Friday, March 6, 2009


United Nations: Commission on Status of Women
Annual Update of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

WFTU Asked to Give Report

by Mike Tolochko

In 1995, the Beijing Declaration sounded from Beijing, China; it was a Declaration heard around the world. Along with that Declaration came its Platform for Action. Since that year, and for each succeeding year, the UN has held a special session around its annual celebration of International Women's Day.

This two-week session was the best attended to date. The opening session on Monday morning had to be expanded from Conference Room 1 to CR 2. Conveners said that this was highly unusual.

This year, on March 5th, H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations led off the International Women's Day celebration. For his portion of the two-day meet, the Secretary-General addressed the topic of that day, "Men and Women United to End Violence Against Women and Girls." He made it clear that as Secretary-General he would continue previous mandates to keep these issues on the forefront of his agenda. Also, opening the session were: Mrs. Aja Isatou Njie Saidy, of the Republic of Gambia; Ms. Maria del Ricio Garcia GAytan of Mexico; and Ms. Tanya Plibersek of Australia.

In the panel that followed Radhika Coomarswamy as UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict talked about attention to girls and women during armed conflict. Also on that panel, William Lucy, Int'l Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees [AFSCME] union spoke about, "Violence Against Women in the Workplace."

Gender Equality and Financial Crisis

Clearly, the main topic of this year's Conference, "Gender Equality and the Equal Sharing of Responsibilities" was established well before the world financial crisis. However, many of the participants used their time to put the fight for women's rights within he context of the world financial crisis.

Lorena Jaime Bueno, Special Representative from the World Federation of Trade Unions, was asked, as an NGO to deliver the remarks. In this Session most if not all of the participants are from official government representatives. About 400 NGOs submitted comments, but only two were selected to present their views. The WFTU was one of those two. Here are her prepared comments:

Subject: Equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care giving in the context of HIV/AIDS
Organization: World Federation of Trade Unions
Speaker: Ms. Lorena Jaime Bueno

Dear colleagues
Today, in all capitalist countries, the working woman is the object of harsh exploitation. She works mainly in part-time, uninsured, and temporary jobs. She is being paid less than what men are paid. She has a smaller pension. She is the first to become unemployed. In many countries violence against women is on the rise, prostitution is spreading, economic migration is separating many mothers from their children and deprives them of the right to education, to cultural activity, to free time. All these are consequences of the so-called globalization, that is, of the renewed and expanded aggression of the monopolies and transnationals against the peoples.
According to the European Union statistical data (Eurostat), today 1.2 billion of the world's 2.9 billion workers are women (40%). Women are 60 % of the world's working poor people. More women than ever before are unemployed and they are mostly stuck in low productivity jobs such as agriculture, the field of services and the informal sector. Part Time Work is the most popular solution to work-family conflicts used all over the world. However such solution is not fully suitable because part time work usually has less job security, poor social protection and low earnings. These workers tend to be less organized and therefore have low bargaining power.
The two-thirds of the 800 million illiterate people globally today are women. Among the children that do not attend school, 3 out of 5 are girls. The data also reveal that around one million people annually fall victim to sex trafficking, 900 thousand of whom are women and girls.

HIV/AIDS has created a global health crisis on a scale, which has no parallel in the modern world. Globally, an estimated 33 million people are living with HIV, with nearly 7500 new infections each day. 50% are women.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has mixed the care responsibilities of women and girls. Unequal sharing of responsibilities between women and men limits women's participation in the labor market, and can lead to increased responsibilities for women when they are employed. Girls and young women are expected to manage both educational and domestic responsibilities, often resulting in poor scholastic performance and early drop-out from the educational system.
Care work, especially in the context of HIV/AIDS remains strongly feminized and for the most part undervalued: it is unpaid and takes place in households; always on voluntary basis. But this voluntary care work needs to be more equally shared between women and men within households and communities because it limits the women access to paid work, the family income and their social rights.
Even though some men have become involved in the provision of home-based care, women, particularly older women and young girls, continued to bear the greatest responsibility for care of relatives infected by HIV/AIDS.
Responsibility for care also needs to be more equitably shared between households and society. Care workers (whatever women or men) need to be organized in groups and communities such as trade unions and human rights organizations to call for better regulations of their working conditions and earnings. Societies and policy- makers have to stop considering it as un-skilled work.

Dear Comrades
The attention and the interest of the W.F.T.U. for the issues of working women is interpreted in concrete actions such as the constitution of a permanent Working Committee composed of members representing different regions, development of trade union skills and training programs on gender equality at the workplaces, strengthening the capacity of class-oriented trade unions so as to include gender issues in their collective bargaining, to inform working women about their legitimate rights and help them assure those rights, including legal assistance when presenting claims on violations of the working women's rights and in the supervision of ILO Conventions, to promote the ratification and implementation of labor standards relevant to gender equality, particularly the No. 100 on equal remuneration, No.111 on non discrimination in employment and occupation, No.156 on workers with family responsibilities, No.183 on maternity protection, to promote the occupational, health and safety measures for the women workers, to struggle for increase of women's participation in trade unions, and also their elections as trade union leaders, to fight again sexual harassment or violence against women and other.
The W.F.T.U. dedicates this year's Women's Day to the women of Palestine, to the mothers of Gaza, to the girls in Ramalha who are facing today new barbarian attacks from the Israeli army.

Thank you

15th Year Evaluation in 2010

The year 2010 will be a special year for the Beijing Declaration and its Platform of Action. It will be in its 15th year. In that year, the world financial crisis will be in full swing and will receive the special attention. This will be crucial to the plight of women and girls.

Most of the government speakers pointed to that 15th anniversary year as also crucial as the UN moves toward the year 2015 the 15th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] point of evaluation.

NOTE: For those interested, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action along other important documents are available on the WEB. The MDGs are also there.

9-11 SEPTEMBER 2009.