One Woman

This year, International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women — a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women and a top priority for UN Women. As commemorations are underway in all corners of the globe, “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.

Launching on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world.


CSW57: Panel 2

Today I had the privilege of attending Panel 2: Multi-sectoral services and responses for women and girls subjected to violence with moderator: Mr. Filippo Cinti, Vice-Chair of the Commission (Italy). It was located in the North Lawn Building at the United Nations. The discussion was fascinating and the use of A/V and translation was extremely helpful but it moved too quickly to capture (in fact it was so lively, it ran overtime).

The link below is to the recommended readings, bios and presentations. I encourage you to read through the issues:

CSW57: Trafficking at Major Events

This morning I attended an panel sponsored by the Women’s League of Voters and the Working Group on Girls. I’ve summarized the main speaking points below but my question, in the context of our local club in the City of Hamilton, is: what efforts have taken place to mitigate sexual exploitation in preparation of the Pan Am games in 2015? and what is the current and long-term strategy of Hamilton to eradicate human trafficking and sexual exploitation?

Ms. Lizzy H. – Girl Advocate, The Working Group on Girls, Inc
The panel ended with the perspective of a high school student who has been part of the Working Group on Girls. I start with her comment because it set the tone of the issue: she was forwarded the Huffington Post headline after Superbowl 2013 and  was shocked. All-American Football is about heros from varied socio-economic backgrounds, the under-dog rising up to success and viewers sharing a common unity. Such an iconic concept as the driving force of trafficking demonstrates how systemic and atrocious this issue truly is! I encourage you to read the article:

Mdme. Lourdes Baldiera, Ambassador, Brazil
Ms. Adriana Telles Ribeiro Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations (served as translator)

Brazil will be hosting several major events this year; developed an inter-ministerial working group – justice, sports, tourism, human rights, labour and women – with the goal of elaborating policies to combat violence against women and children during these events. The country of Brazil is preparing itself to secure the protection of rights of Women and Girls by promoting exchanges with other countries who have held major sporting events to learn about successful practices to prevent sexual exploitation. The actions being implemented (both to combat and prevent) includes:
since 2012 being focussed on the services networks in 12 cities hosting the games with the goal of preventing social impacts and situations that may raise the vulnerability of women and girls and protect them from exploitation and contamination of diseases, like HIV/AIDS.

It is an inter-sectorial and inter-ministerial strategy that is systematic and a coordinated effort: NGOs, police and judiciary agencies, social development organizations, etc. The problem is being treated by establishing the punishment for the aggressors and extending the network of support for victims.

“The protagonist is the Special Secretariat of Policies for Women” who has combined with the ministries of justice, sport & labour to launch a national campaign. The goal is to better inform women so they don’t submit themselves to exploitation and recognize if the tactics of exploitation, as well as STD protection. In partnership with actors, hotels/motels and taxi drivers, they are educating these influencers to make them aware of the role they can play in preventing sexual exploitation and recognizing the situation. The government will intensify ads and media campaigns on tv, billboards and radio to raise awareness. They are promoting Dial-180 is the national hotline for service to women; 24 hour service is phone based and free, and explains resources available; also available for Brazilian women in other countries of latin america and parts of Europe. There is a national plan under the Secretariat of Policies for Women that brings actions geared towards the concern of the situation of women and girls and intends to demonstrate that the perspective of gender is in the public policies and that it is needed for a more just, equal and democratic society.

Of note: Brazil does a “name & shame” to highlight names of those convicted for these crimes and the companies they work for!

Amy Mahoney-Project Manager Program Unit, International Organization for Migration, Washington
They studied the World Cup Germany (2012) to better understand the effects of trafficking around events. Results of their study saw no discernible increase possibly due to training of law enforcement and engagement; fan base was mostly families and young men who had low income/resources used for trip and cost of living (vs men with means); also prostitution is legal in Germany. Of the actions taken, at least 5 NGOs had messages and campaigns and there were at least 3 hotlines established as well as one for victims and clients to call, counselling centres and assistance centres for cases that were documented: of the 33 reported human trafficking cases, only 5 were directly linked to the World Cup (all ages 19-21 from Eastern Europe, 4 women, 1 men). An outcome of the analysis was the need to have a more concerted effort: 1 hotline, 1 message and a sustainable method for long term awareness.

South Africa’s prevention campaign (World Cup 2010) focussed on children (sexual exploitation and begging). They key initiatives were: a fast track court was put in place to get through a case in 24 hours, a phone hotline established and a screening room for enforcement to monitor cameras located in local parks and within the stadium. In hindsight, the government needed to monitor pre-construction of roads and stadiums in the context of forced labour (men).

Tracy Thompson, Assistant Attorney General, New Jersey and Chair of Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force
The Superbowl 2013 event is being used as a spring board for marketing and raising awareness but the policies will extend beyond in timeframe; Human Trafficking has been made one of the top 2 priorities and extends to all the commercial enterprises that drive these crimes. The first priority is safety and removal of the victim, where “investigation is a bonus, prosecution is a cherry on top”.

A task force was established 8-years ago. A human trafficking unit was dedicated to prosecution (including drugs, weapons, brothels, illegal use of narcotics, laundering). The policy is if a police officer isn’t appropriately trained to investigate the case, they are mandated to refer it. The Executive Director mandated immediate protection and safety of the victim regardless of a prosecution moving forward and expeditious access to services (partnership with other community organizations), where the department will provide immediate/short term interim services until they can be placed in a shelter. Police are mandated to care for victims and explain available resources (State & Federal options); as well regular/recurring training is mandatory – all training materials are available online to reduce in person/time barriers. The department requires a uniform approach for messaging to ensure a consistent experience for all victims; documenting reported & suspected cases is mandatory across all 24 Counties.

In response to the Superbowl next year, they have already created a 24/7 hotline to take tips, give out information and share resources, and distribute dinner placemats to restaurants with translations (using recent censes to target key languages); also recognized the need to strengthen their laws and identification of gaps in services:

  • a proposed avenue for civil action for victims against their offender and don’t need to participate in the prosecution (encouraged and supported by the DA’s office but not required)
  • age of consent is 16 and to prosecute trafficking the prosecutor must show force or coercion for trafficking; looking to remove that requirement for those under age 18;
  • establishing a commission in the Departments of law and justice so future administrations cannot change them;
  • established a new liability for persons who recklessly facilitate, transport or allow trafficking happen on their property. This encompasses rentals, hotels or motels, taxi cab drivers, and truckers as being liable; and
  • acknowledging the “John-side” to irradiate demand. The speaker reference “don’t buy the lie” campaign (i.e. claim they don’t know the woman is under age or being forced); the education component about susceptibility is to reduce the appeal.

In the State of NJ, the link of trafficking to major sporting events have no specific stats because the issue has not formally been studied. They have already started to gather and monitor sites like Craig’s List for solicitations but there are national stats on transgendered children, boys and women who are being abducted and exploited. The State has assumed and accept that it is also happening regionally – the data will come and in the interim, they acknowledge the problem.

Taking lessons from Indiana and New Orleans: collaboration across agencies and community is key because the police force have limitations in their reach/scope; Luisiana was too late for in/out calls at the time of the superbowl. NJ are already booking rooms in hotels so they have a base of operations in the hotels themselves; have a regional data and information centre that will be set up closer to the event; and they have a state wide approach not just within the city.

The State holds a zero tolerance policy and the risk/penalties for assisting, patronizing a victim, transporting, etc … has to outweigh the profit and pleasure gain. Next steps are: amass volunteers from colleges and faith based communities, will hold a stakeholder summit in June, increase the anti-demand campaign towards “John’s,” and hospitals and emergency services are being educated for signs. For more information:

Note: moderator encouraged the idea of corporations having zero tolerance as part of their code of conduct.

Ms. Laura Kirschstein- Managing Director of the Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations, T&M Protection Resources

Trafficking is not on street corners. It is as easy to order a girl as it is to get a book on Amazon (pick rates, location domestic or int’l, choose photo and enter CCD #); now monitor BackPage (closed down Craig’s List erotic services) but screening for indicative words keeps changing. The change is happening on multiple fronts: domestic violence cases in NY at one point were told to walk around the block and come back but this is no longer the case; there is a similar progression with prostitution where there is a change in attitude (no longer viewed as criminals but as victims); time and effort has been put in to training law enforcement officers and teaching them about conflict resolution and questioning tactics and now police encourage referrals the specific officer feels they are if not trained adequately; have specific training for prosecutors, courts and judges as well. Ongoing is a change in attitude to patrons with penalties that are more than a slap on the wrist. Pimps, bookers, reuse of women are an incestuous world; cooperation of victims helps with intelligence gathering to lead to arrests.

Tactics that work: conduct undercover actions and responding to online solicitations well in advance to keep perpetrators off balance – more public awareness and arrests makes them uncomfortable and feeling at risk of arrest – publicizing successful cases in the media is helpful as a combat strategy; need to make the general population want to report the things they see.

I urge you to contact your city Councillor to find out what is being done to erradicate and prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking, now, during the games and ongoing.

CSW57: Positions

I attended the Canadian debriefing session at the UN. It was held with the negotiating team from the Ministry for Status of Women and am pleased to report that the Canadian delegation confirmed with us today that they will be advocating for inclusion of the language women and girls in the resolutions and that gender equality is maintained. I understand that in the negotiations so far reproductive rights is one of the key contentious issues.

A copy of Canada’s strategic policy and annual reports on the Status of Women can be found online:

CSW57: Opening Day Webcasts

I was in session today starting at 8:30 am – my first day was spent attending sessions for over 12 hours and writing until 11pm and I haven’t even finished posting about yesterday’s sessions, let alone todays! There has been so much to learn and I am so incredibly grateful to be here.

I wanted to share with you a video post I found on UN of the opening session. It is so energizing – but I have repeatedly heard today  at the Parallel sessions that we are women who gather, tell stories, cry together and then go home. The real need is for action when we get home … I am encouraged to return to a community awareness event about Human Trafficking!

Source Website:

Opening of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

Side Event on Violence Against Women: Our Concern, Our Response

NGO Forum: women of Distinction Awardees

This year’s awards for the NGO CSW Women of Disticntion Awards went to two incredible women (

Bineta Diop, Founder and President of Femmes Africa Solidarité, spoke of the gruesome witness to murder of women during war and conflict. She recalled seeing the dead women, with their babies still slung on their backs, lying dead after a week. Her speech was filled with passion and compassion for the women brutalized by war and conflict.

Bineta Diop (Senegal), one of the most recognised organizations involved in engendering peace processes in Africa. She has led numerous peacebuilding programmes in the Great Lakes region (Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo), Mano River region (Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) and the Horn of Africa (Somalia and Sudan). Ms. Diop’s track record includes a women, peace and security initiative that resulted in the creation of a strong West African women’s movement, the Mano River Women’s Peace Network, which was awarded the United Nations General Assembly Prize in Human Rights in 2003. Ms. Diop also mobilised a network of African women’s organizations that played an instrumental role in achieving gender parity within the African Union Commission in 2003, which culminated in the election of five female Commissioners. She has demonstrated vision and leadership, and is recognised as a champion on women’s human rights and gender issues, not only in Africa but at the global level. Ms Diop is currently serving in the Global Civil Society Advisory Group of UN Women and as a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Ms. Diop has received numerous honours and awards and in 2011 was named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2012, the United Nations-mandated University for Peace awarded her a “Doctor Honoris Causa in International Peace Studies” and the French government awarded her the prestigious “Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur”.

Tawakkel Karman was unable to join the Forum. The officials in Yeman did not issue her a Visa to travel. I mention this in particular because there was an outcry throughout the sessions on Monday – where are the lawyers to advocate and prevent governments from this type of oppression and limitation of women of distinction to have the freedom to travel to share their message of peace and hope.

Tawakkol Karman (Yemen) is the Yemeni political activist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with two other female activists in 2011, becoming the youngest person ever to win the Prize. During the “Arab Spring” of 2010 and 2011, as activists were fighting entrenched rulers in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, Karman began leading Yemeni protests against the rule of President Saleh, earning the nickname “Mother of the Revolution.” She is also one of the founders of Women Journalists Without Chains, which works to provide a voice for women’s rights and freedom of expression in Yemen.

NGO Forum: Michelle Bachelet

Opening remarks for the NGO CSW Forum 2013 were provided by Soon-Young Yoon, Chair of the NGO CSW/NY. She welcomed Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women to address the forum. This was her 3rd year participating on behalf of UN Women. Her key speaking points were:

  • Oct 11 was declared by the UN as  “girl child day” – the inaugural theme in 2012 was to end child marriage (
  • 1 Billion Rising campaign brought together people around the world for a single cause using social media (
  • We cannot have peace, prosperity or progress without the full participation from women; violence against women & girls undermines these efforts
  • 7 of 10 women have reported experiencing violence or sexual abuse and the unreported cases are higher; many countries still don’t have laws against domestic violence
  • engage and educate men and boys to change cultural norms and expectations
  • UN forum was held in 2012 to hear voices of women who have experienced violence (
  • Inclusiveness and quality is gender, socio-economic, and regional – violence against women it is the greatest challenge of this century; the discussion and implementation is not a procedural formality and citizens are not beneficiaries but partners;

NGO CSW Forum 2013

On Sunday, the SI delegation within our hotel gathered at 8am to line up at the Armenian Diocese Convention Center. It’s a huge building with a gold-metallic dome on the corner of 2nd Ave and 35th Street. We were bombarded with handfuls of flyers, buttons for the 5th World Conference on Women and even a book (Moving Toward the Millionth Circle: Energizing the Global Women’s Movement by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.). The weight was overwhelming and a surprise to me.

The NGO Forum hosted 700 women and men for a full day conference, starting at 9am and ending at 5:30 with a song – Keep on Movin’ Forward – sung a capella by our very own Dawn Marie Lemonds, who did a spectacular job. While I don’t have photos uploaded yet (the one thing I forgot was the camera cable), I will update this post when I return.

I heard that there are over 6,000 people registered for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women – the largest yet. In a time of economic hardship and turmoil one must believe that the topic of Violence Against Women is truly that widely held a belief and the movement to irradiate it is that strong.

The day opened with a public service announcement video for G!RL Be Heard: from Victim to Victory and a live performance that was incredibly moving. Find out more at

In the spirit of easy to search content, I’d like to take this opportunity to post the various panels and speakers individually in the next series of posts. It will be aligned with the format for the rest of this week. Instead, I will speak to the post-forum evening – the whole SI delegation met for dinner, along with members from SI Manhatten who came to greet us. We were presented with UN 2013 calendars and a listing of key publications, as well as an SI lobby package with flyers, pamphlets and CDs of the 2011 Global Impact Report. We got an update of key messages and actions taken in advance. We also rejoiced in the celebration of Catherine Myers, who was recognized for her lifetime achievement of advocacy work and unofficial welcoming committee for delegates to the UN in NY.

I had the pleasure of meeting Hanna G from Australia, who has been interning at Capital Hill, Margaret C from SI Middlesbrough in England (who took a keen interest in our auction and I in her Rotary Night @ the pub with music and a bottle auction), Any Aryany, National Representative for the one club in Indonesia (located in Jakarta – they hold all their meetings in English and are exploring the idea of multi-lingual meetings in an effort to charter another club in the country), and Christine Peer from Austria who I had previously met at the Montreal SI Convention in 2011.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the members of Soroptimist International: President Alice Wells and Federation Programme Director Anna McCormick, as well as the former Programme Director Dawn Marie Lemonds, and from SI of the Americas: SIA Federation Programme Director Sharon Fisher, who have made me feel so welcomed. I’ve met the most lovely people (Robyn from SWP and Hillary from UK, Wanda and Vivian from SIA and others whose names didn’t register with me) and am so incredibly thankful to be here!

Ring the Bell

Many women are not safe in their own homes – don’t condone domestic violence through silence – take action. Ring the bell.

An international campaign launched by Breakthrough in 2008, Bell Bajao! calls upon men and boys to take a stand against domestic violence and work towards eliminating all forms of violence against women. These vingettes are real examples of men who demonstrated zero tolerance:

57th Commission on the Status of Women

This coming week marks the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57), to be held at the United Nations in New York City. I will be joining the Soroptimist International delegation, a team of 40 women representing over 120 countries across the four Federations that make up our organization: Americas, South West Pacific, Europe and Great Britain & Ireland.

The priority theme at CSW57 is “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. It is an issue that exists here in Hamilton in the forms of domestic violence and human slavery (forced marriage, sexual exploitation and forced labour). There will also be a review at CSW57 of the theme from the 53rd session regarding the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS. Learn more about the issues on the UN Women: In Focus website (»

I have been passionate about the mission of Soroptimist International and their role as an NGO at the United Nations. This year, I put my name forward for consideration and was informed that there is a lottery process within our Federation. By pure chance (or fate), there were three vacancies and my name came up! I am very excited to be attending and I will be blogging about my experience during the week (mostly in the evenings because WIFI is harder to come by than I thought).

The position Soroptimist International has taken is to abide by all previously agreed UN declarations, conventions
and resolutions relating to the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. Specifically:

1. Prioritise and adequately resource policies, programmes, and interventions with education, empowerment, and enabling opportunities at their core, not just for victim/survivors or perpetrators, but for all men, women, boys, and
girls as accountable community members.
2. Institutionalise the responsibilities and obligations of the State and individual members of society to actively tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls.
3. Ensure that violence against women and girls is not labelled “private” and thus out of the reach of the hands of the State and/or the community.
4. Ensure that actions taken to eliminate violence against women and girls – prevention or resolution focussed – are systems-based and holistic, rather than project-based and vertical.
5. End any and all approaches, activities, or policies which promulgate the victim/saviour dichotomy and ensure meaningful, respectful, and human rights based approaches to eliminating violence against women and girls.

“Today we are aware that one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime. We still live in a world where violence against women and girls persists as a weapon of war. We come to the 57th Session of CSW to ask the question – why?” – International President, Alice Wells