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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Subject: Women In Great Numbers Descend On The UN for CSW 52 – that is the yearly take-over of the UN by the Commission on the Status of Women. EXXONMOBIL Takes A Ride.

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The Commission on the Status of Women is Having its meeting at the UN – and the UN wants to have us believe that it is all about “Violence Against Women.” The reality is that for the week, a yearly event, women’s organizations take over the UN; the UN will be used for many other purposes, besides the one expressed by the UNSG, as well.

This article picked up first the official statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the very good reporting by Edith Lederer from the Associated Press – based on that UN official position. But then we wish to single out one “Parallel Event” held on February 25, 2008, at the Church Center across the UN. We went to that event because we were sent a flyer that mentioned as a panelist: “EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION – Speaker to be announced.” This was enough to trigger our curiosity and the appetite to devour that unnamed speaker for a named company – this while all other members of the panel were right there named in the open.

The title of that event was – “CORPORATE FEMINISM: ENHANCING CORPORATE INFLUENCE THROUGH WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT.” The Conveners of the event were The International Council of Jewish Women and cosponsored by: Soroptimist International. The first body is represented in the US by the National Council of Women, the second body came to CSW 52 with the theme – “Financing for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.” We will have much more about all of this, but as said, we will first introduce the two postings we mentioned in the previous paragraph.

UN Urges End to Violence Against Women

By EDITH M. LEDERER | Associated Press Writer
11:41 PM CST, February 25, 2008

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has launched a global campaign to intensify efforts to end violence against women, specifically calling on men to combat the problem.

“At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime,” he told the opening session of the Commission on the Status of Women on Monday. “Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist.”

Ban said he will form a global network of male leaders to assist him in mobilizing men in government, the arts, sports, business and religion, as well as boys, to speak out against the scourge.

“I call on men around the world to lead by example: to make clear that violence against women is an act perpetrated by a coward, and that speaking up against it is a badge of honor,” he said.

According to the U.N., the most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. World Bank data show women aged 15-44 “are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria.”

In every war zone, violence against women has been reported during or after armed conflict. As examples, the U.N. said, between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 Rwanda genocide and between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the Bosnian conflict in the early 1990s.

Ban said the campaign will continue until 2015 to coincide with the target date to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals aimed at combatting poverty.

He said he will personally approach world leaders “to spur action through national campaigns,” and will urge all countries to ensure that violence against women is always a crime. He said he will also urge the media, the U.N. system, non-governmental organizations and women’s groups worldwide to set priorities and targets to end violence against women.

“We know that violence against women compounds the enormous social and economic toll on families, communities, even whole nations,” Ban said.

The secretary-general said he will propose that the U.N. hold an event in 2010 to review the campaign’s accomplishments and to map out steps to make further progress by 2015.

World leaders at a U.N. summit in 2005, the U.N. Security Council, and the General Assembly have pledged to combat violence against women, but the secretary-general said much more needs to be done.

The U.N. said the campaign — Unite to End Violence Against Women — will try to mobilize public opinion to pressure policy makers to prevent and eradicate violence against women.

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CSW 52 had nothing to do with the will of the UNSG. As said this is an event organized by the Commission on the Status of Women – though, clearly, it is highly possible and we would say probable, that the UNSG has suggested a topic for this years meeting of the CSW. This is clearly a very welcome move on his part and it comes after we saw so many cases when even UN Peacekeeping forces are accused of rape – not just combatant forces that had to be kept apart by these UN forces. So, besides the global humanitarian problem, there is here also a UN problem – and it could not be soon enough for the UNSG to step into this breach of confidence in the UN.

Further – the UNSG in the words of his Spokesperson:

We ‘cannot wait’ to end violence against women – Secretary-General Ban.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launches campaign to End Violence Against Women.

25 February 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today kicked off a multi-year global campaign bringing together the United Nations, governments and civil society to try to end violence against women, calling it an issue that “cannot wait.”

“At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist,” Mr. Ban said in his address at the opening in New York of the latest session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Violence against women impedes economic and social growth, and thus the new campaign will run until 2015, the same target year as the internationally agreed aims known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Noting that weapons of armed conflict today include rape, sexual violence and abduction of children to be conscripted as soldiers or sex slaves, the Secretary-General recounted his visits to war-torn areas and his conversations with survivors of violence.

“This is a campaign for them. It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future,” he said. “It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind.”

Mr. Ban called on the cooperation of the world’s youth, women’s groups, men around the world, the private sector and Member States to help the new initiative succeed.
He acknowledged that there is no “blanket approach” to tackling the scourge, noting that each country must formulate its own measures to address violence against women.
“But there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable,” the Secretary-General stated, adding that he hopes to hold a high-level event in 2010 to review progress.

But there is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.

As part of today’s campaign launch, Rachel N. Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, held a press conference together with a number of other activists, both male and female, working to end violence against women and are slated to participate in other discussions on the subject at UN Headquarters.

“While everybody professes that women hold up the sky and women’s contributions are critical to development – to everything – it hasn’t been demonstrated concretely.” Ms Mayanja said. “And here we are, halfway through the Millennium Development Goals projected period, and we are still lagging behind.”

Many women have been left out of development efforts because of the violence that is continually being inflicted on them, she said. The Secretary-General’s campaign, she added, would bring a new sense of urgency to bear on this tragic issue.

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News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Saudi Arabian women need support to help advance society – UN expert

Video | Audio

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Further, the press conference, as well as the main meeting itself, included male witnesses talking freely about their own experience of having attacked women. Specially was impressive in his presentation one male from the US that after 20 years of counseling came to the conclusion that the three cases of him attacking women were based on the male culture in his neighborhood. A man is supposed to be aggressive he said, and this translated in the way he dealt with women. Men go to war – successful – they become heroes. He finally recognized that this was his personal problem and now he counsels other delinquent males so they recognize the wrong motivation them act the way they do.

But then the UN has not reached yet the level of self criticism reached by above man who by now is rather a gentleman. The question of rape in the field, and exploitation of women and girls in the field, by UN personnel, was never raised at this event – not even the fact that the UN building itself harbors soft porno and smut. So, the only remaining good investigative journalist at the UN – the man called by all – Matthew – did bring this up. Please his post:

Soft Porn Sold in UN Lobby, Despite Gender Advisor’s Complaints to UN Management.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 25 — As the UN on Monday launched its Campaign to End Violence Against Women, in the lobby of UN Headquarters, soft porn remained for sale. At the newsstand next to the elevator to the Secretary-General’s offices on the building’s 38th floor, titles such as Curve and Smooth and King, along with Dirty South, were on display, with oiled-up women vamping for the camera.

Following a press conference at noon at which time apparently did not permit Inner City Press to ask this question despite a hand raised high throughout the question and answer period, the question was put to the UN’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Assistant Secretary-General Rachel N. Mayanja. “I am glad you are raising it,” she told Inner City Press. “I am very appalled. I had already raised it to the Department of Management and had been assured they were going to ask them to take it down.”

Inner City Press asked how long ago the request had been made to the Department of Management, headed by Under Secretary General Alicia Barcena. “At least six months ago,” Ms. Mayanja said. “I am going to go back to them. It should be removed.”

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Ban Ki-moon launches Campaign to End Violence Against Women, soft porn not shown

While the sale of soft porn on the newsstand in the United Nations lobby may raise First Amendment issues, it appears to be the UN’s position that while the UN is in the United States, it is international territory to which the U.S. Constitution does not apply. Perhaps then it is Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has constrained the UN from removing the pornography from the newsstand it licenses in its lobby. Recently, the Department of Management and Ms. Barcena have had no problem condemning journalistic coverage of a death at the UN as causing “complete shock and outrage,” as being “insensitive” and “clearly transgress[ing] accepted boundaries of professional journalism.” Soft porn which the UN’s own Special Adviser on Gender Issues six months ago asked the Department of Management to have removed, however, has generated no such shock or outrage within the Department of Management, nor apparently even a letter to the newsstand.

Footnote: to the UN’s credit, even when time or a moderator deny a journalist a question, most (but not all) UN officials are willing to slow down and provide at least some answer to a question, if a reporter is persistent enough. The matter of soft porn in the lobby is one that Inner City Press has wanted to ask ASG Mayanga about for some time. And despite obstacles on Monday, the question was asked, and now we’ll see what happens. Watch, if not the UN lobby, this site.

Having reported the above, let us see now the CSW 52 Parallel event on Corporate Feminism // Women’s Empowerment, and let us say right front that we do not begrudge women that pushed for equal rights to advance on the corporate ladder. We were friends with such power houses like Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan. Years ago, we hosted them at events of “The Theatre for Ideas” – in Manhattan and in East Hampton, Long Island, New York.
Sure, this is a different level of women’s rights from what the UNSG had in mind in his dealing with the physical protection of women – but then the right of women according to the UN Declaration on Human Rights extends also to equal rights for women’s advancement on corporate ladders. So, naturally, I thought that the panel will be dealing with what was achieved and where we go from here. But what about ExxonMobil? It did not let me bypass the event.

Going to www.soroptimistinternational.org I found that Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women. Even better – Soroptimist International is a launch partner for this vital UNIFEM internet global advocacy campaign which will run until 8 March, International Women’s Day. One in 3 women and girls may be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime.

Greater resources are urgently needed to halt these shameful statistics. The UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, managed by UNIFEM, supports local initiatives, such as work to prevent human trafficking, assisting survivors of domestic violence, or helping to implement laws against rape.
On 22 January, the United Nations Foundation announced a Challenge Grant. It will donate $1 to the UN Trust Fund for each of the first 100,000 signatures to UNIFEM’s “say NO to violence” campaign.
UNIFEM needs YOUR help now! (obviously I signed the petition the day of the meeting) I also met Margaret Lobo, the Australian 2007-2009 International President of the Soroptimists.

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Margaret Lobo

A message from the Soroptimist International President:
“As International President, I am privileged to represent an organization that has been committed to advancing the status of women and human rights for all for over 85 years. With its 90,000 members in 125 countries and territories serves its local, national and international communities through Awareness, Advocacy and Action.
I hope that you will share the passion and enthusiasm of our members as you read about our projects and will want to join us in building a better world for girls and women. We look forward to hearing from you.”

A flyer describes their projects – I will just mention a very small sample: a project “Independence” to help rebuild lives of women in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Rwanda, through education, job training and micro-credit loans for small businesses; “Limbs for Life” that provides prostheses for victims of landmines in Angola, Georgia, Afghanistan; “SIAM” in Northern Thailand villages to develop income-generating activities and AIDS education in order to decrease the number of women entering the sex trade; SI/SIGHT clinics in Bangladesh to prevent blindness in children under 5; anti-malaria bed-nets for children under 5 in Ze, Benin; care, nutrition, education for abandoned children in Vietnam; help for women AIDS victims in Uganda and Ukraine….

Margaret Lobo was not involved in setting up the program of that panel. She told me that this was done by the local organizations in New York. She gave me a second flyer explaining what the organization does –

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The other sponsoring organization was The International Council Of Jewish Women with about 50 member organizations is represented in the US by The National Council of Jewish Women ( www.ncjw.org ). A faith-based volunteer organization that works to improve the quality of life for women, children, and families and to ensure individual rights It is a politically savvy organization. For over a century, NCJW has been at the forefront of social change. NCJW members are outspoken champions for progressive policies at the federal, state, and local levels. Over the years, NCJW’s collective voice has changed the world for the better – improving the lives of women, children, and families in the US and Israel.

The Moderator of the panel was Meryle Kaplan, Vice President of Advisory Services at Catalyst. www.catalyst.org “CATALIST was founded in 1962 as a nonprofit corporate membership research and advisory organization working globally with businesses and professions to build inclusive environments and expand opportunities for women and business.” This according to their flyer. They are “connected to business and its changing needs.” Offices in New York, San Jose, Toronto, and Zug, Switzerland. They work with 340 leading corporations, firms, business schools, and associations – they honor exemplary business initiatives that promote women’s leadership with an annual Catalyst Award. The New York office is on Wall Street and I was not impressed.

Meryle Kaplan told me that she asked her speakers to talk about in-house corporation advancement of women, and as well, about involvement of the corporations in their environments – the interaction with the communities where they do their business.

Elizabeth Cottam, Managing Director, Global Leadership and Diversity at Goldman, Sachs &Co., and Carolyn Buck Luce, Senior Partner, Global Accounts Group, at Ernst & Young, LLP were excellent examples of female leaders in their corporations. Their presentations were indeed examples of what women have achieved in that old fight for advancement within their corporations. They spoke about how funds were created in their companies to help promote the female employees, and how now they are finding new targets for their fights inside the company. Having achieved an increasing percentage of top jobs, though still a minority – they want now also part of the say in the philanthropic funds that these companies have established. This because women may have different interests in the way those funds are distributed. There was a lot of interesting material in their short presentations and much more further information was provided at Q&A time. Their presentations were indeed good examples of how women executives evolved and are now an important factor in the economy as wellas in the social fabric of developed countries that can also help women in developing countries.

Carolyn Buck Luce also teaches at Columbia University a course on “Women in Power” at the School of International and Public Affairs. Corporations want now to put their women into leadership positions in the community – dealing with economics, safety, health – in the community. One point she made is that it still happens that when women succeed they may yet get laid off. this because people are afraid of power. She started out at the US Department of State in the Soviet Union. She wrote about the promotion of minority women. She is a mother of four. She said that by looking at her success she inspired also her sons in their own career development – a comment that was very appropriate to her presentation.

Elizabeth Cottam, working with an Investment Bank, a financial institution that deals only with high net-wealth individuals, governments, corporations, financial institutions, is in an organization were there is an internal competition for who gets to work with the best clients. These competitive women want more career development in house programs. They know that there must be a business rationale for helping the women employees. 2004-2007 she was the company head of Human Capital Management Asia. Now she heads the Global efforts.

Amy Hall, Director of Social Consciousness, Eileen Fisher, Inc., a company that manufactures clothes overseas – in places like China, Korea or Thailand. In those factories 80% of the workers are women. She helps the company carry out the company’s commitment to practicing business responsibly in its relations to these women employees. It is her job to develop community partnerships and oversee the commitment to ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY. She came to Eileen Fisher, Inc. after a fundraising career with Asian-American cultural, educational and social service organizations in New York City. (today we posted also an article about women in Bangladesh that grew with the garment trade – this is clearly a subject with high importance to developing countries’ women empowerment.)

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The ExxonMobil leaf says correctly that an EWGI   (Educating Women and Girls Initiative) yields higher rate of return for society than any other investment available in the developing world – so it says “ExxonMobil is doing this in order to accelerate progress toward international objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals. “

Exxon EWGI programs fund activities in Angola, Chad, Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Qatar – and when Ms. Luxbacher spoke – she also included Washington DC among places they operate.   Now this makes sense – in the countries she mentioned, a very real hodge-podge of dissimilar places in the world, that are all affected by Exxon drilling   for oil and gas – and Washington DC where the drilling is for government favors – all this to the sound of   $11 million grants through 2007 in areas including a long list of activities that most probably had very little application in a country like Qatar, where the paper says that they provided vocational and life-skill training for what amounts there to middle age – to older women (ages 18-45).   Also, remember please that Qatar has little oil but has a long term large reserve of gas. After the US had to abandon its air force bases in Saudi Arabia, the bases were moved to Qatar and located right on top of those gas fields. Qatar is a safe place for a US Oil and Gas company, and doing some limited favors to the government does not hurt. There is no work here with girls – there maybe some work with grown up women, under good supervision, and no chance of causing those women to start demanding rights. That surely would not have been allowed in an Arab country – even Qatar.

In Indonesia, they work in the oil rich semi-independent Aceh region, where the interest by the US oil company was a cause to a rebellious movement. In Colombia they helped fund seemingly a UNICEF   improved Water and Sanitation effort for schools (that is a US Administration affiliated Ms. Veneman effort with good US business savvy activity). Good for Colombian schools in the Cartagena and Santa Maria areas where Exxon is active. Similarly UNICEF related activities go on in Chad (you remember that infamous pipeline that brought about an attempt to divide the country and a war?) and Equatorial Guinea – another trouble spot. To get into activities in Angola and Nigeria would sink us into sand-holes. ExxonMobil does not do any philanthropic work in Venezuela – actually they may nearing the point that they lose all work in Venezuela. Seemingly Venezuela might yet do philanthropic work in Washington DC as they already do in South Bronx, New York City.

This leaves us only with Kazakhstan, where strong local government will simply not let ExxonMobil do as it pleases – so, in order to obtain some favors, under conditions that they must compete for business with European companies,   they may actually do something that is important to the local people, and to US government initiatives. There they work with USAID on a micro-finance program that helped also 1,760 women with their first business training. We hope that with the supervision of the local Enterprise Development Center (EDC) that they actually helped establish, they are now a positive force in the effort, of interest to the Kazaks, to move their past-Soviet style economy, now on a   path more close to private enterprise.

Except for Kazakhstan and Qatar, the other 5 countries mentioned are all hot spots of ExxonMobil caused dissensions, where local people oppose the environmental damage that the oil company has caused and is causing. Who is interested there in their philanthropy outstretch?   This is great business for public relation firms – you see we do some good there with the few peanuts we are throwing in the direction of the local poor, while we feast with the local government that will be happy to exchange the future of their people, for the present pay-outs to the ruling few. Now – that is oil business at its best and it needs really very little planning – it needs good technical expertize to get the oil and gas out of the ground, and deliver it to pipelines and shipping terminals. We must have a good PR firm to bring us to the UN, and put us on a panel with others that do good.

 

Now, with above things in mind, I decided to ask an outright killer question at this meeting of well-to-do women.

My question went something like this:   As the only man in this room ( I was immediately told that I was wrong – there were three more men in the room and close to one hundred women) I want to express my male point of view.

I know that men are supposed to be those that are propelled to advance on corporate ladders, and that they do wars, and everything that is bad, but the old concept was that women do good by bringing up the children, worry about the environment, and are inclined to do all the good things in general. So my question to the woman from ExxonMobil is what does ExxonMobil do for the environment, for the health and quality of life of the local people on whom their activities have an impact, for the children, for next generation? For their own children’s future? What does Exxon Mobil do about climate change? Is it fair to say that a company that had profits pushing $50 billion   last year, $11 billion last quarter, throwing a miserable sum of 11 million dollars at the problems they leave behind, is it not a very meager feat of PR?

All what Ms. Luxbacher, the General Manager of ExxonMobil Corporate Planning was able to say was that they spent more then $11 million. She said she was ready to talk to me later. The moderator said she wanted to go back to women’s questions, and I insisted that my question was a women’s question because it dealt with children and the future.   For the rest of the session the lady from ExxonMobil did not say a word. To my discredit, I confess here, that I did not speak with this lady when the session was over, but had rather much more fruitful discussions with other ladies in the room – some that said to me that I did ask the right question that had to be asked indeed. I think that I made some friends – though I am not naive to think that I did not also make some new enemies for life.

I hope that some of the true Soroptimists will send me now material about efforts they wish to be posted, and I really do not feel any obligations to those that just used the UN for the ride.

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