Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Transfeminism, Economic Costs of Violence, Human Trafficking, Intimate Partner Violence Prevention, and Legal Gender Recognition: Monday, March 13

I went to five panels today. The events at the Commission on the Status of Women are categorized as side events and parallel events. Side events are held in the UN building or somewhere close by and generally hosted by government officials and large organizational leaders. Parallel events are held in buildings a few minutes driving-distance from the UN building and usually hosted by NGOs. Except for the first panel on SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression) feminist movements, all of today’s events were side events. Here are some of my takeaways:

“Beyond Rhetoric: Building More SOGIE-Inclusive Feminist Movements” hosted by the American Jewish World Service (AJWS).
This panel kicked off with a story told by a woman from the American Jewish World about an experience at CSW a few years ago in which world leaders at a regional caucus did not want to include lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women in the fight for women’s human rights. The blatant exclusion of women with these identities in the international sphere of human rights work inspired her to prioritize and center the experiences of LGBTQI persons in CSW. Speakers included a woman from Kenya whose organization provides funds to women’s rights work during crisis times, a woman from China from Common Language, and a woman from Fiji who self-identified as a trans feminist and a defender of women’s human rights. Miki Wali, the activist from Fiji, was my favorite speaker. She made so many amazing points about accountability within movements, the intersections of human rights, climate change, and oceans, the role of allies, the compromising of priorities of gender identities at the global level, and bodily autonomy.

“Estimating the Economic Cost of Violence Against Women in the Arab Region” hosted by Jordan, the Jordan National Commission for Women, UN Women, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Government officials in Egypt conducted a national survey on domestic violence against women and then estimated the associated costs of this violence on women and society. From a representative sample of over 21,000 households surveyed, researchers estimated that there are 5.6 million women in Egypt who experience domestic violence from their male spouse. The cost of this violence adds up to about 6.15 million Egyptian pounds for only one year. While millions reported various types of abuse in the survey, only thousands reported to law enforcement. Because this illustrates how underreported this crime is, it’s likely that the rates and associated costs are higher. I appreciated the complexity of analyzing violence through an economic lense from the representative from Jordan who pointed out that this strategy is utilitarian. Ultimately, people should want to stop violence because the suffering of people is wrong. Yet, this economic perspective potentially helps convince decision makers of the importance of addressing this issue because of the costs. While this should not be necessary, it is important to illustrate the economic burden of violence on a society; it has lasting impacts on those affected and everything they do in their lives including school and work.

“Human Trafficking: Ending the Myth of Greener Pastures” A Case of Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Africa” hosted by Zimbabwe
Highlight: difference between human trafficking and the externalization of labor
It was an honor to be in a room with high government officials from Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Human trafficking is a topic that I know very little about. Two survivors of human trafficking attended the session to show, as the moderator phrased it, that this issue is not fiction. It is a real problem that harms real people and still happens all over the world, including in the United States. For those back home, this is still a huge issue in North Carolina. At the panel, the minister of labor from Uganda spoke about human trafficking and the externalization of labor. While I am still researching all the information I took home from this panel, the ultimate point was that human trafficking must be stopped but certain forms of migrant labor must be regulated not criminalized in order to protect these workers. The representative from Zimbabwe discussed a comprehensive approach to supporting survivors of human trafficking and preventing human trafficking including education, economic empowerment, shelters, healthcare, psychosocial support, and integration into society.

“National and Community Based Prevention Programs Addressing Intimate Partner Violence” hosted by the World Bank Group, the Global Women’s Institute of George Washington University, the World Health Organization, and Government of Canada
The representative from the Global Women’s Institute of George Washington gave us a brief presentation on a longitudinal study on intimate partner violence in Nicaragua called “Candies in Hell.” The name comes from a story about a woman experiencing domestic violence whose abusive partner would give her candy whenever she returned home. Her mother asked her why she would want candies in hell and thus the study was named. The researchers first administered the survey in 1995 and then they asked the same questions to women in the same community in 2015. The results were quite positive. Violence increased, attitudes justifying violence decreased, and use of services increased. While any number of people suffering from domestic violence is too high, this case study shows the benefits of a community-based approach to prevention and response to gender-based violence. The overall theme of this panel was that prevention works and is important; it’s just a matter of how to prevent, especially depending on the local context. Also interesting were the risk factors for intimate partner abuse including experiences with child abuse, gender norms, and alcohol use. The world of prevention is something I am extremely passionate about as this was the topic of my research study and one of my main extracurriculars at NC State. It was disheartening to process how severe violence against women is internationally but it was inspiring to hear from so many incredible government leaders, scholars, and activists that violence can and should be prevented.

“Legal Reforms to Protect the Human Rights of Trans, Intersex, and Gender Variant People” hosted by Malta and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
I really wanted to attend this session because it was the only session I saw on the list of events explicitly about intersex people and one of the only events that centered trans identities rather than simply including them. And the panel did not disappoint. My favorite speaker was Micah Grzywnowicz who began their presentation by unpacking gender and gender identities. They emphasized the need to expand the perspective of gender beyond men and women because not everyone fits into those categories. Some of the progressive legal strategies that other panelists mentioned included incorporating another option besides male and female on legal identification cards. Micah Grzywnowicz then asked the brilliant question of why we need a gender marker on a legal identification card that already has a name, a picture, an ID number, and potentially other identifiers such as thumbprints. I could tell that listening to this activist would have been a WGS class in itself if we had more time. I appreciating hearing their voice at a conference that often operates within the binary.  

In between sessions, I distributed a flyer that advertises the details for our WomenNC panel on Wednesday. I start the conversation about the flyer by saying, “hi I’m on this panel presenting researching and dating and sexual violence prevention education” and generally people have been interested. We want to encourage as many people as we can to come attend our event because it’s during a popular time for other events. Other reflections include the lack of vegetarian-friendly options at the food venues inside the UN building. And even if there were, the lines are super long. Which makes sense because leaving and re-entering the UN building takes a long time because of the security lines. I started writing this blog inside of the building and was surrounded by at least 30 people speaking at least five different languages that I do not recognize. It’s a constant reminder of the privilege it is to be in this space and to have access to these perspectives. Everything was cancelled for Tuesday because of Storm Stella but I cannot wait for Wednesday.

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