Report from the UN
By Theresa Boscia, NCCW NGO representative to the UN
This past March the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) addressed as its priority theme “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”. The following reports are all from events sponsored by the Mission of the Holy See to the UN.
“Social Protection Systems and Access to Public Services in the Fight against Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery”
Development cannot take place without basic social protection of the poor and vulnerable. Today, of the 40 million enslaved persons, 72% of the victims are women and girls. India has the highest number of people living in slavery. 35% of women in India are illiterate. Traffickers prey on women and girls who don’t have access to education, health care and the justice system. Franciscan missionaries working in India provide education to women at-risk for being trafficked. Education needs to be strengthened in rural areas which is the source for trafficking.
Those in desperate situations believe the promises of fair employment but this never happens. Girls from impoverished villages often end up in the child labor market. They are exploited and forced into domestic work or begging.
Survivors of trafficking are human beings who need to be treated with the greatest respect. Coming home is just the beginning for survivors. These victims require assistance to be reintegrated into society. These women and girls often suffer from PTSD, STD, HIV infections and pregnancy complications. They are also vulnerable to the high prevalence of organ trafficking. Survivors need long term support by health care professionals who must be specially trained, sensitive and trusted.
USAID works in 71 countries to end trafficking through economic empowerment, survivor mentoring and rescue trauma counseling. Some survivors, trapped by economic dependency, have even returned to their abusers. With access to meaningful work women wouldn’t have to remain in abusive relationships with someone they relied on financially.
There are a number of reasons why victims of modern day slavery don’t reach out for help. In some countries you must pay for support programs. Access to help is a local problem and frequently there’s indifference with resources not getting to the survivors.
We live in a disposable culture which leads to disposable people. The world has lost its moral compass. We need to be the voice to repoint the compass.
“Valuing Unpaid Work and Caregiving”
Unpaid work has not been given the value it deserves. The Secretary General has reported that women do three times more work than men. Women on the average do four or more hours of unpaid work a day and in some parts of the world it’s six or more. It is a complex issue because of the values different cultures attach to unpaid work and caregiving.
Men have relegated caregiving to women so they can concentrate on their work. There is still a belief that work outside the home is more valuable than unpaid work. Consequently, there’s a debate about the feasibility of reducing and redistributing unpaid work.
One half of all labor is unpaid work preformed by women in the home. Work is any activity that produces goods and services. Unpaid work is part of the economic equation. The GDP would increase by 26% is all work was paid work.
Unpaid work has been seen as a burden rather than a good. Caregiving is unique. It has value because of its human dimension. Technology will make for changes in caregiving but it’s the only activity where humans are not fully replaceable.
Women are usually the ones who care for children, sick relatives, the elderly, and the disabled. This work is very hard but it can also bring deep fulfillment. Practical support and respite are needed to help women care for those they love. Instead of reducing their caregiving women would like to see men more involved.
Caring for a child is meaningful and women don’t regret putting their careers on hold. In fact, many skills a woman gains as a mother eventually help her professionally. A mother’ care is more important than ever since today one in four children are being raised without a father. A working mother’s social protection should include maternal leave and flexible schedules. Most women describe being a mother as the most important thing they do.
“Protecting Femininity and Human Dignity in Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Policies Today”
There’s global crisis in how women are seen and heard. We need to recognize the universal dignity of women. The push today is to make women more competitive but it is wrong to expect women to be just like men. Women have been made to think that their most important work, marriage and motherhood, is antiquated.
Sue Ellen Browder explained how her five years of research led her to become a pro-life advocate. The original 1960’s feminists were fighting for equal rights. Then, in order to make abortion legal, the feminists were recruited. The rights of women were sold as a package. Abortion is a false right which violates the most basic human right. Pro-abortion feminists got credit for new laws – women cannot be fired if pregnant, want ads can no longer be listed as male and female and educational opportunities must be open to women as well as men.
The anti-abortion movement is essential to women’s empowerment. Abortion is not health care. Fertility is a sign of health and not something to be treated with hormonal drugs. Women in underdeveloped countries don’t want abortions. They are aware of the risks but more importantly they believe that life begins at conception. Priorities need to be set straight. Women, living in villages, want accessibility to health care and education. They want assistance in helping young girls learn proper skills.
The value system has been turned upside down. Limiting population is not a solution to a nation’s difficulties. Today women and girls are victims and there is unjust discrimination against them. Sex selection abortion, common throughout the world, has caused 27 million girls to be slaughtered. Children are not a problem but a gift. It’s necessary for women to be brought to the table to inform leaders about what they want. Everyone should spread the message that women’s uniqueness ought to be championed and celebrated.