WHRD At The 56th Session Of The Commission On The Status Of Women
AWID Women Human Rights Defenders Strategic Initiative's report on activities during the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. New York, February 2012
AWID’s Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Strategic Initiative participated in 3 events co-organized with partners at the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s 56th Session in New York at the end of February. WHRD manager Analia Penchaszadeh spoke on a panel organized with CLADEM on “Pending Debts with Women’s Human Rights in Latin America” and participated in an event regarding the Right to Participate in the CSW and the situation of WHRDs in Iran. AWID executive director Lydia Alpizar chaired a session to launch the WHRD International Coalition’s Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders.
We were part of the AWID team that was present at the CSW, including members from the strategic initiatives on Where is the Money for Women’s Rights?, Young Feminists Activism, and Advocacy for Aid Effectiveness. In addition to the civil society activities, AWID has been following the debates within the CSW and engaging in advocacy activities to advance women’s rights. We were alarmed and disappointed that the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) failed to adopt agreed conclusions at its 56th session, and we were particularly concerned to learn that our governments failed to reach a consensus on the basis of safeguarding “traditional values” at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. AWID has joined allied organizations in a sign-on statement to say NO to any re-opening of negotiations on the already established international agreements on women’s human rights and call on all governments to demonstrate their commitments to promote, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms of women.
You can download the full statement here: http://apwld.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=118e22b87fa01f36b66ad923d&id=788031b444&e=aba49f8f94
and sign on to the statement here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEtJcGNUbExLNExreTh2UHpHai1QRFE6MQ&utm_source=APWLD+News&utm_campaign=a137b67d47-SR+Racism&utm_medium=email#gid=0
Below is a description of the three civil society events where AWID’s WHRD initiative participated.
CLADEM Session on Pending Debts with Women’s Human Rights in Latin America
Analia Penchaszadeh joined the panel to speak about the situation of Women Human Rights Defenders in the region, and to represent the Meso-American Initiative of WHRDs. Susana Chiarotti presented CLADEM’s new campaign to demand that States meet their commitments to women’s human rights, and Altagracia Balcácer from Red de Mujeres Afrolatinoamericanas, Afrocaribeñas y de la Diáspora brought attention to the pending debts regarding economic rights of Afro-descendants in the region.
Analia brought forward the debts of States based on their responsibilities under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, articulating the ways in which States should be held responsible to protecting WHRDs from violations by non-State actors and from domestic and community violence that is related to the work of WHRDs. This includes the context created by State impunity which allows for rights violations and feminicide. She highlighted the 2010 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs which states that despite the protections guaranteed by the Declaration, WHRDs often face more risks and violence than their male counterparts for their work in defense of human rights. The Special Rapporteur also singles out the Americas as the region with the highest risk for WHRDs of assassinations, attempted assassinations, and death threats.
Given the context of serious violations and impunity in the region, the Meso-American Initiative of WHRDs was presented as a strategy for security, solidarity and self-care. Analia provided an overview of the initiative outlining key principles of building common identity as WHRDs, network-building among WHRDs on the ground, self-care as a collective strategy, and solidarity, and she distributed the Assessment of Violence against WHRDs in Meso-America, which was published by the Meso-American Initiative.
More information about CLADEM’s campaign on “pending debts” (in Spanish): http://www.cladem.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1415:pronunciamiento-por-el-dia-internacional-de-las-mujeres&catid=49:ultimas-noticias&Itemid=641
The Right of Women to Participate in the CSW – The Case of Iran
This session took place in the absence of women representatives from Iran participating in the CSW. Iranian women decided that it was too dangerous for them to travel to New York to attend the CSW given the persecution faced by participants in previous events, including Maryam Bahreman who was detained during 5 months after her participation in CSW 55 in 2011.
“This is an excruciating choice that no person or organization should have to make, either to be safe or to participate in an international conversation,” stated session moderator Susan Sirkin of Physicians for Human Rights. This was the first of many dilemmas for activists and organizations working in solidarity with the women of Iran. Another important dilemma was related to intervention. While all the panelists recognized that it was important to maintain contact with women activists in Iran, and to “get the message out”, there were warnings about when publicity was beneficial and when it caused harm.
Analia Penchaszadeh represented AWID on the panel and probed the audience to consider how the actions of solidarity that we take serve the needs of Iranian women and recognized that their voices at the CSW could not be replaced. She put forth that the priorities must be defined by Iranian women, as they are most aware of the risks involved.
Panelists at the event discussed avenues for improving the right to participate of women’s rights activists in Iran, but that could also be applied to all member states. José Luis Diaz from Amnesty International suggested awareness-raising and advocacy at the UN. Charlotte Bunch from the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership specified the possibility of a resolution from the UN general assembly, asking the Special Rapporteur to bring this to the attention of the High Commissioner, and asking UN Women to take the issue to the Secretary General as possible avenues to address the right to participate in the CSW. Analia added that civil society organizations need support to navigate what protections might already exist for their participation in international spaces.
The session was put together at the request of Iranian women to make their “absent voices” heard at the CSW and to address the right for all to participate in the CSW and other UN processes. Other activities at the CSW 56 to raise visibility for this situation included video testimonies from Iranian women’s rights activists and an oral statement that was presented in the NGO briefing. In the closing of the session, a representative from UN Women made a statement affirming that “no woman should face a problem for attending a session at the CSW” and the audience gathered for a solidarity photograph organized by Amnesty International to send to women’s rights activists in Iran.
Iranian Women’s Oral Statement: http://awid.org/Library/Oral-Statement-on-The-Right-to-Participate-in-the-CSW-the-Case-of-Iran
Iranian Women “Absent Voices” youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMcA6kGChXs
WHRD International Coalition Launch of the Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders
Lydia Alpizar, Executive Director of AWID, introduced the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition which began in 2005 in response to the increasing attacks on WHRDs, as a coalition that recognizes violence against WHRDs as systemic, and puts feminist analysis at the centre of its work. The Global Report on the Situation of WHRDs is centered around 43 case studies of WHRDs who have faced violence and violations of their rights as a result of the work defending human rights. Using the feminist lenses regarding patriarchy and heteronormativity, the report looks at the contexts that enable violence against WHRDs and violations of their rights: fundamentalisms, militarization and situations of conflict, globalization, and crises of democracy or governance. After presenting the report, Lydia underscored the need for the protection of WHRDs: “the work of human rights is wholly dependent on the very activists who are doing the work. They are the human rights system.”
Speakers on the panel then described their organizational experiences and how they relate to the contexts explored in the report.
Katrina Anderson from the US-based Centre for Reproductive Rights spoke of the impact of the WHRD international coalition’s work on her legal advocacy organization, calling the support “invaluable.” She spoke about the case study included in the report about the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and elaborated on the context of fundamentalisms in relation to attacks on abortion providers in the US and using a human rights framework to improve safety for providers. S Hkawng Naw from Kachin Women's Association in Thailand (affiliated with coalition member Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development) then spoke about the context of militarization and sexual violence in which her organization works, particularly with women in Burma . The organization is made up of women human rights defenders who are navigating multiple risks and constant change. In their attempts to document human rights abuses on the ground level, they face constant danger.
Lydia and other coalition members spoke more about the context of heteronormativity and the need to include more activists in the network, such as persons working on HIV/AIDS, or with sex workers. The gendered dimension of this type of human rights work makes these activists Women Human Rights Defenders. The Global Report, complete with 43 case studies, is a significant body of work providing contextual analysis of the situation of WHRDs, the violations against them due to their identity and their work, and strategies to address the specific protection needs of WHRDs.
The report is available online in English on the WHRD International Coalition’s web site: http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/resources.php
AWID produced an abstract of the report in English, Spanish, and French, which are available on the AWID web site. There is also a Friday File that looks at the Global Report: http://awid.org/News-Analysis/Friday-Files/New-Global-Report-Highlights-Challenges-to-Women-Human-Rights-Defenders-and-Proposes-Responses