"The despised, the insulted, the hurt, the dispossessed—in short, the underdogs of the human race were meeting. ... Who had thought of organizing such a meeting? And what had these nations in common? Nothing, it seemed to me, but what their past relationship to the Western world had made them feel. This meeting of the rejected was in itself a kind of judgment upon the Western world!."
—Richard Wright, The Color Curtain
[University Press of Mississippi, 1956].
Nearly 15 years after a landmark international conference to advance the rights and freedoms of women, the picture in the Asia-Pacific region is mixed, says a leading women’s rights advocate and senior United Nations official.
As the economic meltdown spreads to the far corners of the world, developing nations are increasingly strengthening their social and economic ties, bolstering the growing new concept of South-South cooperation - in trade, investment, transport, health care, education, climate change, communications and disaster reduction.
The lengthy prison terms for war crimes and crimes against humanity handed down by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 19 July have been greeted with widespread praise; two senior members of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council were sentenced to 50 years in prison and another to 45 years for atrocities committed during the country\'s civil war, including rape, writes Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). In this article, the author writes that calling senior military leaders to account for sexual crimes against women is a historic achievement that reaffirms the recognition that rape is among the gravest violations of international law, on par with acts of mass murder and terrorism. It is hoped these sentences will help bolster the capacity of local courts to convict the thousands of lower-ranking rapists who walk free. This is indeed the best hope for resurrecting the rule of law in a war-ravaged nation. Regrettably, international support for the rehabilitation of justice systems and the rule of law has not prioritised women\'s access to justice, which has generally been sidelined in favor of market-oriented reform, such as revising corporate laws to improve the investment climate. We must act urgently ensure that laws on paper are matched by action.
Violence against women during conflict has become an international scandal, writes Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM), on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25. In this article, the author writes that violence against women is not limited to conflict and post-conflict situations; it is a daily reality for millions of women, in all ranks of life, in every country in the world. This violence, because it is so ordinary, does not provoke the same response--either at the international, the national or the local level. To make matters worse, in many cases, women no longer trust the courts and police to help deal with this violence because their experience with legal and law enforcement institutions has shown them that the gender bias and indifference which gives rise to such violence simply runs too deep. What women have learned in almost two decades of work to end violence against women is that change is possible. It requires engaging men in transforming power relationships and working at multiple levels and across sectors to address the social and economic causes of gender violence and the links between violence, poverty, and conflict.
The 2005 World Summit confronts us with a challenge: world leaders must either find the will to work together to make the vision of the Millennium Declaration a reality for people everywhere, or millions of people will be left to live in deprivation and fear, writes Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). In this analysis, Heyzer writes that UNIFEM focuses a spotlight on the links between poverty and gender inequality and the role of employment in reducing or perpetuating both. In the developing world, with the exception of North Africa, women are not only concentrated in informal employment, but also in the more precarious forms of informal employment, where earnings are meagre and highly unreliable. Not achieving these goals is unthinkable. Widening gaps between rich and poor, and between women and men, can only contribute to greater insecurity and violence in the world. Above all else, economic priorities must be re-ordered to focus on employment rather than simply growth, looking at the needs of women as workers, not only as citizens or members of a vulnerable group.