IPA Statements at the UN

In our work as a group of global Presentation people responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of those made poor there are many advantages in associating ourselves with other NGOs at the United Nations to try to influence world governments to UN3adopt policies that promote justice and peace in their own countries and in the whole world. The Purpose of NGO Involvement at UN Sessions to speak on a topic and/or present a paper prepared by oneself or a group from one’s own country.


The following are some of the statements and presentations that IPA has made at the United Nations.


Commission for Social Development 56, 2018

Commission on the Status of Women 61, 2017 oral presentation

Commission for Social Development 55, 2017

Commission on the Status of Women 61, 2017

Oral Presentation at Internaional Youth for Human Rights Summit, 2016

Oral Presentation at HLPF, 2016

Oral Presentation at CoSD, 2016

Statement at CSW, 2016

Statement at CoSD, 2016

Statement at Migration Summit, 2016

Oral Statement at CoSD, 2016

Statement at Commission on Population and Development, 2016

Oral Statement at the post 2015 interactive session

International Civil Soceity Call to Address Inequalities 2015

Civil Society Calls for Human Right to Water and Sanitation 2015

GS CSW59 Statement 2015

Statement on Migration, Peruvian Situation, 2015

Statement to Commission on Status of Women 59th Session, 2015

Letter to President of UN GA 69th Session, 2015

Oral Statement at the 53rd Commission on Social Development, 2015

Oral Statement by International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the 53rd Commission on Social Development, February 2015 – presented by Helen Martinez, PBVM

RETHINKING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD The “safe, stable, and just society” needed for social integration is both the sine qua non and the result of human interaction that is consistently cognizant of human rights. Rethinking social development in a context of deep regard for human rights prompts a move beyond social integration to a mindset of social inclusion. Social inclusion is the route by which terms are improved for individuals and groups to take part in society.  For social integration/inclusion to flourish it must be

Helen Martinez, PBVM

Helen Martinez, PBVM

nourished within the explicit framework of human rights language. A flourishing process of social inclusion creates a safe environment for diverse communities to interact with each other. Social inclusion ensures that all people of all ages—including girls, women and indigenous people—and organizations have the right to have a voice in decisions which affect their lives, without any fears of harassment, intimidation, stigmatization, reprisals, criminalization, or any type of violence. All sections of society must have the right to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and information, peaceful assembly, association and public participation.

Addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality requires that we address the systemic issues of islands of extreme wealth in the ocean of abject poverty.  Financial systems will need to be reformed for social integration and social inclusion to flourish. This will require political will that thus far has not been in evidence.

A decent work agenda demands less emphasis on freeing up business to grow and create jobs and greater stress on dealing with poor practices by employers. Profit is an acceptable human desire but it must not be achieved at the expense of the vulnerable.

To promote social inclusion and integration we recommend the following:

  • Ensure universal social protection floors in keeping with ILO recommendation 202.
  • Respect and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and maintenance and development of their cultures.
  • Revisit and affirm Commitments on social integration articulated in the Copenhagen Declaration and weave its national and international elements into the SDG targets.
  • Promote policies that eliminate the resource allocation disparity that cause extreme poverty.
  • Respect the rights of local communities to control use of their natural resources and eliminate practices and laws that enable land-grabs leading to displacement of indigenous people.
  • Reform international financial systems to free nations to develop their resources in ways that benefit their people.
  • Foster the central role of the family in which women and men of all ages enjoy equality of rights and shared responsibilities and the rights of girls and boys to thrive.
  • Provide a framework for reform of national policies to protect human rights and honor the contributions of migrant workers in the development of host countries.

Helen Martinez, PBVM

Helen Martinez, PBVM

Reducing inequalities and promoting social integration not only benefits those who historically have been left behind, but also is essential for establishing and maintaining a peaceful society in which the social, economic and environment pillars of development can support a sustainable future.

Statement to Commission for Social Development, 53rd Session, 2015

Statement by International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IPA) with special consultative status with the ECOSOC

 Rethinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World

 February 2015


Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world is congruent with the work of the International Presentation Association of the  Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  which  seeks  to  deepen consciousness of world needs and channel the resources needed to speak and act in partnership with others for global justice.

Members  of  the  International  Presentation  Association  live  and   serve   in 23 countries on five continents. Our work is multifaceted, culturally sensitive and conscious of the need for the Earth to be sustainable and for specific development endeavours. Some examples of our endeavours in the  area of  social  development are:

  • Advocacy for the use, within the Thai justice system, of language on land ownership and use that is understandable to those who are most vulnerable, specifically people living in poverty
  • Work in partnership with “transition towns”, “transition churches” and sustainable local council initiatives in New Zealand that strive to promote and achieve sustainable living
  • Promotion of culturally sensitive and transformative education for indigenous girls and women in Australia
  • Provision of workshops to disseminate information on combating  gender- based violence and on preventing human trafficking in Dominica and Zambia

Despite the many accomplishments, challenges still remain.

Social development requires a strong commitment to a sustainable relationship with the environment. This cannot occur until decision makers at the local, national and regional levels acknowledge the reality and serious consequences of climate change and take positive steps to counter its negative  impacts.  The wider community must also be educated on the consequences of human destruction of the environment and the need to preserve the environment for future generations. For example, in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, schools are making progress in educating students about environmental concerns, as evidenced by reports that all students finishing fifth grade have an understanding of basic environmental issues. While indigenous cultures share a great respect for  Mother Earth,  there  appears to be a chasm between this love of Mother Earth and the programmes that are in place to safeguard the environment. Recycling, sewage treatment plants  and  efforts to limit deforestation have been identified as particular areas that need to be  addressed.

It is important to address the challenges that those impoverished by unjust systems face in participating in the sustainable development agenda. Reticence to recognize the collective agency of communities is a challenge that needs to be overcome. Inclusive social development cannot be achieved until the challenges of inequality are addressed. In particular, our grass-roots ministries continue to be concerned about the inequities experienced by people  living  in poverty, in particular: children; women and girls (the violence and cultural stereotypes and the barriers to education, ownership of land and participation in decision-making that they face are especially worrying); indigenous persons, refugees and migrants; and persons employed in  certain  sectors of the  labour  force. They are  also    concerned

about the challenges of job insecurity. In our  experience,  people-centred programmes and policies, community-based self-help groups and microfinance options have proved particularly effective in addressing the challenge of economic inequality for women in India and Zambia.

The current challenge of “rethinking social development” requires us to think beyond the progress already made.

 The  way forward

We recommend the measures set out below as an avenue  towards the realization of a world that “leaves no one  behind”.

Rethinking development requires viewing people as the agents of their own development. Working in partnerships in which local communities are consulted regarding their development is crucial to ensuring that the needs of those who are most vulnerable are met in designing any development agenda. Migrants and trafficked persons need to be respected and treated with dignity, and their human rights need to be protected.

A truly consultative and participatory approach to development is one that encourages creative development solutions to flow from the bottom upwards and recognizes the primacy of local wishes and realities. Participatory gove rnance structures at all levels can assist this process. Neighbourhood parliaments in India are a good example of said governance  structures.

A people-centred approach to economic growth has, at its essence, the prioritization of people and the planet over profits. Development is sustainable  only if economic growth has at its core the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, self-reliance and interdependent relations between all elements of society. Such an approach requires increased emphasis on small-scale family farmers and rural industries, people’s cooperatives and biodiversity. Standards and indicators for development goals, particularly those goals associated with economic growth, must also be determined by national Governments in collaboration with United Nations agencies. The current poverty threshold of $1.25 per day should be replaced with a measure of the satisfaction of fundamental human needs as envisaged by Professor Manfred A. Max-Neef in his book Human Scale Development.

Rethinking development requires focusing on a systemic reorientation towards transparency and accountability by both Governments and the private sector. An honest and credible election system for government officials is required in order to create an enabling environment for social development. This system must be understandable to and accessible by society’s most vulnerable. All people should be afforded means to communicate directly with government  offices.

With regard to corporations, transparency and accountability require regular internal and external auditing of financial resources and  respect for  human  rights and the rights of the Earth.

Information needs to be translated into local languages so  that  it  may  be shared by all. In addition, the strengthening of government partnerships with community-based, non-governmental organizations that regularly engage with the most vulnerable members of society would help to ensure that all voices are heard and that all people can participate in the social development  agenda.

The International Presentation Association stands in solidarity with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in particular with  his  sentiment that social protection floors should be implemented as a human right in lieu of the more limited concept of “social safety nets”.

An enabling and empowering education that is free, compulsory, high-quality, available and accessible to all should be the primary responsibility of Governments and lie within the public sector realm. Such education must be provided  in conjunction with infrastructure such as appropriate hygiene and sanitation facilities that are conducive to the continued education of girls once they reach puberty. It is necessary to provide education past childhood in order to build the agency and capabilities of local communities and to develop local technologies that are environmentally sustainable.

Services related to health, education, water and sanitation  are  basic human needs that must be made available as a matter of human rights. Governments and the public sector must continue to bear the primary duty for providing these public goods. Income-generating projects aimed at the economic empowerment of those living in poverty should remain primarily government funded.

In rethinking social development, it is necessary to rethink financing for development. Progressive taxation can provide the funds needed to increase budget allocations for social development efforts. It will be important to re-evaluate government expenditure priorities and to redirect a percentage of the funds spent around the world on militaries and arms towards an investment in  development.

The International Presentation Association reiterates that, while “inclusive and sustainable development is the defining challenge of our era”, the  distinguishing mark of plans and actions that meaningfully address social development is the adherence to the protection and promotion of human  rights.

Note: The statement is endorsed by the following non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Council: Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Congregations of St. Joseph, Dominican Leadership Conference, Maryknoll Sisters  of St. Dominic, Passionists International, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Salesian Missions, Sisters of Charity Federation, The Grail, UNANIMA International and VIVAT nternational.

Oral Intervention.CSOD, 2014

Oral Interventionon Social Integration, 2014

Statement to the Commission on Sustainable Development, 2014

Statement.GS CSW59, 2014

Statement on the Girl Child, 2014

Submission by International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
“Towards a better investment in the rights of the child”

The International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an ECOSOC accredited NGO whose members engage in formal, non formal and informal education, health and social services in 23 countries with an emphasis on human rights and child rights. In this paper, we will discuss the main challenges to the fulfilment of children’s rights and our recommendations with some examples of efforts found to be fruitful in ensuring an increased national budget allocation for education and health.


In our experience, some main challenges for children in relation to education are:-
1. Child participation in governance and decision-making;
2. Lack of access to quality education especially for those living in poverty
3. Insufficient infrastructure that keeps girls out of school on reaching puberty

1. Child participation in governance and decision-making

Challenges: Children are not encouraged to become involved in governance and/or decision-making and thus, remain uneducated about their rights.

Recommendations: Child involvement in governance and decision-making incorporates discussion, and therefore education, on the topic of children’s rights and thus, must be pursued as a mechanism to educate children about child rights. Moreover, in our experience, children themselves are the best advocates and promoters of child rights and we believe that their creative and simple solutions to problems must be harnessed as resources for social reform. Forums which encourage child participation in governance should also be actively supported by the government as a government initiative rather relying solely on the support of the private sector.

Good practices: A good example of a campaign which combines effective children’s participation and increased resource mobilization for children’s rights to education and health is the “Nine is Mine” campaign led by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan in India. Launched on October 16, 2006, the “Nine is Mine” campaign is an advocacy initiative which provides children with platforms to engage with their government. The campaign initially demanded that 9% of the gross domestic product be committed to health and education (it has now progressed to 11%: 6% for education and 5% for health), and holds the government accountable to its promises to end poverty, social exclusion and discrimination in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Another effective effort to increase budget allocation to education and health and facilitate children’s participation in campaigning for these goals has been the Children’s Parliaments in India. Founded by Rev M J Edwin of the Kottar Diocese in Tamil Nadu India . Children’s Parliaments provide forums in which children can campaign for greater resource allocation towards the fulfilment of child rights. Children are organized on a neighbourhood basis, forming “neighbourhood child parliaments”, which are federated at various government levels. Children’s Parliaments are also a creative method to educate children about their rights, issues pertinent to the neighbourhoods in which they live and how the children themselves can intervene to assist other children. Children often learn best from each other and Children’s Parliaments provide a forum in which they can do so. By providing children with this important educative experience, Children’s Parliaments not only advocate for the increased allocation of government resources to education, but also directly fulfil the child’s right to education. Children from these movements have also acted as advocates at the United Nations in New York with the “Nine is Mine” campaign.
2. Lack of access to quality education especially for those living in poverty

Challenges: Growing up in relative poverty reduces a child’s education opportunities. In particular, the high costs of sending a child to school and the reduction of government support in many countries means that quality education remains inaccessible to children from families living in poverty.

Recommendations: It should be the primary responsibility of National governments to provide free, compulsory and qualitative education to every child and increased financial assistance to those families that depend on child labour to substitute the family income .We propose the Implementation of Universal Social protection Floors towards this end .A3%Education cess on taxable income like in India is good way to effectively make education an accessible public good for all.

Good practices: Good examples of schemes targeted towards providing financial assistance to those families struggling to provide their children with education are the “Street to School” initiative and “Education Matters” program from Ireland. These programs, supported by the partnership between Focus Ireland(an organisation working to end homelessness) and Aviva Health Insurance Ireland, assist children in escaping the risks of street life and empowering them to access education and training opportunities. To date, over 600,000 youth have been assisted and young people involved in the program are reported to have improved in their attendance and attitudes towards school, as well as their general wellbeing, as a result of the project.

The “Area Based Approach to Childhood (ABC) Poverty Initiative” in Ireland has also proved effective in improving outcomes for children, young people and their families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Ireland. The program has a particular emphasis on improving health, educational and social outcomes for children and young people, and on improving the effectiveness of existing services. Through the ABC programme, funding and support are given to a collaboration of services in areas selected by government as meeting ABC objectives on foot of an application and selection process. There has been an overall investment of almost €30 million into the ABC Programme between 2013 and 2016.

3. Infrastructure & Resources

Challenges: Poor education quality (including poor quality of educational environments, insufficient infrastructure, teaching staff, resources and emotional and social conditions at school) limits the extent of a child’s education especially those of girls and thus, impedes the fulfilment of their rights.

Good practices: The introduction of “Child-Friendly Schools” (CFS), initiated by UNICEF in countries such as Thailand, is a good example of effective resource allocation improving the fulfilment of children’s rights to education by improving the quality of education. The CFS model is simple – it promotes the operation of schools “in the best interests of the child”. Under the CSF model, “[e]ducational environments must be safe, healthy and protective, endowed with well trained teachers, adequate resources and appropriate physical, emotional and social conditions for learning…” The scheme has proved to be a powerful normative tool for increasing resource allocation for education at both national and community levels.


In our experience, some main challenges for children in relation to healthcare are:-
1. Prenatal care
2. Poverty as a barrier to access.

1. Prenatal care

Challenges: Prenatal care is often provided too far from the homes of pregnant women in need of care and the service provided is inadequate. This issue is particularly significant for Australian Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal women do not seek prenatal care, even where it is available, primarily due to a lack of family support. Prenatal care also comes too late – education about sexual and reproductive health is required before pregnancy; prenatal care is only provided during pregnancy.

Recommendations: Prenatal care must be offered in close proximity to Aboriginal communities. Privacy must be respected, services offered must be non-judgmental and a continuous relationship with a known caregiver (e.g. a midwife) must be maintained. Female relatives and local senior women must also be involved in counselling pregnant women. In this counselling role, these women can provide a supportive link between the expectant mother and prenatal care providers. Moreover, sexual and reproductive health education must be made available to females, even as early as primary school. This is not an easy task given so may females are not able to receive a formal education for numerous reasons including, among others, poverty, lack of schools and local tradition. Nevertheless, outreach initiatives must be established to communicate an accurate understanding of the female body and pregnancy.

Good examples: Good examples of effective provision of prenatal services come from Aboriginal communities in Australia. Efforts to provide culturally secure prenatal services in Australia to Aboriginal women have been effective where services utilise midwifery and/or Aboriginal Health Worker models of care with the inclusion of local senior women acting as a link between pregnant women and healthcare providers. Moreover, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) provide excellent maternal and child health services to their communities. However, it is constrained in its ability to meet the gaps in service delivery due to inadequate resources, breaks in continuity of care and the lack of a shared national vision of the appropriate role for ACCHS.

2. Poverty as a barrier to access

Challenges: Children experiencing poverty cannot access adequate healthcare. The obstacle to healthcare access created by poverty is often greater for minority groups such as the Traveller children of Ireland and Maori children of New Zealand who suffer from greater instances of child poverty and infant mortality.

Recommendations: Social Protection floors should provide for free quality health care to children below 18years of age

Good practices: Efforts to reduce the cost of medical care, and thus alleviate the poverty obstacle to healthcare, have demonstrated varying rates of success and have often proven difficult to implement. For example, the “GP Visit Card” is an initiative developed in Ireland whereby all children under 6 years of age can see a general practitioner free of charge. However, there is a legitimate concern that children who are 6 years of age and older with chronic illnesses are not covered by the scheme and hence, cannot reap its benefits. New Zealand has a similar scheme; however, most general practitioner services still incur a charge despite the scheme and thus, in reality, are not free. Moreover, even if parents can attend free doctor consultations with their child, often they cannot afford the medication the doctor prescribes, negating the scheme’s usefulness.

In New Zealand, the National Government also introduced a package called “Working for Families”. This package was designed to provide families with, among other things, 20 hours per week of free childcare for children under 5 years of age. While intended to provide families with an opportunity to obtain extra income, and thereby alleviating poverty and facilitating expenditure on children’s healthcare to some extent, the scheme has proven impracticable to implement– there are insufficient trained childcare workers and insufficient childcare centres close to parents’ workplaces, and the scheme restricts parents’ roles in raising children by encouraging both parents to work.


Greater allocation of funds and resources in Health and Education and reduced spending on military and arms trade could be the way forward to building a more healthy society that respects and protects the Rights of children everywhere

In this paper we have outlined the main challenges, our recommendations and some examples of good practices which have assisted in the allocation of resources towards the fulfilment of children’s rights in the areas of education and health. These schemes have stressed the importance of child participation in governance and advocacy as well as the alleviation of poverty if we are to achieve the goals set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Respectfully Submitted by:

Elsa Muttathu
NGO Representative
International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

October 17, 2014

Statement Annual Mnisterial Review, 2014

Follow-up to World Summit for Social Devlopment, 2014

Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly

Priority theme: Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all

    Statement submitted by the International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council     We the members of the International Presentation Association engage on a daily basis with the most vulnerable people living in poverty in twenty two countries. We seek to partner with them toward a life of dignity for all and support their efforts to move out of poverty, have decent work and live in an inclusive society.   We concur with Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona that “Lack of power is a universal and basic characteristic of poverty. Poverty is not solely a lack of income, but rather is characterized by a vicious cycle of powerlessness, stigmatization, discrimination, exclusion and material deprivation, which all mutually reinforce each other.” – Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human RightsUN Human Rights Council, 23rd session, March 2013.   As a result of facilitating a conversation with our constituents on the priority theme of the 52nd Session of the Commission for Social Development, we present here a few of the many good practices on empowerment of people, implemented and narrated by our constituents.

  1. ‘Nangubo Small-Holder Irrigation Scheme, Kalomo District, Zambia: Nangubo Dam, the only source of water in this area, was constructed to serve 18 villages and to try and alleviate the problem of water shortage. The dam was also stocked with fish to supplement the protein requirements of the Community. Integrating fish farming with crops and animals maximizes the use of resources and empowers rural households economically, enhancing household food security and improving nutrition. A specific objective of the scheme is to stimulate self-reliance and management projects at community level. There are 72 farmers practicing irrigation on a twelve-hectare scheme and a variety of crops are grown for consumption and for sale. The dam and the irrigation scheme have helped to increase agricultural yield, support the livelihoods of the community, to improve food security, family nutrition and household income with increased ability to send children to school.
  2. ‘Clann Credo’ Social Finance, Ireland www.clanncredo.ie : Social Finance delivers resources to communities and enterprises which are overlooked by conventional outlets and ensures that all investments produce a social gain or benefit.  All funding recipients are assessed, first on their capacity to deliver meaningful benefit to either the people or the community they serve and then on their ability to repay the loans.  It is required that there must be a tangible social benefit for any community in which the enterprise is based: this could be improved child care services, creating jobs in disadvantaged areas, providing transport for people living with disabilities etc.
  3. Land Tenure Improvement and Paralegal Training for Community Empowerment, Kilusang Magbubukid, Philippines   http://kilusangmagbubukid.weebly.com/index.html: The project helps the community in pursuing their struggles for land and aims to develop skills for some of the people as local community organizers and others as Paralegals of their own organization. This requires continuous Para-Legal Clinics to train them as local leaders capable of serving and training their members and neighbouring communities to mobilize people in different activities that would directly or indirectly compliment their efforts of regaining the land.  It also includes advocacy, media work, alliance and networking.The
  4. Clemente Course in the Humanities, Campbelltown, NSW, Australia www.clementecourse.org: This is an innovative university education program that aims to break the cycle of poverty, inequity and social injustice for people facing multiple disadvantages and social isolation. Education in the Humanities is seen as providing opportunities for the adult students who join the programme to reflect on the world in which they live and on their future life choices. It promotes broad re-engagement with society on the part of disaffected and marginalized adults by empowering them to realize their own strengths and abilities to reach their individual goals. It offers a community-based learning environment that is supportive of each student’s personal, social and educational environment.

These good practices illustrate the three powers model (Power within, Power with, and Power to) referred to by Duncan Green in his background paper “The role of the State in empowering poor and excluded groups and individuals” to the Expert Group Meeting 2013 on empowerment policies. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/egms/docs//2013/EmpowermentPolicies/Background%20Paper.pdf   However, our constituents have expressed a number of CHALLENGES as follows:

  • People who have a personal reason / investment in relation to the need also have the passion and commitment to deliver effective outcomes.  However, they are often not supported by those who hold the resources and the power to make their task easier and more effective.
  • Working in silos has not worked. Effective strategies are not in place for greater collaboration among local agencies, government departments, charities etc. Networking of all those involved in local communities can deliver real change.
  • Cutbacks in government spending in times of recession must not view only those agencies working with the vulnerable in society as priority targets.  Too much emphasis is placed on growing the economy of the country to the detriment of creating a fair and just society.
  • Having programmes available is of no benefit if people are unable to access these due to inadequate transport, childcare, etc.  Eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and ‘red tape’ will enable access to services.
  • Short term programmes or ‘the pilot mentality’, in the provision of services which arise from a fear among funders that they will not be able to sustain support, militates against achieving long term goals.
  • People who avail of social services often suffer from poor self–image and low levels of confidence flowing from constant dependence, denial and rejection.
  • Provision of social welfare ‘hand-outs’ for able-bodied adults without having in place a local government structure which allows recipients to give something back to society can perpetuate feelings of being ‘charitable cases’ which damage one’s sense of personal dignity and worth.

Arising from the experience of members, the following are our RECOMMENDATIONS :   Frame the development of policy from the perspective of human rights Human rights need to be at the centre of all our policy development. Implementation of the ILO Recommendation 202 on the national floors of social protection will be instrumental as a rights-based approach to promote empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration, full employment and decent work for all.   Ensure that the policies to be adopted by this Session are informed by “The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights” adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2012.   Consider the action/programme from all angles relevant to the user especially ancillary issues Too often policy leads to the provision of programmes but the ancillary issues of transportation, child care, materials, etc. are not taken into account and take up is therefore poorer, particularly unhelpful in programmes designed to empower women.   Begin from the perspective of the user Every initiative wishing to effect real change must engage users from the beginning.  User-led policy development is more effective and efficient.   Include education & skills development to enable the take up of opportunity Any policy on empowerment of peoples must also include the development of personal and community skills so that they can make the most of available opportunities and resources.  Up-skilling must be appropriate to the needs of the person/community.   Ensure finance/investment brings social benefit In order to be really beneficial, investment of finance must be monitored and assessed in the light of its social benefits outcome.   Use the concept of multi-benefit from a single action Coordination, coherence, and collaboration among agencies and departments to use a major action as a platform to produce benefit across several strands of need in the community is commendable.   Equal treatment for everybody – without discrimination It is vital to promote a change of mindsets which presume that a two tier system is acceptable. Strategies and policies worked out behind closed doors without consultation and involvement of the user often prove to be less effective and a waste of valuable resources.   ‘…Power is best seen as an invisible force linking individuals and actors, in a state of constant flux and renegotiation. Empowerment of excluded groups and individuals involves the redistribution of that power…’  Duncan Green

Interactive Dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony with Nature to Commemorate International Mother Earth Day, 2013

Discuss different economic approaches to further a more ethical basis for the relationship between humanity and the Earth UN HQ, NY, 22 April 2013

Written Statement by Member Organizations of the Mining Working Group

Thank you Mr Secretary General and Mr President for the opportunity to make a brief written statement on the occasion the Interactive Dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony with Nature to Commemorate International Mother Earth Day. We are writing to you today on behalf of the Mining Working Group at the United Nations. The Mining Working Group represents constituencies in all continents whose human rights are increasingly violated and where vital ecosystems are being destroyed through unchecked, large-scale proliferation of concessions to extractive industries worldwide. The 2012 Report of the Secretary A/67/317 on “Harmony with Nature” (para. 60), as well as today’s interactive dialogue, underscores the need to address the long-term and cumulative impact of human activity on the Earth system that is the foundation of our environmental life support structures. It is our consistent experience, bolstered by scientific evidence, that the current model of extractive industries intensifies this degradation of Earth’s vital systems and the impairment of peoples. Yet, given this consistent experience and amidst the outcry of Earth and its peoples, member states predominantly continue to assert that mining enables sustainable development and poverty eradication.  We believe this assumption must be subjected to heightened scrutiny at the United Nations. In light of this experience and today’s discussions which echo our concerns and reaffirm our position, we strongly urge the United Nations and member states to: First: Create the global policy space to address the cross-cutting, negative and cumulative impact of natural resource extraction on vital ecosystems, water quality and availability, aquatic and terrestrial life, agriculture and the health of communities. We frame this recommendation within the Post-2015 Development Agenda setting and the development of sustainable development goals. Second: Marshal the political will to conduct an evidence-based study on the long-term and cumulative ecological, social, and economic impacts of granting oil, gas and mining concessions worldwide. We maintain that global action is required in order to shift the policy agenda and the regulation of sustainable management of natural resources from national to worldwide. In conclusion, we view these actions not only as essential but as gravely urgent in order to ensure, as the Secretary General’s Harmony with Nature Report recommends, “the protection of the planetary life support systems” and to enable the full and sustainable flourishing of the community of life. Our Planet, Mother Earth, and the peoples of the world demand no less from this body of United Nations. Thank you. ——————— Contact Person for the Mining Working Group: Áine O’Connor RSM, PhD Mercy Global Action Coordinator at the UN Sisters of Mercy in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC since 1998 Mercy International Association Member of the Mining Working Group E: mgc@mercyinternational.ie   Member Organizations of the Mining Working Group: Congregation of the Mission, DPI Associated, Joseph Foley Feminist Task Force, Member, Global Call to Action against Poverty, Rosa G Lizarde Franciscans International, ECOSOC, General, Amanda Lyons International Presentation Association, ECOSOC, Special, Lucy van Kessel Loretto Community, ECOSOC, Roster, Sally Dunne Marianists International, DPI Associated, Steven P O’Neil Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), DPI Associated, Daniel le Blanc Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, ECOSOC, Special, Jean Stoner Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Mercy International Association,ECOSOC, Special, Áine O’Connor The Temple of Understanding, ECOSOC, Special and the Interfaith Consortium for Ecological Civilization, Grove Harris VIVAT International, ECOSOC, Special, Felix Jones and Zelia Cordeiro

Science,Technology and Innovation, and the Potential of Culture for Promoting Sustainable Development and Achieving the Millennium Development Goals, 2013

The report of the UN Secretary General A/67/348 calls for partnership/partnerships at various levels, in different fields and by many stakeholders. While we affirm the options proposed in the report, it is of great interest to the International Presentation Association: smaller, poorer economies and small and medium-sized enterprises everywhere, have weak bargaining positions. While in the past many would have argued that research, development and demonstration would be of relatively little importance to poorer economies, this is less and less the case, in view of the internationalization of research, development and demonstration and the need to bridge large technology gaps through local adaptation… Promote partnerships to reduce poverty, by enabling the poorest to contribute to knowledge and technology development. Among the key summary points from the Expert Group Meeting on Science and Sustainable Development Goals, the scientists have stated that we are in a new era breaking down Earth’s life support systems, the human development agenda is under threat resulting in new risks and vulnerabilities, the old ways are not working yet potential solutions and opportunities exist. They have called for a new paradigm that recognizes the unprecedented nature of our challenge and challenging us to find goals that put us on new pathways to human well‐being that respect natural processes. Some of the new priorities for goal-setting recommended by the scientists are: transformative entry points into target‐setting, building human capabilities and resilience, recognizing the interdependencies among food/water/energy/land/climate systems and valuing natural capital and ecosystem services. Their suggestions to new processes to support the change we need are: engagement between science and policy, effective and adaptive governance including global public goods, diverse pathways toward desirable futures and modes of identifying and spreading solutions rapidly. The International Presentation Association therefore recommends the following to 2013 ECOSOC High Level Segment (HLS). The deliberations of the HLS must include:

  1. Establishing processes for participation of and partnership with community based organizations, non-governmental organizations and the indigenous communities including small holder farmers, to engage them in free, prior and informed consent in making use of the scientific and technological possibilities and global wealth to effectively solve global sustainable development challenges.
  2. Considering the adoption of a resolution on a universal social protection floor for all promoting the implementation of the ILO Recommendation 202 resulting in strengthening the capacity of people living in poverty as equal partners in planning, implementation and monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals and the Post 2015 global development agenda.
  3. Initiating a conversation to bring to birth at the earliest a legally binding international regulatory framework for corporate social and environmental responsibility and accountability that enhances responsible partnerships of all stakeholders in the global development agenda; reorienting the objectives of economic growth away from profit maximization and capital accumulation towards sustainable development principles including just taxation systems.
  4. Exploring/enabling youth’s creative innovations toward achieving MDGs, in processes toward framing, implementing, evaluating the Post 2015 global development agenda and toward closing the gap of digital divide.

Statement to Commission on the Status of Women, Fifty-seventh session, 2013

Item 3 (a) (i) of the provisional agenda* Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly Priority theme: “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls” Statement submitted by the International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a nongovernmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council The International Presentation Association welcomes the priority theme for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women “Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls”. We, the members of the International Presentation Association, who engage in the service of the most vulnerable in twenty two countries, believe that although much has been accomplished, many challenges still remain. In looking at violence against women we believe that extreme poverty and gender inequality beget violence. When human rights are violated, violence occurs. The General Assembly stresses, “That it is important that States strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women”. It also calls on States to take “all appropriate measures so as to achieve this end”. ‘UN Women’ states that “As many as 7 in 10 women around the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime”. The most pervasive form of violence is domestic violence. This includes intimate partner violence, child marriage, FGM-cutting, male domination, physical and emotional abuse, polygamy, honor killing, trafficking, and harmful cultural practices, such as sexual cleansing. Women suffer other forms of violence due to lack of human rights, including inadequate health care, food, water, education and decent work. It is known that many women work in sweatshops in degrading conditions for scandalously low recompense. We are also aware that violence against women and girls with disabilities, as well as the aging, migrants, indigenous and runaways needs to be addressed. Every day almost 800 women die from complications of pregnancy due to lack of prenatal and post natal medical care. Obstetric fistula caused by prolonged obstructive labor, in most cases causes the baby to be still born and the mother to be left with a terrible injury that leaves her incontinent, ashamed and excluded from daily community life, abandoned by her husband and living in dire poverty. This is “almost entirely preventable when there is universal and equitable access to high quality reproductive health care.” (UNFPA deputy executive director, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen) But for the people living in poverty this is only a dream. Other serious health care issues include malnutrition, shortage of trained health care workers, and HIV-AIDS. Due to the HIV-AIDS epidemic children are left as heads of families, caring for their younger siblings and thousands of children are left orphaned. Some of our members experience this reality in their everyday work. Sexual exploitation, today’s most common form of slavery, isa practice driven by demand from buyers of sex, (according to statistics; they are mostly men) and is fuelled by pornography and profit. Sexual exploitation and prostitution are rooted in poverty and the structural inequalities between women and men, more particularly in discrimination against women. These oppressive acts are inherently violent and demeaning of all persons. This is a global problem and needs to be addressed by and between all states through an international law enforcement network. Every year an estimate of 10 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18. Girls, as young as 8, are being married off to men who are three to four times their age. These girls drop out of school and are physically and sexually abused, leading to ultimate slavery.   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16) recognizes the right to free and full consent to marriage and makes it clear that the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect. UNFPA says that by 2030 the number of child brides marrying each year will have grown to 15 million if current trends continue. Their publication, “Marrying Too Young – End Child Marriage” has statistics on child marriage around the world which are a cause of despondency and the images of girl children being married off are heartrending. Yet, celebrating the first anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2012, fills us with hope for the future when it will never be said again “I do not count because I am a girl”. There are many initiatives that work to alleviate violence against women and girls. The International Labor Organization Conference in June 2012 adopted a new international labor standard, recommending a National Floor of Social Protection (no. 202) for all. This reaffirms that social security is a human right and provides guidance to states in providing and extending social security. “Through the establishment of a social protection floor we help women become their own agents of change through the labor market and educational opportunities once they gain income security and access to essential services provided by the floor. Our experience shows, for example, that benefits paid in the form of social transfers directly to women result in the improvement of their status and their capacity to exert increasing control over how household income is spent”. This we note in a statement by Mr Kevin Cassidy ILO office for the UN, Oct 17, 2012. Registration of births is a big problem in some developing States where mothers are so poor they cannot afford the registration fee for their new born babies. Without the birth certificate these children have no identity and are deprived of the basic human right of education as well as other basic social services. Education is a very important basic human right for all people. In least developed countries approximately 25 million school children do not attend school. Girls represent 54 percent of the total number. Children without birth certificates may not attend school.  Another obstacle to attending school is the cost of uniforms, fees and books and boys normally get preference. Lack of properly trained teachers adds to this problem. Community Centers are vital for the education of women and girls, especially for those who are deprived, as just mentioned. Many women in developing countries have poor access to the courts and to justice when they look for redress from violence. When reporting violence, men must accompany them to the police station. In some circumstances the man is the abuser. If the women do not agree to reconciliation there is no place of refuge for them. There are also other problems such as sexual harassment, bullying of women in the work place, especially those at vulnerable stages in their careers, lack of political advancement for women and some religions failing in gender equality. Recommendations The International Presentation Association recommends that:

  1. laws regarding the registration of births be enforced and that lack of finance should not be an obstacle to this
  2. laws pertaining to the age of marriage for girls be rigorously enforced and those who infringe it not get impunity
  3. laws against trafficking be strictly enforced by national and international guardians of the law
  4. law forbidding FGM/Cutting be enforced globally and that rites of passage for girls, excluding violence, be initiated by and with full participation of family and community
  5. all laws enacted in each state, especially those relating to justice for women and girls be enforced and monitored
  6. education is a basic human right; therefore it is imperative that it be provided for all women and girls
  7. human rights education should be available at every stage of life, from early childhood, through all levels of schooling, through adulthood and in the senior years. This would result in better access to justice system for women and girls
  8. community education, involving men and women, boys and girls, family and community and local leaders, be initiated to bring about a paradigm shift in attitudes and behavior towards women and girls
  9. developing countries put more finance into basic health care services for women and girls and that rich countries honor commitments to provide finance, technology and other aid for the same purpose
  10. social protection floors according to ILO Recommendation 202  be  implemented by all States.

Supported by

  • Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, in Special Consultative ECOSOC Status
  • Congregation of our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, in Special Consultative ECOSOC Status
  • Loretto Community, in Roster status with ECOSOC
  • Salesian Missions, in Special Consultative ECOSOC Status
  • Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries, in Special Consultative ECOSOC Status
  • Temple of Understanding, in Special Consultative ECOSOC Status
  • The Grail, in Special Consultative ECOSOC Status
  • The Sisters of Charity Federation, in Special Consultative ECOSOC Status.

Statement to Commission for Social Development, Fifty-first session, 2013

Item 3 (a) of the provisional agenda*

Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly:

Priority theme: “Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”

Statement submitted by International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council

Endorsed by

  • Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd – in special consultative status with ECOSOC
  • Congregations of Saint Joseph – in general consultative status with ECOSOC
  • Company of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul – in special consultative status with ECOSOC
  • Dominican Leadership Conference – in special consultative status with ECOSOC
  • Passionists International – in special consultative status with ECOSOC
  • Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – in special consultative status with ECOSOC
  • Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur – in special consultative status with ECOSOC
  • UNANIMA International – in special consultative status with ECOSOC
  • VIVAT  International – in special consultative status with ECOSOC

Participation-linked Empowerment

The call of the priority theme of the 51st Session of the Commission for Social Development ‘Promoting People’s Empowerment in Achieving Poverty Eradication, Social Integration and Decent Work for All’ reminds us of the commitments made in the Declaration on Social Progress and Development adopted by the General Assembly at its 24th Session in 1969 and the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit for Social Development in 1995. That the Heads of State and Government had recognized the link between empowerment and participation in achieving the goal of social development to improve and enhance the quality of life of all people was reflected by the following statements: “Empowerment requires the full participation of people in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of decisions determining the functioning and well-being of our societies.” “Empowerment and participation are essential for democracy, harmony and social development.  All members of society should have the opportunity and be able to exercise the right and responsibility to take an active part in the affairs of the community in which they live.” Responses on Right to Participate The invitation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to contribute to the report concerning the right to participation of people-living-in-poverty, to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in June 2013 by the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, prompted the members of the Subcommittee for Poverty Eradication at the UN to  initiate conversations among people-living-in-poverty with whom and among whom they work in various part of the world. The following are few of their responses: Obstacles faced by people-living-in-poverty to participate relate to lack of

  • education, sustainable income, health facilities and basic facilities such as clean water, sanitation, electricity;
  • self esteem, parental and community activism, behavioral modeling, resources, capacity development, access to capital, local to global programs and support networks;
  • job opportunities, and  legal status, adequate transportation, gender equality.

Some of their grievances as expressed by them:

  • The poor are always isolated from decision-making because they are considered illiterate.”
  • “No poor person can dream of participating in any decision making groups.”
  • “Programmes are just imposed; e.g. The poor who want to sell their maize, require to have bank accounts, this will block them from selling maize as they do not have enough money to bank it.”
  • “For the most part those who live in poverty are rarely asked about the challenges they face or how they see ways that would help them move out of poverty.” 
  • “Though the local government invites people for a meeting, information doesn’t reach people on time and they don’t believe their voices count.”
  • “Representatives of the Union are invited, but their voices are not heard sufficiently.”

Good practice on empowerment and participation Against this background the article, From Food Security to Food Justice by Ananya Mukherjee, Professor and Chair of Political Science at York University, Toronto,  illustrates a good practice of empowerment and participation, in the State of Kerala, India, that enables people-living-in-poverty to exercise their rights and responsibilities in improving the quality of life for women and their families (see www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2848305.ece). In this article, Ananya tells the story of the research on an experiment, SanghaKrishi (group-farming), a part of Kerala State Government’s anti-poverty programme, Kudumbashree (prosperity of the family) initiated in 2007 (see www.kudumbashree.org). This experiment was seen as a means to enhance local food production. As many as 44,225 collectives of women farmers lease fallow land, rejuvenate it, farm it and then sell the produce or use it for consumption. Kudumbashree is a network of 4 million women mostly below poverty line. Kudumbashree is not merely a ‘project’ or a ‘programme’ but a social space where marginalized women can collectively pursue their needs and aspirations. The primary unit of Kudumbashree is the Neighbourhood Group (NHG). NHGs, consisting of not more than 20 women, are for an overwhelming majority their first ever space outside home. NHGs are federated into Area Development Societies (ADSs), and these are in turn federated into Community Development Societies (CDSs) at the panchayat (local governance) level. Today, there are 213,000 NHGs in Kerala. Kudumbashree office-bearers are elected.  A crucial process for its members, these elections help to bring women into politics. And they bring with them a different set of values that can change the face of politics. The NHG is very different from a self-help group (SHG) in that it is structurally linked to the State (through the institution of local self-government). This ensures that local development reflects the needs and aspirations of communities who are not reduced to be mere “executors” of government programs. What is sought is synergy between democratization and poverty reduction, and this occurs here through the mobilization of poor women’s leadership and solidarity. This experiment is transforming the socio-political space that women inhabit, and results in three major consequences: First, there is a palpable shift in the role of women in Kerala’s agriculture. Thousands of Kudumbashree women – hitherto underpaid agricultural laborers – have abandoned wage work to become independent producers. Many others combine wage works with farming. Second, it has enabled women, in particular women from the marginalized communities, to salvage their dignity and livelihoods amidst immense adversity. The survey of 100 collectives across 14 districts found that 15 per cent of the farmers were Dalits and Adivasis and 32 per cent came from the minority communities. Third, it is producing important consequences for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Kerala. Given Kerala’s high wages for men, MGNREGS in Kerala has become predominantly a space for women (93 percent of the employment generated has gone to women whereas the national average is 50). One of them said, “We have created life… and food, which gives life, not just 100 days of manual labour.” The above excerpt from the article, From Food Security to Food Justice, underscores the following:

  • Participatory forums at the neighbourhood level, small enough for people living in poverty to come together to have an ongoing say in decisions that affect their lives, ensure inclusion and are productive.
  • Neighbourhood level participatory forums, when federated at various levels, result in collective participation at wider levels lead to increased empowerment.
  • Government programmes, when implemented in partnership with people at local level through such federations of neighbourhood forums, result in people-centered development.
  • The existing forums for participation – in India, parliamentary constituencies, State legislative assembly constituencies and gram sabhas (local governance assemblies) – are not adequate for engaging people-living-in-poverty to have an ongoing effective say in decisions that affect their lives.

Bottom-up, inclusive and accountable governance The key issue in both the Responses on Right to Participate and the Good practice on empowerment and participation is the type of governance. The UN SG’s High level Panel on Global Sustainability too noted that “Democratic governance and full respect for human rights are prerequisites for empowering people to make sustainable choices.” The Report of the Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives too has called for “a change in the tone of multilateral governance from one that prescribes solutions and then institutes legal and financial frameworks to implement them or ensure compliance, to one that protects bottom-up governance.” Bottom-up governance not only refers to the directions of influence from the local to the global. It also calls for more governance space and implementation to be retained at local and sub-national levels. It is to enable, for instance, small farmers and peasant communities to exercise their rights in retaining their seeds, growing nutritious foods without genetically modified organisms, and accessing medicines without paying unaffordable prices set by transnational companies and protected by intellectual property rights. Bottom-up democratic governance requires not only the strengthening of civil society in governance skill but also a re-focusing and re-structuring of governance institutions and the overcoming of governance gaps at national and global levels. Recommendation  Hence we urge the UN Member States to

  • consider Planning-by-People Processes such as that of Kudumbashree to ensure participation of people-living-in-poverty in decisions that affect their lives
  • create enabling environments for the realization of the right to participate which is already enshrined in the international instruments
  • re-focus and restructure governance institutions to overcome related governance gaps at national and global levels.

Expert Group Meeting on Promoting People's Empowerment in Achieving Poverty Eradication, Social Integration and Decent Work for All, 2012

Role of civil society in promoting empowerment of people Untapped capacity: empowerment and the future of development
NGO Committee for Social Development

The concept of empowerment has become increasingly common in the discourse on sustainable development issues. The outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, for example, references the term no less than 17 times. Such prominence reflects a growing consensus that empowerment is indispensable in achieving a range of human-centered development goals, including the eradication of poverty, the furthering of social integration, and the provision of full employment and decent work for all. Click here to read the whole report (pdf document 45.2KB).

IPA Submission to Annual Ministerial Review 2012 Addressing Root Causes of Inequality

Sustainable and inclusive growth demands a people centered and bio-centric development and cannot be achieved without addressing the issue of inequality. The UN publication The Inequality Predicament states that ‘A healthy, well-educated, adequately employed and socially protected citizenry contributes to social cohesion. Improved access by the people living in poverty to public assets and services and income transfer programmes to sustain the poorest families are essential to changing the structure of opportunities and are key to reducing the intergenerational transmission of poverty and inequality.’ A study by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University shows that the richest 1% of adults owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. According to one of the Human habitat reports of the UN, one of the fundamental roles of the governments in a democracy is to build equality and be perceived by the citizens that inclusion and equality are fundamental objectives of public authorities. Professor John Langmore, Australia, one of the 15,000 and more signatories to the campaign Support the Social Protection Floor Initiative, had commented, ‘There can be no doubt about the benefits of social protection. It can prevent or alleviate poverty and reduce inequality and injustice. The net costs of social protection mechanisms are likely to be offset in due course by a better motivated, nourished, educated and healthier workforce. Reduction of inequality and despair reduces social tensions. The benefits of national social security schemes are shown by their universal use in successful developed countries.’ The recent Report Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization states that about 5.1 billion people, 75 per cent of theworld population, are not covered by adequate social security. Another issue that needs urgent attention to achieve sustainable growth is corporate social responsibility and accountability. We affirm the effort of UN Global Compact involving a number of social actors to influence the action of companies. However, establishing a mandatory global policy framework calling forth Companies to implement sustainability issues is imperative. Therefore, we call upon the Annual Ministerial Review to consider the following recommendations:

  • Ensuring implementation of universal social protection floor (SPF) tailored to national needs; investing domestically a minimum of 4 per cent of GDP in SPF; implementing innovative financing mechanisms such as financial transaction tax, and using its resources to support vulnerable countries to implement SPF.
  • Reducing military expenditure and using its resources for sustainable and inclusive growth. In the words of UN Secretary General, “Every year the world spends $1.4 trillion on weapons. With a fraction of that we could cut poverty, fund schools, provide health care, and protect our environment”.
  • Establishing a mandatory global policy framework that ensures responsibility and accountability of national and multinational corporations.
  • Ensuring progressive taxation.
  • Ensuring  policy framework for sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Oral Statement during the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 2012.

Oral Statement by International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation, in special consultative status with Economic and Social Council, bringing the voice of rural girls and boys on the Review theme CSW56: Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women during the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 27February-9 March 2012. The statement will cover the importance of investing in girls to achieve the objectives of the Priority Theme: Empowerment of Rural Women and their role in Poverty and Hunger Eradication, Development and Current Challenges.

——————— My name is Mary Naccarato and I represent the International Presentation Association. Thank you, Chairperson, for the opportunity to present the voices of rural girls and boys during the Commission on the Status of Women. Our organisation carried out group discussions in a number of villages in Zambia on the Review theme ‘Financing for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women’. I present to you the outcome of the discussions among girls and boys in rural areas. I regret that they themselves are not here to present this statement. The girls in rural areas experience a lot of gaps in the implementation of the commitments made in CSW52. They express their hopes and dreams and recommend  that the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women be inclusive of rural girls in the Agreed Conclusions with the following insertions:

  • Legislate and implement a nationally tailored human rights based ‘Social Protection Floor Initiative’ targeting girls in rural areas and providing basic services – water and sanitation, health and education
  • Ensure focused and sustained domestic public policies and programmes for the advancement of rural girls
  • Ensure registration of all births and the collection of gender disaggregated data specifically including rural girls
  • Invest in rural girls and create an enabling environment for rural girls to attend secondary and tertiary education. For some populations this may need to be language appropriate and culturally sensitive particularly at the secondary level.
  • Provide participatory forums ensuring that  rural girls have a say in decisions that affect their lives
  • Ensure  electrification of villages with renewable energy and provide ICT opportunities for rural girls
  • Ensure capacity building for rural girls enabling them to be contributors to a sustainable economy
  • Provide health education and services for rural girls
  • Empower and prepare rural girls for entrepreneurship
  • Ensure that rural girls are provided safe environment at all levels
  • Encourage continual public service announcement, education and awareness raising on dangers of human trafficking, migration, harmful traditional practices, sexual exploitation, kidnapping and early marriage.

Chairperson, the World Development Report 2012 titled ‘Gender Equality and Development’ states that despite the progress made, gender disparities still remain in many areas, and even in rich countries. These disparities are seen in the fact that 4 million women and girls die each year and 35 million girls are still out of school today. The Chicago Council of Global Affairs in their document titled ‘Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies’ states ‘Investing in girls is the right thing to do on moral, ethical, and human rights grounds. Perhaps no other segment of society globally faces as much exploitation and injustice, and we owe girls our support as integral, yet overlooked, members of the human family.’ Chairperson, we call upon national governments and the international community for the full implementation of the existing commitments[1] made to girls. We firmly believe that the voices of rural girls and boys will be heard by you, the policy makers of this session resulting in relevant policies and programmes at all levels, empowering rural girls as agents of social change in eradicating poverty and hunger and enabling them to play a greater role in sustainable development. I thank you for this opportunity. ———————–


Statement to the Commission on the Status of Women, 56th Session, 2012

Item 3(a)(1) of the provisional agenda* Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges” ———————–

Statement submitted by the International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council

———————– Statement A call for justice, recognition and appreciation of Indigenous peoples with particular reference to the vision, incisive criticism and contribution of the indigenous woman to society as a whole “I encourage all Member States to take concrete steps to address the challenges facing indigenous peoples—including marginalization, extreme poverty and loss of lands, territories and resources”.[1] These encouraging words of the Secretary-General echo the strong United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and have hopefully led to shifts in the consciousness of the global community. Progress has been made but much remains to be done, especially in our understanding of indigenous women, their creativity, ingenuity, adaptation and efficiency within the family and local community. Also, the understanding of gender issues among all cultures is complex and sensitive. Almost without exception indigenous voices have remained overshadowed by a mainstream discourse rooted in the accumulation of wealth rather than the appreciation of the dignity of the human person. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found approximately 600 Guarani families in the Bolivian Chaco existing in contemporary forms of slavery. Every day around the world, people living in poverty, especially those who name themselves as indigenous are “pushed to the outskirts of our cities as public spaces and transport facilities are privatized and gentrified.”[2] When penalization, rather than respect and empowerment, are the norm there is an entrenchment, exacerbation of and a growth in poverty at all levels. Indigenous people traditionally live on lands rich in natural resources and minerals. There is a growing awareness among them that governments or corporations must be obliged to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the people who are custodians of their lands before engaging in any activity that changes their lands, resources or territories. Despite the accumulated impact of centuries of colonization and its erroneous ideas of “development”, many indigenous cultures have produced some of the world´s best activists, scientists, environmentalists, lawyers, artists, poets, musicians and philosophers. As the global awakening and awareness encouraged a return to the harmonious relationship with Nature, the Ecuadorian people, both indigenous and mainstream cultures, produced the first Constitution in the world to recognize the Rights of Nature in 2008. More than 100 communities in the United States have included this recognition into their local ordinances and many other countries are promoting the education and advocacy of the Rights of Nature. From Cochabamba, Bolivia, came a call in April 2010 to recognize and protect humanity and Mother Earth from the ravages of so many depredatory activities such as the extraction of fossil fuels, the many logging concessions and the over-exploiting of fresh water resources. Despite the Geo engineering of the climate crisis, the fertilizing of oceans to grow plankton, the various crimes committed against rural communities we wish to highlight the resourcefulness of the indigenous woman in the Bolivian Altiplano or the Central Andean regions of Ecuador and Peru. Studies show that these women skillfully manage a wide range of obligations such as running households, educating their children, working in the fields, weaving and performing multiple tasks at the same time. Further recent studies of the indigenous woman living on the outskirts of major Andean cities highlight the very public domain of the market place in the lives of so many migrants[3]. Normally the feminine indigenous world was closed and private, hidden away in whispered Kichwa tones but there is a continual reversal of roles as the constant organic growth of the open market space with its myriads stalls gives the female seller her strong presence in society. Temporary respites are experienced from the violent excesses of male violence, friendships are formed but, above all, the economy of the household is secure for another day. All human life is experienced in the Andean market place: a tailor patches worn garments; brightly colored shawls are knitted as the seller awaits the next customer, shoes are repaired on the spot and the never ending small live animals peer out from cages and await their fate. Domestic expertise has been transformed into a creative approach to meet the needs of new realities. Experiences such as described above make it imperative for governments to recognize and invest in the empowerment of the indigenous woman. Her property rights have to be ensured and she needs control over natural resources for sustainable food security. The promotion of rural women, farmers´ cooperatives and access to marketing the food they produce is one of the major requirements for advancement during the coming years. There is an increasing danger that the Global South will follow the disastrous consumer patterns of the Northern countries. Thomas Linzey, a US based lawyer working to develop the legal framework to protect Nature, explains that the dominant form of environmental protection in industrialized countries is based on the regulatory system, legalizing the discharge of large amounts of toxic substances into the environment and this is not working. Recognizing the Rights of Mother Earth, compensation would not only be measured in terms of an injury to people, but also of damage to the ecosystem. In places throughout the world like the Amazon where hundreds of proposed dams, roads, massive oil and gas drilling, pipelines and biofuel plantations are threatening to destroy the hydrological systems it is increasingly critical that Indigenous and all peoples unite in supporting the legal rights of Nature. We recommend that the Member States and the International Community

  • ensure the universal implementation of the commitments made in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly 2007. The communal spirit of the Indigenous Community calls for full compliance with the principles endorsed in the declaration which will help greatly to empower Indigenous women and their community
  • introduce peer review mechanism in the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • take into serious consideration the recommendations made in the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples A/HRC/18/35 titled ‘Extractive Industries operating within or near Indigenous Territories’[4]
  • raise awareness, design and implement cooperative enterprises tailored to the capacity of the Indigenous Peoples during the International Year of Cooperatives 2012
  • implement nationally tailored ‘Social Protection Floor Initiative’ a tool necessary to eradicate poverty and empower indigenous peoples.

[1] http://www.un.org/en/events/indigenousday/message_sg.shtml9 August 2011 [2] Statement by Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, Special UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights to 66th Session of the UN GA 25 October 2011 [3] http://lasa.international.pitt.edu/LASA98/Weismantel.pdf [4] http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/IPeoples/SR/A-HRC-18-35_en.pdf

Statement by IPA on behalf of New York based NGO Committee for Social Development and its Subcommittee for Poverty Eradication, 2011

Consultation on the ‘Report (HRC/15/41) of the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty on the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights’ Geneva, Palais des Nations, Conference Room XVII, 22 and 23 June 2011 ———————- Rights-based Social Protection In her report to the General Assembly on the question of human rights and extreme poverty A/65/259[1], the independent expert has highlighted the importance of social protection measures in the Millennium Development Goals agenda. The independent expert has also stressed that social protection measures designed, implemented and evaluated within the framework of a rights- based approach are more likely to ensure the achievement of the Goals and to result in long-term improvements.  The independent expert in the same report called on States to devote increased attention to the issue of gender equality while designing, implementing and evaluating social protection programmes within a human rights framework. She has stated that Social protection contributes to the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) by transferring resources to those living in extreme poverty, enabling the beneficiaries to generate income, protect their assets and accumulate human capital.[2] Many studies note the potential of social protection initiatives to promote progress towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1, in particular target 1: halving income poverty by 2015. The Resolution A/RES/65/214[3] adopted by the UN General Assembly on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty recalls that promoting universal access to social services and providing social protection floors can make an important contribution to consolidating and achieving further development gains. Furthermore this social protection system that addresses and reduces inequality and social exclusion are essential for protecting the gains made towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The Resolution also encourages States when designing, implementing, monitoring, evaluating  social protection programmes to ensure gender mainstreaming and the promotion and protection of all human rights in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law, through this process. During the 49th Session of Commission for Social Development, there was much interest shown around ‘Social Protection’ as an emerging issue. The NGO Committee on Social Development strongly supports the Social Protection Floor Initiative – a joint UN effort spearheaded by the ILO, and supported by numerous UN agencies, international NGOs, development banks and other development partners. The concept of a social protection floor is very clear. No one should live below a certain income level and everyone should be able to access at least basic health services, primary education, housing, water, sanitation and other essential services. Along with universal access to social services, Social Transfers, in cash or kind, guarantee income security, food security and adequate nutrition. About 75 percent of people in the world are still not covered by adequate social security. Lack of social protection is a liability that undermines social cohesion, economic performance and creates political and institutional instability. In a world of growing inequality this floor is a necessary tool in eradicating poverty. It helps governments to build more inclusive national development plans which put people at the centre.[4] At a press conference at the UN Headquarters, New York on 14 February 2011, Michael Cichon, Director of the ILO’s Social Security Department said stakeholders seemed to have long forgotten that social security was indeed a human right… He stressed that implementing the Social Protection Floor Initiative in a developing country with an expenditure as little as 3 to 4 per cent of gross domestic product could reduce the poverty head count by about 40 per cent.[5] We propose that countries that lack sufficient revenue to manage the Initiative from domestic revenues be supported by the international community from the sources of innovative financing mechanisms. Innovative financing mechanisms emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century and since then have been in conversations at the United Nations. During the 2011 Special High Level Meeting of ECOSOC, UNCTAD, WTO and the BWI, the NGO Committee for Financing for Development has recommended the following five innovative sources of financing for development- Financial Transaction Tax, International Solidarity Levy on Airline Tickets, Combat Tax Havens and Capital Flight, Debt Swaps, Reduce Military Expenditures [6]. Therefore, we call upon the UN Member States and the International Community to take into consideration the following recommendations to overcome extreme poverty through rights based social protection measures:

  • ensure that the UN Member States who have not yet done so, invest domestically a minimum of 4% GDP  towards rights based universal Social Protection Floor Initiative
  • implement  further the suggested innovative sources of financing for development – Financial Transaction Tax, International Solidarity Levy on Airline Tickets, Combat Tax Havens and Capital Flight, Debt Swaps, Reduce Military Expenditures
  • support with resources from  innovative  financing  mechanisms the UN Member States who lack  sufficient revenue to manage universally the Social Protection Floor Initiative from domestic revenues.

[1] http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N10/478/79/PDF/N1047879.pdf?OpenElement [2] World Bank, The Contribution of Social Protection to the Millennium Development Goals (2003); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), What Will It Take to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals? An International Assessment (2010) [3] http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N10/525/38/PDF/N1052538.pdf?OpenElement [4] Social Protection Floor Campaign material [5] http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2011/110214_ILO.doc.htm [6] http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/ecosoc/springmeetings/2011/NGO1.pdf (see box below) ————————

Currency Transaction Tax and Financial Transaction Tax

At issue is how to find significant and stable new sources of funding for development. Both of these taxes envision levying small taxes on the financial sector. However, given the size of transactions being taxed the resulting revenue would be both significant and stable. The currency transaction tax (CTT) would levy a very small proposed rate with the intention of not disturbing the global market for major currencies. Depending on the actual rate used, revenue estimates for this tax range between US $24 billion and US $300 billion. The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) envisions a broader scope for the tax than the CTT. One version calls for a levy of 0.05% to be applied to various categories of financial transactions including stocks, bonds and currency. This would be imposed on both domestic and international transactions. With global agreement, this tax could raise between US $600-700 billion. We urge governments to implement an international FTT with an explicit development component. We urge governments to support domestic efforts to implement versions of the FTT again with a development component and building on experiences in various countries.

International Solidarity Levy on Airline Tickets

The purpose of the International Solidarity Levy on Airline Tickets is to tax individuals who take a flight out of specific countries that have implemented the policy, and then transfer the money to development projects. Most of the money from this tax goes to UNITAID, which is the United Nations international drug purchasing facility for medicines related to HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. This innovative tax is easy to implement, has seen a great deal of success, supports development and cooperation between nations, and it provides a long-term and stable source of funds while supplementing ODA requirements.

Tax Havens and Capital Flight

Capital flight and tax evasion continue to drain much-needed resources for development. Tax Justice Network estimates the amount of funds held offshore by individuals is about $11.5 trillion with a resulting annual loss of tax revenue on the income from these assets of about 250 billion dollars. This is five times what the World Bank estimated was needed to address the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015.

  • Capital flight and other illicit transfers of funds must be combated: There needs to be an automatic exchange of tax information between governments. Transparency, supervision and regulation are essential in institutions such as hedge funds, private equity and sovereign wealth funds. Cross-border tax evasion should be treated as criminal activity and tax havens must be closed. The “United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters” should be strengthened and upgraded into an intergovernmental body. Its agenda should include measures to combat capital flight and tax evasion and also measures to assist developing countries to improve their tax administration. In the long run a World Tax Organization should be established.

Debt Swaps Debt Swaps represent an innovative approach to cancelling debt in the developing world, while, at the same time, providing additional resources for socio-economic development projects. It cancels external debt in exchange for the debtor government’s commitment to mobilize domestic resources for specific development rather than debt repayment. The debt swap process is applied through three-way agreements, overseen by a multilateral organization which results in multiple benefits for all parties. We urge governments and institutions to study the multiple benefits of such Debt Swaps as Debt2Health (a Global Fund to Fight AIDS initiative) and to participate in this initiative or similar ones. Reduce Military Expenditures According to the Global Issues’ website, over the past decade, there has been a 45% increase in global military expenditures. Hunger, violence and climate change, etc. have also increased at an alarming rate. We strongly recommend reducing military spending and redirecting a significant portion of military expenditures to social development especially to poverty reduction. In his remarks to UN Security Council “informal informal” Youth Session, New York, 21 December 2010, the Secretary-General stated, “Every year, the world spends $1.4 trillion dollars on weapons. With a fraction of that we could cut poverty, fund schools, provide health care, and protect the environment. One year of global military spending could pay the UN’s budget for 732 years”.The estimated cost of achieving the MDGs is $135 Billion. Therefore, we strongly recommend that all nations reconsider their military spending and reallocate more money to poverty eradication.

Statement to Economic and Social Council Commission for Social Development - Forty-ninth session, 2011

Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly: Priority theme: Poverty Eradication

Statement by the International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation, a non-governmental organisation in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council

Statement Poverty has many causes. They on occasion do include natural disasters like drought, as well as the horrendous earthquake in Haiti and floods in Pakistan this year. But for the most part human behaviour is the root cause of most poverty from the wasteful use of fertile lands and the seas, global warming and the disasters of war, and most especially policies which have lead to ever increasing inequality within and between societies. Indeed, most societies too willingly tolerate sources of poverty that are in their power to correct, such as the unequal treatment of women in general and Indigenous peoples in particular. Social exclusion results from political choices. Additionally, too often societies tolerate cumbersome and corrupt bureaucracies that limit the actual delivery of services allocated for the impoverished. Those living in extreme poverty and those made poor do not accept the inequity passively. They struggle to overcome poverty, but too they often are hampered by the ill health of adults and of the children they must care for; by the lack of land rights and access to affordable credit and other needed financial services; by an inadequate or non-existent transportation infrastructure; and above all, by the absence of decent work. Effective Practice One of the many good practices with inclusive economic dynamism implemented by NGOs is narrated by the Chairperson of Clann Credo, Ireland: ‘… Social Finance is assisting the social entrepreneurial endeavours of many NGOs. Nonprofits, and Community & Voluntary organisations who are now exploring new and innovative ways of generating funds in order to continue to address deeply entrenched social inequalities. Since its inception in 1996, Clann Credo (cf. www.clanncredo.ie) has been helping to combat these issues, through investment based on a model which places social dividend on an equal footing with financial return. To date Clann Credo have provided financial support to over 250 projects addressing social needs in communities from Donegal to Cork, from Tallaght to Manorhamilton and on a smaller scale, as far afield as Romania and South Africa. Our loans have helped organisations to achieve their objectives by enabling them to create and maintain employment, develop community activities and services, acquire vehicles for accessible transport, purchase, construct or refurbish properties and provide training and employment opportunities to those in need…’ Clann Credo is a social entrepreneur project which promotes the eradication of poverty by helping to resource community-based projects which foster the generation of employment and decent work for those who are impoverished. Poverty to significantly decline needs a vigorous and sustained economic growth with a marked increase in the generation of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Unlike the ‘jobless growth’ of the decades leading up to the Financial Crisis in 2008, growth must be sustained by well-functioned public services, market oversight and a fair tax system to raise adequate revenue for necessary social as well as economic programmes. A healthier and better educated workforce is more easily absorbed into growing numbers of better paying and more productive jobs. Transforming a poor population into a “middle” class also creates a mass market for additional production of goods and services. Coupled with responsible care for the environment, high standards for workplace safety, and explicit social inclusion priorities, poverty can be overcome. Beyond national policies, re-examining the approach to development on the international level is essential. Unfortunately the policies of the previous decades imposed on developing countries costly models of privatization and structural adjustment, commodity specialization and food insecurity, liberalization of capital flows, speculation leading to financial crises, and social expenditures sacrificed to fiscal constraint. The financial crisis of 2008 has highlighted two areas which require re-thinking. First, while the market is a powerful tool, it must be guided in the public interest – the “common good” and dignity of each human being – to deliver economic development and poverty eradication. Second, the market must be complemented by an effective provision of essential economic and social services that can keep pace with growth. To serve this end, governments need to mobilise resources through a just system of taxes. As evidence to the above case study, essential to effective programmes to eradicate poverty is the involvement of those living in crushing poverty who are in fact the major stakeholders. They should be an integral part of the designing, monitoring and evaluating of all policies. Too often they are relegated to being simply the ‘objects’ of the charity of the donors. Those living in poverty must be recognised as the ‘subjects’ who need to author their own lives. Only a paradigm shift at national and international level to complement anti-poverty amelioration with inclusive economic dynamism will eradicate poverty[1]. Rather than focusing purely on economic growth, policy makers should fashion policies which would serve the basic human development of all people, especially the too often excluded sectors of the society at the ‘bottom.’ A primary plank of poverty eradication policies must be the generation of decent work so that those in poverty can extricate themselves and their families. The economic crisis has called into question old ways of thinking and old economic models have been exposed as fundamentally unsuited to promoting human development. The recent financial and economic crisis provides an opportunity to make fundamental changes – the kind of opportunity that has not been seen for generations. The determined manner in which governments have recently pumped many billions dollars into rescue packages for their economies shows clearly that when the scale of emergency is understood, politicians can find the will to act. Political will need not be a permanent obstacle to tackling poverty. However, changes in politics are not enough. There is a need for a more fundamental change of the dominant development paradigm. The current crises reflect a model of development that is blind to environmental and human rights issues and confusing economic growth with progress in society. The former model regarded combating poverty as a primarily a technical challenge. It was not people-centred, and did not respond to the larger demands of social justice. Recommendations We therefore recommend …

  • A comprehensive program is needed to tackle the global development crisis at its roots, mitigating its social impact and preventing future crises. Needed are effective regulations and reforms in the global economic and financial system.
  • The Millennium Development Goals address the symptoms of poverty and underdevelopment, but ignore their deeper causes. A modified or alternative program is needed to address the social and environmental failings of the current model of economic development.
  • On the local and international levels greater emphasis must be placed on the generation of decent work as the most effective way of enabling the impoverished to lift themselves out of poverty.

Most of the root causes of poverty are human actions; all of the above actions are means to eradicate poverty at its roots.

[1] Rethinking Poverty

Statement to Commission on the Status of Women - Fifty-fifth session, 2011

Item 3(a) (i) of the provisional agenda

Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”: implementation of strategic objectives and action in critical areas of concern and further actions and initiatives: Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

Statement submitted by the International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation, a non-governmental organisation in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council

Statement The Advancement of Women and Girls is one of the areas of concern for the International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation in 22 countries, both from global South and North. Taking into consideration that the Review Theme of the 55 Session of the Commission on the Status of Women is on CSW51 Agreed Conclusions on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child’,[1] this statement presents the voices from group discussions with the participation of more than 400 women and girls, held in Australia, India, Peru and Zambia. The statement depicts stories of effective practices and implementation gaps re the Agreed Conclusions in both urban cities and rural villages. The women and girls also bring to our attention some of their recommendations. Effective Practices Considerable efforts have been made to meet the target of eliminating gender inequalities in primary and secondary education, by making education compulsory and free for all. Incentives such as the introduction of a midday meal scheme in schools provides free lunch to students on all working days with the hope of protecting them from classroom hunger and malnutrition; increasing school enrollment and attendance; improving socialization among children of all walks of life to reduce discrimination; ensuring safe and supportive school environments for girls; and providing employment to women paving way to economic and social empowerment. An enabling environment is created for pregnant girls to continue their education. Gender budgeting with special attention to the girl child has been given importance in the areas of better infrastructures in schools, regular health checkups, reduction in gender gaps in literacy and wages, cash transfer schemes for the registration of the girl child, immunizations, enrollment to school and retention in school and enforcing minimum age for marriage. Scholarships are available for tertiary education; some of the other programmes considered under gender budgeting are-‘Bridge Schools’ with quality education packages provided to the girl child, in particular, street children, child labourers, children of sex workers; nutrition programme for seasonal migrant girls; awareness campaigns to provide education and training on gender issues; compulsory registration of pregnancies and births; cash certificate for the girl child born and registered in a family below the poverty line as financial support to the family at the time of girl’s marriage. Legislations regarding child labour in all its forms, child marriage, sexual exploitation, sex determination and trafficking have been enacted. Offices have been established for the advancement of women. Effective practices also include creating enabling environment for girls to participate in decisions that affect their lives. The Neighbourhood Children’s Parliaments bring together girls and boys in small groups at neighbourhood level enhancing gender equality and better lives for all.[2] Implementation Gaps The Human Development Report 2010 states that the disadvantages facing women and girls are a major source of inequality and that all too often women and girls are discriminated against in health, education and the labour market with negative repercussions for their freedoms. It also brings out the fact that gender inequality varies tremendously across countries. The recently published report on trafficking emphasises that, ‘Trafficking is a fluid phenomenon responding to market demands, weakness in laws and penalties, and economic and development disparities; More people are trafficked for forced labour than for commercial sex’.[3] We are aware of the numerous stories of struggling women and girls, narrated by Nicholas D.Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.[4] The following are some of the stories narrated by women and girls during the group discussions. These stories are the tip of the iceberg of the struggles faced by women and girls across the world. They reveal the existing gap between the commitments made in the ‘Agreed Conclusions on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child’ and the implementation of those commitments.

  • Lima, 16 years of age was promised a job; the employer sexually abused her and threatened to kill her if she were to let others know about the abuse; the girl later became sick and died.
  • Doris, a 12 year old adolescent, was forced into child labour due to poverty at home; she was expelled from the job when she reported that the employer was sexually abusing her.
  • Girls in schools were promised question papers ahead of exams if they allow themselves to be sexually exploited by the teachers.
  • Women and girls are promised employment in other countries and are forced into brothels as prostitutes.
  • Girls going into prostitution are exploited by the perpetrators from other countries, for pornography, even to have sex with dogs.
  • Girls were asked by their families to have multiple jobs like selling things in the market and as domestic workers for minimum wages.
  • Becoming sex workers is not an option for many girls as it is their livelihood to earn money for school fees, to meet basic needs and support their families.
  • Patients in need of medical care in hospitals are expected to bring the basic needs such as bed sheets, pillows, blankets, needles, gloves, buckets, money to purchase medicines.

The group discussions also brought out the fact that while pressure groups in developed countries lobby governments on matters such as trafficking and equal opportunity for women and girls, ‘sweat shops’ exploit the labour of migrant groups, especially women and girls, to produce low-priced goods, and the sex industry is able to hide the existence of trafficked workers. Girls living in rural and remote areas are more disadvantaged and are vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual exploitation. The CSW 51 encouraged the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as well as all human rights treaty bodies to invite States parties to ensure that their reports explicitly address the situation of the girl child. The Commission also called for the United Nations Country team to strengthen their country level advocacy and their technical capacities to address all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.[5] In spite of the many efforts, the stories told by the girls during the group discussions, speak to us of the vast implementation gap. Recommendations We therefore recommend Governments and the International Community to…

  • create enabling environment to promote universal participation of girls based on equality of rights and opportunities resulting in reducing gender inequality
  • give attention to the multidimensional poverty when investing in policies and programmes for girls. ‘Poverty is deprivation of one’s ability to live as a free and dignified human being with the full potential to achieve one’s desired goal in life’ [6]
  • collaborate with the Civil Society Organisations to accelerate progress to end discrimination and violence against the girl child and to empower them
  • mandate ‘UN Women’ to ensure enforcement of the existing legal instruments in favour of girls.

The real hope for greater progress is this year’s overall theme “Access and participation of women and girls, to education, training, science and technology, including the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work”and the creation of a new entity the ‘UN Women’.

[1] http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/agreedconclusions/Agreed%20conclusions%2051st%20session.pdf [2] Neighbourhood Community Network: http://www.neighborhoodparliament.org/ [3] Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 [4] Half the Sky [5] ‘Agreed Conclusions on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child’ [6] Rethinking Poverty