Saturday, 09 March 2013 01:24

News from the Trenches: Week 1, 57th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women at the United Nations, New York

Written by  Fiona Basile
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fiona un 350Hello from ‘snowing-one-day, sunshine-the-next’ New York City! I’m happy to report that both Jane and I have survived week 1 of the 57th session of the Commission of the Status of Women at the UN. And what a week it’s been!

While it has become very apparent that a lot of good work is being done by grass-root NGOs and governments from all over the world in their efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls, it is also clear that there are many organisations and government delegations that have very specific agendas which are contrary to protecting ALL human rights. I say this because I've witnessed numerous State or NGO representatives who declare in one sentence “the need to protect the dignity of the person and the need to protect the most vulnerable” (meaning girls and women), but in the very next sentence they will state: “abortion should be a universal right” or that “every girl and woman is entitled to ‘sexual reproductive rights’", which is just another way of saying the right to abortion.

So the question or “elephant in the room” as I like to think when these statements are made, is: What about the rights of the human life in the womb? How come the unborn child isn’t entitled to be protected by these “human rights”? Don’t they have dignity too? Shouldn’t we be trying to protect their human rights as well, particularly given their vulnerability? It begs the question, where has common sense gone? What is said, and what is done is not consistent. Anyway, my UN observations will be elaborated in a more detailed report at the conclusion of my time in NY.

So, what have I been up to over the last few days of the session?

I've attended side panels on the following topics: (1) Women doctors and the role of the health system in the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, which included a presentation on the impact of sexual violence on women from Melbourne doctor, Dr Raie Goodwach; (2) The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), who have launched a new curriculum program internationally called 'Voices Against Violence', and who the head of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, stated “is a force to be reckoned with.” [Note that WAGGGS is affiliated with the International Planned Parenthood Federation!!!]; (3) Engaging men and boys to prevent violence against women and girls which included presentations by Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and CEO of the White Ribbon Foundation, Libby Davies; (4) I've watched for a second time the powerful documentary 'It’s a Girl' which clearly demonstrates the situation in India and China (and many other parts of the world today), where girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls.

Everyone needs to see this movie! Special licenses for parishes, schools and community groups are available. See: http://www.itsagirlmovie.com.

I’ve seen UN Secretary General (the boss of the UN) Ban Ki-moon speak and managed some snaps as he exited the building. But the highlight for these past few days has been our meeting today with His Excellency, The Most Reverend Francis A. Chullikatt, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in his office. What an inspiring, intelligent, caring and humble man!

Stay tuned for the full article! Alas, it’s the weekend, and tomorrow is Sunday … so I’m looking forward to Mass, a day of no work, and all play! I hope you’re all having a great long weekend back in Oz. Love Fi (and Jane)