Sunday, March 12, 2017

Consultation Day: Setting the Stage

The Consultation Day programming of the 45th year of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women was kicked off by some remarks from Susan O'Malley of the NGO CSW, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Ambassador Antonio de Agular Patriota. In the loosely structured panel discussion, Mlambo-Ngcuka and Ambassador Antonio de Agular Patriota raised a theme that I heard throughout the day: implementation and enforcement of laws and conventions are crucial to realizing the goals of gender equality. Without enforcement, policies are reduced to mere symbolism.

Next, Dr. Mabel Bianco took the stage to speak about the importance of women's work. She commended the actions of strikers who walked out of their workplaces last week for International Working Women's Day. Indeed, the absence of these working women did demonstrate that our communities rely on women's labor, paid or unpaid, to function. Dr. Bianco noted that 78 percent of Latin American women are employed in unstable or unsafe working conditions. To change this, she said, we will need to strengthen the laws and change norms. I took this to mean that we need progressive, pro-woman, pro-worker laws on the books and that we also need them to be followed and enforced.

This call to action was echoed by Elizabeth Tang of the International Domestic Workers Federation and Radhika Balakrishnan of Rutgers University. Balakrishnan emphasized that neoliberal economic policy has given rise to record inequality, emphasizing the need for more financial and economic regulation to end the economic exploitation of the vulnerable. Tang described the efforts of the IDWF to bring domestic workers under the protection of government labor laws. The break out session "Creating Equalities of Work" also echoed the necessity for formal recognition and policy prescriptions for fighting inequality in the labor market. In small groups, we brainstormed possible solutions and strategies for combating the wage gap, like designing tax credits for unpaid household labor and passing laws allowing employees to discuss compensation with their colleagues without fear of retaliation.

The discussion of implementation and enforcement today made me realize that the NGOs have more power to enforce UN Conventions than the UN itself, which has no formal enforcement mechanisms. NGOs have the power to frame issues, mobilize people, and pressure their governments in a more direct way than the United Nations. That is exactly what WomenNC is doing as part of the coalition to implement CEDAW at the local level.

1 comment:

  1. Zoe I like the way you warped up your report of the consultation day! Community based projects such as Cities for CEDAW are the most tangible solution to implement the principal of women fundamental human rights in our communities. good report!