Friday, February 29, 2008

What endangers women and children?

Irresponsible reporting by the Drudge Report and quite shameful tail-gating by Jon Snow has not gone unnoticed here in the US. We have spent this week discussing the tragic effects of war in particular on women and children. The UN Commission does not take these things lightly and we are with some 5000 women from around the world, many of whom have first hand experience of finding themselves in women-headed families and communities struggling with physical, financial and social disaster.

So does the Drudge report think they have been helpful?

We have a culture of 'if you know it, tell it' that has developed, but the majority of responsible journalists know when to use their common sense and choose not to report.

Come to the CSW Mr Drudge. Come and talk to women to whom the impact of careless words has a long term, devastating effect, sometimes outcast from their communities. Leaving them exposed and powerless - yet again.

In the second World War we learnt that careless talk cost lives. It still does.

Anger at Drudge

Hopefully the CWOs who are currently in New York may be able to get a US viewpoint on this but I am so incredibly angry with Matt Drudge for the unprofessional way he leaked the news that Harry is in Afghanistan.

For the life of me I can't see any reason he did it, other than to announce to the world that he knew. Well, Matt, it may amaze you to know that a surprisingly large number of people this side of the Atlantic already knew, but they managed to keep their ego under control.

Probably more disappointing, Channel 4's Jon Snow thanks Drudge for doing it.

Has anyone seriously been thinking "I wonder if Harry is in Afghanistan?" for the past 10 weeks? The media are there to report news that is in the public interest - this was not - and has consequently put a member of our armed forces in danger.

I wonder what the fallout would be if Brad Pitt joined the US troops and a UK blog leaked it?

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that it wasn't Matt Drudge who did the originally leaking - this was from New Idea (Gossip) Magazine in Australia, which printed it on the 7th January, and Germany's Bild . Bild should have known better and New Idea say that they had No Idea about an embargo (what happened to plain old common sense?)

Both reports were ignored by the rest of the world's media: It was Drudge that gave the story a voice, which he knew would happen. Yes, I believe Bild and New Idea were ignorant but I blame Drudge.

'I guess that's why they call it the blues...'

So, here are the postcards for those who are feeling we have not been good on the whole mailing home thing. Please read and enjoy.

Usual stuff; 'Having a good time, wish you were here, weather mixed' !!

Today has been a slightly less pressured day at CSW. Fiona headed for the UN for a good meeting with UNIFEM on securing women's housing and property rights when they are affected by HIV/AIDS.

The sessions tomorrow pick up again on gender architecture, issues surrounding rights for widows, and African land issues.

The week has been quite pressured, and yesterday in particular had covered a large amount of harrowing information, so the slight 'down day' has come at a good moment. As the trip has been voluntary, and funded independently by each of us, it has been nice to have a bit of NY playtime!

Pauline and Eve decided to investigate the 'other side' of the American economy by travelling on the Staten Island Ferry over to a retail park north of the island. The Ferry now goes from a spectacular new terminal at Battery Park, but is still a free service. The terminal has some glamorous aquariums to watch while you await your ferry (sponsored by Staten Island Zoo) and we snapped a picture of the 'Fiona Fish' - so named today because as you know Fiona loves her turquoise!

Staten is a very different place to the city, even though it is a mere 20 minute ferry ride away. The population in this one NYC Borough is 600,000, which has doubled in less than 20 years, (total City population for the 5 Boroughs is 8.2 million) with very little having been done to add to the infrastructure. Although mainly a dormitory for the city, the quality of life for people on the island has deteriorated in part because of this.

We had a reason for heading to this particular place - a craft emporium called JoAnn that specialises in quilting fabrics and equipment, one of Mrs L's hobbies, but it gave us an opportunity to see a very different side of New York.

And for those of you who have been reading this blog with bated breath THE CONCERT WAS FANTASTIC!!!

Messrs Clapton and Winwood were stunning. Performing with a three-piece band that included Willie Weeks (bass), Chris Stainton (keyboards) and Ian Thomas (drums), the duo traded vocals and instrumentals with well-practiced ease. Clapton's solos in Traffic's "Pearly Queen" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy", Winwood's keyboard work and amazing vocals (for an old bloke!) made songs as Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" and Clapton's "Tell the Truth" brilliant. Winwood strapped on a guitar for most of the Blind Faith songs, as well as numbers including the rollicking "Low Down".

Each star also delivered one solo number, with Clapton performing an acoustic version of "Ramblin' on My Mind" and Winwood did a great version of "Georgia on My Mind".

Of course, the Blind Faith classics including "Had to Cry Today", "Presence of the Lord" and "Can't Find My Way Home" got the biggest cheers, but Clapton pop hits as "Forever Man" and "After Midnight" came close.

We stomped, we whistled, we screamed a bit, we clapped, we smelt the wacky baccy coming from the seats behind(!) and we had a very good time. Hopefully we will get the video clips up tomorrow.

So that's about it for todays adventures. Some photos of things we have done......

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This you will not believe....

So we thought we should get a bit of 'culture' - web searching for theatre, off Broadway and all that, guess what we found?


So guess where we will be from 8pm??

Report tomorrow ... and maybe some CSW news too!

Sex, drugs and rock n roll

Today has been one of challenge and argument. In fact as we blog we are still arguing!

We split up this morning with Fiona and Pauline heading to the morning briefing. The main point of information was that every country is to have an opportunity to speak independently tomorrow on reproductive health instead of one submission from the European caucus.

Eve attended a session with the UN Human Settlement Program with regard to Land Access Trusts in Africa and India. The Trusts are set up to give women and women headed families the opportunity to gain training in financial matters, get mortgages, and start businesses in order that they might support themselves and their families.

Economics of the sex industry is the item that has caused so much group controversy. UNANIMA organised the meeting along with the Coalition against Trafficking. The packed to over flowing meeting heard from Melissa Farley, an American feminist research and clinical psychologist who has done recent research into prostitution and the sex industry in Las Vegas Nevada. We also heard from Victor Malarek, an investigative journalist who has spent some 30 years working looking at the industry and its victims. His recent book is The Natashas, inside the global sex trade, exposes yet more terrible statistics and facts.

We also heard from a lawyer, and Dr Gail Dines, Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies who has made numerous studies of the media culture surrounding the sex industry. Professor Dines showed very graphic slides of magazines and available mainstream Internet pornography in an effort to encourage us to understand that this is all freely available and accessed by many.

And that's where the arguments started.....

How do we undo the culture? Can we 'go back' to a time when this was not the norm and kids were not brought up to see violent pornography as normal? what do we think about advertising? How sexually explicit should films / videos / music videos / advertising be?

The discussions continue.....

Today has definitely been challenging on the emotional front. The National Council of Women in GB held and event on the effects of war on women and children. 70% of victims in war are women and children... that statistic alone is horrifying. Womankind Worldwide have produced a document called Taking Stock Update: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On which makes disturbing reading.

NAWO Widowhood in Conflict session followed on - the neglected gender issue addressing needs and and supporting roles. The African protocol has been introduced in Kurdistan because things are rather better now, and that does give opportunity for explicit detail on gender issues to be enacted.

Eve got off rather lighter during the afternoon and attended a League of Women Voters session on how to lobby your MP/Representative/Town Mayor/person of influence. She thought this might be a useful tool for the working day back in Parliament!

But seriously - it was a really effective session with a ten point practical plan for people to follow based on the idea that you might only get 60 seconds to get your point across, and how prepared you should be. The League of Women voters are a great group, cross party and dedicated to getting as many voters, especially women, registered and out to the polls.

Now getting back to the fun of the day; guess who we met? Eleanor Laing MP our Shadow Justice Ministry spokesman out here with the IPU, and also Baroness Joyce Anelay, representing the Lord's Speaker.

They were as surprised to see us as we were to see them - but so good that we can exchange views on how the CSW progresses and get more women in the Party involved back in the UK.

We had dinner with Eleanor - and enjoyed a joke with George the Millenium Hotel doorman! (No we are not staying there unfortunatley!!!)

So as we finish blogging at just gone midnight here in NY we have had a day that challenged our emotions and the concept of what can be legislated for, and what is about the human condition, and how we can make the world a rather better place for women.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Release your inner strawberry

Well we have finally cracked the whole getting up on time thing - discovery of the BBC World Service on the cranky clock radio in the apartment!! Nothing quite like waking up to the BBC to get you stirring rather quicker.

This morning we attended the NGO briefing on the main UN floor. The Bureau for the CSW attended and introduced themselves, and we were given some 'do's and don'ts' by the NGO group Chairman. Sitting in the UK seats on the floor was something of an excitement - and what is interesting is just how worn and non-technical the whole UN set up is. We somehow expected slick new and high tech - the reality is elderly, cranky, and with translation channels badly affected by mobile phone signals! However, we were very taken with getting behind the UK sign!

Fiona then attended UNIFEM – 'Getting some Action' – the Role of NGOs in implementing SCR 1325. There was a short presentation on Women's Rights & Gender Equality, the new Aid Environment and Civil Society Organisations, and diversity of women's organizations and the work on issues of finance and gender equality.

Pauline attended a session run by Sweden and the other Nordic countries concerning measures to combat men's violence against women, honour-related violence and oppression and measures to combat trafficking in human beings for sexual purposes. The session highlighted how forward Sweden, Denmark and Norway are with this agenda and how user friendly their documentation is in comparison with the UK. The action plans and documents give sound practical advice and direction lacking in some other countries. Do look at the Reports and Links page on our website for web sites and details.

Pauline was on a roll and then headed for Panel on "Experiences on Financing for Women’s Health," sponsored by UNFPA and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The panel included Mari Simonen, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (External Relations, United Nations Affairs, and Management).

Following the meeting we had held in London with Oxfam and representatives of the Africa Women's Protocol, Eve and Fiona attended an Oxfam organised meeting on the Launch of Program Packs Publication on the Protocol. This was a packed meeting at which various representatives from African countries talked about how the African Women’s Protocol was being implemented in their country.

Now - about your inner strawberry...... have you found yours? Do you know where it is? How do you FEEL about it?

What you may be wondering is the whole strawberry thing about? WELL................................

We went to a meeting to discuss the possibilities of a Fifth World Women's Conference and we thought we would be thinking country, venue, numbers, how to publicise, purpose, how to involve Governments etc etc etc................

Not so. A very nice lady indeed initially addressed the meeting. She told us that she saw everyone in the room as a beautiful strawberry, and we were to send out our strawberry seeds and plant them in fertile soil so that we would spread the word throughout womankind.

Ok then.

Are you doing it now? Seeking that inner strawberry? Searching for some fertile area? Hmmmm

The reality of such a large conference is there are some amazing fantastic women of very many varieties. Different colours, creeds, belief structures and spirituality. So we all come at this from a different perspective, and maybe, just maybe, seeking our inner strawberry on occasions might not be a bad thing.

Inner strawberry's tucked away we headed for another fruit - the underground 24 hour Apple Store - brand new by Central Park and a haven for geeks and techies of all kinds. heading down in the glass lift we found ourselves lost in a world of music, gadgets and gloss

Madam Chairman seemed to really like it!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says we ‘cannot wait’ to end violence against women

CSW formally opened today with a speech by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The session opened at 10am - while delegates still trying to get accredited queued through the lobby. Organisation and speed are not a UN speciality!

Mr Ban Ki-Moon inspired us all with his call to launch a global campaign to end violence against women. He said "I am counting on you - advocates from Government, civil society and the UN - to carry our message around the world." His speech ended with a blast of whistles, by both the Secretary-General and delegates and officials, signalling the call the stop the violence.

The CSW is extremely well attended for this session, and the main opening was expanded to two main UN session rooms to enable as many people as possible to hear all the opening remarks. All are published on the UN site at

Lunch found us searching for a SMOKE FREE cafe! One of the peculiarities of the UN being a stateless building is that smoke free legislation has not happened, something us smoke free Brits find quite odd. However, a foray to the upper floors found us in the One World cafe, where you share your lunch with very many nationalities along with spectacular views over the River Hudson.

Post lunch we attended a UNite (UN campaign to stop the violence) meeting - a Special Event on Violence against Women organized by the Officer of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women. An excellent panel included Rachel N. Mayanja, Kevin Powell, a New York-based writer and political activist involved in preventing gender violence for over 17 years, Michealeane Risley, a women’s advocate and award-winning documentarian, Todd Minerson, Executive Director of the White Ribbon Campaign, Prateek Suman Awasthi, who worked with the India-based Men against Violence and Abuse organisation, Anne Sosin, Founder and Director of Vizyon Dwa Ayisyen/Haiti Rights Vision and Captain Aimable Mushabe, a Rwandan military officer.

We were fascinated by their very practical and moving stories of what they were each doing on the ground with their organisations, and the ensuing Q&A session from the floor proved lively.

One of the interesting things of being at the CSW is the huge variety of views and activists here. There is a main thread that binds us all, but with a vast mixture of 'how do we get there' processes and practical thoughts.

During the afternoon Fiona also took part in a drafting session for resolutions following yesterdays brainstorming sessions, and we all attended the launch of a tool for working out how to audit your organisation and functions for gender equality at all levels.

Then we have to admit to hitting a bar!!

The evening was an excellent reception at the UK Mission to the UN with Sir John Sawers, UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. We met most of the UK delegation during the evening from a cross section of groups and organisations.

Baroness Gould presenting Sir John Sawyer with a book on theatre from the delegation

Tomorrow we are looking at implementing UN resolution 1325, finding the 'power' in empowerment, and following up on the work we have already done on the Africa Women's Protocol. Also the UNIFEM 'Getting some action' session - still trying to work out what to expect from that!! So very varied to say the least!

The main Commission sessions tomorrow are an expert panel on financing for gender equality and capacity building and mainstreaming a gender perspective.

Fiona and Pauline in the UN building

Monday, February 25, 2008

NGO-CSW Consultation Day

Sunshine!!! Lots and lots of sunshine!
As we headed down to the NYU Medical School at 8am to register the sun made New York look particularly glorious as the buildings gleamed.

We join the line - another line - to have our NGO registration confirmed.

The morning started with an address by Vivien Pender – Chair of NGO CSW - she welcomed us to the day of orientation for Financing for Success and Security. This was followed by HE Ambassador Olivier Belle – Chairperson Bureau of the Commission on the Status of Women. He told us that CSW is now attracting a lot of people – several thousand NGOs - with some groups sending more than 30 people.

CSW will touch on subsidiary themes as well as the main theme, with the work plan being
1. Theme for the next session
2009 Shared Responsibility between men and women – care for AIDS
Fundamental for women in society

2. Violence against Women
Secretary-General will open with a campaign
Will try to concentrate on concrete indicators

3. Women and Climate Change
Top priority and an emerging issue in the UN
Bali conference had been a good result but is not the end of the work which needs doing
Emerging issue is the relationship between women and climate change
Women are better placed to tackle the changes

And finally a review of the Priority Theme from 2004 which was Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution.

Ms. Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women addressed the conference. The CSW has a long tradition of working with NGOs around the world. She highlighted that the CSW was the most important forum on gender equality – what happens here will make a difference around the world and be implemented in many countries. NGOs have always been active in the work of the UN.

Mrs. Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary General, and Special Adviser to the UN-Secretary General on Gender Equality and the Advancement of Women then talked about gender equality in the work of the UN through gender mainstreaming.

She talked about it being focused on the women’s perspective through 4 entities in the UN, how every piece of future work must look at how the system makes a difference to women, and how progress for women is progress for all.


Taking in a large amount of information in a packed lecture hall made the team somewhat desperate for refreshment, so leaving our glorious leader Chairman at her post (and minding the coats!) we stepped down the Hall to find some more buckets of coffee and Granola bars to sustain us.

We returned to listen to an excellent address by Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak – a University Professor from Columbia. A challenging and engaging Indian lady who was not adverse to blunt speech to get her point across, and some amusing tales about translators and Kant the Philosopher - we'll leave the rest of that to your imagination!!! She left us with this thought. 'First, forget the word HELP'

Tomorrow CSW starts in earnest with opening speeches at 10am. We have a master plan of which break out groups and parallel meetings we will each attend and will each report back.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

CWO hit the NY streets

Saturday morning dawned snowy and dark but undaunted we sallied forth to find out all that NY has to offer for our one 'down day' of the week. First stop the Subway station to get subway maps and Metrocard details. We cannot seem to move more than a few feet without very kindly New Yorkers stopping to ask if they can help us. This leads us to believe we either:
  • look amazingly ditzy
  • talk loudly and attract attention
  • look like we need getting off the streets
.... or probably all three!

Next stop 5th Avenue to gaze at some of the most amazing stores in the world - and some of the most amazing designer shoppers, complete with designer dogs (one wearing an I Love NY sweater!) We spotted a gentleman in Saks with the most extraordinary giant sheepskin hat that gave the impression it was moving between the clothes racks unaided - hilarious!

We purchased hats and scarves at a street stand, with much laughter all round - especially from the stall holders. The hats may make these pages as the week goes on.....

Later in the day we made our way to what was Ground Zero. Still a pilgrimage site for many, and has an air of thoughtfulness that settles on groups standing to look at the new building site.

A walk down to the river gave us the spectacular snowy view of the Statue of Liberty.

Sunday will be spent at the NGO Conference learning about the themes for the week and splitting into working groups, and we hope to meet more members of our delegation.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

'Let it snow let it snow let it snow' (sung of course!)

CWO hits New York by storm - literally! Arrived to blizzards and deep snow, but never daunted we plowed through the streets to our apartment (cozy!) (still speaking!) and then onto the UN Building to register.

And that's pretty much where we stopped.

First impressions are not of efficiency - queue process took a full 7 minutes a person - and there are a lots of persons. We queued for three and a half hours BUT - RESULT - we have UN Passes!!!
(Picture: Fiona & Eve at the UN building)
The joy of 'standing in line' made us new friends from mainly the US - Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Milwaukee, Florida and beyond. Plus some Brits and a Slovenian. The line experience resulted in ideas of where to get cheap theatre tickets, an invite to Methodist morning worship for two days, and an introduction to Godiva choc mint sweeties.

Conversations were wide ranging and gave us the chance to explain a little of where the Party stands on issues, and dispel the myth that any Party with the word 'conservative' in it would not be ready for change and fresh thinking - something that seemed to be a surprise to our US sisters.

We also experienced our first US bucket of coffee, the great corner cafe by the apartment, and our first 'have a nice day now'.

Saturday is an orientation programme around Macys, Bloomingdales, Saks and 5th Avenue! We need to research how US ladies are projecting their image to the world, and how we can assist in their mission. Plus we are reading the vast of paperwork issued for the Commission on the Status of Women, and meeting up with other delegates

Our Chairman said 'We have to reach out to our sisters around the world and share common experience , it is going to be a very exciting and enlightening week. Sunday is a full day of NGO Conference, where we will have the opportunity to work in individual subject groups and also hear more about the work of the Commission with NGOs.'

So we head out into the day - more in our next!!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Heading for the USA

Chairman Fiona, along with Deputies Pauline and Eve are off to New York on Friday 22nd February.

Another shopping trip you might ask? Absolutely not (although we might just have to pop into Macys....) but as delegates to the 52nd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We are attending under the umbrella of the National Association of Womens Organisations here in the UK, and will be part of the vast numbers of delegates falling into the NGO bracket.

The main theme is Financing for Gender equality and the Empowerment of women, with a second theme of Women in conflict resolution and peacemaking roles.

We are delighted to be able to attend one week of the two week Commission and (apart from the wild and frantic packing going on here...) will post daily blogs here on the site so that you all know what we are hearing, debating, discussing and learning.