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2012 UNCSW and Parallel Events Report

Time: 2/27-3/9 2012
Reporter: Yenlin Ku, NCW of Taiwan  
Because of the difficulty of getting the second pass to enter the UN buildings, I spent more time on parallel events than in the UN Headquarters. The following report includes 3 parallel events at the Church Center and 1 CSW event inside the North Lawn Building.
Parallel events
1.         National Development and Rural Women in Asia-Pacific—the Korean Saemaul Movement and Beyond
   Hosted by Korean National Council of Women (KNCW) and International Council of Women (ICW), Sponsored by Miinistry of Gender Equality and Family, R.O.K.
    Speakers: Mdm. Cosima Schenk (President, ICW)(replaced by a Japanese Professor), Dr. Jung-Sook Kim(President, NCW, Korea), Dr. Young Hai Park (formal president, BPW Korea,APWW), Hon. Yun-Sook Lee, and Yenlin Ku (Chair, Senior Citizen Leaders Association, Taiwan)
    Date and place: 03/02, 1st floor chapel, UNCC
    This forum, taking place in the spacious first-floor chapel of the Church Center, gathered many women and NCW delegates from countries around the world. The focus was on the experience of Asian countries and the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development. The Busan Plan was supported by 20 countries and several world organizations. It commits to accelerate a results-focused agenda that promotes gender equality and empowerment of women by addressing the factors underlying women’s lower economic, political and social status. And it calls for high-level political commitment, accurate information, rigorous analysis, coordinated action, partnerships, improved capacity, and investment and monitoring of gender equality commitments. Suggestions included: (1) building evidence base for action, (2) Strengthening accountability, and (3) integrating gender equality in development.
As one of the panelists, I shared the innovations for the improvement   of elder women’s health in Taiwan.
      The average life expectancy in Taiwan has been on the rise since the 1950s. In 2009, the average life expectancy at birth was 79 years old, 75.9 for males and 82.5 for females. By the end of 2008, the percentage of the old old (85+) among the old(65+) has increased from 7% to 9%. The gender ratio among the old was 1:1.06, higher than the all-age gender ratio of 1:0.98. And the gender ratio among the old old was 1:1.13. In other words, there are far more aged women than men. The aging of the population has a stronger impact on women than men.
The degree of urbanization is reflected in the average life expectancy. Both men and women in the most urbanized northern Taiwan have the highest average life expectancy, followed by those in central and southern Taiwan and then the east. However, the east of Taiwan sees the fastest growth in the average life expectancy, followed by central, southern and then northern Taiwan.
A 2005 survey on the living conditions of the elders (65+) shows that gender is a significant factor affecting their satisfaction with their lives. Elderly women generally received less schooling, are economically depend on their husbands or children, and more of them live alone (14%) than elderly men. Therefore, health and safety in old age is more of an issue for women than men.
       Since 1995, when Taiwan established its universal national health insurance program, coverage has increased from 57% to 98% of the population. National health insurance added coverage for children, elderly persons, and nonworking adults. This is a favorable development for housewives whose productive labor has not been considered work. In addition, copayments were waived for the very poor, veterans, and natives, most of whom live in the east coast. Comparing the 13-year period before and after the introduction of the national insurance program, we find that the average life expectancy at birth increased 4.01 years during the 13 years after its introduction (1995-2008), while the increase was merely 2.43 years beforehand (1982-1995). From 1996 to 2008, the average life expectancy increased at an annual rate of 0.27 year for men and 0.32 for women.
       In 2007, women’s total medical expense and medical care service usage rate outnumbered those of men. 94% of women used the services; only 88% of men used them.
       In recent decade, there has been a growing health consciousness. The Bureau of Health Promotion has adopted a policy to enable elders to detect and manage chronic diseases. The targets include raising the percentage of women aged 50-69 undergoing mammograms for breast cancer to 15.7%, raising the percentage of people aged 50-69 to undergoing fecal occult blood tests to 10.4%(13% for women), reducing smoking rate among elders to 12.1% (2% for women) etc. Special attention has been given to the prevalence of osteoprosis among aged women in menopause education. A toll-free hotline is put in place to serve postmenopausal women. The Agriculture Council has organized elders in rural areas to engage in recreational activities, such as dancing and singing, and offer them opportunities of performance.
NGOs and social enterprises have also taken the initiative to promote exercise habits in urban and rural communities. Sharing the same purpose of improving one’s own health and helping others, they adopted different measures, such as promoting qigong exercise, and urging elders to care for each other.
Some participants pointed out, at the end of the forum, that too little attention was paid to elder women in this year’s CSW activities.
2. Combating the Effects of Climate Change on Rural Women in Africa  
Hosted by Femmes Africa Solidarité
       Speakers: Anne Anderson, Irish ambassador to UN, Harriette Williams from Sierra Leone, Bernadette Tapsoba Zonga from Burkina Faso and Amany Asfour from Egypt
Date and place: 02/28 10th fl. UNCC
    The major points of discussion include:
  (1) climate justice   Climate change and global warming have had great impact on food production, water supply, sea level and human health. However concerns over climate change have often missed one important dimension: precise analysis of gender differences. The international community needs to develop a sense of climate justice and address the inequality between developed countries, which benefit from the exploitation of the natural environment, and the developing countries, especially African countries, which are hit by severe drought caused by global warming. 
(2) women empowerment and technology  Women should be trained to make better use of technology in agricultural production. Green energy should be developed for women to improve production. Only when women have become economically independent, they’ll be empowered to take part in decision making and make choices for their own lives .   
(3) Outcome document of Rio+20—United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development  According to Ambassador Anne Anderson, most governments have more or less accepted the viewpoint that climate change has made different impacts on women and men’s lives in this year’s discussions in the UN. Generally speaking, men enjoy more mobility, but women are more home bound and carry the burden of finding water, energy, fuel, food for their family members. In times of crisis, they become the easy prey of sexual violence. In the very important Outcome Document of Rio+20, which will be due in coming June, the living experiences of rural women are still missing. Therefore, it is urgent and important that women’s groups around the world should take all measures that are smart, strategic, and focused to influence the modification of this draft and bring in women’s perspective. Since ambassadors from Africa are numerous in number and have strong influence in the UN, African women’s groups should make use of this advantage and try to persuade their ambassadors to have this draft modified.
(4) Discussion
A. Even if Rio finally comes up with a satisfactory solution, it will still face the problem of implementation. The outcomes could be: no personnel for implementation, no budget for implementation, or wrong method used for implementation. For example, planting trees for the purpose of conservation turned out to have wrong trees planted and caused environmental disasters.
B. Agriculture has been the focus of discussion this year. However, many rural women are engaged in raising livestock. Their experience and needs should not be ignored.
C. Corruption is a serious problem facing many African countries. There has been too much propaganda but too little action. Machines are gone after they are bought. Trees are cut after they are planted. Prevention of corruption is most urgently needed today.
3.         Building a Stronger United Nations for Women: One Year after the Creation of UN Women
Hosted by Gender Equality Architecture Reform Campaign Working Group
Speakers: Charlotte Bunch of the GEAR campaign, 2 African women, one speaking English and the other French, one from Argentina, and one from the Pacific Islands
Date and place: 02/29, Boss Room, 8th fl., UNCC
Under the leadership of Charlotte Bunch, Gear has gathered the support of national and regional women’s movement groups to give birth to the UN Women. The goal of GEAR is to ensure that UN Women is both accountable to and informed by civil society, especially women’s organizations, through the establishment of mechanisms that include meaningful participation at headquarters and at the regional and country level. It requests:
(1)      The designation of dedicated UN Women staff/units to liaise with civil society at all levels.
(2)      The creation of civil society advisory councils at all levels.
(3)      The establishment of thematic working groups at the global and regional levels.
(4)      The appointment of independent thematic experts from civil society to act as advisors in examining specific issues and situations pertaining to women’s rights.
(5)      Dynamic public forums or hearings for UN Women to listen to and exchange with NGOs from around the world during the CSW and at key  regional UN events.
(6)      Full participation on the Executive Board governing UN Women.
Apparently, GEAR is not satisfied with the performance of UN Women in the past year. Bunch pointed out that UN Women failed to materialize any one of the requests made by GEAR, and it took GEAR a whole year to secure UN Women’s organizational chart and the names of the officials in charge. But GEAR still works on inserting more influence on UN Women so that it could bring changes to the regions to empower women and transform UN departments to bring about gender equality.
Participants from different regions shared similar opinions: They all expected UN Women to speak out for women and bridge the gap between local women and their governments by way of formalized engagement, transparency and inclusiveness. They shared the dream that UN Women, as a high-level formal organization in the UN, will be able to make the voices of marginal women heard. They also had the common grievance over the second pass required to enter the UN buildings during the CSW sessions this year. Many NGO women complained that they were barred from the North Lawn Building, where major events were held, and were unable to meet UN officials. One woman mentioned that many NGOs were set up in the capitals of their own countries for easy access to grants, not for helping rural women. The distance, among other things, excluded rural women.
4. Women in Politics: the ICT dimension
Hosted by Inter-Parliamentary Union
Speakers: argaret Mensah-Williams, Vice-President of the National Council of Nambia, Piyoo Kochar, Coordinator of iKNOW Politics, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Member of the House of Commons of UK, Maria del Carmen Quintanilla Barba, Member of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Date and place: 03//1 Conference Room B, UN
The year 2011 witnessed several important democratic transitions in the world. Arab Spring not only ignited local democracy movements but also increased the number of women in political movements. Demands were made on international and national politics, traditionally dominated by men, to be more inclusive of women. In addition to the trends and challenges regarding women’s political participation, this forum focused on the impact internet and communication technology has had on women in politics. The movement of Arab Spring clearly demonstrated that the widespread usage of twiter and facebook provided home-bound women unprecedented opportunities to insert their political influence. Without these women there would be no Arab Spring. 
Roberta Blackman-Woods said, in addition to the traditional method of sending out direct mails and visiting her constituents, she took full advantage of ICT. She personally operated her own twitter and blog, while her staff took care of the website and facebook. ICT helps her to communicate directly and immediately with her constituents to avoid information being manipulated or twisted by the media. 
But an Italian congresswoman on the site seemed quite disturbed by the mounting demand her constituents made through ICT. No one was able to offer her any sound solution, though all seemed to understand her frustration. In general, attendants agreed that the voters need to be reminded that there should be a limit to the services their representatives could offer. And there was also consensus that ICT is a useful tool that women politicians should learn to use.
Maria del Carmen Quintanilla Barba from Spain pointed out that there was great digital gap in her country between urban and rural areas as well as between women and men. The government should have legislation guaranteeing women’s access to new technology and training. Such legislation should be effectively implemented and not over-ridden by social customs.