WIDF's United Nations Session Speaks Reality: "No Sugar Coating"
by Mike Tolochko
Amuge Rebecca Otengo, a leading member of the Ugandan Parliament, is attending the United National Commission on the Status of Women. She has attended general, main sessions and also participated in a seminar just before the Women's International Democratic Federation [WIDF] special seminar. She was about to leave the room, but something told her to stay. After attending the session she said: "They didn't sugar coat the reality, in this session." That was her comment about the session. She lead off her remarks with solidarity for Palestinian women and support for the Cuban 5's demand for justice.
This special seminar was held in Conference Room C in the Afternoon of March 9. The Annual Commission on the Status of Women was entering its second week.
Vinie Burrows, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations from the WIDF chaired the session. Ms Burrows is a world renounced actor and political activist.
She welcomed everyone with a brief description of the WIDF's beginnings. "The WIDF is as old as the UN itself." Its headquarters are in Brasil and has affiliate locations on all continents around the world.
Ms Burrows announced that Marcia de Campos the President of the World International Democratic Federation, was in Conference Room 2 delivering her prepared remarks to a main session of the CSW. She will return after her remarks are delivered.
The next speaker was Skevi Koukouma. She is a member of the Greek Parliament and a leader of AKEL, the Progressive Party of the Working People and a member of the WIDF Steering Committee, was the next speaker. Ms Koukouma reported on the current situation in Cyprus. She said that there are 200,000 refugees from the turbulence over the past years, ever since the invasion of the Turkish government in 1974 of Cyprus. Cyprus is 37% Turkish. She reported that a special United Nations Committee assigned to uncover grave cites has found many dead people. Through the use of DNA, the families of both Turkish and Cypriots were able to identify their family members who died. There are tireless efforts to being unity to the island. Recently, Turkish and Cypriot women met at point just in front of the Turkish army and tied a ribbon in solidarity for peace. It is for these reasons that Cypriots have a special relationship to the Palestinian people. She also voiced complete support for justice for the Cuban 5.
This ribbon ceremony was meant to symbolize the unification of the island. She said that they need the full support of the United Nations and the full international community to expel from the Island all occupiers.
The next speaker was Maritzel Gonzalez from the Republic of Cuba. Ms. Gonzalez described that Cuban Federation of Woman which has a membership of 4 million women. The full island population is 11 million with half the population being women. The minimum age to join the Federation is 14 years old. She described the work of the Cuban Federation of Women in the field of social work. There are now 71,000 social workers in Cuba. They deal with the rights of women and follow up when the rights of women are being denied.
They investigate and correct acts of violence against women and similar family issues.
The Federation just ended its 8th Congress this past week.
She reported that 43.32% of the Cuban parliament is women.
Of special attention is the freeing of the Cuban 5 and the rights of the families of the Cuban 5 to visit them in the U.S. prisons.
Professor Delia de Dios from the University of Mexico. Dr. De Dios is a professor of sociology. She is the general secretary of the trade union of university women. She talked about the ever-increasing number of women being employed in Mexico. And, while that is good news, the jobs that they are being employed in are low paying jobs and are in the so-called "informal market." In fact, the number of women working in Mexico has increased from 13.6% in 1950 to over 42% in 2001.
Vinie Burrows announced that Emily Naffa a member of the WIDF steering committee from Jordan had to return home. Ms Burrows reported that over 4 million Iraqi's are refugees from Iraq living in Jordan.
Dr. Frank Goldsmith was then asked to deliver comments. He reported that Lorena Jaime, the special representative from the World Federation of Trade Union, was asked to deliver comments to the main assembly last Wednesday. Dr. Goldsmith is the permanent representative for the WFTU at the UN. Ms Jaime was unable, then to deliver, her report since the time ran out at the end of the session. Dr. Goldsmith then read her comments. He added that the WFTU was contacted again, but very late and a far too short notice to again deliver WFTU remarks on Monday morning. [For her statement see the previous PA Blog.]
Ms Burrows then ask for those attending the session to give comments. It was then that Amuge Rebecca Otengo gave her impassioned comments about the importance of this session.
She said that the crisis in Northern Uganda is reaching very bad proportions. She reported that the children are being taken from their families and being turned into fighters. And, when they return, that is all they know. It is a very dangerous situation. Ms Otengo said that this was the best session at the whole two-week session.
Maria Fernanda Carvalho Francisco from Angola then spoke. She said that after 40years of war there is finally peace for 5 years. She voiced complete solidarity with the Palestinians and for the Cuban 5.
Joanne Robinson from Peace Action International said that the importance of reconciliation on the African continent is crucial.
A representative from the country of Cameroon spoke. She voice solidarity with the Cuba and Palestine. She spoke in French and fortunately there was a French speaker in the session that could translate.
Finally, a representative from Nigeria spoke about the Niger Delta and the problems in that region. She works at Delta University as a linguist. A problem in the Niger beach is the growing number of Europeans immigrating there.
By this time, Marcia Campos returned after delivering her remarks to the full governing body in Conference Room 2. She said that the main economic demand must be to nationalize the banks and keep them nationalized. She voiced solidarity with the continent of Africa and called for the dumping of the debt. She ended her comments at the Commission: "We will fight so that the states are mobilized to guarantee the maintenance of jobs and we women will continue to show the way through and out of this crisis for the good of all human beings and the development of our countries. It is appropriate for the United Nations to supervise these measures and to demand that Member states do not allow the onus of this economic crisis to fall on the shoulders of workers with special attention to women workers so that there is guaranteed jobs and protected wages."
Meritzel Gonzalez from Cuba asked to speak. She thanked everyone for their support and she gave back solidarity with everyone's struggles.
Vinie Burrows closed that session by thanking everyone for attending
Delia de Dios
Amuge Rebecca Otengo
Maria Fernanda Carvalho Francisco