Monday, September 28, 2009

Off to Iona

Tomorrow morning I will depart for a remarkable journey to the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland where I will join a small group of women for reflection and retreat. It is a physical journey that has many parts: planes, trains, ferries and buses will all be required to get me from here to there.

We will be met at the jetty by our loving friends, coming together from Canada and the U.K. and the U.S. I know there will be laughter and meals and circle conversation into the night around the candles on the altar. 'Altaring the world', my friend Clare Peterson calls our years of gathering around so many such sacred centers.

And then the real traveling begins. Walking and listening -- to the wind and the waves and the quiet inner voices. Stillness amid the elements and the rocks. Wisdom arising in the flickering light of the flames.

I am ready.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good News from the U.N.

Here is the good news from the U.N. as announced by Charlotte Bunch at the Center for Women's Global Leadership:

We are very pleased to let you know that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution today that takes the next step in the process of creating the new Women's Rights entity at the UN. In the text below are the GEAR talking points on the passage of the resolution, and we must now push on our many remaining points to ensure that the entity that is created serves the rights and needs of women throughout the world. We will be back in touch after a few days with suggestions for the next steps in this process. Congratulations to all for your hard work on this.

GEAR Talking Points on Adoption of System Wide Coherence Resolution by the UN General Assembly

September 14, 2009

1. The GEAR campaign is pleased that the General Assembly expressed strong and unanimous support in adopting a resolution today that will enable the creation of the new gender equality entity to be headed by a new Under Secretary-General (USG).

2. Women and their allies from around the world have been advocating for three years for a stronger better resourced agency on gender equality and women's empowerment, and look forward to its creation early in 2010 - during the fifteen anniversary year of the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

3. We urge Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to immediately begin the recruitment process for appointing a strong leader grounded in women's rights and gender equality as the USG who will lead this process of consolidating the four existing entities. We expect a broad, open search process to start promptly so that the USG is in place and the entity can be operational by the time of the Beijing + 15 Review at the Commission on the Status of Women in March of 2010.

4. Member states must also address in a timely fashion all the outstanding issues required for the entity to begin operations, including the mechanisms for governance and oversight.

5. Donor countries need to pledge the substantial funding ($1 billion) to support the proposed strong field operation that the entity must have to be successful in fulfilling the promises made by governments and the UN to the world's women.

6. As civil society has always played a vital role in the UN's work on women's rights, we urge member states and the Secretary General to commit to systematic and on-going participation of civil society, particularly women's organizations, in every stage of the process at global, regional, national, and local levels including in the governing board

7. Women around the world have waited a long time for the United Nations and member states to fulfill the promises made since the first International Women's Year in 1975, the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) thirty years ago, as well as the UN World Conferences in Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).

8. This is an important and crucial step forward - now it must be made operational without further delay.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Support the U.N. 'Super-Agency' for Women

This article came to me by e-mail today. Please join me in holding this initiative in your prayers over the weekend.

Canada Pushes UN on Women's SuperAgency

By Steven Edwards, Canwest News ServiceSeptember 12, 2009

Plans to announce the green light for a United Nations "super-agency" for women as early as Monday are in doubt because of opposition from three Muslim countries and Cuba.
Canada is at the heart of a frantic diplomatic effort this weekend to convince developing countries in the anachronistically named Group of 77 to break with the "Gang of Four" opponents and ensure passage of the new entity.

Support of the vast majority of the 130-member group is essential if the super-agency -- which would aim to do for women what UNICEF does for children -- is to be endorsed by the 192-member General Assembly. But the G-77, like many other blocs at the world body, likes to act by consensus. This means that the opponents -- Egypt, Iran and Sudan plus ostensibly socialist Cuba -- can hold up the measure even if it is supported by the rest of the UN's core voting body.

"Organizational structure and practices at the UN should not get in the way of delivering on vital women's issues," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Friday. "Canada has long been a strong advocate for strengthening the United Nations' capacity to deliver on women's issues, and Monday's vote is a chance for the world body to show that it is moving in that direction."

UN reform ideas floated at the 2005 World Summit embraced the idea that more is needed to be done to tackle such gender-related issues as violence against women, women's property rights and HIV/AIDS among women. A panel subsequently recommended that the work of four smaller UN women's agencies needed to be brought together under a bigger agency, and a budget of around $1 billion US is envisioned for the new entity. But though the proposal has been before the General Assembly since 2006, Cuba, Egypt, Iran and Sudan have decided they can now use it to press for other changes they seek at the UN.

Insiders say these four have tied their support for the new agency to their demand that the UN General Assembly be given increased power over funds it collects from donor countries.
While rich countries fund the overwhelming majority of all UN activities, they currently retain power over how a significant portion of the money is spent. Canada's Stephen Lewis is among longtime proponents of the new agency who say the tactic is unacceptable because it is holding up creation of a body he and other supporters say is long overdue.

"I am deeply agitated by the effort to delay the women's agency, and to use women as a foil for other issues," said Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, a U.S.-based Aids-advocacy organization.

"Women are always expendable in the minds of some countries, but we will keep fighting. Women must have the agency that was recommended by the special panel."

The delaying tactics have outraged women's rights groups, who say postponement past Monday -- the last day of the current UN session -- could lead to the idea being shelved indefinitely.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Women in the headlines

Everyone is buzzing about the New York Time Sunday Magazine from August 23, which focused on women. I'd like to share the opening paragraphs of the lead article by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOFF and SHERYL WuDUNN, authors of a new book Half the Sky which will be released September 8:

IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.

Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.~

I have to acknowledge a deep feeling of relief to absorb this validation of the feminine - both for myself and on behalf of the women and girls of the world. I am profoundly grateful to be on this planet at exactly this time to catch this wave of women's leadership with my sisters.