance acknowledges the urgent need in the coming decades to struggle to make women equally central with men in decision-making about the planetary future.
From an evolutionary perspective, human societies up to now, faced with the need to protect against external threats to survival, have been forced to develop based largely on an �alpha-male power pyramid� principle of social organization rather than an all-inclusive social consultation principle.
Now, in the globalized planetary home, all the threats are �internal� to the human family itself, and the principle of maintaining the tranquility of the planetary family must come more and more into operation. Globalization, which seriously began in the 19th century, makes it mandatory to move toward the principle of �religion is consultation.�
That principle first came with the arrival of Islam and in theory it should include all members of society. In actuality, however, it was again not until the 19th century that progressive new religions like the Baha�i Faith or progressive and free-thinking movements within established religions (examples, Unitarianism and Universalism) began to take the equality of women more seriously.
The idea of a day for women, celebrated all over the world, began in the early 1900s in America and Europe in the movement for universalizing to women the human right to vote. International Women�s Day really took hold between 1913 and 1917 when women rallied against World War I or expressed solidarity with their sisters.
The creation of the United Nations in 1945 furthered this process, starting with the Charter itself:
- The Preamble to the UN Charter proclaims, �the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.�
- Article 1.2 proclaims one of the purposes of the United Nations as being, �To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.�
- Article 8 specifically states: �The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs.�
- Article 13.1.b says that the General Assembly shall initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of � �promoting international co-operation in the economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields, and assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.�
The principle of equal rights for women was later, of course, proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and later codified into international treaty law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which were adopted by the General Assembly in 1966 and which came into force in 1976.
In December 1977, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women�s Rights and International Peace.
Since then, the advancement and empowerment of women has become one of the major components of all United Nations activity, which aims ultimately at creating a �culture of peace� on Earth. As a result, much progress has been made for women in developed and developing countries alike:
- in many countries, provisions guaranteeing the enjoyment of human rights without discrimination on the basis of sex have been included in constitutions;
- legal literacy and other measures have been introduced to alert women to their rights and to ensure their access to those rights;
- the world community has identified violence against women as a clear violation of women�s rights;
- incorporating gender perspectives into regular programs and policies has become a priority at the United Nations and in many member states.
Much remains to be done to achieve full, �fifty-fifty� gender equality in government and public life. International Women�s Day provides an opportunity to pay tribute to the struggles of the past and the need for full victory in the future. We can use it to highlight the centrality of women�s needs and concerns in the overall, i.e., global process of communication and self-government at the interpersonal, family, community, state, national, regional, and planetary levels.
However, as the following article points out, there are still sources of resistance, and rhetoric does not always match performance.
For further information about International Women�s Day and about the �fifty-fifty in government� movement, please contact me and/or use the internet. One UN web site is http://www.un.org/av/special/women/index.htm. Another is Women Watch (UN Information and Resources on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, http://www.un.org/womenwatch), which provides a whole directory of UN women-related resources. The UNIFEM website (http://www.unifem.org), the UNESCO web site, http://www.unesco.org, and the UN System Locator site, http://www.unsystem.org are additional sources of UN information. A Google.com search under the title �International Women�s Day� will produce a host of additional references.
To plan ahead for other important United Nations special observances, contact me at the address below or via my new Yahoo Group called Global Citizen Community Calendar, which is located at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GlobalCitizenCommunityCalendar
GPUU Envoy to the UU United Nations Office
U.S. Still Not Delivering On Women's Rights, Groups Say
Friday, March 5, 2004
By Fanen Chiahemen
WASHINGTON � Action on women's rights issues worldwide by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has not matched pledges it has made in recent years, three women's rights groups said yesterday.
Feminist Majority, the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), and the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) yesterday released the global women's issues scorecard for the Bush administration, grading it on statements and actions on women's rights in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the president's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
For women's rights in Afghanistan and women and AIDS relief, the groups gave the administration a "D," while it received an "Incomplete" for women's rights in Iraq.
Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority, said that while the Bush administration had made "strong statements" on women's rights in Afghanistan, those statements had not been met with real action.
The constitutional rights of women in Afghanistan are very fragile, Smeal said. While women represent 25 percent of the lower house of the loya jirga and 12 percent of the House of Elders, the new constitution states that no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam, which has left women's rights vulnerable, Smeal said.
The rights of Afghan women are also eroded by insecurity. With only 2 percent of eligible women registered to vote, most women are staying away from the polls for fear of violent reprisals.
"Why in the world we do not want an international peacekeeping force in [Afghanistan] no one can understand," Smeal said.
The situation in Iraq mirrors that of the one in Afghanistan, said June Zeitlin, executive director of WEDO. Bush scored an "A" for rhetoric on this issue, but women's participation in the nation-building process remains very limited, Zeitlin said.
The interim constitution for Iraq that was finalized March 1 was drafted by an all-male constitutional committee, and the 25-member U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council has only three women members.
The Bush administration does not seem to recognize "the centrality of women in building democracy," Zeitlin said.
Furthermore, women's basic needs for security are not being met in Iraq. Not only are women and girls often afraid to participate in civic activities, but one of the Governing Council's female members has been assassinated.
On the issue of women and AIDS, Jodi Jacobson, executive director of CHANGE, praised Bush's 2003 State of the Union pledge to commit $15 billion over 5 years to prevent 7 million new HIV infections and treat at least 2 million people, focusing particularly on sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. For his statements, Bush scored a "B."
But in the 2004 fiscal year budget, Bush asked for just $1.9 billion to fight AIDS worldwide, and the president's request for 2005 was just $2.8 billion, leaving an $800 million shortfall over two years.
The Bush administration's strategy on dealing with women and AIDS also accounted for the low score.
"We are seeing a values-laden and religious perspective over a public health approach to a global epidemic," Jacobson said.
For example, the Global AIDS Strategy proposes to use an abstinence-only approach and not offer condoms at all to vulnerable youths, despite the fact that a large share of youths in developing countries are sexually active.
"Abstinence only doesn't really help," Jacobson said.
More than half of people infected with HIV worldwide are female. In sub-Saharan Africa that figure is at least 60 percent, she said.
______________"Be the change you wish to see in the world" -- Gandhi
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