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A bird's eye view.

At the 2005 WILPF congress in San Francisco a question was put to the group: Who is the world's most dangerous woman?

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When I was five it was me. In bold defiance of my parents' absolute moral authority I crayoned a little flower underneath the kitchen table. Since I was never brave enough to confess I came to doubt my right to the title of "World's Most Dangerous Woman".

Recently, I turned sixty (like the UN) and against all odds that "most dangerous woman" makes herself known to me in unexpected ways. The face of a small grandchild with unlimited potential or a friend struggling with cancer speaking out against an unjust healthcare system or my husband, my father, my sons actively supporting women's rights. In fact that "dangerous woman" spirit is alive in each of us who has the audacity to think we can make a difference.

During February 2006 many of these dangerous women came to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) where I was one of the WILPF delegates. The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was established by the United Nations as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council in 1946 to prepare recommendations and reports on promoting women's rights equal to those of men in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. The Commission also advises on urgent women's rights problems requiring immediate attention. The Commission meets for two weeks annually, when women from all over the world converge at UN headquarters in New York for official meetings and "side events" run by Non Governmental Organizations (NGO's), including WILPF.

This year CSW focused on: Enhancing participation of women in development through an enabling environment for achieving gender equality and the advancement of women Equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes, with particular emphasis on political participation and leadership

These two themes elicited wide-ranging discussions of very divergent topics including sexual slavery, gender equality in government and women's participation in resolution and prevention of conflict.

About 1500 women attended the scores of events and meetings that make up the CSW experience. Over 40 of the women attending were WILPFers traveling from countries including Japan, India, Australia, Colombia and the UK. Dynamic connections were established between participants along with exchange of information. WILPFers huddled early each morning over coffee to discuss who was attending what meeting, to share impressions and get feedback.

While it was thrilling to meet "sisters" from all over the world my overall view of this 50th Session of the Commission was that the goal of equal rights for women remains far from realized because there is a striking lack of accountability behind all the resolutions and platforms. If a member state does not comply with Security Council Resolution 1325 (which ensures women's increased participation in prevention, management and resolution of conflict), there are no consequences. None at all. States do not like to be criticized and the UN culture is a "culture of diplomacy" that protects many failures from exposure. This results in cheap but eloquent lip service being paid to the concept of equality by member States because it makes good press copy. When it comes to implementation of these concepts there is very little progress indeed. Over 100 recommendations have been made on women's roles in conflict prevention but little action has been taken. To date gender has been too easily overlooked or ignored. Small areas of progress do exist and they give hope to activists to continue to put pressure on member states for better compliance with existing resolutions. Or perhaps they serve to keep activist women from getting more "dangerously" activated.

At least, meetings like the CSW make it more difficult (or at least embarrassing) to ignore half the world's population. Women's demands for basic human rights and gender awareness are now more organized. At the CSW "strength in numbers" invigorates the international community of activists, as sisters support each other's causes across geographic boundaries.

The good source of information on the meetings themselves can be found on www.peacewoman.org. The section called Women and the United Nations on the Peacewomen website contains a guide to the status of women's rights around the world and the issues presently being dealt with at the United Nations itself. The statements released to the press at the conclusion of the 2006 CSW also offer a good summary of the conclusions reached: "No tool for development more effective than empowerment of women, says Deputy Secretary-General, as women's commission opens 50th session." www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/wom1539.doc.htm

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"Absence of women from leadership positions undermines democracy, commission on status of women told." www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/wom1541.doc.htm "Despite major gains, women bear disproportionate share of poverty burden, remain politically underrepresented, UN commission told." www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/wom1543.doc.htm

"Gender permeates causes, consequences of international migration, Commission on Status of Women told." www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/wom1544.doc.htm

These statements and more are also available online at www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/50sess.htm Obviously much remains to be done.

Anita Pulier, WILPF USA
COPYRIGHT 2006 Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:status of women in today's society
Author:Pulier, Anita
Publication:International Peace Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
Words:872
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